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Zoe

Progress Tracking

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Hello! I was thinking it would be helpful for me to keep track of my progress here, and maybe other people would like to do the same? I've been struggling with a fear of driving pretty much since starting to drive at 15 (almost 30 now!) and I'm hoping I can start making driving a more regular and comfortable part of my life and get all the cool benefits that come with it.

I'm calling this Day 1 (Jan 9th 2020). I was planning to just turn on the car and sit there for a few seconds, then turn it off. But I felt a bit emboldened so I backed out of the drive about a foot and then pulled back in. The most anxiety I felt was before actually getting in the car, just thinking about driving again. Once in the car I felt okay, even a little excited to be trying again. Also I made a list of reasons why I want to be more comfortable driving, which was helpful I think.

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Okay, Day 2 (Jan 10th). I felt very anxious from the time I woke up until actually driving (did that around 4:30 pm), and like yesterday, I felt worst before actually getting in the car. So one strategy I might want to employ in the future would be to push driving practice earlier, so I don't spend so much of the day dreading it! This time I pulled out into the ally behind my house, then re-centered the car and parked again. Felt pretty okay about it. I felt awful beforehand though, worse than yesterday. Thoughts of getting lost or stranded, the car breaking down, or being in an accident definitely were intruding. 

I know this forum isn't in heavy use or anything, but I hope it's clear that if anyone else wants to track their progress in this same thread, please do!! Even the illusion of being held accountable for my progress by strangers on the internet is weirdly helpful to me.

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Day 3 I did indeed start earlier, did my driving practice around 10 am. It helped to get it out of the way before I could freak myself out throughout the day. Pulled out of the parking spot and all the way down the ally, then got out and swapped with my husband. Felt okay during and afterward, although this morning I was anxious, but not as bad as yesterday.

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Day 4: Went out pretty early (7:30 am) on a Sunday so that no one would be on the road with me, and drove around the block. Didn't have anyone with me in the car this time. My hands are still shaking! But it was okay. Again I was most nervous before I got in the car. I walked the route I was going to take first, planning how I'd take the turns and also just making sure I knew what to expect. Before going out I had a few anxious thoughts about hitting another (parked) car, or even getting pulled over. But that was the first complete circuit, so I'm pretty pleased.

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Day 5 I went out early (9 am) but not so early that there weren't cars on the road this time. I did the same route as yesterday but there were a few cars to consider--three of them. I think it went really well. I didn't go at a four-way stop right away even though I got there first (had to be kind of waved ahead by someone) but I think that was okay. My heart is definitely beating pretty fast and my arms are shaking. I'm happy though; I think in time this won't be so stressful. I felt more confident on my turns than prior days.

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Day 6: All day I felt really drained, so I put off driving until about 3:30 pm this time. I went easy on myself and just did what I did on Day 1 (pull out of the driveway and recenter, then park again). Admittedly it's a little disappointing not to surpass yesterday's driving 'level', but I think it'll ultimately be more sustainable if I focus on just being consistent, not expecting more than just to build my comfort level with driving and do it every day.

I realized that if I knew there would never be another driver on the road, I don't think I'd fear driving at all! But trying to figure out the social rules and expectations of driving  around other people really stresses me out. Annoying strangers is probably pretty risk-free like 95% of the time, but it is still hard for me to stomach. Add to that the very real concerns about dangerous and costly accidents, and it's not surprising that dealing with this fear is pretty exhausting.

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Day 7: this time I drove in the afternoon and was feeling stressed about the other cars on the road, so I just pulled out into the alley, then back into the drive like yesterday. It always seems so intimidating and impossible before I actually get in the car, and it's really stressful to think that maybe this day is the one where I give up and stop trying to improve at this. 

I did ask a friend of mine to drive with me this weekend, so I'm hoping that will help me keep moving forward. Even though I wish my progress were more linear and smooth, I'm really glad I am at least getting behind the wheel every day, even if only for a minute or two. Something is better than nothing, and I can build on the comfort and familiarity as time goes on.

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Day 8: It was snowing like crazy when I got home, but I turned on the car, found the windshield wiper controls, listened to a song in there on the radio with the engine going. It's less than previous days, but I'm happy that I'm not losing overall momentum. I think as long as I do something towards this every day, I'll still be making progress ultimately.

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Day 9: went out late this time, after it was already dark. Sat for about a song's worth of time, realized I don't know how to turn on the lights! So that's next for tomorrow haha. Got a couple e-books on driving phobia and looked through one of them today. Tomorrow a friend of mine is going to give me a driving lesson, so that'll be nice.

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Day 10: Went to a mall parking lot and drove around for about an hour. The first rotation was more stressful than the second few rotations... But I got some good practice driving around other cars, parking, and driving around pedestrians. I'd say overall good!

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Day 11: Drove around the block again, by myself, and there were a few other cars on the road. Limbs are pretty shaky but I'm also psyched to be making more progress. Scheduled another driving lesson with my friend tomorrow.

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Day 12: Did another driving lesson with my friend. About two hours worth of driving around parking lots and less busy streets. It was good! A little stressful at times when I was going pretty fast, but it helped when I realized I wasn't breathing (I was holding my breath a bunch) and focused on remembering to breathe when I turned, or when I switched from gas to brake.

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Day 13: Drove around the block by myself again. Felt more confident, thinking back to the lesson yesterday definitely helped me feel more comfortable, even with other cars around. Funnily, it felt super impossible before I got in the car, but then it was fine.

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Day 14: Drove around the block the other direction (this one is all left turns across traffic rather than all right turns). Had an unexpected event occur, in that someone was trying to leave the alleyway I wanted to get back to, and there wasn't enough room for us both, so instead of trying to force it, I made the trip around again (this time the right-turns version) and got back. It felt pretty good. I had to be waved through that four-way stop again. I always think the cross traffic has right-of-way and forget to go! But overall I'm pleased; this is the farthest I've gotten by myself so far.

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Day 15: Today I went with the easier version of just pulling out of the drive and back. Found out how to turn on the lights, too! Scheduled another driving lesson for the weekend. 

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Day 16: Went all around the block this time. And I went ahead at the four-way stop instead of having to be waved through! Feeling pretty good about it. I still notice that I feel the worst about it before getting in the car. Once it's started it feels okay, but thinking about driving fills me with dread! Hopefully the more events I experience of positive driving, the less that feeling of dread will happen.

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Day 17: Had another driving lesson with my friend. It went okay, though I forgot to breathe as much and as a result felt a little more stressed out than last time. I also felt like things weren't super "smooth". Lots of jerky motions, which contributed to feeling a bit out of control. I did get to practice making 3-point turns out of dead ends a few times, which was helpful. I did also want to stop a fair bit, just because my stress level was a little high, but still drove for about 1.5 hours.

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Day 18: Went with the easiest version that's still keeping up the habit, so sitting in the driver's seat with the engine on for a bit. I feel like in general, I'm less pessimistic and discouraged about driving, even if I wish I could do more. It's seeming more possible in general that I could get better at this in the long term.

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Day 19: Felt less resistance to going out and driving a little (very little-- I pulled out into the ally and right back into the parking spot). It was dark out, but hey I know where the lights are now. 

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Day 20: Drove around the block again! This time the light was a little tricky, right at eye level, but it went just fine. I'm feeling psyched to be at 20 days of being behind the wheel :) Can't wait to start taking on more practical routes, like the grocery store or pet store.

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Day 21: Another drive around the block, feeling good about it. It's getting easier. I like doing the same route a bunch of times because I start seeing all the possible variations that exist along that route, and feel more confident about the tasks I have to do which don't vary. I actually felt like I was having a little bit of fun. Still felt a bit nervous before getting in the car, but way less than on previous days.

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Day 22: Today was a little rough/low-energy in general so I went for the easiest version of keeping up with driving. Turned the car on, sat in driver's seat listening to the radio. This time I also was thinking about the times driving has been fun for me in the past, which was nice.

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Day 23: Drove on a busy street, to a burger place for lunch. Had a friend help me out and give me directions, so that was good. Had to do a U-turn at one point, which I was a little uncertain about, but everything went okay. I need to work on not braking before turning/at the start of turning... Not totally sure. Sometimes I think I'm "edging forward" to get a clearer sense before I go, but I don't know. It was certainly a bit stressful, my limbs were shaking and I felt like crying (but didn't, heck yeah). My friend said that I drove really well whenever I was focusing on conversation or music, and would start to drive strangely when I focused too much on the driving itself. So that's something to think about.

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Day 24: Drove to the grocery store and back (about a mile each way). Felt really good, not anxious during the drive itself so much. The worst I felt was before starting. One thing that helped a lot was that I looked at the route in advance (both to and from) on Google map street view, planned my turns and got a sense of what the intersections looked like. I want to work on making the turns smoother.

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Day 25: Drove around the block again; didn't feel stressed at all about it. But I went with this because I'd been working out a more challenging plan (going partway to the university) and got a little overwhelmed by it. But I'm pleased that the level which was once the "high water mark" is now the easy task. 

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