Signs it May be Time to Stop Driving if You Suffer from Chronic Illness

Imagine going to buy your first car, giving it a name, keeping it clean, getting used to your independence and then learning you have a chronic illness. Much like getting an initial diagnosis and struggling with denial and acceptance, coming to the conclusion that I would have to sell my car because of my chronic illness did not go over well with the independent woman trait of my personality.

What started as needing more time to get in and out of the car eventually evolved into not be able to safely drive myself around without having to reposition my body, legs and even my foot on the gas peddle without additional help. This month marks the one year anniversary of giving up my car – that’s right I made the decision to stop driving in light of the symptoms of my chronic illness. It wasn’t easy and I’m just now – a year later going through all of the contents of a bag labeled “car,”  with a few tears in my eyes, but I know it was for the best.

Since then, I haven’t really missed driving myself around. I have found public transportation for those with disabilities in my local area and have a team of family, friends and health aids who fill in the gaps of my transportation needs. As I reflect on the last year, I want to share with you three important reasons that really helped me to understand and accept that it was time for me to make a change; and it may be time for you to make a change too.

  1. Driving became a difficult task: As I’ve discussed in other posts, living with Muscular Dystrophy can create physical challenges for ordinary, day-to-day tasks that many able-bodied people my age take for granted. I noticed that getting in and out of the car became troublesome. At red lights, I eventually needed to physically lift my leg from the break to the gas peddle. These were just a few of the signs that confirmed what I already knew to be true: driving myself wasn’t safe anymore for me or others.
  2. Family and friends were concerned: As I took notice of the physical challenges of driving, my family and friends began to notice too. My mom in particular, started to suggest that it may be time to transition to other forms of transportation. I wasn’t open initially, but over time I began to see that she was right. It took some time, but my family continued to softly nudge me in the right direction. Sometimes the hardest truths are shared with us by the ones we love. Don’t ignore their concern.
  3. I was holding on because of fear: I realized that for me, having a car felt like my last leg of independence. I felt like giving up my car was like handing over my mobility; but once I made the transition to a wheelchair, I now experience more freedom than I did before. It may not sound as sexy, but I promise that if you give the right wheelchair a chance, you’ll see for yourself how this new set of wheels can be the difference between barely moving throughout the day to getting where you need to go when you want to be there.
  4. There were better options: While I was in transition, I had the opportunity to test out a few of the many new, innovative approaches to getting around with limited physical mobility. One of the many resources I found included Mobility Works, a company dedicated to creating convenient options for folks with any type of disability. Mobility Works is just one of many resources out there who create custom vehicles and motorized personal transportation options to support the daily challenges many with differing levels of mobility face. No matter what brand you choose, know that there are options! I considered the custom made cars, but realized that I just wasn’t interested in relearning the driving process that was required with the disability-friendly vehicles, but that may not be the case for you. Whatever you choose, know that you have options.

When I opened that bag of items left from my car, I was a little sad, and I can’t say that I don’t think about my car whenever I see a RAV4 pullup beside me in the parking lot. It still stings, but I know I made the right choice. Life is all about learning how to make the decisions that are right for us – even when they are painful or may take time to heal from. Regardless of where you are in your journey, don’t let change slow you down. Your next breakthrough is right behind your biggest obstacle.

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