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

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoPatrick Tomasso


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

  1. 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*


  2. 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!


  3. Good luck with your driving. I hope this gets better for you. I’m glad that you were able to get home safely.


  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.


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