Dana’s Story

Dana tells her story of how and why she stopped driving, and the challenging questions she addressed in making that decision. Could she give up the independence and spontaneity that defined driving?  How about her identity?  Could she come to accept and honor the disability? 

How and Why I Stopped Driving
by Dana Snyder-Grant

Here is my story of how and why I landed on the decision to stop driving. All my adult life, I’ve had MS and been a driver, with only one accident in 40 years. Then I had two car accidents within two years. I realized that my disabilities from MS, namely my dropped foot on the right side and slowed reaction time and processing speed, were interfering with my safe driving. In both accidents, my mind kept telling the body to brake, yet I continued to accelerate.

The first accident took place quite near a children’s playground.  No-one was around, yet I was terrified. I felt out of control, and at a loss. No health care professional was able to identify what had gone wrong. One occupational therapist, who observed me without a walker, questioned whether I should be driving. A second OT evaluated me and determined I was safe to drive, and a driving instructor passed me on a road test.  After I received the go-ahead, I started to drive again. And then I had the second accident.

My study of Buddhism helped me to accept what was, even in its ambiguity, and let go of my attachment to the “meaning” of driving.  This was during the pandemic.  No one was driving anywhere.  I had time and space to process all this.

I was no longer comfortable as a driver.  My town had begun a van service for those who could not drive and I began to use it.  I remember Dr. B saying to me,

“If you are not comfortable driving, then don’t.”  Easy for him to say.

Could I give up the independence and spontaneity that defined driving?  How about my identity?  Could I come to accept and honor the disability?  Could I accept that I was still a whole and worthy person despite the chosen loss of driving, a basic task of daily living?    

After the second accident, I let go of trying to figure it all out, i.e. what exactly had gone wrong.  I could have spent time and energy figuring this all out. I knew I had some cognitive deficits.  Multitasking had become more difficult for me as had the executive functioning that I had once relied on. 

Yet I knew that much of my cognition was still intact.  Chalk that up to the vicissitudes and unpredictability that is MS.  I organized a singing group which necessitated multitasking, as much as I avoided such.  I continued to write personal essays about daily living, often focused on my work as a psychotherapist, specializing in chronic illness and disability, and on my life as a person with MS.  Mind you, it was not an easy decision to give up driving.  I had my low moments around this.  You know, loss of independence, spontaneity, and all that entailed. 

I reflect spiritually or existentially.  We all need to let go of the ego and not take our losses personally.  Asking for help, while difficult, can bring us closer to one another.  Human care and connection matters. 

Choice matters. I choose to sit with the grief and ambiguity in this body. I thought that MS forced me to stop driving.  Yet perhaps it didn’t.  I chose to stop driving.

Dana Snyder-Grant is a freelance writer and a retired clinical social worker, specializing in chronic illness and disability. For many years, Dana offered individual and group psychotherapy, assisting individuals to cope with the challenges of medical illness. She is the author of Just Like Life, Only More So, and Other Stories of Illness. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1981. She can be reached at dana.snydergrant@gmail.com or through her website at https://www.justlikelifeonlymoreso.com/