Dealing with Depression — Driving

I hate driving.

When your main driving is commuting to work, and that commute is about 40 minutes, driving becomes a great place for negative thoughts, triggers, and breakdowns to form and take hold, leaving you relatively helpless to do anything about it. You’re stuck in that driver’s seat, hands on the wheel, sitting more or less still with the exception of moving the steering wheel or switching your foot from the acceleration to the brake.

For those that don’t know or don’t remember, I moved rather suddenly last fall. The whole experience wasn’t exactly smooth. In the grand scheme of things, I didn’t move far. A couple of towns over, about 25 miles. It’s my grandmother’s old house, which my parents inherited after she died a few years ago. I’m familiar enough with the area and the space between the two houses, so it’s not like I was completely thrust into a new environment. (Even though it sure feels like it. Guess it’s the difference between visiting somewhere and living there.)

Anyway, my job is back in my old town, so I’ve got a commute again. I had bigger commutes traveling to college — both of them — so I didn’t think it would be that big a deal. And with no homework waiting for me when I got back home, I was like, “who cares then?”

I didn’t count on depression like this, though. I didn’t plan on my car being one of the easiest places to be affected by it. Which in hindsight, I guess that should have been more obvious. My mind wanders a lot. Being stuck in a car for an extended period of time should have been a red flag from the start.

It’s not just the extended commute. As soon as I leave my neighborhood, I’m on busy roads. I lived in my old town for almost 20 years. I’m not only very used to traveling on mostly empty back roads, I need it. I need open spaces. I’m a nervous enough driver as it is. To immediately leave home and merge into busier traffic is still jarring, even nine months later.

I’m pretty much traveling through light traffic for 75% of the commute (a little less if I’m on the parkway at a good time). And I guess I’m more or less used to it, but when I’m trying to fight off attack thoughts and feelings of negativity, being surrounded by other vehicles and constantly stopping at traffic lights definitely doesn’t help. In fact, being stuck at a light when I’m being overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings is one of the worst places to be if you don’t want to feel completely helpless.

That last 25% of the commute is traveling the back roads from my old town to my job. It’s a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, getting away from all those other drivers and cruising down empty back roads filled with trees and fields feels much more right for me. (Did I mention my new town and most of the commute isn’t very nature friendly? No? Well it isn’t.) For a brief time, I get part of my old life back.

On the other hand, depending on how badly depression is hitting me that day, traveling through here only makes me feel worse. Missing my home and my neighborhood is also one of the reasons I’ve been depressed. Which in all honesty is kind of weird, because I honestly thought I was ready to move someplace completely new. But after everything that’s happened, now all I want to do is move back. Being back there makes me feel more at home than anywhere near my new place, but being there also makes me miss it even more.

I’ve cried a lot while driving this year. When I’m driving, something will always find its way back into my mind to remind me I’m still struggling with depression. And because there’s so little I can do about it in the car, everything builds up and overwhelms me. By the time I get to work, I honestly feel worn out. And I haven’t even started working yet!

The only realistic thing I can do while driving to distract myself is listen to something. I’m not really a fan of radio. Between stations playing music I either don’t like or the same songs I’ve heard too many times (coupled with varying degrees of static), I generally stay away from radio unless I really need to listen to something and whatever CD I have in my car and whatever music I have on my MP3 player won’t cut it.

I used to be able to leave any given CD in my car for a week and listen to the whole thing two or three times. My commute to work used to be only about 10 minutes, after all. It’s pretty easy to stretch out an album with that kind of time. But now I can easily listen to a whole CD twice from one trip to and from work. I feel like I’ve overplayed a lot of music, and I hate to say it, but I’m losing interest.

And it’s not like I had a lot of music that I currently want to listen to, anyway. I’ve built up a pretty decent music collection over the years, but at least half of that is stuff I’m not into anymore. The remaining CDs, well… they definitely fit certain moods, I can tell you that. The thing is…

I don’t know if this is going to make sense, but hear me out. Music’s great at being something people can identify with. In the past, music has been a great asset to me. I felt like whenever I was overwhelmed or alone or, well, depressed, I could count on music to connect with. That connection helped in some way.

It’s been over a year since I fell into my current state of depression, and for the first time, music isn’t helping. In fact, most of the time music makes me feel worse. When I feel like I can completely get real and submit to all my feelings and just let go with the right album, music’s great. But most of the time, music has been reminding me of all the reasons I’ve been so unhappy. And most of the time I’d honestly rather try to concentrate on getting though the day. I know I’ll probably be reminded of my depression sometime in the day. I don’t really want my music to act as a trigger.

There’s only a few bands I have albums of that I can really have “fun” with. They may still strike some chords with me, but as a whole they’re still something I can still enjoy. Thing is, it’s still easy to overplay and get tired of them. I’ve actually brought out some of my video game soundtracks from back in high school to listen to more, just to mix it up. They don’t have lyrics, so nothing about them triggers any negative thoughts, just general nostalgia (and since I don’t have any real desire to return to high school, I don’t see any harm in it).

What seems to help me most while driving, though, are podcasts. I used to listen to the Rooster Teeth podcast once a week when I walked around my old neighborhood, but stopped at some point a few years ago. I felt like a disconnect was growing between me and my interest in Rooster Teeth, so I started skipping weeks and eventually stopped listening to their podcasts altogether. I missed it though, so now that I have a bigger commute I figured it would be a good time to try getting back into it. I’ve been listening to their new podcasts for the past month, and I’m glad to say I enjoy them. Maybe not as much as I used to — I still feel disconnected or uninterested during certain parts — but as a whole listening to the podcast again has been helpful. Listening to conversations is a lot better for my mind right now than listening to music lately.

One of my friends also makes a podcast with a couple of other people. I’ve been listening to his for a while now, too, and it’s also helped me deal with driving. They mostly talk about video games, like what they’ve been playing, what’s new in the world of games, and the music of games. They even have a segment dedicated to a certain soundtrack each week, and they’ll talk about it, how it was composed, what the soundtrack was trying to go for, etc. If you’re into that kind of thing, I’d recommend giving them a listen sometime at http://www.8bitsandjoysticks.com/ They’re also trying to do some community events, so give them a little love if you’re interested.

While I do enjoy both of these podcasts, they’re both about video games. And while I do like video games, I don’t need to listen to stuff about them all the time (I already listen to enough game stuff on YouTube while I’m working on other stuff as it is). And while Rooster Teeth talks about a lot of other stuff on their podcast, I still identify them as a game-related one.

Podcasts have been helping me deal with driving a lot. I’d like to find more to listen to. They’re free, and should be released regularly. It’s been a great way of getting new stuff to listen to without hurting my wallet. If anyone has any podcast suggestions, or if anyone’s had similar problems with depression and driving and wants to share anything they’ve done to help deal with it, leave a comment. You never know who it will help.

Thanks for reading, hope everyone’s having a good week! 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Dealing with Depression — Driving

  1. My mind use to absolutely wonder to the darkest places when I was working at an old job. It got so bad that my commute became a time to think about suicide. At this time I had podcasts I’d listen too but I wasn’t able to focus on them. My mind would be triggered and I’d go into a daydream like state and suddenly arrive at work. However, after putting a lot of work into myself I can listen to podcasts again and maintain focus on them. I’m not sure you have the same interests in me (though I love video games, Destiny Radio is something I used to listen to). I love space so I listen to Startalk. RadioLab is also a very fun one to listen to. Tim Ferris is a entrepeur I listen to as well since I’m in finance and trade options – hoping one day to start my own brand.

    Music for me is something I go to to feel my emotions. I’m not good at being in tune with them. Certain songs are able to bring that out.

    I’m starting a podcast soon as well! My sister is a therapist and well… I’m the experienced one with depression and anxiety among other things.

    • I’m sorry you went through so much, but I’m happy to hear you’re at a better place right now. I’ll definitely at least check out the podcasts you mentioned too, so thanks for mentioning them 🙂

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