Perception is a state of mind. I'm sure you've heard this before, that what you perceive is what you believe.
Recently I had an example of this drilled home. The thing is, I don't drive. After my last miscarriage I had a nasty adventure on I-65. I was cruising along, hopped up on one too many Diet Dr. Pepper's, wearing an old prescription of glasses, and rocking out (badly) to The Beatles Love album. I never wear my glasses. I always rock out. Usually badly.
But as I was cruising, my perception slipped. My heart rate turned into a loud, overenthusiastic trombone and began a rapid blast in my chest. I knew what was happening, which only seemed to worsen what occurred. I went to my breath, regulated my heartbeat, and opened the flood gates to pure, undiluted panic.
If you've never had a panic attack, you're not missing out. It's like being on a very short, malicious hit of acid. My ability to judge reality slipped away. The levels of rational thinking turned into an escalator of terror, and I was certain a) I couldn't drive and b) I was going to kill someone or myself if I had to stay behind the wheel.
I'm a good driver. Like Granny good. I don't really speed - except on backroads and that doesn't count - and I always wear my seat belt. I check my mirrors, have an odd obsession with using my signals, and yield to other drivers.
But I couldn't do it. The music was too loud, too raw. The road too long and arduous. I was out of control, and I knew it.
I managed to get off the interstate and make it home. The 20 minute drive took an hour.
After that, driving wasn't worth it. Each time I tried, the same sense of doom - the overwhelming panic - bubbled up and over. I knew it was irrational and unfounded, but I couldn't change it. I didn't have the tools.
So I stopped driving. I even sold my very pretty, very shiny Lexus. I surrendered to myself. To the knowledge that right now, being behind that wheel wasn't making my world better.
This was a hard decision. Mostly, because of what other people thought. I had one friend wig out. Like for real wig the F out. She thought I was batshit crazy, should get back out on the road ASAP and maybe dry hump my car for good measure.
Ok, I made that last part up. But she was affected severely by my decision. She wasn't the only one. Many people thought I needed to face my fear, get behind the wheel, pony up, eat that elephant one bite at a time...
I began to realize that their fear wasn't about me. It was about them. They were transferring - putting themselves in the situation, and it was a situation that didn't sit well with them. At all.
In the last 9 months, my life hasn't changed very much. I still travel as much as I did before I gave up my motor skills. I actually travel more - going abroad for a month to live in Ireland this summer (where I fell in love with their public transportation). I'm not agoraphobic, I don't wear a helmet when I ride in a car, and I'll happily travel anywhere I want to go.
I'm just not the person behind the wheel anymore. At least not today.
We're a self involved race - looking to others for them to define things about ourselves. I'm here to say that you don't have to. That you have the power to accept yourself and listen to your second brain - to your gut - and pave yourself a gorgeous, well-fitting future.
It's all up to you, to your perception.