Today I walked into work like I do every day. I rounded a corner and I knew someone was there. I heard the footsteps before I got there. I looked up to see my co-worker and then I screamed. My heart was racing and I was afraid. I knew she was standing there and yet I was still scared. I heard her and saw her standing there, and yet I still jumped in fear. My co-workers are used to this now.
I’ve written a few times about my assault, but I haven’t really touched on the lasting effects it has had on me, ten months later. I feel as though I’ve overcome all the immediate aftermath; the guilt and shame and rage. I’ve been through counseling and I honestly didn’t think it would still affect me as much as it does. It has made me paranoid.
I drive around on my lunch hour and look for him. Sometimes I even see him. Yesterday I was right behind him on Main Street. I’m afraid that I will run right into him one day at Walmart or wherever. I’m afraid that if I see him, I will attack him. What if I see him and completely lose it? What if I can’t keep it together? Will I run away? Will I just break down in tears? These thoughts consume me. I don’t know how I will react when I come face to face with him and that’s an unsettling thought. I know it’s going to happen. Every time I see someone who is built like him, I shudder. I have to convince myself that it’s not him. I have to look closely to be sure. Even after I realize it’s not him, I am still left with a racing heart and a lump in my throat. I have to find a quiet place and take some deep breaths.
I still question myself. Was it as bad as I remember? Are my memories even real? Why didn’t I do more to stop it? These questions keep me up at night. It has made me feel like I don’t know myself as well as I thought I did. It has made me question my character. Deep down, I know it wasn’t my fault. I know that what he did was very wrong and I was not able to fight. I dissociated. And yet I still wonder what I could have done differently so that it would have never happened.
I am a ball of nerves. Every day someone manages to scare me. I’m starting to wonder if my co-workers think I’m just crazy. I will be at the photo copier and I can hear someone behind me, I know it’s someone I work with, and yet I still freak out. I jump and sometimes even scream. Sometimes I even have to sit, right where I am to calm down. This is embarrassing. I am constantly on edge. It feels like I took some bad drugs and I’m having some type of paranoid reaction. If I’m in my office and someone walks in, I jump or scream and turn around with the death stare. Some co-workers have gotten used to giving me a quiet warning before they walk in. My back and my shoulders constantly hurt from being so tensed up all the time. At home, my son scares me regularly without even trying. He will say “geez mom!” and I’m usually upset about it. It’s part embarrassment and part “how could you walk up behind me like that?” as if he did something wrong.
I don’t think I will ever feel safe like I used to. Everyone seems to have an ulterior motive now. No one can be trusted. I don’t like feeling this way. I miss being naïve. I miss believing that everyone is good. I miss feeling safe in
my own home. I miss feeling relaxed. I miss feeling like no one was going to hurt me.
I think eventually I will stop looking for him. But he will most likely always be in the back of my mind, no matter where I go. I will always be afraid of running into him. I’ve accepted that I am just very jumpy now. My friends and co-workers are getting used to it. I don’t think I have to explain myself. I will just have to live my life on edge.
Luckily, I have people in my life who understand. Some know the truth, and some do not. But they have accepted that I am just a little afraid now and they do their best to comfort me. I know that without these people in my life, the effects would be so much worse. They know I have a few issues, and they still love me. And that’s one positive after effect this has had on me. I know who my true friends are and I know that no matter what, I am still loved and I am strong enough to overcome anything.