From the time we could walk, we were taught to hold an adults hand and look both ways before crossing a road. Gradually our parents and carers began to give us more and more responsibility when it came to making the decision of if it was safe to cross. After years of training, how to look left and right, the responsibility became our own and suddenly there was no adults hand to hold.
Crossing the road seems like a small responsibility as an adult but lately it has become a very overwhelming task for me, to the point where even thinking about crossing a road on my own makes me nervous.
What changed you may be thinking.
Well, my brain changed.
I walk to the roads edge; look left, look right, left again and maybe right again too. I am too busy remembering to look both ways before crossing that I forget to pay attention to whether there are any cars coming.
Sounds stupid, right?
Have you ever gone to check the time on your phone and been distracted by the notifications and end up putting it back down without looking at the time? Well that’s kind of what happens to me when I try to cross the road.
OK, so I’ve decided it’s safe.
I start walking across the road, but, hold on – there’s a car coming. Was that there before? How did I miss that? Don’t panic, stay calm. Do I slow down or speed up?
My legs aren’t feeling great today so I’d better slow down. By the time I slow down, there’s now a car coming from the opposite direction. Oh god. Now I am panicked. I stand in the middle of the road; overwhelmed, confused, scared and embarrassed. I wave at the drivers as a silent apology and hope they understand as they swerve around me.
Sometimes they beep, sometimes they shout. I wish I could explain to them that my brain doesn’t always work the way it should. But I can’t, so I am left embarrassed and feeling incompetent as an adult.
The noises of the engines ring in my over-sensitive ears, making it hard for me to concentrate on anything else. I take a deep breath and try to focus, try to keep calm and try to find the right time to cross.
Sometimes I stand there too long, because my brain won’t let me concentrate long enough to find the right gap. This means I get dizzy, really dizzy. My heart rate will jump up to 150bpm or more and I’ll begin to feel faint. This increased urgency to cross makes everything so much worse.
Sometimes I will just completely forget to look before crossing, or I don’t even register that I am crossing a road.
I’ll be too busy concentrating on not tripping over my numb leg or making sure I don’t walk with a limp or a drag. Sometimes I am just focusing on not falling over, trying to ignore the fact that I am exhausted and out of breath only a few minutes into a walk.
I’ve walked out in front of so many cars because of this. Again, I give them my silent apology with an embarrassed wave. They beep and they shout. I wish I could tell them, I wish I could explain.
My condition effects every aspect of my life. When I am not almost getting run over, I am picking up hot objects, asking the same questions over and over, eating lunch three times because I forget I already ate it or not eating at all because I forget I haven’t eaten yet. For those of you who ask me why I can no longer drive, I hope this answers that for you. It truly is something that has taken over every part my life, not just the way I feel physically.