'I Pushed Through My Fear and Started Off Small'

Ever since I crashed my car at age 18, I have been terrified of snow. My sister and I walked away from the collision with minor injuries. My new Sunfire was totaled. I purchased my second car and recovered from the broken collarbone, bruised ribs and temple in no time. However, my invisible injuries cut deep. Emotionally, I was a wreck and stopped driving completely. 

What I used to view as romantic, fun and beautiful morphed into a monster.  Nightmares of spinning out of control or flipping into a ditch haunted my dreams from autumn until spring for many years.  Once the first snowfall hit I scheduled my social life around the forecast. If there was a risk of snow, I stayed home. If I ventured out to social gatherings, I stressed about the possibility of snow because we all know the weather person can be wrong. Basically, I hated winter.  

Snow controlled my social life and impacted work performance because of lack of sleep.  Numerous nights I tossed and turned dreading the idea of driving to work on any pavement that wasn’t perfectly dry.  When I faced snowy conditions my heart beat out of my chest, my face numbed and hands trembled.  Once I didn’t make it home in a storm.  I showed up on a childhood friend’s doorstep. As his father opened the door, I jumped on the poor man, clung to him and sobbed.  Did I mention I’m almost six feet tall and was in my twenties?  This was not a proud moment.

Some mornings when my anxiety got the best of me, one of my parents would bring me to work. I was embarrassed that I inconvenienced them due to fearing the “what if” scenarios that played in my mind.

More than a decade later, I can still hear the crash of the pick-up truck hitting us, recall the smell of gunpowder and feel the impact that busted my glasses in two.  It’s only been in the past two years that anxiety hasn’t dictated my calendar or distracted me when I’m with others. How did I get here? 

I pushed through my fear and started off small. I drove every winter, beginning with close destinations. Little by little the anxiety decreased. I no longer have panic attacks when it starts snowing on the roads, but the fear bubbles in my chest when conditions worsen.  Sometimes my body will numb when I steer into a storm, but I have more control over my emotions. Also, it’s me who decides when it’s not safe to drive, not anxiety gripping me with the “what ifs?”