This August, after months of looking at my car sat on my driveway, I was back off furlough and it was time to go back to the office.
Living in Bedfordshire I was commuting daily to Welwyn Garden City, around 35 miles each way via the busy A1. I was used to the rush hour traffic and the drivers who would speed off as soon as the road was a bit clear, only to slam their brakes on once traffic built up again.
However, the thought of facing this again after so long started to play on my mind and I was getting increasingly anxious. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2013. My condition is well managed most of the time, but I still struggle when faced with something I can’t fully control.
I wasn’t sure how busy the roads were going to be as people came out of lockdown, what their driving would be like after months of working from home or returning from furlough and most importantly what my driving was going to be like!
Luckily, I would only have to do the commute a couple of times a week, but on the eve of my first day back I was panicking.
It was my partner who reminded that I have worked for IAM RoadSmart for a year and a half, I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by colleagues who are experienced drivers and riders and who had all done the Advanced Driver and/or Rider course. Although I hadn’t had the chance in April to do mine thanks to COVID-19, I have learnt a lot already.
Thanks to my job at the IAM, I have a great understanding of what is involved in our courses and what our charity stands for - educating road users to be more confident and safer whilst driving and riding.
I also took the time to read the various tips and advice that colleagues had been posting on our website for the last few months, giving exactly the words of guidance I needed to make sure I was as comfortable behind the wheel as possible when I got back to work.
With this in mind, I had an early night and woke up determined to get to work stress free, filled with excitement that I was going to see my colleagues again after so long.
It turns out that I was fine. I turned off the radio and my sat nav so I had no distractions, took my time and focused on the road ahead. And even though there was a lot of traffic, I remembered the driving advice I’d had from colleagues and managed the journey without any issues at all. And the reward of seeing everyone at HQ was my motivation and was worth it.
A few months on and it’s like nothing really happened. No matter what situation I am faced with on the road, as long as I am alert and aware of any hazards, I am fine.
But I do know that not everyone has the benefit of being surrounded by driving experts each day. So, for those getting back to normal life after Lockdown 2 and who are suffering the same anxieties that I initially felt back in August at the idea of getting back on the road, there are tips and advice that can help. Visit www.iamroadsmart.com/mentalhealth for details.
By Samantha Turner-Meyern