Somewhere around 2015 I started having terrible panic attacks whenever I had to drive on the express way. I would find alternate routes no matter how much longer it took me, just to avoid it. If someone else was driving and there was no way around it, I’d try to distract myself in any way possible, but it didn’t typically help much. As soon as we’d pull onto the exit ramp I would instantly start to settle down and the fear would dissipate. I never even thought about why this was happening, I just knew one thing for sure; I hated the express way.
This fear led me to skip out on many things. When friends wanted to get together with our kids at a place 45 minutes away. When I was on my way to a cousin’s wedding but the fear was so paralyzing that 25 minutes into my drive I pulled off the express way and headed home on a different route. My focus was so intent on avoiding the trigger, (though at the time I didn’t know it was a trigger…just a fear) that I never tried to figure out this phenomenon but just accepted it.
Since there wasn’t any explanation or reasoning, it caused tension in my marriage when we would take trips to the other side of the state or up north and I never wanted to share the driving. Or when my dad would want me to come visit but I didn’t want to make the drive. I couldn’t explain what I didn’t understand. How do you find the words to communicate that as soon as you merge, you feel completely out of control, like you could die at any moment, but that it would go away just as quickly as it came on. I didn’t know how to verbalize what was inside: terror, especially when there appeared to be no plausible cause for it.
All the while, I also had this one memory stick out as being really strange, but I never could figure out why it was so odd to me or why it would come to mind so often. I typically just dismissed it as, “yeah, that was weird. I wonder why…” but quickly moved on and didn’t dwell on it.
I had always remembered part of what happened, and maybe that’s why it seemed to bizarre. Something was missing.
What I did remember was being at my dad’s apartment, though I’m not sure if I was 16 or 17 at the time. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was ready to go home to my mom’s as I had school and friends to get back to the next day. My dad’s friend “Trent” was over, he wasn’t much older than I was. My dad often teased and made fun of Trent for being unattractive, saying he could never get a girl as cute as me. Not that I was stunning or anything, but I certainly had zero interest in Trent, and if I am being completely honest, though I thought he was nice, he kind of repulsed me.
I was eager to get home, however my dad was expressing how tired he was and asking if he could just take me straight to school the next morning. Trent offered to take me home instead, to which we both agreed and were thankful for. He said he just had to stop home for something and then he’d be back to pick me up. Here is the first red flag, that neither my dad or I noticed.
He lived really close by so I wasn’t sure what was taking so long, but around a half hour later we were on our way. He told me while he was at home he grabbed some pop, and he offered me a can. I didn’t think to ask why it was already open. So that afternoon we drove off headed south on 131 in his little black car while I drank my pop and we listened to rap on the radio.
Hours later, I woke up really confused.I struggled to make sense of how I’d been asleep so long, why we were about a half hour north from where we started when we had been headed south, why it felt like it had been hours since we left, and it must have been as it was starting to get dark, and it was only supposed to be about a 40 minute drive. I was feeling disoriented but thought I must’ve just been really out of it. I asked where we were and why it was taking so long, and how long I’d been sleeping for. Trent was acting really strange. He seemed so nervous as he tried to explain that he’d taken a wrong turn somewhere and then just wanted to let me sleep. Nothing was adding up, and it always stuck out to me as being off, but I never put the pieces together.
Fast forward to December 2019. I’d been having flashbacks of traumatic experiences for almost three years, but all of them had taken place when I was a little girl. When this memory started popping up, I remember thinking, “yeah that was really weird, but wasn’t I about 17? I would remember if something happened to me at that age!” But it just kept coming back up, like a fly that you keep swatting away but it won’t leave you alone.
The Holy Spirit kept bringing up the fact that he went home to get something before we left. The pop he gave me. The fact that I woke up hours later no where near where we should’ve been. How strange he was acting. And then it came one night, just like all my other memories. I could not only see what had happened, but I could feel it. I was drugged and raped. The next morning my whole body hurt so badly as though I’d been hit by a bus.
In my anger, after finding out what his last name was from my dad, I looked him up. I couldn’t find him on Facebook, but I sent him a follow request on Instagram. He did not accept. I just wanted to tell him that I knew. I’m sure he would deny it, but I didn’t care. I wanted him to know that I know.
This memory was a little different for me to process than the others. I knew that feeling angry was normal, and appropriate. But I wasn’t some innocent little child this time. While I never led him on to any degree, it was well known that I was a promiscuous party girl. It made navigating through the emotions of it a little different than what I’d grown accustom to. I might have been a wild child at this time in my life, but I was still victimized by Trent. He used deception to take something from me that he wanted. I may not have been an innocent little girl, but something was still stolen from me that day. Feelings of dirtiness and disgust were very prevalent with this memory.
I am happy to report that over the last several months, with the healing power that only Jesus brings, my fear of driving has significantly decreased. Even though inviting Him into these dark places causes me the discomfort of having to recall painful events, it ultimately leads to healing every time. And that’s the only reason He wants to address these things I’d often rather keep hidden, because He loves me and wants to occupy all of my heart.