Stop This World

Gracefully going from victim to survivor to servant leader in the heartland

My summer hiatus from this blog is over, so I should probably get back to writing.  It is almost two years ago that I started this blog to talk about my sexual assault and the healing process involved and I can’t believe how much I have written, especially in that first year.  I didn’t realize how therapeutic those blog posts were for me.  It was hard work, but it was worth it.  So, taking the summer off from blogging has been really nice, but I am looking forward to sharing more thoughts as I’m on this never-ending journey.

Yesterday, I was able to have coffee with someone who I have informally mentored over the years and it was wonderful catching up.  We were talking about her travels coming up and she mentioned that she would be going to Denver for an industry meeting.  A meeting that I knew well and that I had been to several times.  A meeting where my last memory of it was three years ago having the worst anxiety attack of my life.  It was awful.

If you have read my previous posts, you will notice that during my time living in Washington, DC that I traveled a great deal for work.  I enjoyed travel for a long time, but as my anxiety and depression grew it started to really make me miserable.  I just didn’t realize how miserable I was at the time and kept up traveling. 

So, about three years ago to the date I traveled to Denver for a meeting where my team and I would be presenting to a committee for a sizable sum of money to run our organization.  The stakes were high and I needed to be on my A game.  I have some really good memories of the meetings there over the years.  Sure, the work and presenting were intense but my colleagues and I had a great time regardless.  I was really looking forward to this trip to Denver in September, 2016. 

So, I fly into the Denver airport feeling confident about the next couple days.  I had to get to the hotel quickly because I had a dinner meeting with one of my colleagues to go over our presentation for the next day.  I knew that the hotel we were staying at had a shuttle bus that I could take so I made my way over to the loading area to wait.  And wait…and wait some more. 

I’m getting restless at this point because I was going to be late for this meeting.  Come on, where is this shuttle?  I get impatient after about 20 minutes and decide to take a taxi to the hotel.  It can’t be that expensive because it is only a few minutes away.  So, I hop over to the taxi lane and grab a taxi.  All seemed fine, even though I was aware of the driver’s skin color.  (At that point I still had adverse reactions to strangers who were men and who had brown skin, but I was fine)  Put my suitcase in the trunk and hopped in back.  Told the driver where I was going and he said that it would be $35.  Um, no.  No it isn’t.  I know better than that and I’m sick of being taken advantage of in life, especially when I travel alone.  So, I told him that his price is a scam and I’m not paying it. 

Meanwhile, he is driving away from the curb.  He says the words that I never knew would send me into the outer orbit of anxiety…

“Trust me.”

Trust me, he said.  Oh, hell no!  It is all kind of a blur but I distinctly remember yelling at the driver to pull over and let me out.  He wouldn’t.  I swore at him a little and said that I’m calling the cops.  Pull this f*cking car over, NOW!

He pulled over and I jumped out of the car to retrieve my suitcase.  All the while he is trying to convince me that I should stay in his car and I just don’t understand.  Got my suitcase from the trunk, probably yelled some more expletives at him and quickly marched away.

I got back to the terminal and I just lost it.  Sobbing and heaving like I never had before.  I felt like I wanted to go into the bathrooms and kick all the stall doors in with a little karate action, but I didn’t do that because I didn’t want anybody in the bathroom asking if I was okay and why was I kicking doors in.  So, I tried to compose myself knowing that I would not be taking a taxi to the hotel.  Decided that I needed to go stand back in line with the hotel shuttle, which still hadn’t arrived.

Walk back over to the shuttle line and I’m sure I looked like a racoon with my make-up everywhere.  I had never had such a violent reaction before, so I was scared.  I felt like my chest was going to explode.  I started doing the techniques I had learned to ground myself and get my breathing under control.  Trying to do this while trying not to cry while wanting to go climb under a rock.  I also realized that several of the people in line with me were going to the same meeting and they recognized me.  Crap.  I’m having a full-blown anxiety attack and these are the people I will be presenting to tomorrow for a large sum of money.  That realization just made the anxiety worse.

Please shuttle bus, show up…

The shuttle finally arrived and I made sure that I got on that thing.  I would have ridden on the hood if I had to so that I could get out of there.  I was done with the Denver airport and taxi’s.  I still couldn’t control my breathing as much as I wanted, but I had a least stopped crying.  It took about 10 minutes to get to the hotel (remember the driver wanted to charge me $35 to drive 10 minutes).  Once I finally arrived, I went right to my dinner meeting to discuss our presentation and tactics for the next day.  I tried to put on a good front, but I’m sure my colleagues could tell that I was crying previously and was all puffy and scatter brained.

Next morning, got up and got my coffee while giving myself a pep-talk.  It was going to be a good day!  What I didn’t know is that when you have a full-blown anxiety attack like I did, my brain and body were not going to cooperate for a few days.  I was basically in full-blown shock the next couple days.  I could function and I did present in front of everyone, but I know I didn’t do a good job.  I just didn’t want to be there or around anybody at that point.  Fortunately, I had colleagues who were rock stars and made sure to cover up any of my mistakes or inability to answer questions with grace.

We received the money, no thanks to my anxiety attack.  Looking back, I can say that this was part of my downhill slide into the abyss of my great depression.  This was September 2016 and by mid-November 2016 I would be taking a leave of absence because I couldn’t function and I was getting ready for court.

I’m fortunate to be able to look back on this with understanding and wisdom.  Why did this happen? Well, best I can tell is that my mind went into overdrive to protect myself from danger. The night of my assault I rode in a strange car, with a tan man who said “trust me”. My brain wasn’t having it and did what it was created to do…protect.

Oddly enough, in September 2018 I was back in Denver with my Dad to visit family and I walked through the same door I did that day of the anxiety attack.  I actually stopped and told my dad, “that’s where I had my worst anxiety attack.”  He nodded and I felt like giving myself a high-five for not being at all traumatized by it.  Yeah, me!

To wrap this post up, when I was having coffee yesterday with my friend and she mentioned going to Denver for this meeting, I nodded knowingly and smiled to myself because I realized just how far I have come in three years.  Those memories are just that, memories.  They don’t control my life anymore and for that I am forever grateful.

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