Progression involves change, not loss.

Sometimes English isn’t as precise as it should be. The French for missing someone is “Tu me manques”, which would more accurately be expressed in English as “I feel an absence of you”.

It’s six months since I gave up driving and while it has certainly impacted when and where I can choose to go, impacts which I feel acutely from time to time; while I loved driving and I loved being able to drive, I can’t honestly say I miss driving.

I’m no neuroscientist but to me one of the things that FA progression does is to diminish the effectiveness of my autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is what controls all the things that my body does without me having to think about them – breathing, blinking, pumping blood etc. (As a bloke I’m rubbish at multitasking but when I learned about the autonomic system I felt quite chuffed!)

In the past year I’d noticed that I needed to make more of a conscious effort on things that used to be automatic while driving like peripheral vision, judging distance to cars in front and behind according to my and their relative speeds etc. What used to be a convenience became an increasingly tiring exercise.

I’ve recently learned that neurologists refer to this all, whether conscious or unconscious as “cognitive load”. Well driving was taking a bigger cognitive load, to the point that I was no longer comfortable I’d be safe to myself or others, and I gave up driving altogether.

I can clearly remember being amazed a few years ago at how calmly a friend told me she was giving up driving, and now I feel that same sense of calm.

I miss the convenience of driving but my mind quickly appreciated the fact that I wasn’t challenging it with a huge cognitive load and I don’t miss driving. There’s no feeling of absence. I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of mental calculator in my brain that knows the equation of cognitive load vs. convenience wouldn’t be worth it and has simply moved on.

FA is a progressive condition. Our lives are changing all the time. I do what I can to keep the rate of change as slow as I can make it, but when change happens I figure out another way to accomplish what I need to get done. I’m not disabled, I’m differently-abled. I can do most things, just differently.

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