Driving after a year with Sarah Alexander

I remember the day I passed my driving test as clearly as if it happened yesterday, and it was fifteen years ago. As I struggle to recall what I had for lunch that is some feat. I drove back to the test centre, parked perfectly, and the examiner announced that I had passed, I asked her if she was sure, she laughed and told me that she was, and I was ecstatic. My mum added me to the insurance of her vehicle that day, and that evening I went and picked my younger brother up from work in our then shared car.

Driving opened up my world, it gave me so much freedom and independence. I didn’t have to rely on my parents’ schedules, I could go out whenever I wanted, wherever I wanted. It was amazing.

Over the years I had weeks and/or months when I couldn’t drive due to ill health because of my chronic conditions but this past year I was unable to drive for almost a year and it was incredibly difficult. Not only because I had to rely on other people but because I felt like I was losing the only part of me that I could truly do unaided. I require help with getting dressed, washing, preparing food, and many other aspects of my life, but driving is something I do alone.

My health became unmanageable and unpredictable. I was referred to a neurologist and was sent for multiple tests that either came back negative or inconclusive. During that time my symptoms were getting worse and more frequent. I began to worry that not only would I never drive again, but that I would never go outside alone again.

Finally, I saw an amazing new doctor who set me on a new treatment plan, and I started noticing changes. My doctor approved of me getting back behind the wheel, and I can’t explain how elated I was. I had sat in the passenger seat far too long!

I wasn’t worried to get back behind the wheel, I thought I would be after so long, but I’d missed it so was more excited than anxious. I did a short eight-minute trip to the local retail and leisure park, Rushden Lakes, with my boyfriend and two dogs. And I was fine, my boyfriend must have asked me ten times how I was feeling, and I was honestly good, I’d never felt better. I had my freedom back. I had my independence back. I was empowered.

I only travel within twenty-minutes of my house as my health is still poor, and I have flare-ups but leaving the house at least once a week if I can is really important to me, even if it is just driving to the next village to take the dogs on a different walk.

Driving has always been extremely important to me, it has been such a big lifeline, and the thought of not being able to do it is so scary. I am so glad I am back behind the wheel, even if I’m not driving that far or that often, I’m happy that I’m able to do it.

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