Let me start by saying this: I’m 32 years old and I don’t drive.
Sure, I got my learner’s permit when I was 16; I’ve driven in parking lots and even on a few local streets. But I don’t own a car, I’ve never had a license, and I’ve been “behind the wheel” only a handful of times.
(Go ahead and laugh. I’ll wait. Done? OK, cool. Let’s continue.)
It’s not that I wasn’t encouraged to drive. I came from your typical two-car family — my father drove a Chevy Lumina to work while my mother used her teal Geo Metro to take us to and from school and baseball, basketball and birthday parties.
It’s just that I never really needed to learn. Life never forced me to.
I know that may not make sense to most, but immediately after graduating high school, I moved to a big city. One with buses and subways and trains. A reasonable transit system that could get me where I needed to go without ever having to get behind the wheel.
Of course, I still planned to get my license. I had all the intention of taking my driver’s test and buying a car after I got settled in. After my college schedule eased up and I settled down.
But before long, routine took over. Complacency took over. And after awhile, it didn’t matter.
I simply didn’t care about learning to drive.
At least, that is what I tell people.
That is what I still tell my husband, and (sometimes) myself.
But the real reason I do not drive is more complicated. It’s far more serious than that; more grim. The truth is, if I had a license and a car, I would’ve left my husband. I would have left my family. And I would have driven off of a bridge or straight into oncoming traffic years ago.
I would have used my vehicle to kill myself, one way or another, because I’ve wanted to. I’ve dreamt about it. I’ve imagined how I’d do it more times than I can count.
I know what you’re thinking: I’m being dramatic. I’m being eccentric. I’m just coming up with excuses. And in a sense you would be right, because reasons are excuses; but I also know that — in this case — my “excuse” has merit. My “excuse” is valid, and between depression and anxiety, something would have killed me.
I would have killed myself or, unintentionally, someone else.
Make no mistake: Plenty of people have driver’s licenses and depression; they have anxiety and own cars; and I’m willing to bet most people with mental health conditions have never had such a thought cross their mind. But my anxiety pushes me to bad places. Places so bad they keep me paralyzed. They keep me from trusting myself.
My mind thinks the worst: That if I owned a car, I could make one wrong move or fail to indicate my turn and then — BOOM — my daughter could be maimed or injured. She could be dead. I could be dead.
Depression is marked by extremism and all-or-nothing thinking; by suicidal ideations and knee-jerk reactions to trauma that send me spiraling downward, into a place where I want to close my eyes and give up. A place where I genuinely want to die. And it scares me.
Five medications, nine psychiatrists and psychologists, and 17 years later, my suicidal depression still scares me. As a result, I avoid both things and places which I could use impulsively and swiftly. Which would give me a quick escape from life.
I stay away from firearms and drugs (aside from those prescribed to me).
I avoid train tracks and bridges.
And I do not get in cars alone.
I never sit behind the wheel.
Of course, this means that my daughter and I are forced to rely on our legs, my husband, or on city buses. It means that, if we run out of milk or toilet paper or freakin’ Goldfish crackers, at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday, we have to venture to the store no matter what weather the sky may bring — rain, sleet, or snow.
Yes, I would rather push her jogging stroller two full miles in the 90-degree heat or spend 20 minutes “suiting up” just to go to the bus stop across the street than “risk it.” I would rather stand safely on the sideway than sit in a car, shaking behind the steering wheel. Because, for me, not driving is a good decision. It’s a smart decision — a responsible decision — because I know I am doing whatever I can to keep my family, and my kiddo, safe.
For me, not driving is one way I can keep myself safe.More On