Driving is driving me mad!

I’ve been driving for about 3 years now and I’m still not confident on the road. I guess me as a person and my edge of anxiety has something to do with it. I hate the unknown and the feeling of not knowing what lies ahead on the journey or whether I’ll be able to park when I get there scares me.

Whilst learning I couldn’t wait to pass my test and be free to explore the places that I grew up in but when my pink card finally arrived I couldn’t have been more anxious to get in the car. I’d make excuses for driving or walk to the shop instead of driving because it was ‘only 10 minutes away’. If me and my friends were going anywhere and they asked for someone to drive in our group chat I’d stay quiet, preferring to come across as rude and selfish than throwing myself out of my comfort zone. I’d get the train to Meadowhall and spend 40 minutes in the cold rather than getting in my nice warm car, putting my favourite songs on and enjoying the drive. Why? I guess I’d overanalysed driving so much that I put a barrier between it and myself.

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On new journeys with friends I’d feel more comfortable but I’d still ask questions even though the sat nav was on. ‘Do I turn right here?’, ‘Can I go?’… I always knew the answers but I needed that reassurance.

I’m going to be honest, sometimes I still avoid driving unless it’s a route I do often but here’s how I’m getting better:

  • Don’t think about it too much. If I’m going somewhere with Tom it goes without saying that he’ll probably be driving. However lately when we’ve locked up and are walking towards our cars I say ‘I’m driving’ before I even have time to think about it and change my mind.
  • If i’m driving home from my parents or a friends etc, I’ll put the sat nav on and I’ll purposely take a wrong turn or something from the way I know. This means I’m throwing myself out of my comfort zone and driving along new streets with new hazards.
  • Offer to drive more. Once you’ve told someone you’ll help them or visit them it’s a lot harder to turn them down and even though it might be scary getting in the car, once you’re there you’ll learn to handle anything that comes along

So to round it up, most of these tips are to drive on impulse. Get in your car before you have the chance to change your mind. For me, once I take the exit for the motorway there’s not really any going back is there? Keep practising, some routes I’ve been terrified of and now I could do them in my sleep. Keep adding new journeys to your list of ‘drives I can handle’ and you’ll be a confident driver in no time (or so I’m hoping)!

New York: Day 3 & 4

 

On our third day in New York I got my first glimpse of New York in the snow. After spending a good 20 minutes admiring the blanketed rooftops I pulled on some clothes and headed to the Starbucks down the road for breakfast, not before stopping to take a few photos along the way!

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A hour or so later it turned rainy so not wanting to venture too far we headed to Madam Tussauds. To be honest this wasn’t really my cup of tea and more something that Tom wanted to do but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I had an amazing orange slush and discovered I have the same size hands as Victoria Beckham…so there’s that?

For lunch we headed to Shake Shack where I ordered cheese fries and the hot dog. Believe it or not it was my first time visiting and although the cheese fries were seriously tasty I’d definitely try the hamburger next time. I also got a fanta red grape which was deeeesgusting. When in Rome…

Earlier that day we’d got tickets to a comedy show from a ticket tout on the streets. You do get a lot of people pestering you but it’s worth listening sometimes as this can be the best way to find some of the hidden gems in the city as we soon discovered. The guy we met also gave us a handy tip about an app called Today Tix (more on that on my next blog post)! The show was a good 45 minutes away so we headed back to the hotel and I plotted all the things on our list that were on the way as well as making a reservation for dinner that night. I suggested that we try and fit in Byrant Park, Grand Central, Macy’s, dinner and the show. I’m tired just thinking about it!

Bryant Park was pretty flooded but that didn’t stop us jumping in and out of all the stalls. With the Christmas tree in the distance it really was like a scene from a Christmas film. Of course, our favourite stall was one that served food and I got a Nutella crepe and Tom chose the dark chocolate and hazelnut one. YUM! They also served some wonderful yet wacky creations such as maple bacon fries, nutella fries, pizza fries, etc etc.Must try some next time!

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After making a whistle stop tour at Grand Central Station we headed to Macy’s and then Victoria Secrets. It wasn’t much cheaper than in the UK but I did get a free throw which has come in very handy for those cosy nights on the sofa!

From VS we headed to Don Antonio where I got the enchiladas and Tom went for the fajitas. I also ordered an extra side of guacamole because what is Mexican food without guacamole? Don Antonio is a family run restaurant and both the service and food were very authentic. I’d definitely recommend. Next, we headed to the comedy show. I can’t remember the exact figure but I think the tickets were around $20 each but then you have to buy 2 drinks whilst watching the show. These are around $15 each so the ‘true’ entry price is around $50. I’d still highly recommend it as we were both in stitches all night and it’s just a really good way to spend a night in New York and not something I think is that well known to people visiting. Seriously, seek those touts out and get yourself there for some serious belly laughs – we went to the New York Comedy Club on 24th Street.

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Finally we got an Uber home and as you can image, slept like a log!

 

New York – Day 1 & 2

We booked New York a year in advance and although I was seriously excited I felt like it would never arrive! We booked to go in December around our birthdays which meant we would also get to see all the Christmas attractions. I’d read how difficult it was to fit everything in to 5-6 days so my most important consideration was a check list of everything we definitely wanted to do and strategic mapping which meant that we weren’t endlessly walking from one end of New York to another.

Day 1

We flew with Virgin Atlantic and as always the flight was really enjoyable and comfortable. I watched ‘You before Me’ (yes, I shed a few tears) and Finding Dory and enjoyed a drink or two. As expected, we were pretty tired after the journey so on the first day we just checked into the Westin Times Square and had a wander around Times Square.

We stayed on the 23rd floor which had stunning views over Manhattan. The room was lovely and crisp and the bed was huuuuge and so so comfortable! We also got robes which I basically lived in while we were there and the room had a Starbucks coffee machine which came in very very handy!

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Day 2

Day 2 began with breakfast in bed. Our booking with Virgin Holidays gave us $15 dollars credit each, per day, which we could accumulate over our stay. I chose an egg white, cheese, onion and spinach omelette whilst Tom chose the maple syrup pancakes and we both had a latte and acai berry smoothie. The bill came to about $120 once the gratuity had been added which I thought was quite expensive, the food was average so I’m glad that it was included in the package.

After breakfast we headed to the Rockefeller tree which was as pretty in person as the photos shared all over the Internet. After taking countless photos, Tom pulled out a ring and proposed. It was so thoughtful and a perfect moment that we’ll both remember forever. Afterwards we both headed to the Rockefeller Ice Skating rink and skated for around 45 minutes. It cost about $80 dollars for two of us including skate hire and we only had to queue for about 10 minutes (we got there at 12ish). I would highly recommend ice skating if you’re going in December or January!

Next, we wandered around the shops and headed to Starbucks for a quick lunch break and to share the news with friends and family. Once we’d rested we headed to the Top of the Rock to take in the view after a magical morning. I’m scared of heights but it strangely wasn’t so bad. The view was breathtaking and we could see for miles and miles, the highlight was looking over Central Park and the Empire State Building! For this reason I’d definitely suggest visiting in the daytime.

We then headed back to the hotel to get changed as we had tickets for Aladdin that night. We planned to go to a Mexican restaurant to celebrate but the tight time schedule meant that we just ate at The Foundry in the hotel – really nice though! Aladdin was a fantastic show and I really enjoyed it plus we were lucky enough to get really good seats. After the show we were both exhausted so we swapped the late night drinks for a good nights sleep!

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Keep your eye out for Day 3 & 4 which include Central Park, Avenue Q, Byram Markets & more…

The Black Dog

Matthew Johnstone labels depression as a ‘black dog’. ‘Just like a real dog it needs to be embraced, understood, taught new tricks and ultimately, brought to heel’. I have lived with a couple of black dogs but I have never had depression.

Labelling things can make them easier to identify, easier to absorb. It takes something intangible and gives us something to work with – a name, a face, a familiarity.

If you’re living with someone with depression I know how hard it is to find the right words to say. There aren’t many. So here’s what I’ve learnt not to say:

  • Cheer up/snap out of it
  • It’s all in your head
  • It’s not even that bad
  • There are people with worse problems than you
  • You’re being stupid/silly/irrational

Seriously, AVOID. When words fail you, listen intently and stop waiting for your chance to speak. Try to be understanding when they’re fighting internal battles that you can’t even begin to try and understand. Sure, it’s ok to raise a few eyebrows when they’re hysterical because they’ve picked up the wrong soup from the shop but what’s not a reason to be upset to you is another reminder of ‘why they’re a failure’. Be kind.

People with depression can be vulnerable, unstable, scared, impulsive. It’s these feelings that can lead them to take their own life. We’re not inside their heads. We can’t understand why they are doing the things they are doing or why they won’t listen. They’re also often the biggest comedians. They put on a brave face, channel their desperate pleas for attention through their biggest jokes, they constantly appear happy because they don’t think it’s ok to let anyone know they’re having a bad day. A person without depression knows its ok to have bad days.

Having issues and fears savagely eating away inside of them becomes a ticking time bomb and out of nowhere, unexpected to everyone around them, it goes off. Then the questions start…’Why didn’t think they ask for help’, ‘why didn’t they tell me how they felt’, or better still ‘I only saw them last week’, but these things don’t come with bright orange warning lights. When a person feels like a burden to everyone around them they don’t think straight, their judgment is hazy and hijacked by the thought that the world would be a better place without them. Depression has crippled their ability to communicate, intensified their stress and doubt to the point where they are living an internal hell.

So tell people you appreciate them, that they play an important role in your life, that they matter. And if you have a black dog that won’t be tamed, talk to someone. There is no person in this world that would not listen to someone they love or care about. Tell them how you feel. Unload the weights off your shoulders, unchain the shackles around your feet. It always gets better.