When you discover that driving is as tough as working

Do you also start to doubt yourself when things are going great? I do.

Worse even, is that these doubts seem to be at the expense of my logical thinking. I was already very familiar with the ‘maybe-I’m-healed’ thought.

Good days lead to doubts

Whenever I’m having a lot of good days, it won’t be too long before that thought pops into my mind. Even though I know that a spontaneous healing would be a medical miracle.

But this time it was different. This time the thought, or doubt, was ‘maybe-I’m-misremembering’.

I’ve been travelling for over four months now. Four months of (mostly) feeling great. I’ve had less bad days and can do much more.

But isn’t that a little strange?

Could travel really be relaxing?

Travel can’t be that relaxing, right? You have new impressions all the time, have to adapt to new surroundings, share your room with strangers, carry your luggage and be dependend on public transportation.

Nevertheless, it has been going really well.

But maybe things weren’t suddenly going really well, maybe I was just remembering the past wrong. Was my normal day-to-day life really that hard? Did I really need to sleep that much? Was cooking and doing grocery’s truly that exhausting? Was is that exhausting to be around other people?

I wasn’t even really aware of these thoughts. I only noticed them whenever I was talking about my life back home. Mostly in reaction to a question, like what kind of music I liked or what I did in my spare time. As that was when I had to explain that I could only really listen to classical music to spare my brain. Or that I mostly slept or rested in my spare time.

Could there be such a big difference between then and now?

I wasn’t sure, but was determined to enjoy my travels. To not waste too much energy by questioning the past or future.

Funnily enough, the experience of renting a car put all those doubts to rest.

Trying something new: renting a car

I had rented a car for ten days and drove all over Oregon and Washington. Which meant a whole lot of driving. Every day, I spend two to six hours behind the wheel.

Ever since my brain injury I hadn’t driven for longer than ninety minutes. And I think I can count the number of drives on one hand.

To experience that I actually could drive for six hours, was a huge victory.

I was operating a vehicle, reacting to traffic, paying attention and following directions. I went everywhere I’d planned to go, survived parking garages and downtown traffic and didn’t hit a single thing.

To be able to go wherever you want to go, without having to wait or having to make a reservation felt liberating. And I think that’s why it took me a while to connect the dots.

Paying the price

On those driving days I also began to experience double vision around three pm. I also felt much more emotional. Every time someone told me a heartwarming or slightly emotional story, I had to struggle not to cry. And it wasn’t before long when even the daily headaches returned.

Still it took me nine days. Nine days of struggling to keep my head above the water. Nine days of fighting to just hold on. Of trying to ignore all the signals and to just go along with my travel plans.

So I did see a lot, got some amazing pictures and met some really great people. But my brain was struggling.

The realisation

The driving itself was going far better then expected, but for my brain it was really, really, hard work.

Those daily long drives turned out to be as tough as working had been. Staying focused on the road for over an hour meant that I was burning up my reserves. And I had to pay the price in the late afternoon. In my case with my vision, thinking and headaches.

For some reason travelling in itself is less tiring than working or driving. And I’d still like to know why that is exactly.

But, to be honest, it was kind of a relief to discover that driving is a tiring as working is.

First of all, because it proved that it was a good idea to travel by public transport. And, maybe more importantly, I got the confirmation I needed.

Finding confirmation

The confirmation that things like working are a lot harder now. That when I overtax my brain, it won’t be long before I have to deal with the consequences. Consequences that affect my mood, thinking and abilities.

Driving a car turned out to be so demanding, that the risk of overtaxing my brain was very high.

Now that I haven’t driven for two days, I do notice the difference. I’m feeling more energised, am a lot more interested in the things around me and can enjoy more.

All in all I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that I’m able to drive long distances. That driving for over ninety minutes comes with a price and that -for the new me- driving is as challenging as working.

(Some day I’ll hopefully also learn, to stop doubting myself.)

What is your experience with driving a car? Do you also start to doubt yourself when you’re having a couple of good days in a row?

4 Replies to “When you discover that driving is as tough as working”

  1. It’s been 8 years since my TBI. Some days I also feel I’m healed all better back to where I was before the injury, only to have the next day come on strong with what I call brain fizzle. Emotional, can’t hold a conversation, everything is too loud, too fast, just too much.
    Driving is very wearing on me and if something goes out of plan, like google maps are wrong or too much traffic I can become very brain fizzled fast. I get anxiety and emotional crying and I don’t know why. I feel helpless bc I can’t slow my thoughts down n think logically. I call my daughter in times like this. She can talk me down n help me make decisions.
    Sometime it takes days to recoup other times weeks.
    I know when I can’t drive, I can feel it. My understanding of simple things are difficult and my reaction time slows way down.
    I push myself too much. I know I need to rest more. But that only usually comes after I have wiped myself out.
    Still with all this I have traveled on the road for 5 years. This year being my first to not. I need to get counseling for the anxiety and panic attacks that I get. I would like to join a TBI group as well. It helps to hear others say the very things happening to me bc sometimes I feel crazy.

    1. This sounds very recognizable! Thank you for sharing! Wow, five years on the road with a brain injury! I’m sorry to read that you’re struggling now. Take care and be kind to yourself and I hope you find a group you can join!

  2. awesome article? I recently started driving short distances. Today was the furthest I drove about 30 minutes to my brain injury Dr. My Dr was as proud of me as I was. However, it was as hard as working- I was stressed being on the highway and the cars on my area drive really fast. I was cut off once and I instantly doubted myself and thought it was my fault. But my rational side knew better. Once the adrenaline of 2 car rides and -1.5 hrs of brain tests wore off. I was exhausted.

    1. Well done you! I can’t believe you managed your furthest distance on the same day as your brain tests! That must have been really hard and tiring. Hope you can relax and recover now!

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