Learning to drive with anxiety
Every year, October the 10th is recognised as World Mental Health Day. This day is all about raising awareness about mental health issues. In support, I caught up with two learner drivers with anxiety, who shared their experience. Justin, 17, and Kirsty, 28, are both preparing for their practical tests. Each learning to drive story is unique, and Justin and Kirsty have shared their proudest moments, as well as their struggles and how they overcame them.
When did you start learning to drive?
Justin: I wasted no time starting my lessons. I had my first lesson on my 17th birthday!
Kirsty: I started learning to drive earlier this year, when I was 27. I only decided to start learning this year mainly due to finances. But I was always a nervous passenger too, so I never believed I would manage to actually drive a car myself. I think it helped, doing lessons later in life as I’m obviously more mature, and think more logically than my younger self would have done.
How did you choose a driving instructor?
Justin: I chose my instructor by asking a few friends which instructors they were using and how they found their lessons. I ended up going with one of their recommendations. It was important to me to hear other people’s experiences to make sure I was getting an instructor I was comfortable with.
Kirsty: I found out about the school through recommendations on a local Facebook group, then I checked out their Facebook page. He’s been brilliant. To be honest, I always feel anxious when driving, but I fully trust my instructor, his abilities and I feel so comfortable with him. I think he helps a lot.
What was your first lesson like?
Justin: It was good because I felt like I was getting to know the car at first. We went to a quiet residential zone. I learned about vehicle safety and road safety, and learned how to use the foot pedals and gears.
Kirsty: My first lesson was one of the most nerve-wracking things I have ever done. I’ve never been as anxious with anything as I am with driving.
What methods have you used to manage your anxiety?
Justin: I just have lots and lots of water! I also try to think about other things to make me feel a bit more positive and relaxed.
Kirsty: The coping methods I’ve used are fairly basic. I try to use exercise (running) to gain endorphins. Essential oils are a massive help to me.
How did your theory test go?
Justin: I’ve taken the theory test four times! The three times that I failed, it was only by one or two marks on either the questions or the hazard perception. I managed to pass the fourth time though – which was a massive relief!
Kirsty: I passed first time!
What did you do to prepare for your theory?
Justin: I used the DVSA app to revise the information. I also took loads of mock tests and hazards tests on the app. The app was great because it showed me what I missed marks on. This helped me identify where I was going wrong, what I needed to work on and what I was confident with.
Kirsty: Other than the usual revision techniques, I concentrated on making sure I was calm and focussed. I did this by running and using essential oils.
When are you expecting to take your test?
Justin: I have actually already taken my practical test twice and failed with one major both times. I lost hope and gave up for a short period of time, but I’ve picked myself up now and I’m ready to go!
Kirsty: I have my practical test booked for 31st of October!
What has been your biggest hurdle?
Justin: Probably not being able to find practical test dates when I’m free. I don’t like having to book them so far in advance, as it leads to me over-thinking and becoming anxious during the waiting period.
Kirsty: My biggest hurdle has been my confidence and anxiety.
What has been your proudest moment?
Justin: When I finally passed my theory after numerous attempts!
Kirsty: My proudest moment in my learning to drive journey is probably this moment in time. Knowing I have my practical test booked and seeing all the hard work I have done in building my confidence up and pushing through anxiety makes me feel very proud.
What are you most looking forward to about passing your test?
Justin: To be able to have my own car and get the independence to drive anywhere at any time!
Kirsty: What I’m most looking forward to when I pass is just a better quality of life. I can’t wait to get out into the world and see new things!
What advice would you give someone thinking about learning to drive with anxiety?
Justin: Try to relax and think of driving as more of a pleasure. Remain calm while driving and enjoy the experience of being behind the wheel. Also, give private practice a try. Last night, I went out in the car with my dad. It was more comfortable than being in a lesson as the car was more familiar to me and dad made me feel more relaxed.
Kirsty: Definitely find an instructor that fits you, my instructor makes me feel so much more comfortable with driving. And persevere.
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