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Linda's Drive

Page 4

Neil Blick

Since then she had been driving on a mainly straight highway for over two hours. A hot day, no air-conditioning, her mantra on replay. “I’ll-be-too-late”, her sweating hands clutching the steering wheel, her single purpose fixed in mind. Initially the journey had been easy to travel. However, with ‘fastest route enabled’ the GPS had now directed her to take a shortcut. Obediently she followed the English matron’s instruction and joined the travelling pack speeding over rough, winding back roads. With thinking now confused, fear enveloped her as she entered unknown country.

From my training and experience I know controlling a panic attack is a careful, mindful process. Humans, like other animals, have survival mechanisms that don’t give up quickly. That's why we have survived. In our evolutionary past animals who dropped their guard too early paid the ultimate price. Our ancestors ran, fought or froze until the threat had well passed. If there is good reason for alarm, as there was for Linda, the human drive-to-survive takes over. But slowing our heart rate through measured breathing, whilst using distracting thoughts and other calming techniques, are learnt skills. It takes time, time she told me she didn’t have. “I’ll-be-too-late, I’m- already-too-late” was her mantra. I recognised the signs of adrenalin flooding into her body, spiralling her higher into fear.

My own cycling GPS app ‘Strava’ confirmed that Linda was on the right path and, if she could just keep going, would soon connect with the main highway to take her south to her destination. She could not move. Fight or flight had given way to freeze.  I offered to cycle ahead to the next intersection about 2 kilometres away, and encouraged her to follow. She agreed so I pushed off as fast as I could (which was far slower than all other traffic). With Linda behind me, I peddled as hard as I was able. A line of horn-blaring vehicles soon joined our slow uphill procession. 

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