mental health, wellbeing

Driving me Crazy

AKA Death of a Family Car
AKA Trying to Survive Buying a New Car.

Buying a car is stressful enough but buying one when you have anxiety can stop you in your tracks. I’ve known for about six months that I need to start looking. My lovely little tin that’s taken care of me for 13 years was starting to cost more to run and get replacements for than he was worth, but not only did I have no idea what I wanted, there were other forces at play too.

That car was my first, paid for in part thanks to gifts from family no longer with us. More than a decade of driving later, ‘Alf’ is heading to the scrapyard in the sky. Why do we do that? Why give cars names? It only makes it harder to say goodbye. So that was it, it was time to say goodbye. On the plus side I’m now in possession of a new car. Isn’t that great?

Well, it would be if ‘ol’ faithful’ hadn’t reared its head. As a result, I’ve spent a couple of weeks now saying hello again to the anxiety and for anyone not sure how stressful purchasing a car can truly be, here’s a bit of an insight into my experience…

Visiting a ridiculous amount of suppliers/forecourts to look at cars is only any good for about ten minutes. After that time, expect to feel confused, dizzy, and tired, to the point that you have to go home and try again another day, only to worry that you’ll feel that way again. You’re not only confused by what car to get but somewhat terrified that you’ll be approached by somebody who doesn’t understand your mental health issues and will just do the usual hard sell that they’re known for.

You retreat to do internet searches but this then tends to result in being bombarded by marketing about cars. Confusion reigns even more and you wish that somebody would just rock up, tell you the car you need, accept payment, and have it appear on the doorstep.

You persevere and finally get some kind-hearted soul at a dealership who helps you but you have to call in favours from the family to come with you in order that you can actually get through any conversations. You sit in some cars, still not knowing what to do as you are again confused and dizzy. You sit at the desk in the cavernous and bleak showroom lost, family having to fill in the blanks in each response you have to the questions fired at you, you repeating the same question you’ve only just asked.

A week later you’re ‘ready’ for a test drive. Ready means you’ve managed to walk in the door again but feel worse than before, as though the end of the world is nigh, and in reality, you want the ground to swallow you up. You arrive when you’ve been asked to and have to sit and wait half an hour to be seen, which worsens the whole situation. Even though you only went before you left the house, you take a pit stop and spend 10 minutes in the toilet, worrying about everything, again leaving the family to deal with paperwork. The test drive isn’t horrendous, but this isn’t ‘your’ car, the one you know and love, and you’ve now the added pressure of driving a stranger around who’s gearing up to ask you whether you’re going to buy a car so he gets his bonus.

You get back to the showroom. For the next 90 minutes (yes, 90 minutes) your brain is scrambled with further questioning about what car you want and you eventually find one on their screen but in reality whilst your body is there, your mind left as soon as you walked in the door that morning and you’re not sure if it will do a U-turn before you leave. All the while, the family hold the fort at the desk.

And like that, the deal’s done. You’ve paid a deposit and you’re heading out the door ready to collect your new family member in the next week BUT you’re not over the line yet. No chance to breathe a sigh of relief. Apart from the fact that you’ve got to try and drive home now, you’ve got to do it all again next week. In the meantime your week will be spent worrying about whether you’ve done the right thing, what will happen to your old car, and also all the wonderful memories you had with that vehicle that not only gave you that first taste of freedom and independence, many happy memories, and a few moments of frustration, but is one of your last links to family members that have passed.

Saying goodbye to that first car is like saying goodbye to another family member. Your week is turned upside down as you split your thoughts between the excitement of a new car and the sadness of losing a friend who you’ve enjoyed being with for a very long time.

On the day of pickup, you spend the morning ringing around for insurance which is another battle you have to handle. Come the evening, you’re back at the dealership. You leave the car by the fence and bid it farewell. You know it’s served you well, but the gut-punch is horrendous, and whilst it’s lovely to sit in a new car, the few minutes sitting there whilst your old car stares back at you from across the car park, with a tear in its headlamp – it had that condensation for a while – is nothing compared to the tears in your own eyes that continue until you’re halfway home, that throbbing in your head, and the feel of wood lodged in your throat reminds you this was more than a car to you. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been overly-emotionally but now I’m a wreck.

I’ve been told it was just a car. It was, but actually, it was so much more. It was there to take me on those adventures I’ve enjoyed, it’s where I’ve shared some of my best laughs, and it’s heard many of my thoughts and been a safe space when I’ve felt lost, confused, and been at the point of giving up on life completely. It’s heard giggles and it’s heard tears. It’s been my own personal version of the Samaritans, never answering back, but always listening.

Now, as I sit here, health wise, things are getting back to an even keel. Life is moving on and new adventures are on the horizon, but I’m sure, in fact I know, I will never forget a tiny grey metal box that was a comfort for so long.

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