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The Long Road to Passing My Driving Test With Cerebral Palsy

Around 18 months ago, I wrote a story for The Mighty about learning how to drive with cerebral palsy, and a lot has changed since then so I thought I’d update you all!

Last October, almost four years after applying for my driving license, I passed my driving test. I want to discuss what passing my test means to me, and share the not-so-easy-journey to passing my test during a global pandemic!

Passing my test is so significant to me and will really change my life. It will enable me to be more independent. You see, it’s hard for me to use the bus to visit friends or go out. Now that I can drive, I feel like I can finally start living my life as a 20-year-old (not without considering the pandemic, of course).

My original driving test was meant to happen in April. I wasn’t really ready to take it yet, but I booked it for the experience, and the fact that my instructor was moving.  I didn’t want to have another instructor because I knew I’d never get on as well with another instructor. Having a connection with your driving instructor is important for anyone, but with my disability, I really needed someone that understood me and got my needs. So, I was determined to pass my test with my instructor.

I started lessons again in July, and luckily my instructor was still around, but I knew time was running out. I was also worried that my theory test certificate would run out as well. Then the “second wave” of the pandemic happened. It all tested my anxiety levels.

I was super nervous for my first lesson after the break, as I felt that all my hard work had been undone and I’d have to go back to basics. However, I wasn’t as bad as expected and my instructor advised me to book my test for August.

I never took the test in August, my anxiety was far too high, and although we knew it was unlikely that I’d pass and we thought we would treat the test as an “experience.” We still decided to cancel it, as it probably would have made my anxiety much worse, as at this point I was having a meltdown every lesson. I really don’t know how my instructor put up with me.

I booked another test for September. I was feeling much better about my test, it was at a more suitable time, I still had another month. I was feeling more positive, and this time I did it. I failed, but I did it, and as deflated as I was because I failed, I was so proud considering that the month before, I couldn’t even make it through a mock test without having a meltdown.

Failing my first test just made me more determined to get this done. Time was ticking with my instructor and restrictions around COVID were getting tighter. I needed to get this done!

I didn’t care about passing my test the first time or second time. If it took me 10 attempts, then that’s what it would take. It was the stress I didn’t want, as booking my second test was not straightforward. I spent hours (no exaggeration) on the phone, trying to book. I was told to wait a week, then when I almost got through, I had a lecture I needed to go to. It was so stressful and that was the part I wanted over!

I meditated before my first test, but I really upped the meditation this time around. I tried different ones, and different apps to find the perfect one for me. I did different styles of meditation every day, rather than a program to help me look at meditation from different angles, and this really worked.

I also booked in a massage to have the night before the test, to help me to relax, as relaxing is certainly my weakness. Everything seemed to be going my way, and my anxiety was improving…

However, my electronic handbrake decided to stop working! Due to my car being so heavily adapted, it couldn’t go to a local garage, so it had to go back to the place where it got adapted. They were amazing, they ordered the part straightaway, and a week later my car was fixed.

While the car was in the garage, they also checked that all the systems in the car that operate my adaptions were working correctly and did all the updates needed. This put my mind at rest. Everything was now in place before test number two! Nothing else could go wrong now, right?

The day before my test, the computer that controls my adaptation displayed an error, and therefore Paravan Space Drive (the computer) totally shut down, and I couldn’t use my adaptation. Aggghhh.

I don’t know how I didn’t cry, I was 24 hours away from my test, with a car that I couldn’t drive. I was so ready for this test, and the fact that it was potentially going to get canceled was soul-destroying.

My dad phoned the garage that deals with my car and explained the situation. Thankfully, they came and solved the issue. Luckily, that was the last scare that my car gave me, as I passed my test the next day! My journey to get here has been very bumpy, but I did it, and that’s all that matters.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly elements of my journey that I would change if I could. But now, I’ve finally got my pink license and I can be independent and that is all that matters. Driving will give me so much more freedom, and I can’t wait to see what my future holds now that I can finally drive.