Fear, You Don’t Own Me: Coping with Trauma
When I drifted out of my thoughts I realized for the first time in 3.5 months I was walking down the street by myself, after dark, without my mace in hand. I had done something people do every day without a second thought. Something that only months ago was too traumatic for me to even consider.
This caused such an over-pouring amount of emotions inside me. I felt disappointed, happy, proud, angry, foolish… I slid my had across the mace inside my pocket relieved, picked up my pace and began to cry.
In August, August 8th at 11:40 pm to be exact, I was assaulted and mugged walking home from the subway. For my own sake and yours’ I won’t recount all of the triggering details as I still can’t get through the story without beginning to break down.
I do remember as the hooded man lunged at me I tried to scream FIRE (as they teach you to do) as loud as possible before he slammed me to the sidewalk. All I could think was this man is going to rape me. As a woman that is always the constant fear. Rape.
As I drifted in and out of conciusnous there were moments I didn’t think I would survive. Though I may not have been raped, like I feared was going to happen, the trauma I experienced that evening has reshaped my life.
I couldn’t leave the house on my own, I couldn’t get from one place to the next without a friend accompanying me. Walking through a doorway meant hesitating to look in every direction before going through. Even once I finally began taking a cab by myself again I shared my destination with a friend and then stayed on the phone with someone the whole ride.
My entire sense of security and trust in the world had been broken. I was consumed with fear. As a fiercely independent person with multiple jobs and a busy schedule my life came to what felt like a complete halt. I was too embarrassed and to traumatized to tell my oldest friend that I chose not to call her on her birthday. In fact, this is my first public acknowledgment of what happened to me outside a close group of friends and a therapist.
I’m writing this post now because I realize how important it is to share my experience with others who may not have the support group, the many outlets or my drive to take back the life that I thought would never be the same again. That by sharing my story I’m helping myself release and move past my trauma, while at the same time possibly helping someone else realize they too can heal.
I still can’t verbally get through the story without tears cascading down my face and that’s ok. Though, it is hard as someone who isn’t great with pain to be ok with crying, to acknowledge that my fear was rational and that what happened wasn’t my fault.
I’m amazed every day now at the small things I can do that only a month ago would have sent a wave of panic and anxiety through me. Yesterday for instance I walked under scalfolding between two men who were just feet apart from one another without a second thought. The sheer sight of that weeks ago would have sent a rush of anxiety through me and forced me to cross the street.
I say yes to more things now because I realize how close I was to losing the ability to do so. I hired a life coach to help me focus my life and grow my business. I try to be a little bit nicer to everyone I encounter. I’m not only telling fear, You Don’t Own Me. I’m choosing to mold that fear into opportunity.
What is my point in all of this? Other than to share my story and slowly move past my own trauma, it is to assure you that whatever is holding you back, whatever fear is consuming you, you can overcome it. It won’t be easy, you may feel alone in a sea of people but you must actively choose not to let that fear own you.
To let you know that if you have experienced assault or trauma of any kind it is not your fault. It is NOT your fault. No matter how many times you rethink what happened, what you could have or should have done different, what happened is still not your fault.
When you are ready seek someone to talk to, a friend, a therapist. Start releasing the emotions that are consuming you so that you can move past your fears and reclaim your life.
I’m not a very spiritual person but I do believe that mindset is a choice. You can become consumed by your trauma or you can use it as a drive to reach for what you truly want in life. As a means to welcome opportunities you may not have seen in front of you before.
It is NOT your fault and you CAN take your life back.
If you or someone you love has experienced trauma please check out the below resources:
Trauma Survivors Network: https://www.traumasurvivorsnetwork.org/traumapedias/organizations-resources
Academy of Cognitive Therapy: https://www.academyofct.org/page/TraumaAdults/Resources-for-Trauma-Adults.htm
Safe Horizon: https://www.safehorizon.org
Taking Back Ourselves: https://takingbackourselves.org/resources-2/