About two and half years ago, Kia released an animated video on a technology it envisioned for the future called Emotive Driving. It featured an extremely panicked sunfish, a creature apparently known for being fragile and anxious, driving to work in a futuristic car that recognized when it got too stressed, went into self-drive mode, and successfully calmed down the sunfish with its relax mode.
I commented on the video, “I would love to have a car like that! I don’t drive because of anxiety issues.”
Three days go by and my comment gets a laugh react and a response by a man that goes by Ian Hastings:
“It won’t get any better, you’ve already been taught that it’s acceptable to blame anxiety for your problems.”
Anxiety is my own brain trying to set me up for failure by defaulting to a constant state of fear for seemingly little to no reason. Despite this, I managed to overcome a lot of things I used to be unable to do because of my anxiety. Ordering food at a counter is no longer completely terrifying. I can go into new places I want to check out alone without panicking. I don’t get as stressed out as I used to when in malls or other crowded areas or when I’m approached by a random employee wanting to assist me.
But driving? It completely petrified me no matter how much my friends and family suggested I learn, how many times I had trouble finding a ride, or how many times I sat behind the driver’s seat of my husband’s car trying to convince myself that this was something I could do. In my anxiety filled mind, a car was nothing more than a two ton death machine on wheels that I was most definitely going to total. If my anxiety kicks in hard, I’m physically unable to function properly and I was terrified that I would have anxiety attack while behind the wheel. It’s not like I didn’t want to drive—I felt like I couldn’t do it safely.
My general anxiety already puts me at a disadvantage, but an incident involving my abusive mother made the idea of driving even harder on my anxiety. In a brief yet intense moment of unhinged insanity, my mother played “chicken” on the highway going 80mph whilst declaring she was going to “take both of us out” after I said something that set her off. It resulted in years of nightmares where I would be in the driver’s seat of that shitty maroon van and the steering wheel and the brakes wouldn’t work as the car went barreling down the highway before flying over a hill and crashing into the ground just as I’d wake up in a sweat.
So when I saw this video of this proposed car technology and a panicked sunfish, I thought, “Wow! Something like this would be beneficial!” Then this asshole—who probably never had an anxiety attack in his entire entitled asshole life—made such an ignorant, judgmental, and intentionally hurtful comment simply because my anxiety prevented me from driving.
It may have taken a year and a half after I saw that Kia video, but I worked through my anxiety and got my driver’s temps last year. To clarify, I wasn’t motivated to prove Ian wrong—in fact, I had forgotten about the whole thing until recently. Regardless, fuck Ian and his anxiety stigma.
I’ll admit it wasn’t easy. I failed the written test the first time around because my anxiety got bad enough that I kind of forgot everything I learned once I sat at the computer to take the test (passed the signs portion perfectly, though!) My husband and I had planned for me to drive the Chevy Cobalt we had before upgrading to an Equinox, but much like the shock rocker it’s named after we found that “Marilyn” was more fucked up than we realized. It overheated after my first drive and our mechanic later found a gas leak, a wheel bearing that was completely off, and a couple other things I don’t remember on top of the coolant leak we had already confirmed and tried to fix ourselves.
It wasn’t until about a month and a half ago that we found another car that I felt comfortable driving. We had actually been interested in one of two other cars that they had and I almost settled on a Chevy Impala. For shits and giggles, we decided to try out the yellow PT Cruiser we had seen as we pulled into the lot and joked that it was a “Pikachu car”. Joke’s on us because it actually turned out to be the best car I had tried. The seat was higher and I could actually see over the hood. The power driver’s seat was nice. It was smaller so it didn’t feel like I was driving a metal devil. It was in good condition in spite of its age (2006). The price seemed right—cheaper than any other car we looked at and half the price of the one I nearly settled on. Bonus was that the back seats could fold down and then fold upside down or be taken out entirely to create more room, which led me to think “I could haul cosplay supplies and plants!” The only real thing that was wrong with it is that the speedometer and ABS sensor didn’t work, but the dealer was just waiting on the parts for them and fixed them free of charge.
While I was riding in the car as my husband test drove it for me, I suddenly recalled my childhood. During my youth, I was really big into Hanson and Pokemon. Hanson’s video for “MMMBop” featured a yellow car—the 1972 Volkswagen Thing Typ 181 from Speed 2—and Nintendo would have contests to win a yellow Pikachu Volkswagen Beetle and silver Lugia PT Cruiser. I had really wanted those cars growing up. Now I found myself riding in a yellow PT Cruiser we had initially joked was a “Pikachu” car and now were seriously considering buying after realizing it was a good car.
So now I’m the proud owner of a yellow car I either affectionately refer to as “Pikachu”, “Taylor Hanson”, or “my Pikachu, Taylor”. It has Kittie and Otep decals on the back windows and a Cowboy Bebop license plate holder that says “See you later, Space Cowboy”. I’m seriously considering putting decals and accessories to make it into a Pikachu car—ears and tail included.
I take the driver’s test next month and the people that have been riding with me as I have been learning how to drive are confident that I’ll pass it.
If there’s any moral to the story it’s that living with anxiety can get better despite what some ignorant twat waffle on the Internet says.