Wednesday 26 July 2017

Overcoming Anxiety On Wheels

I think everyone suffers from some level of anxiety. Everyone except maybe the Dalai Lama and my husband. While I gather self-help books and try to meditate and 'talk' to my knotted stomach, my beloved husband seems to have been born content. Marrying him was a stroke of genius on my part.

But I'm not writing to congratulate myself on my life choices. However good life is, for me the anxiety is never too many days away from rearing its head. It's like having a heavy magnet in your stomach which attracts all life's uncertainties and holds them there, sometimes so tightly it's hard to breathe.

My experience as a learner driver has really brought it into the spotlight. Had I remained in London I might never have learned. But if you live in Mallorca you really need a car.  A town which is a 12 minute drive away can be as much as an hour and half by a bus. That's not very efficient at all when you're working as a journalist. For my first job reporting for SeeMallorca, I was relying on my husband driving me to do my job. What would Beyonce have said? Independent woman I was not.  

Today I had to interview a remarkable pediatrician called Jorge Muñoz for abcMallorca magazine. His blog for el mundo about working with  children in Chad had moved me to tears. It was to be my first time driving for the job.

The journey began a few hours before I'd even got in the car. That's the problem with anxiety. It is caused by living in the future. The mind keeps asking: what if...  Even when I thought I'd shut my mind up, the apprehension manifested in my body. I felt like I was going to throw up.

According to googlemaps it was an easy-peasy journey. A short stint on the motorway, two roundabouts and voila. Just 15 minutes. To be safe, I left very early.

Half an hour later I was lost.

"Oh my god, I've got my Dad's genes!" I cried, as I went around the roundabout for perhaps the fourth or fifth time. My father is famous in our family for getting lost.

My journey time was getting longer. 8 minutes... 12 minutes... the woman on the Googlemaps kept insisting on some exit that clearly wasn't signposted.

At some point I ended up on a quiet country road heading the wrong way. I was running late now and I couldn't afford to head on for 1km before I could change direction. I decided to risk it and turn around in the narrow little road. Three point turn? More like 33 point turn. Austin Powers came to mind. 

But I did it. I drove in traffic, joined busy roads, got my gear stick stuck on roundabouts, stopped for pedestrians, avoided double parked vans... and at some point, I gave up being anxious. I stopped being scared. I just drove.

Thanks to leaving half an hour early, I only arrived ten minutes late! As I suspected, Dr Muñoz, radiated kindness. I parked my journey to one side as I fully focused on his life. 

Afterwards, after momentarily thinking I'd lost the car in the car park, I found it, one car away from the photographer. I got back in and I drove home in 15 minutes.

I don't feel a sense of failure at having got lost. I feel triumphant that I survived every kind of road and traffic sign my absurd journey presented me with. 

I know I've written it before but I'll keep writing it, as long as it's true: The only way to get rid of the fear is to go out and do it!

I'm going to strive to overcome my anxiety by pulling myself into the present whenever the future tries to destabilise me.

As Echkart Tolle says in The Power of Now:


On another note entirely: For some light relief and to be whisked away to sunny Mallorca, try out my new novel The Hen Party


Lindsay said...

Getting lost just gave you extra driving practice! So it was a good thing. Really.

Emily Benet said...

Absolutely! It was brilliant. I'm very glad I left so early though. I would have felt terrible if I'd arrived any later. The doctor I had to interview was such an amazing guy :)