Fight or flight instincts don’t help if you have no idea which way to run. Carly’s search for mental health as an attempt survivor continues:
Carly’s tipping point came on the way home from a weekly volunteer meeting in Akuapem Hills, Ghana. The taxi driver had been told in his native language to take Carly to Central Station. He turned the wrong direction.
“No. No. No,” Carly said. “Central Station. Please. Central Station.”
God no. I’m dead. Raped or dead. Or both, she thought.
A group of people started coming toward the car.
“Please. Central Station,” she begged, eliciting no reaction.
Her California colleague, the one who had given directions to the driver, had spoken to him in Twi. Carly had no idea how to do that.
Carly’s fear quickly elevated. I’m dead. I’m not going to be someone’s slave. Oh no, not in this life.
She tensed her fists and prepared to fight and run, even if she wasn’t quite sure which direction to go. A group piled quickly into the taxi around her, leaving no time to do anything and no escape.
Carly prepared for the worst. Instead, they left Carly alone. Fifteen minutes later, she was at Central Station, coated in sweat and in the midst of an uncontrollable anxiety attack, even after figuring out that shared taxis picked up passengers whenever and wherever they could. When a volunteer leader spotted Carly, that leader could tell something was wrong.
“I need a cigarette,” was all Carly could muster.
“Well, you can’t smoke here. Women don’t smoke,” Carly was informed, adding to her already chest-crushing anxiety.
“I know a place,” the leader reassured Carly, taking her to a nearby hut where the family invited them to sit at their family table. The leader bought two cigarettes and two beers from the mother, who allowed them to enjoy the comforting taste and aroma until Carly was calm enough to return to her host house.
The next day, Carly began a trek home that included 24 hours at Kotoka international, a story about an emergency family illness, hundreds of dollars in texting and phone charges and a self-promise that she was done seeking dramatic life changes.
The long plane ride provided plenty of opportunity for Carly to ruminate.