Ever since she was a teenager in Japan, Mittori has had an intense fear of driving, and has experienced panic attacks while driving on freeways or zones with high speed limits. Although she passed her driving test with no issues, she experienced a panic attack while driving with a friend a few weeks later.
“My hands were sweating, I felt like I was just about to go crazy or die or something like that,” she said.
She’s not sure where it came from exactly, but she remembers feeling scared during car trips with her parents, and visiting an uncle who’d been in a car accident that had left him severely disabled and feeling scared as a young child who had never seen a disabled person before. In her twenties, she tried therapy and hypnosis to get over her phobia but nothing seemed to work. But one day during a visit to Manly, a poster for WayAhead’s anxiety support group in Dee Why caught her eye.
“It’s actually really funny! I went to a public toilet in Manly and on the back of the door I saw this poster with a phone number for an anxiety support group in Dee Why, and I just thought I’d give it a try,” said Mittori.
When she went to her first meeting, she was surprised by how many people were there.
“I just felt, like…wow, I didn’t know people were suffering like me! That was my first feeling. I guess everyone must think ‘it’s only me’ because you don’t really talk about it to other people. I just felt instantly supported.”
Mittori has started driving again since attending the support groups, although it did take some time. She says she would definitely recommend the group to other people suffering from anxiety, but that they shouldn’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work for them.
“If it doesn’t work it’s okay because you took a step!” she said.