I don’t normally drive, but I had to. We were traveling through the desert, and my spouse couldn’t stay awake. He blinked in and out of consciousness, I was driving, and I was like–why are there so many people on the road?
Oh yeah–it’s Sunday afternoon. Everyone’s going home, from their weekend travel. I was scared, trying to hold the needs of myself and the other traveling vehicles, as we moved through space, at high speeds, through construction zones and changing terrains.
I said to myself in my head, or mouthed the words to myself, “I love you, Nest. You’re doing great. I’m proud of you,” over and over. It really helped.
My spouse woke up–I said I was doing well. “I’m great at driving!” I said. It was funny because I’d said just the opposite the day before, to a friend.
I didn’t hit any other cars or even come close. Drove the right speeds, in the right lanes, without getting pulled over. No one even beeped at me. Yeah, like a pro. For an hour at least. I got off the freeway at the right exit and parked at a gas station to regroup.
In stressful situations, I want to dissociate. Especially seeing the dentist or a doctor, being around a lot of people, or when I’m really scared of anything. Driving by necessity, I was scared, so my mind wanted to do something different. Not my whole mind–maybe half of it.
Some people might call it daydreaming, but I know what I’m doing–avoiding the task at hand. I know about dissociating because I have some c-PTSD where I used to dissociate during sex. When I was young I was raped, so having sex with my ex, I would get confused about where I was, who I was with, and what was happening–that’s a flashback, I guess.
But dissociating–I would just go elsewhere. Couldn’t really do what I was doing. Oral sex especially–going down on a man was really unpleasant for me, and I would sometimes go down on my ex, in an effort to please him. But I couldn’t stay with the experience.
Part of my healing process was deciding I don’t want to dissociate anymore. I don’t want to go somewhere else, when I’m having sex. I’ve done a lot of healing through BDSM. Very rarely I will want to dissociate during sex, these days, and I tell myself no.
But driving, I wanted to think about sex. It’s only recently I realized that most of my life, I would dissociate while not having sex, by thinking about sex. Strange, huh.
My mind would want to go to sexual fantasy, to escape what I was actually doing. Through the years, it was handy to have someone I was crushing on to think about having sex with. The more I wanted that person, the more effective the fantasy dissociation would be. I could go to that fantasy scene powerfully to escape reality.
Today while driving, my mind wanted to do that, and I said no. I repeated to myself those sentences I mentioned, kind self-talk. I also smiled intentionally, took some deep breaths, and enjoyed glimpses of desert scenery.
But I was hurting, from stress, and hurting to see how often I wanted to sexually fantasize To tell myself no–it was like scolding a dog. My mind was a dog who wouldn’t stop begging for the bone.
I lay in bed, finally arrived at the airbnb, and sobbed. I wanted my mom who is no longer alive, the man I most recently loved and lost, my spouse who was busy doing something else. Sad and weird, I held myself and cried until my crying muscles were sore. Driving on busy freeways I’d never even passenged on before, I over-stressed myself.
Needing comfort really bad, I sobbed and thought how hard it was to manage my intense emotional pain. I know people do it through numbing: entertainment, drugs, pets, exercise. Working too much, gambling, buying things.
It’s not like I’m alone in struggling to manage my grief and terror. The world is full of people who are avoiding the emotions we can’t face, trying to survive in conditions that aren’t livable, moderating a flow of emotions that can’t come out all at once.
Being a writer…makes sense that fantasizing is my escape of choice. But it’s a bad idea to lose touch with the reality I’m pulling away from. That can hurt me more.
I was remembering a man I loved a few years ago who I attributed with helping me a lot. But looking back later, I saw he’d done almost nothing. But when I thanked him, he said, “You’re welcome.” He was willing to take the credit I gave him. But he never actually lifted a finger for me.
In my mind, I could connect the cool things I’d done with inspiration from the man I’d loved. It was comforting, to see what I’d done as connected with what he’d done, and to believe the relationship was helping me. Strength was helpful, but it really came from me.
Well, strength came from my own will, body, ancestors. The food I ate, the workers who grew and transported the food, the nutrients of the soil, sunlight, Mother Earth herself. My spouse who is actually here for me on a daily basis, giving kindness and love.
Strength didn’t come from a white guy jackass who let me credit him with some of the most important liberation of my life. He was elsewhere, doing his self-aggrandizing fuckery, making money, and using people such as myself.
Partly it goes back to imagination. My mind can do amazing things. I want to love that about myself. An important part of my never-ending process of growing up is to learn what’s me and what’s not.
Part of why driving is so hard for me is I don’t know where the car is, in space, as I don’t know where my own body is in space. I think it’s an autism thing. Oh, yeah: proprioception. I do weird at that.
I wanted to explain all this–the driving, the sobbing, the realizations. My desire not to just find a new crush to fantasize about, for effective dissociation, but to stay more grounded in reality. I want to give credit appropriately. Something about mind-management, trauma results, what we do with these emotions that could kill us, depending on how we handle them.
I wanted you to be proud of me. I guess it’s possible, whoever you are.