I sometimes check myself from conflating anxiety and OCD when I write, as my life experience with mental illness has involved being diagnosed with the dishearteningly generic “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” for years before becoming aware that I actually have a form of OCD that just doesn’t present itself as typical. But I have anxiety issues, major ones. So it is actually most fair for myself to delve into those just as much as OCD. Because, at least for me, they often overlap quite a bit.
I used to love driving. When I first got my license I couldn’t drive enough. I would drive over sixty miles just to get good photographs for the day. I would drive for no reason other than to listen to music alone and enjoy… whatever it is driving brought to me. This was me until my late twenties.
I cannot point out a specific incident or trauma that changed my views on driving, but I can correlate them with what I see now as the onset of my OCD. The relationships here are murky, but I believe most of it involves trust. As I grew older, got into running businesses, and began having to think about a large variety of people of all types1—distrust in people began to set in. I started being screwed over by people. I don’t believe I developed an overarching anger toward society, I just grew up. And with growing up as an intelligent and sensitive person, one realizes most people are by far not there to help you. Maybe not to hurt you, but most often not to be trusted.
That lack of trust started to become an obsession. I wanted to trust people, I wanted people to like me for a variety of now adult reasons. But the key element here is I knew not to trust the average person.
In comes my love of driving. You know the cliché: driving involves moving a massive box of metal at rather high speeds that could easily kill or maim. With OCD comes invasive thoughts—often worst-case scenarios in detail, relative to the events at hand, and involving extrapolating and eventuality and knowing it is going to happen. One can see where driving is a bit tough under these conditions. I could not shake the idea of the possibility of getting into an accident.
To tell you the truth, my “every eventuality and then the worst” thinking didn’t often involve the horrors of death, dismemberment or anything that gory that could come from a car accident. My obsessions were actually a tad more realistic2. My fears were all of the things that come from being in an accident with no injuries: having to wait for the police, being questioned by the police, the money involved, and then going deep into the hole of worst-case thinking and imagining being sued, losing, and losing everything I own.
That is how I thought. And every car that passed me or drove ahead of or behind me could trigger that situation. And I was not wrong! One with OCD is never wrong, we’re just taking something with, say, a 0.0001 percent chance of happening and moving that to around, say, a seventy percent chance of happening.
This fear was—well, is—compounded by the fact that driving most anywhere is an exercise in moving quickly and focusing attention on many other drivers… hundreds for a typical trip. All of these intrusive thoughts, multiplied by a number in the hundreds, every time I drove.
You can see the correlation between anxiety and OCD here. Oh, the compulsion part? I quit. I just stopped. Well, there was a mix-up with my driver’s license around four years ago where it was suspended because of a bill to the state that was not attended to properly3. So I couldn’t drive legally for a short4 while—and as someone with anxiety and OCD, I do not do illegal things, ever.
It was at this point I decided never to drive again. I hated every minute of it, and as I explored public transportation and moving to an area that was close enough to the very few shops I actually need to frequent—it was a no-brainer. I fully admit the anxiety won and good riddance!
I still had to trust people in daily life, but rarely to the point of them utilizing a massive machine of metal and glass that could kill me. Or ruin my life. Now my lack of trust could be focused on, well, different irrational things. But at least… not that.
I can’t see myself driving ever again. All of this coincided with a complete change of lifestyle that involved quitting a lot of other things well outside the scope of this article. As well tackling my mental disorders. So the lack of driving is somewhat of a reminder of that (if we’re to take a slightly more rational reason for continuing to not do so.)
I’ve found that even though I have a driver’s license… I like walking. I like biking. I love the bus (though I’ve discovered that, like many cities, mine has not invested very well in public transportation.)
I now have one less thing to obsess over. One less anxiety. That doesn’t solve the myriad of other things, no! However, it removes myself from a situation I don’t honestly feel I need to be in. People think I am strange for absolutely deciding on not ever driving. However, if they knew the true me, well they’d think I was even more strange.
Regardless, one thing is true—I’m not going to maim you with a car. No matter how obsessively careful of a driver I was. It won’t happen now. I may just bump into you as I am walking, not paying attention. However, that recurring situation is for an entirely different time to discuss.
1 Whereas previous to this, I have to admit, I pretty much focused on people I had crushes on and my one or two friends at any time. So crushes being my primary focus—well I suppose that could be an early onset of obsession, no? I wrote a lot about these people. Ok, I’m not creepy and back to the article. [BACK]
2 Work with me here. I understand none of this is “realistic.” [BACK]
3 Once attended to, I got my license back if you care. [BACK]
4 Short by large-city municipal standards, which is to say not that short but eventually. [BACK]