Monica Lewinsky has revealed that a group of armed men tried to carjack her in 2011, sending her into an emotional crisis that required years of therapy.
Lewinsky, who became a household name in the 90s after her affair with Bill Clinton almost cost him his presidency, opened up about the traumatic experience in a personal essay for Vanity Fair on Thursday.
Nine years later, the 47-year-old said she’s come to see The Gun Incident, as she calls it, as a metaphor for the coronavirus pandemic because Americans have spent months ‘threatened with death and disruption’.
Lewinsky said that she never would have made it through that dark period in her life without counseling – and she doesn’t believe that people will make it through the current health crisis without access to help as well.
She is now calling for the federal government to establish a ‘mental health czar’ on the same level as Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has led the US response to COVID-19, to help the country cope with the lasting effects of the pandemic in the years to come.
Monica Lewinsky (pictured) revealed that she underwent years of therapy after a group of armed men tried to carjack her in 2011 in a personal essay for Vanity Fair on Thursday
Lewinsky is calling for the federal government to establish a ‘mental health czar’ on the same level as Dr Anthony Fauci (pictured), the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has led the US response to COVID-19
Lewinsky opened her essay by recounting the attempted carjacking, which she said took place at around 10.30pm on March 10, 2011, in Los Angeles.
She was talking on the phone with a friend while driving home from a Meshell Ndegeocello concert when she decided to pull over onto a residential street a few blocks from her apartment ‘to focus on our conversation’.
‘It must be safe here,’ she thought to herself, noting that the street was well-lit and there was a man walking by with his dogs.
About five minutes later she heard voices but figured it was just people arriving home. A bright light reflected off of her side mirror for a moment before cutting off as a man appeared at her door.
‘I assume he wants directions, but I am alone, and it is nighttime,’ she wrote. ‘As I am about to shoo him away, I look up into his face. It is then I see a menacing look about him, and as I glance away I notice something – he is gripping a gun, brandished at his waist.
‘I am looking straight down the barrel of A Gun. I feel pure terror. Panic courses through my veins, and “what if I die” thoughts rumble through my head. I duck and brace to hear a gunshot, imagining next: I’ll be shot in the back. But for my own heartbeat, it’s silent, like the moment before an avalanche.
‘And then, “Get out of the car, bitch!”‘
Suddenly a second person started yanking on Lewinsky’s locked passenger side door.
‘There are voices—plural. I understand that this is a group—with a gun. This jolts me into survival mode,’ she wrote.
‘I jam my Prius into drive, gun the accelerator, and move forward with my head down. Tires squealing. Praying there are no cars parked in front of me. I speed away in horror.’
Lewinsky is pictured in 2013 when she was still reeling from the attempted carjacking
While Lewinsky successfully fled from her attackers, the nightmare didn’t end there.
In the following weeks she said she found herself completely off-kilter, unable to make rational decisions and constantly paranoid about the smallest sounds around her.
‘What I used to tell myself was “Oh, just the upstairs neighbor,” becomes, “Maybe someone is in the apartment?”‘ she wrote. ‘In situations like these, the heuristics we use to discern danger become obsolete. How can I learn to trust the world again?’
Lewinsky said she’s been in therapy for years, but that she had to increase her counseling substantially after that night.
‘The trauma required someone to walk me through both the shock and terror of a potentially deadly experience: an expert who could help me begin to navigate a new normal,’ she wrote.
‘In an instant, I had entered a world that would never be the same for me again, and yet, yet, I also wanted to be able to move into this new world—and function. There was anxiety, depression, and fear.’
Lewinsky then explained why she chose to speak out about that experience now nearly a decade later, writing: ‘What if I told you that for me, The Gun Incident (as it lives in my brain) has become a metaphor for what’s transpired for all of us this past year—since we’ve been threatened with death and disruption brought on by the coronavirus?
‘Lately, I have asked myself this question: Could I have moved forward from that moment without any assistance with my mental health and state of well-being? Probably.
‘But having had that help—that guidance—made a world of difference in metabolizing the trauma of the experience and navigating a new terrain.’
Lewinsky said that she never would have made it through the trauma of the attempted carjacking without counseling – and she doesn’t believe that people will make it through the current health crisis without access to help as well
She then broke down a number of ways in which the pandemic has upended American life – forcing people indoors and isolating them from friends and relatives for months before everyone started easing back into a new normal.
‘How do we step out into this new world—emotionally? What about the mental health costs of the underlying anxiety of the times?’ she asked.
‘There’s an authority figure and voice that has been missing from the COVID-19 conversation since day one: a mental health commissioner or czar. In other words, a mental health version of Anthony Fauci.’
Lewinsky outlined her proposal for an authoritative expert who could brief the American people on ‘what is normal to feel in a global pandemic?’
She questioned how different the crisis would have been if such a position had been made at the start of the pandemic so that mental health was given as much attention as physical health.
‘I’m not suggesting that since the beginning of the crisis no one has mentioned a blip about our emotional states,’ she wrote. ‘What I’m suggesting, instead, is that the administration has overlooked a dire need—and that decision is a reflection of our values and priorities in this country.’
But Lewinsky insisted that its not to late to rectify the situation, as the pandemic’s effects on mental health will likely last for years, so there’s still time to bring someone in to address them.
Read Lewinsky’s full essay here.