It’s no shock that I have anxiety that lingers every so often, and it’s no shock that I have found learning to drive difficult because of this. I’ve mentioned it on here and over on my Instagram every so often and I’ve always had such a positive response. From people saying they understood and that it took them a little longer to do XYZ to other people in the same position that I was in, too scared to even start.
It’s worth noting that anxiety can affect people completely differently, the things that make me anxious, other people don’t even worry about and vice versa. Just because I found driving difficult because of anxiety doesn’t mean that every person who suffers from anxiety will.
First and foremost, driving is difficult. Some people take to it more naturally than others but it is nerve-racking and can be dangerous unless done properly. You are in full control of a car which can cause issues unless you know what you’re doing. THIS is why you have to be put through various tests before you get your licence.
*It’s worth noting that I live in the UK so your country’s driving requirements might be different.
I’ve been in the position many a time where I’ve been crying my eyes out before and after every lesson. Changing lessons or cancelling them last minute. Putting off booking lessons or tests, not contacting anyone and dreading the days leading up to the lessons too.
The strange thing is: I can drive. It’s something that takes practice but in general, I’m not terrible at it. I understood how to work the car and what is required to do. I’m also very safe – I don’t drive dangerously, speeding or disrupting other drivers.
So you can see why it was so frustrating to me that I couldn’t seem to do something that 17 years old can seem to do easily (I’m 25).
Now, not only do I have anxiety when it comes to driving. I found driving nerve-wracking anyway but when I first started to drive with my first ever driving instructor, I had a bad experience where he swore indirectly at me when I wasn’t quite doing anything wrong… which really knocked my confidence, not just in driving but in myself.
This is definitely something that has affected my driving ability throughout the years, not only did it put me off driving at a time where I probably could have passed early on… but it completely stopped my enjoyment of the process of learning to drive and made it a bad experience for me. It stopped being something that I wanted to do and just became this whole thing that defined me – can’t drive. It also definitely held me back.
However, I have some good news to share: I passed my driving test!
I wanted to share a post to not only reassure anyone else out there going through the same thing that you can do it and it can be something you enjoy, but I also wanted to share some tips of what helped me actually get to that point of passing my test.
When I first had lessons, I was 19, not very confident and just chose a random instructor that I knew the name of. I was doing two hours once a week and back then, the instructor would get you to pull over after an hour to *stretch your legs*… i.e allow them a chance to have a cigarette. This is not okay. You are paying them to teach you, not for them to take advantage of you, your money and your time.
I have had four instructors. The first one… we won’t even go there. The second was lovely and could have got me to test and probably pass but I went with him straight after the bad experience so I felt very deflated and decided to have a break from driving (a bad decision) and never went back to him. The third ending up ghosting me for no apparent reason… which leads me to my last instructor. She went out of her way to help me pass – I jumped her waiting list because my test was in nine weeks (because of the covid restrictions, it kept getting cancelled and rearranged) when I contacted her. She was young, friendly, chatty and was a calming presence to have in the car. I never once felt judged or on edge around her and it was probably the first time in my driving experience that I looked forward to driving lessons.
I think finding the right instructor was the biggest difference this time around which really helped me relax, improve my skills and learn. I felt comfortable and we got along. I found I responded to her way of teaching too. Straight away she made me feel more confident in the car as she was happy and comfortable with my driving.
I know this might go without saying, but it is a very male-dominated occupation and there is no shame in actively seeking out a female instructor. My last instructor was a female and she’s the only person who made me feel comfortable enough to pass. You’ve got to do what you’re comfortable with and if you feel like you’d learn better with a female instructor then book a female instructor.
Learn your way
First of all, there is no right or wrong way of learning to drive. Just because you’re friends or peers did it this way or that way and will share their experience with you… does NOT mean that that is the only way of learning to drive. Everyone is different and will have different experiences, wants or needs. Everyone learns differently.
The instructor you choose should adapt to your way of learning, that’s the quality of a good instructor and someone that you’d want teaching you. Just because they normally do two hours with one student does not mean that you also have to do two hours. I feel like the ‘norm’ is doing two hours each week but that might not work around your lifestyle… I typically followed this route until my recent instructor where I did 1.5 hours each week and it was actually a really good way for me to learn. At no point did I feel I was missing out on that half an hour, if anything the shorter lessons were better for me as I felt it was the *right* amount of time.
You can also do more than one set of lessons a week if you feel like that would suit you. Driving gets easier with the more practice you have so doing it more often will get you used to get quicker. If you want more than one set of lessons a week, then go for it!
A big thing that I think made all the difference is the time that I had my lessons. I always booked them in the morning. I always tend to book things for the morning (if I can), if I know that it’s a difficult thing to do, such as a blood test for example. I know lots of people hate them! Book them first thing in the morning, then you get it done, out the way and it’s less time spent stressing and you can enjoy the rest of the day feeling accomplished.
Do nothing else but eat, sleep and think about driving
I found that I got so anxious about even thinking about driving that a good way of getting rid of this feeling was to almost, desensitize myself to it. I would watch videos on youtube (which there are TONS) of lessons, mock tests, practical tests… you name it I watched it. I think these videos helped massively and often when you’re learning to drive you to feel like you’re the only one who struggled with certain manoeuvres or certain things, like roundabouts or even finding the biting point on a car. What these videos helped with is showing me that I wasn’t the only one. Far from it! So many people find these things difficult and each person finds something else difficult. I found that I was good at roundabouts but not the best at parallel parking, which is completely different from someone else out there.
I think these videos helped to show me that it’s not the end of the world if someone gets something wrong, and it does happen a lot more often than you think.
I think it also helped with my nerves around “the unknown” as I had never taken a practical test before but I did have a lot of driving experience after so many years of learning. I was sure that my nerves and anxiety would get in the way in the end but after watching so many videos of mock tests, I felt like I knew a little more of what would be expected of me and wasn’t so worried about the unknown anymore!
Passing will be worth it!
Not being able to drive was something that hung over my head for so many years so finally passing my test (and first time!) felt bloody amazing. I bought a car very quickly as I felt like getting used to driving something that isn’t brand new or my instructor’s car would take some getting used to.
Driving without someone in the passenger seat is also SO weird but feels strangely normal too. I drove to my sister’s house for my first journey by myself, it was such a short journey (she lives literally five minutes away) but it was the perfect first place to go!
It’s been just under a month now since passing. It’s weird as it’s just so normal now? Don’t get me wrong, anxiety can crop up from time to time but I already feel a lot more confident than I did before. Driving on your own, perhaps not for the first time but after getting used to the car is such a big confidence boost as there’s no one to rely on, it’s all you. Sounds scary but if you’ve passed then you know what you’re doing and the confidence will just continue to come until you’re so unfazed about going anywhere.
I’m kicking myself for leaving it so long before passing but I’m so glad that I found an instructor to make me feel comfortable and confident, and helped me pass. I think covid coming along and cancelling everything also really gave me the boost that I needed too.
I hope these tips help not only with driving but also knowing that you’re not alone with driving worries.
If you’re in the same boat that I was, then please don’t give up, you’ve got this! It’s scary but a process and you will progress and surprise yourself! It is oh so worth it in the end.