Those who follow my blog know I write about science and medicine and their complexities and challenges. Sometimes, I write about anesthesiology and what it’s like to be in the operating room. I write about gender issues and things I’ve noticed as a woman leader in medicine. I write about my children, being a mother, and all that it takes to have the best job in the world and feel like you’re failing at it.
Sometimes all write about shoes and my favorite spring fashion. (I am a lover of fashion, and it’s my hobby.)
Today, I’m not writing about anything anesthesiology related, gender in medicine, or style related.
I’m writing about a very real disease process that I suffer from called: “I-can’t-get-out-of-the-car” a.k.a., Frozen Car Disease
And I’m 100% serious.
I don’t know how common this disease is, but I like to think I’m not the only 40-year-old person who experiences its symptoms on a routine basis.
And therefore, I’m using this blog today to bring light to this disease in hopes to help others who suffer from it as well. Maybe we need a support group. Maybe we need pilot study. A six-sigma project. Maybe we need our own study section and NIH funding.
The disease presents typically on my way home from work. I’m driving with the sheer focus of woman crossing the border from hospital work to homework, my mind unraveling my work day and winding up my nightly plans.
As I drive home, I suddenly have this overwhelming sense of fatigue. I am at the stage of life where parenting is about being a nightly Uber driver, chef, puberty coach, and math whiz. I start thinking and dreaming about getting on an airplane and going to an island far, far away. The closer I get to home, the more tired and more lethargic I become.
Does anyone else have these symptoms? Am I the only one? Is death inevitable?
Suddenly I pull into my driveway, and this is when the disease really presents itself. As I put the car in park and turn off the ignition, I simply can’t.
As in, I physically can’t move.
My legs are stuck and have no motor capabilities. As I listen to the last remaining minutes of the radio before it goes silent, it’s like I’ve suddenly developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
I can’t do it.
Somewhere in the distance I can hear someone yelling, “Mom‘s home!” These words send shivers down my spine as I realize my second shift is about to start.
What did I set out for dinner? What are my people doing? Who has homework? Who goes where tonight? Do I have gas in my car? Did I go to the gym this morning? Is my bag in my trunk? Can I wear these heels, or will I sink in the mud at soccer? Do I need a quick wardrobe change? Sunscreen? I can do this! Move legs, move!
All of the sudden, I see a small person at my car door. My youngest son peers up at me and yells through the window, “Mom, are you coming in?” I say yes, fighting the urge to put my seat back and slide down where he can’t see me.
The disease is telling me to ask him to bring out a can of La Croix and a bag of dark chocolate almonds I’ve hidden in the pantry. It’s telling me that I should stay in the car and listen to a podcast and forget about water bottles and homework, just for five more minutes.
Sometimes I do. Sometimes I sit there until someone drags me in, until my muscles work again and there’s ATP at the neuromuscular junction.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my people. I love their craziness and excitement and activities that drag them to the four corners of our city.
But the disease is real.
So, if anyone has similar experiences while pulling into your garage, please let me know. I am interested in studying this unknown disease and figuring out ways to combat it.
Surely, somewhere, there is someone who pulls in, jumps out of his or her car with total glee, walks in and says “Honey! I’m home!”
For the rest of us, there is hope.
It’s called retirement. And graduation.
In the meantime, I’ve stashed dark chocolate almonds in the console of my car.
Sasha K. Shillcutt is an anesthesiologist who blogs at Brave Enough.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com