Driving Difficulties With ME/CFS

The other night I wrote a post about vision problems with ME/CFS and it reminded of me how driving is affected also, partly because of the vision problems.   When I have severe flares from the CFS, I don’t drive.  I have found out over the years even during the less severe flares when I should hand the keys over to someone else.  Back before I realized how severely my driving could be affected from the CFS, I would drive and I would literally get lost in my local town.  I could seriously not remember how to get from point A to point B – in the area I have lived for years.  It is very scary. 

There are times when I can barely manuver the vehicle because I physically do not have the strength to do so.  I will notice that steering the car is extremely difficult and it is hard to keep the car steady.  I know that I have to park the vehicle and if I want or need to go somewhere (if I have the energy), my husband will have to do the driving. 

I have had to pull off the road many, many times over the years because of the fatigue from CFS.  My eyes will also get very small and squinty when the CFS is affecting me and that makes it hard to see as well.

I have to wear polarized sunglasses when driving all year round because the light hurts my eyes so bad.  If it is snowing like crazy you will see me driving with my shades on.  Driving at night proves to be difficult because of the glare from all of the headlights.   If you read the post about the vision problems with ME/CFS ,  light is a problem for our eyes.  It causes headaches, watery eyes and makes our vision blurry. 

It has been hard for me to turn over the driving to my husband.  Driving is something I have always loved to do.  When traveling, I am always the one to do the bulk of the driving and when I know it’s not safe for me to be behind the wheel, I have to stifle my pride and do what’s best and safe for everyone.  But it just shows how ME/CFS touches every aspect of our lives, even the little things like driving that most people take for granted. 

Please share any driving difficulties you have had due to CFS.

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  1. I’ve also experienced everything you list. In addition, I get pain and hot flushes in waves that are too distracting to drive safely and I have such severe neck pain and loss of movement in my neck – and dizziness if I try – that I can no longer look over my shoulder for merging into traffic.

    Now with severe orthostatic intolerance and dreadful balance that would make me fail a drunk driving test sober, I wouldn’t dare drive.

    So I gave up my car and driving several years ago and, actually, I’m now glad not to have to deal with all the anxiety, pain, difficulty, getting lost, etc., as well as all the pressures and costs of keeping roadworthy a car on the road.

    On top of that, I congratulate myself on how “green” I’m being. 😀

  2. Any exertion of my shoulders brings on a cfs flare for me. So even apart from the safety issues there’s the fact that I’m just not physically capable of it. Parallel parking a car with manual transmission that doesn’t have true power steering (like most cheap cars in Britain) is as far out of my capabilities as running a 10k race.

    Instead, I’ve become a regular customer of the local taxi company. Since I hardly ever leave home anyway, it’s still cheaper than keeping a car would be.

  3. I didn’t drive for the better part of the first 4 years I was sick. Almost 20-years in I have made 1 drive 45 minutes from home, 1 drive 90 minutes from home, but typically have to keep everything within a half hour radius of the house (on my best days) or else someone else has to drive. I too have learned when I just simply have to hand over the keys and cannot safely navigate a vehicle even for a 5-minute drive. It is a constant fear that I will spend too much of my mental/physical reserves getting myself somewhere or use up more than planned while I’m there, then not have the energy to get myself safely back home again.

    I also have trouble plotting out how to get from point A to point B even if I know the area well. I’ve gotten lost many times and often have to backtrack or end up taking the most lengthy/complicated route somewhere because I have to keep re-adjusting for turns I forgot to make or exits I passed by, etc. My husband bought me an in-car-navigator for Christmas a couple of years ago and it has been very helpful, but sometimes I even have a hard time following those directions.

  4. I can really relate. I’ve basically given up ever driving at night because it causes me migraines, and I’ve often had to swap drivers when driving longer distances. As far as when I drive alone, I limit my trips out alone, mainly just for doctors appointments, and in the very middle of the day. Daytime or nighttime I often become bothered by light causing my eyes pain & disorienting me.
    A few months back I got overwhelmed by driving at night, and sharply pulled over and got out, and had my husband move to the drivers seat. A cop saw my actions and pulled behind to ask us if everything was fine. I felt sheepish explaining that my arthritis and fatigue had overwhelmed my ability to drive safely. But he seemed pleased with knowing the action was for safety and then left.

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