Monday, February 24, 2014

Driving on the Freeway

Something is new in my life. Last week  I started therapy with a PhD student at The Ohio State University to try and overcome my fear of driving on the freeway, over bridges, and up over-passes. The problem began in 2002. One day driving to Cincinnati with one of my darling daughters to a dance competition,  I drove onto the bridge to cross the mighty Ohio River and suddenly got hot, sweaty and exceedingly nervous. I was afraid I would pass out. I distracted myself with singing loudly and patting my palms on the wheel as they were getting slippery and sweaty.

I met a college friend who lives on the other side of the river and told him that I think I had a panic attack and wasn't sure I could drive back over the bridge to go home. He encouraged me and somehow I drove back home. I had a several more trips to Cincinnati for one reason or another and the same thing happened each time, only the panic would set in about 5 miles north of the river. I decided to never drive to Cincinnati again.

I make my living as a real estate agent and it requires a lot of driving. Little by little, year after year, portions of the freeway became off limits for me. Now years and years later I am only driving on back roads and even in some instances I can barely get over over-passes or through huge intersections that have 8 lanes or more. My city grows daily and continues to get bigger, higher and higher over -passes with more and more traffic.

Since 2010 I started telling most real estate buyers that I don't take the freeways. So, either they can drive and I'll get in their car, or if I drive I will be taking back roads. I justified this behavior because many times I arrive at a house via back roads  10 minutes before the Buyers who took the freeway. The congestion on the freeway makes back roads faster perhaps 50% of the time. However, this is no way to live.

I have searched for years and years for a treatment and solution to no avail. I decided I'd probably end up one of these people who never drive and eventually will end my real estate career. Yet, last week messing around on google, I stumbled on a pdf article written by a researcher at The Ohio State University. His research paper written in 2002 used two groups of people with OCD. Both groups stopped medication. One group did Cognitive Behavior Therapy for 12 sessions. The other group did regular talk therapy. The group that did CBT was symptom free six months after the study. The other group was back on medication and somewhat worse in symptoms. Though my symptoms aren't OCD I wondered if panic could be treated with CBT. I decided to try and find this researcher at OSU, but he had moved on to the University of Florida in Gainesville as a professor.

I then decided to type in the words "anxiety clinic" in OSU's search box. Ta-Da, there is such a thing and the best part? It's FREE! In exchange for being a working with a student and agreeing to be video taped for educational training purposes, the service is free. I asked them if they could help me drive on the freeway and the answer was "it's certainly possible!"

I went last week for my first session and met my counselor. I'm old enough to be her mom and I could tell she was a little nervous. She did a great job though, and I think we can work well together.
We are going to work through a book and I just read Chapter 1. Chapter 1 actually made a few bells ring for me as to what was happening in my life back in 2002. I hope after 13 weeks I will be driving on the freeway again. I also have a terror of heights, and some of these overpasses are like a roller coaster, which I hate. Just today on a back road I had to go up, up, up an over pass and I thought for sure I was going to pass out. My stomach flipped just like it does on a roller coaster and I got dizzy.  I just kept my foot on the gas pedal and both hands on the wheel. I lived through it, but that wasn't even an 8 lane freeway with a sky high entry ramp and bumper to bumper 75 mile an hour traffic. I can't wait until I conquer this thing!