Why I Choose Not to Drive With My Chronic Illness
My first memory of independence brings was the day I got my driver’s license and the keys to my car. The road of possibility was endless.
It is hard losing a possession that gives you some control over your own life. The freedom to wander about shrinks when this one little piece of plastic is taken away.
Then there are those of us that are in the middle, the ones that still have the capability of driving. Have not had accidents or required a D.O.T. review, but have restricted our own freedom.
This is so hard for friends and family to understand because they see you behind the wheel and don’t understand when you decline an invite because “you don’t drive.”
So, let me break this down for those who do not live with multiple sclerosis or any other chronic illness that can affect your ability to drive.
“Fatigue” is a term thrown around in our society when someone just had a bad night’s sleep, or maybe they had a big meal. But the definition of fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion, or an illness. No amount of sleep and rest clears up fatigue.
Fatigue can not only cause me not to drive, but can be one of the biggest factor’s into mobility in general.
Mobility restrictions can be many different things. For me, I loose feeling in my right side. It is the reason I use mobility devices such as cane, walker, a scooter. Over the years I have practiced driving with my left side. Yet, there are some things you just cannot plan for.
This is probably the second highest reason I don’t drive. When I stated above that there are things in driving you cannot plan for, this is what effects that ability. Just a few weeks ago, I had an appointment. Several exits past my exit, I realized that I had not got off! I got back on the interstate going the opposite direction and passed the exit again! If my brain fog is that bad, had someone pulled out in front of me I would not have had the reaction I needed to avoid the accident. I wonder how far I would go if I was driving more often.
I have decided to put my doctor’s office on my GPS, not because I don’t not know how to get there, but to remind me where I am going. Most days feeling that foggy I would have not driven, but it was an appointment and I had to be there.
You may wonder isn’t this fatigue. No — it’s different. Have you ever been reading a book or watching a movie and you really wanted to finish it, but you just couldn’t keep your eyes open and fall asleep? This is the kind of sleepiness that hits out of nowhere. I keep items in my car so I can sleep when I feel like this. I refuse to place anyone’s life in danger. I will call someone to come and get me and my car if this happens. Sometimes I am fine after a 10 to 20-minute nap, while other times I am done for the day.
Be it bowel or urinary driving from station to station, praying to make it — this is self-explanatory. We may have had to find a restroom for a child that could not hold it, we are now that person.
This is probably the most common reason in even healthy people that I hear they don’t drive at dusk or dawn. With different chronic illnesses, your eyes can have different issues. I see far signs before I can see a sign that is right next to my car. The sun, the snow, rain, traffic lights and other car lights are all issues for me. The list is never ending with eye issues. Bad eyesight is hard enough on its own, but it often leads to the next issue.
Vertigo is an internal or external spinning sensation. When you live with vertigo and have eyesight issues and get into anything moving, you can be left with migraines, nausea, vomiting etc.
This list is just a short list of things that can cause someone to decide not to drive. Driving itself takes energy, and we must weigh how it will affect our overall health. My physician and I have an ongoing conversation about driving at every appointment.
Keep in mind if someone is electing to hand over one of their greatest freedoms, they are not doing it because they wanted or asked to one day not be able to drive. They do it because they understand that life is precious and that they don’t want to hurt you, your loved ones or themselves. It is not an easy choice!
One of my favorite past times is to jump in my car, listen to music and just drive. My mom did it with my sister and I when we were young, I did it with my kids. I have driven across the country by myself, alone with my babies and with others.
Driving is one of the biggest things I miss about my freedom to do as I please. So please don’t think for a minute if I say, “I don’t drive,” but then you see me drive that it means I chose the task I am doing.
It means I had to weigh all the things above. What would happen if I “didn’t” drive? (A missed doctor appointment? What my schedule looks like around the event?)
If you want to ask me how I chose this task over the hundreds of others I could have done, I will be glad walk you through my thought process.
Follow this journey on the author’s blog.