From the beginning, at the beginning I loved it--the freedom, the exhilaration of highway driving. In my thirties, I negotiated the hairpin turns around California's Big Sur in battering rain, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in blizzards. No problem.
Problem. One afternoon approaching an exit on the Baltimore Beltway, my life crashed around me. I was a passenger, my seatbelt was buckled, it wasn't my friend's fault; his car was slammed from behind by an 18-wheeler--nearly totaled. I was sirened off to the hospital, head sandbagged. The docs thought I may have broken my neck. Turned out I was fine.Well, not quite. A few weeks later, breezing along a different expressway, I got rocked by an unfamiliar jolt in my solar plexus, a cold stab of fear that sent my foot hovering above the brake. I gritted my teeth through the racing heartbeat, the dry mouth, the waves of nausea and dizziness, and managed to stagger my car onto an exit. Some never-to-be repeated quirk of nerves, I told myself. I tried again. And again. But the highway driving panic grew worse. Within months I was reduced to taking back roads and two-laners.
And that's the way it's been for more than two decades. As my world continued to shrink, I increasingly relied upon the kindness of family and friends and a network of detours. And though we highway phobics are a secret sisterhood, I began hearing about and from many other women--most at midlife--whose hyper-creative subconscious imagined the horrifying worst. These bright, otherwise capable women were ashamed of what they thought was their weakness. Me too. And yes, men can be highway phobic. But far fewer than women.For a quarter century I've lived hobbled like a bird with clipped wings. Then a few months ago, something inside me rebelled and I declared " Enough! " Which is where my story really begins.
It will continue in future posts. If you're living with, have conquered a highway phobia, or just want to discuss your own particular fear, I'd love to hear from you.