a person's foot on the pedal of a car while experiencing RLS symptoms and pain

Driving With Restless Legs Syndrome

Most people hear restless legs syndrome (RLS) and think it's just about shaky legs. They do not grasp the true extent of how it impacts the sufferer's quality of life.

At age 18, my third year at the university, my mum thought it was about time I learnt how to drive. Of course, I was very excited! It was a big deal. Back then and presently, to a large extent, cars weren't deemed a necessity; they were a luxury. So me driving at that young age certainly would make me look good and oh so impressive to, well, everyone.

Going to driving school

So I set off to driving school. The way the cars were set up, both the driver's side and the passenger's side (where the instructor sat) had the exact same setup (brake, accelerator, etc.), so whenever I was going too fast, the instructor could apply his brake and so on.

So it was a breeze, and I, being a fast learner, soaked it up like a paper towel and water. In about 3 weeks, I was road test ready.

The day before my road test

A day to my road test, a beautiful Sunday morning, my mum thought it was a good idea for me to drive the family to church so she could gauge my skills and determine if I was truly ready. I was so excited and eager to impress my mum; she's my hero and everything I aspire to be.

We set out. I was doing so great and my mum kept smiling and complimenting me. Then suddenly, my legs jerked, my RLS kicked it, and I impulsively stretched my legs, hitting the accelerator so fast. The next thing I knew, we were on the other side of the road with my mum's bumper damaged! Luckily, no one was hurt.

RLS kept me from driving for 14 years

I never went on that road test, nor did I get behind the wheel of another car until about 14 years later. Each time I thought about driving, I experienced so much PTSD from that incident that I just dropped the idea. This went on and on until last year.

I decided it was time to drive again, seeing as not driving was costing me a lot of time and money and infringing in no small measure on the quality of my and my children's lives.

Going back to driving school

So, I decided to go to driving school. Again. It wasn't the easiest thing. I explained to the instructor about my RLS and luckily, she understood; her husband also has RLS. Whenever my legs would act up, she would have me pull over and get down to stretch them for a bit.

She never judged and was so patient throughout the process, which helped in no small measure to quell my anxiety. We need a lot more people like her in the world.

Road test day

My road test day came, and everything was fine until nearly the end, and boom! From nowhere, my legs showed up, and I ran into the wrong tracks towards oncoming traffic! I panicked, but I was able to reverse and get into the right lane quickly. Then I parked, came down, and sobbed!

I knew that was cause for instant disqualification. My legs have done it yet again! I had to register and pay for another road test! I put it off for so, so long. Honestly, I wasn't sure that I wanted to ever try again. Then recently, my doctor put me on new RLS medication and so far, it's been working.

A window of opportunity

I decided to use that window of opportunity and go back and get my test done. I was extremely lucky; initially, they were booked up till December due to COVID-19 delaying a lot of things, but I kept calling every single day to see if someone cancelled so I could take their spot, and then fate smiled on me; someone cancelled!

The night before, I couldn't sleep. I paced and paced until it was morning. I was so tired and so sleepy, but I was also so optimistic! "Maybe this is the day my legs won't sabotage me and I pass my test," I said to myself. And I did. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

It also has got me wondering what seemingly mundane things having RLS has stopped others from doing in their day-to-day lives. Please do share.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RestlessLegsSyndrome.Sleep-Disorders.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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