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Very Specific Passenger Anxiety Help--Related Issues



New member
Nov 22, 2021
Hello everyone,

I was looking online for a place to get help with this issue, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a subforum that looks like it is already made to deal with issues like this. This post might be rather lengthy, but my goal is to provide as much background information on this issue and how it affects me so that anyone who feels like commenting has the information they need.

I was born with cerebral palsy (CP) due to complications in the womb. It affects primarily my lower limbs, and I need a cane to walk despite being relatively young for such medical devices.

As a result of this disability and other factors in my life, I'm in my mid-thirties and not a competent driver. I took a driver's ed course at around the same time most folks do, but the driving instructor was abusive verbally (for years I thought perhaps I had exaggerated that in my own mind, but later my sister, who was also on the course, confirmed that it wasn't just me, although he treated me very differently than other students). I say that not to make excuses because I think I was a less than stellar learner of driving even without the abuse, but it probably contributed.

I do know the mechanics of driving, but various things in my life have meant I've never had a chance to practice very well (and the instructor recommended meeting with other specialists upon course completion). The long and short of it is, I mostly get rides from friends or family when needed. I work from home, so this is needed a bit less than it might be for most people, fortunately.

To the main part of my issue for which I need some advice, if anyone might be able to help:

About once a week or so on average, I ride with my grandmother to and from places. This isn't usually an issue, but in the past few months or year or so, it has become more of an issue for me. And I can't tell if it's a me thing or a her thing, or if I am overreacting. She's getting older, and I feel like she is less able to drive competently, although I do not think she is a bad driver by any means.

Some things I am noticing are that it is almost impossible for her to not swerve on the road a bit if she is distracting by the least little thing while driving (adjusting the seat or mirrors, etc). I get a lot of anxiety if she approaches the yellow line or goes over it a bit. This has not been a problem until the time frame mentioned, which is why I wonder if it is just me overreacting.

I don't experience this anxiety with any other driver, and I am not as hyper-alert with any other driver as I am with her. I am wondering to myself if I am allowing her age to play into my fears where there is no issue in reality (she's in her early 80s now).

I think part of this is that 2020 really did a number on me with regard to bodily integrity, for a variety of reasons, and now I can't stop dreading riding with her without thinking that we might get into a spot of trouble and I might sustain an injury that makes my body worse off than it is already. My mind leaps to the worst intrusive thoughts automatically, and it is difficult to get them under control. I've made peace with and managed my disability pretty well all of my life, but I have problems thinking about the "what if" scenarios of if things got worse. This is one of the ways where I imagine these things regularly, and I would like to get it under control.

One of the reasons I think it might be a me issue is that we don't get honked at by irate or scared drivers on the road, so it seems no one else finds it to be an issue, it may just be me alone as the nervous passenger. I don't want to bring it up to her precisely because I could be seeing things that aren't there (she does tend to drift when she gets distracted, but not when facing actual oncoming traffic, etc. She just seems much more easily distracted than in years prior).

Dreading our weekly-ish drives is causing me a lot of anxiety during the week. I don't have a strong support system in place here, or options to change drivers, etc. And my own ability is still somewhat questionable even at this stage in my life, as shameful as it is for me to admit here.

I know statistically, older drivers are much safer. My great-grandparents both drove into their upper 80s and early 90s, if my childhood memory serves correctly. And other drivers don't honk at my gran as though she is doing anything, which makes me question myself.

Am I overreacting to these swerves? Regardless, is there some way I can get these intrusive thoughts and anxieties under control? I've rode with her for years with nary any worry, and ride with others without it also, and I feel bad that I feel this way. I don't know what to do. Can anyone here offer any advice? I would really appreciate it. I can try to provide more info on my internal thoughts if necessary.

Thank you for sticking with and reading this far.