Hi friends, it has been a wild ride these last 7 days and I can’t wait to tell you about it. Well, if I am being honest I can’t wait to just let it all out and maybe it will make me feel better and more at ease. Before I dive into the events of the week though, I would like to say that I got a lot of feedback about my winter appreciation post and there are definitely great things about winter that I forgot to include. Most importantly, the solitude found during a winter hike because everyone else is at home afraid of the cold. That is a solid addition to that list.
C/W sexual assault and violence
Now that I’ve updated that, let’s just dive right in shall we. On Friday morning I was in a fantastic mood. I had a delicious breakfast and a great nights rest and it was Friday. Even though I work on Saturdays, Fridays are inherently great because everyone has good energy about the weekend. It rubs off on ya. Here I am boppin’ along, when I get to the train station and realize the D train is crowded AF. I was already cutting it a bit close with getting to work, so I took a deep breath and said ‘Sarah, ya just gotta get on this one. You don’t have time to wait for the next one.’ Some context to this fear of crowded trains might be needed.
My first year in New York I had an internship that required me to take two trains and a bus. It was a nightmare, especially for a new time New Yorker. One day I entered this extremely crowded train. About 2 minutes into the ride, I could feel a man groping my ass. The train was so crowded, I could barely move. I froze. I just remember making eye contact with the woman across from me who could see what was happening and we both had a tear in our eye. In our fight, flight, or freeze response we both seemed to freeze. I couldn’t breathe and immediately got off at the next spot trying to catch my breath. It felt like I was being suffocated. In that moment, I made a vow to never get on a crowded train again if it didn’t feel safe to do so.
Fast forward to Friday, where I felt uncomfortable entering that train, but did it anyway. I even thought to myself ‘Sarah, we don’t like crowded trains.. can’t we just wait for the next one’ but then I was like ‘no, we’ll be late to work then’. There I am, denying my gut response. DAMN YOU CAPITALISM. Then, I get on this train and I was doing everything I could to focus on being calm. This train was so packed I couldn’t even manage to move my arms to take my backpack off, so I left it on not thinking anything of it. I had meditation playing in my head phones, I was rubbing my fingers together, and I was doing some heavy deep breathing just to keep my cool. Then it happened. I felt movement on my back and my brain immediately had me freeze. ‘It’s happening again’ I thought ‘this man behind me is trying to touch me.’ I focused even more on my breathing as the train conductor announced “folks, we are stopped due to some train traffic ahead of us. Should be moving shortly.”
When I get in situations where I start to feel panicked I repeat to myself ‘you are safe. you are safe. you are safe.’ I also knew I had to do something to get this man to stop what he was doing. I made eye contact with him and began to shift my body so he wouldn’t have access to my backside. The movement from behind ceased after the eye contact and the train began to move again. As we pulled up to the next stop this man said ‘oh, is this grand street?’ in a very booming voice. All I could think in my head was please leave, please leave. He bolted off the train and I felt like I could breathe again.
The following stop was my own. I took another deep breathe said ‘you are safe’ and started walking to work. As I was nearer too my job, I went to pull out my ID to get into work. Moving my backpack forward I noticed my zippers were open and I realized what had actually happened. That person behind me was not trying to touch me, he was stealing from me. I dug into my backpack to find my wallet was missing. I was upset, but also very aware that the things in that wallet are replaceable. Except for the business card I kept in there from my first job as a real life social worker, but what are ya gonna do? I cancelled my cards. I took a deep breath, I tried to move on with the day. I even saw a patient. It was helpful to talk to someone else. After my first patient I went to grab my chap stick from my front pocket… That’s when I realized, he also stole my keys.
I couldn’t breathe. Again, I didn’t care about the keys themselves, those are replaceable as well. However, all I could think was that this man now has my address and my keys. He can get into my building. He can steal more of my things. He can hurt me. I made eye contact with this person and knew exactly what he looked like. My imagination is incredible, both a blessing and a curse. I went into full blown panic attack mode as images of this person entering my home and hurting me kept sweeping across my brain. It was like a scary movie that I couldn’t turn off. Anxiety looks different for many people. For me, it is often in the form of images that play in my head over and over and over. I try to use mindfulness and deep breathing to “let the images pass like a cloud” but sometimes that bullsh*t doesn’t work; sometimes all I can do is let the anxiety take over. And I think it’s okay to let it take over. It was telling me that something wasn’t okay, and it wasn’t okay.
I left work and started to break down the things I had to do. Call landlord, cry, get locks changed, cry, go to police station, cry. FYI, my landlord, who was extremely unhelpful, shared that she would not be changing the front door lock because “it’s too many keys to replace”. Welcome to New York, where money is more important that the safety of humans. So, this man does not have access to my apartment but can still get into my building. Also, the cops were just okay. I am scared of police stations and that made me cry more. They also couldn’t decide who has jurisdiction for like a full hour because I was on a moving train. COOL. I am not exhausted or anything. Thanks for your speedy assistance.
So what is the point of all of this? Well, many people have told me it’s a lesson. A lesson to not keep all your credit cards in one place and to not keep your backpack on your back and you know, all the blaming done to people that have a crime done to them. I, of course, think I learned all of these things, but that wasn’t the real lesson for me. The real lesson for me, and that I want to share with all of you, is about listening to the gut.
9 times out of 10 when my gut is telling me something, I tend to ignore it. Perhaps it’s from years of being told I was “crazy” “overreacting” and “stupid” when my gut would start to tell me something. Now, I often chalk it up to anxiety or being dramatic or the moon. I would like to call bullsh*t on it right now. I have suffered from anxiety and depression for about as long as I can remember. Both are significantly better, but are also used as an excuse to not listen to how we’re feeling. It’s a fine line understanding when it’s your anxiety and when it’s a man actually stealing from you and invading your personal space. Where do we draw the line and is it even a line? Does it oscillate between the two, combining reality and fears? How do I know when to listen to myself and how do I know when to not?
I think that is it really. We should always be listening to ourselves. There shouldn’t be a time that I think my thoughts are irrelevant or not important; whether it is my anxiety or not, my brains only goal is to protect myself. My anxiety is a part of me and all my parts of me care if I survive. Why shouldn’t I listen to that?
I want to clarify- I think we should do things that scare us. I want to jump out of a plane one day and I know my anxiety is going to be like ‘girllll, you cray,’ but there is a difference between feeling comfortable with the fear versus feeling frozen with fear. If I am to the point where I feel like I can’t breathe, I need to be able to listen to that. I need to be able to say something is not right here and I don’t have to brush it off or take a deep breathe to change the way my brain is working. I want to be able to say that I don’t think I should get on this train and then no get on the train.
Society today seems to be so insistent on quick changes, on deep breathes, and slowing down. Sometimes, it doesn’t help to slow down; sometimes we need to be alert and respond. This is all to say, that you, my lovely reader, are the expert of your own being. You should listen to your body and trust that no matter how you are feeling, there is a message behind the feeling, a message saying ‘I want to keep you safe’.
Stay safe my friends and maybe don’t go on crowded trains. I am re-entering that vow with myself.
Go f*** yourself.
-A poem for my robber