On the 7th of December 1998 my life would change forever. That day I had passed my driver’s license and wanted to take my new-to-me car out to celebrate this milestone with friends. We were going to meet at a local family restaurant, but I never made it to the restaurant.
My friend and I were hijacked by two armed men in the parking lot. There was one at each door, and with guns pointed at us, we were instructed to climb over into the back seat. It dawned on us that instead of just taking the car and our valuables, they were going on a joyride and taking us with them.
One drove and another had a gun pointed on us the entire time. We were commanded to slide onto the floor and as I did, I could see that we had left our town and were being driven towards the beach. Once we arrived in a very wild, abandoned spot we were ordered to get out.
My boot was ransacked and one of them was screaming at me in anger because I had no rope. Which 18 year old girl prioritises rope?
At this point, the more aggressive one grabbed me by the arm and pushed me up a sand dune, all the while holding his gun in my back.
Once at the top, he demanded that I take off all my clothes. In this moment, it was as if something inside me simply snapped, and even though I had a gun pointed at me, I looked him straight in the eye and said ‘You’ll have to shoot me first.’ This wasn’t false bravado, in that moment as an 18 year old with no dependants I meant it. I registered the shock and confusion in his face- this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. In his script, I was expected to cry, beg for my life and comply.
My entire body felt hot as the rage inside me exploded. Everyone talks about the fight, flight or freeze reaction; well mine appeared to fight. You see, my childhood had been rough by any standards and had engrained in me, this belief that I could only ever rely on myself- only me ever had my back. Well, that spirited part of me, forged by years of forced resilience wasn’t giving up without a fight.
Survival mode kicked in, so I turned and started shouting at his accomplice who was still at the bottom of the dune with my friend. ‘You already have everything, just take the fucking car and leave now!’ The two of them started arguing amongst themselves in their native tongue and my friend and I both kept shouting at them to just take the car and go.
They must’ve noticed that this was going to draw too much attention as they decided to take the car and make a run for it. Before the aggressive one went back down the dune, he looked at me and spat out ‘Crazy bitch.’
At several times during that attack, I wondered if the guns were even real. The ensuing shoot out they had with the police, proved that they were. They eventually abandoned the car and although they weren’t caught, I did get my now damaged car back after the police concluded their investigation.
I realised a week later that something was wrong and sought help from a therapist. He explained that my symptoms were called PTSD and completely normal after a life threatening experience. He asked about my life and when I finished telling my story, he said something that would forever change my life and perspective ‘ Janine, I believe the resilience you built up because of your childhood, ended up saving your life.’ I sat there in shock and for the first time ever, felt any gratitude for my past.
This realisation and the journey of healing sparked my passion for everything trauma related, and led to me finding my purpose of becoming a therapist specialising in unresolved trauma, PTSD and painful life experiences. Now I help women all over the world heal and make their traumatic experiences just one page of their story, while helping them write the rest on their own terms and creating everything they’ve ever wanted for themselves. Trauma affects the way we parent, show up in relationships and even how successful we’ll be, so while trauma isn’t our fault, it is our responsibility to heal, not just for our own sakes, but also our partners and children.