What it’s Like to Have a Panic Attack While Driving – A Poem

I wrote this in February of this year after one of the worst panic attacks while driving in my life. As I continue to work on my social anxiety, panic attacks, and my driving anxiety I wanted to reshare this piece.

A Driving Anxiety Poem

So I figured I should preface this with what happened. Last night I got in my car at around 5:30pm to run some errands and pick someone up. About five minutes into my driving (which I am now calling car anxiety or driving anxiety officially) my anxiety reached crazy levels. I barely was able to pull over and I had to have someone drive my car home.

It sucked. I haven’t had a panic attack in my car in few months and never this bad. To cope I wrote this raw piece. Its kind of poem but more my thoughts. I never wrote something during one of my “in car” panic attacks but I was able to capture on my phone what I was feeling. And this was the results.

Driving Anxiety

I don’t know why this happens to me—again.
It’s not an every time thing.
My anxiety rises the moment sit in the driver’s seat of my car.
I know my past experiences and these thoughts flood my mind.
“I know I can do this,” I tell myself. “I’ve done it a million times without issue.”
I put my car in gear with the hope it will be different this time.
My car moves with me down my street, and for fleeting moments I am okay.
I feel a little at peace, but it’s the anxiety building up.
I have this place down the road.
I call it my point of no return.
I know if I pass this point, it will take a panic attack to get me to turn back.
I pass it without issue, but it’s not long before the panic fully sets in.
I am losing myself on the highway.
My biggest fear.
My breath beings to leave me and I can’t seem to catch it.
I drink water, that has helped in the past.
I almost choke on the water.
I can feel it starting, at tips of my fingers.
It spreads down my hands quickly.
I can barely grip the steering wheel to drive.
I am hyperventilating and losing oxygen.
My panic continues to rise.
Desperately trying to find a place to pull my car over.
To pull over so that I can find myself again.
I use my wrists to drive as the numbness consumes my hands.
Can the people around me know what is happening?
I am in full-blown panic mode and it takes everything to pull over where bank.
It was my destination and the best place to stop.
I lose all feeling in my hands and it is impossible to make a fist.
I bail from my car barely letting it come to a stop.
The last time this happened floods my mind, it worse this time.
The fireman said, “your hyperventilating and you need to breathe.”
I do this and it barely helps.
I do my best, but I am alone and scared.
How could this happen?
My car anxiety found me and took me over.
The panic becomes more than I can bear.
I reach in my bag for those little white pills.
My salvation?
I can’t do this, there is no way I can drive back home.
I call my dad and he sends someone to pick up my car, and me.
He tries to calm me to no avail.
I am a bundle of mess,
And I have still had to make it through the drive home.
My safe place.
I try my best to keep it together so that my driver won’t panic too.
It is ten minutes of hell, it’s an eternity of torment.
I barely make it.
More Ativan and now I am writing in the dark.
I hope this goes away soon.
There is only so much I can take.
I remember, this happens when I drive at night.
I remember that this time of day is always the hardest for my anxiety.
I should have known it would happen this way.
I feel so lost right now. I have no control.
Panic attacks take so much out of me.
It takes all my energy before it leaves my body.
I just want to sleep.
One more Ativan ought to get me back.
I hate social anxiety, and my car anxiety, more than my depression.
I just need to relax they tell me.
I finally come down after two hours.
I just want to sleep.

James Edgar Skye

Upgrading The Bipolar Writer Blog to Business

I am looking to expand The Bipolar Writer blog to new territories that include having the blog sell books for other artists (if I can make everything work). I am also looking to sell my own book here on my blog. I hate asking for donations but I have to do what I can.


Photo Credit: unsplash-logoPatrick Tomasso


66 Replies to “What it’s Like to Have a Panic Attack While Driving – A Poem”

  1. Aw, that sucks. I have anxiety while I’m driving but not like that. I just get nervous and all sweaty and get home or work as soon as I can.

  2. I’ve experienced this type of panic before. It’s so consuming, you feel like you’re dying. I’m sorry you had to go through this. Hope you’re feeling better soon! I know how draining these panic attacks can be. *hugs*

  3. Gah that sounds brutal to deal with. I appreciate that you were able to share the experience in art form. My partner experiences crippling driving anxiety (also passenger anxiety depending on the driver) and as a result does not have a license. I think you are very brave for continuing to drive with this.

    Hang in there!

    1. I am trying to work to get it back under control. It wan’t always this way. Its been the last two years it’s gotten bad. Thank you for your kind words.

  4. This is powerful writing. I hope it helps you to know you’re not alone. I get car anxiety, too. I could relate to everything you said. I also get this weird sensation like I’m being sucked into the driving seat, and I’ll lose all control as I disappear. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to be any car, whoever is driving. I can’t look out of the front windscreen because I see accidents everywhere. I really don’t cope well with cars.

    1. It wasn’t always so for me. I used to love to drive. I still love to drive if I am being honest but now that this has happened more to me I feel as if I fear driving now. I hate that feeling.

  5. Thanks for sharing this James. This is powerful writing and truly expresses what a panic attack is like and how scary and crippling it can be. I have had them too. Luckily, I never had them in a car. This sounds very scary and you described it so well. You’ve got writing talent that is for sure. You are going to have a very successful career as a writer. This post would be great for someone who never experienced a panic attack before to read. Then they could better understand what a true panic attack can be like. Your writing skills are going to help many and are helping many right now. Thank you James. You are awesome. Hugs, Sue

    1. Thank you. It’s some of the worst things I have been through. I could always deal with depression maybe not in good ways all the time. But with panic attacks I lose control of who I am and of my body and mind. Rational goes out the window at least at some level.

      1. I have a friend who is battling the same problems. I can’t even imagine what this must feel like. She’s struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts and continues to stress about mental issues. My poem https://aieshijain.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/warning/ is dedicated to her only. Do give it read if you’d like 🙂 Best wishes to you, though. I hope you find your way through this all soon.

  6. Wow! So profound and relatable. I just had a big one a few hours ago. Luckily, I wasn’t driving! But I have felt this exact same way in my drives before. I couldn’t concentrate enough to “mindfully” get through the attack, so I just wrote my way through it. I’d love for you to check it out and tell me if it’s relatable to you: Titled, An Attack.

  7. It takes courage to write about the affect of mental health issues such as anxiety on every actions such as driving a car. Your piece brilliantly shows just how much of a struggle and how painful it can be to those who have no experience nor understanding of mental health issues. Thank you.

      1. Am glad. I dnt suffer panic attacks but have some really enjoyable episodes where symptoms get on top of me. Loads of fun.

      2. Yeah I experience that, it’s like the psychological and biological forces take on a life of their own.. leaves me feeling powerless :/

  8. This poem is great! It explains completely why I won’t learn how to drive. I am so afraid that I will feel like this. I honestly felt like it was only me who felt that way. I have major travel anxiety, or car anxiety. It really only happens in cars. It’s the worst!

  9. I have had the car anxiety before too, but now driving seems to calm me down. Weird. Anyway, I particularly related to your comment about hating the anxiety more than depression. This makes a lot of sense to me because, while both of those really blow, some of the worst experiences I’ve had are those moments when I feel like I can’t breathe and that I’m going to die and also that twinge of guilt that inexplicably comes along with it, for me at least. Anyway, thanks for sharing this, and I hope it gets better.

  10. I used to have attacks like this one. Not anymore because I can’t drive now. My biggest fear then was getting lost. I would blank out for a couple seconds, and when I “got back,” I couldn’t recognize where I was and the attack would set in. Now someone else has to drive me, and I don’t have to go anywhere alone.

  11. Made me pretty anxious just reading. I will never really know your personal hell, but I know mine. Panic attacks seem like they might be like demon possession perhaps. I dunno. But a thought, people always say “breathe, breathe!”. To me, it seems my mind needs to slow its breathing, not me. It is the one causing all the problems. There is nothing to be afraid of in the air around me, you know? There is no fear in this particular space, at this moment. It is all in my head. So, my head needs to breathe, not me.
    Anyway. I really like this post. Tag me anytime you want to chat.
    All the best…. N9th

  12. Have been at this place. You described it vividly. The hospital parking lot became my sanctuary. I’d been inside enough. It’s gotten better as I hope yours will too.

  13. As a lucky recipient of a panic disorder diagnosis, I fully appreciate this poem. So many times I’ve had to have someone else drive, not only when having a panic attack, but when having anxiety about the possibility of having a panic attack (which can be almost as bad and certainly as debilitating as an actual panic attack). Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your experience.

  14. I can relate. Amazing poem! This reminded me of so much I have gone through and maybe still feeling some left back in my mind. It is just never out of your system completely.

  15. Reblogged this on gertrudetkitty and commented:
    I can’t count how many times I’ve said ‘panic attack’ in jest to stress a point. I think you capture it perfectly. I can feel the mounting stres and how acute your anxiety is. Having written a book myself (writing is a stress reliever) I know how hard it is to get published and self publishing seems the quickest way of sharing our work. I think you’re a great writer keep going.

  16. Thank you, James, for this insight into this poignant form of suffering. I appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable.
    And gratitude also for visiting and following Spirituality Without Borders.

  17. A panic attack is like having a heart attack. The Only difference is that you know its all in your mind but you can’t control it. I felt anxious while reading the poem.

  18. “Panic attacks take so much out of me.
    It takes all my energy before it leaves my body.
    I just want to sleep.”

    So true… :*(

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