It was 6:45pm on Tuesday evening, middle of December. I was leaving a meeting in what I consider a “safe” neighbourhood, and walking into a well-lit parking lot. I was attacked by a man as I rounded the corner to my car.
He must have been lurking in the parking lot, waiting. All I remember was a noise and him running towards me and then grabbing me. My purse was held over my arm – it was apparent he wanted it. From that moment, I remember only a few things:
- Being knocked to the ground and dragged on my left side.
- My colleague running (from the corner of my eye) towards the man, the man letting go and my colleague continuing to chase him.
- It must have lasted less than a minute but it felt like eternity. Thank God two of the three colleagues I was meeting with were still in the parking lot and heard me screaming. One of them said when they saw me all they could see was me being flung from side to side like a rag doll – I do not remember that.
The Police were involved, and days of recovery began after that. It has been a challenge. I was in a fog for almost 2 weeks after, unfocused and experiencing mini panic attacks, sleepless nights, and needing to keep a light on while I slept. I continued to experience sadness, depression, and anger – all apparently normal emotions that rise following a traumatic experience, but none that made it easier. It’s like those emails or texts you hear about when something awful happens to someone, except this time it was me.
With the help of my family, an amazing group of friends, colleagues, and daily conversations with a wonderful woman from Victim Services, I slowly began working through the healing. I still am – but it’s getting a lot easier.
My Bucket Instantly Became Full
For a period of time I once again reached my limit – similar but different from the one I reached over thirteen years ago. It’s common for all of us to “reach our limits”, but it became clear that with the emotional and physical stress I was encountering, coupled with personal and professional obligations and the holiday season, I had no capacity to take on anything else. A dear friend reminded me, I was full – but not in the positive way we normally use to explain feelings of fullness. And I quickly learned, as I have in past, that sometimes, you need to listen to your body, say no to (most) everything, and just be kind to yourself.
I am so lucky to have experienced this trauma with an overwhelming support group to help me through. As soon as others learned about it, I was surrounded with so much love and care, and for the first time ever, my voicemail was full. People I never expected to reach out, did. I had daily and weekly check ins from friends and loved ones, and many continue to do so. It has been so comforting, and a wonderful reminder of kindness during a difficult time.
We Are a Community Where Some Thrive and Some Struggle
Have you ever experienced the nightmare where you’re trying to scream, but can’t? I think often about how lucky I was to be able to scream that day. People heard me, thank God. But I have realized we are all vulnerable: women, men, children, seniors. We are a community where some thrive and some struggle. Sadly, and specific to my home city, we are living amid a poverty and drug crisis, where behaviours are driven by desperation to get by. No neighbourhood is immune. There is no easy solution, and we have work to do in building a safer, healthier, stronger community. A community where love and support is shown so all people can heal and feel the kind of support I have felt. More on that another day.
What I Have Learned
For today, I am focused on being gentle with myself and in some ways still trying to make sense of what happened. Perhaps I never will, or am not suppose to. I am still embracing (and learning about new) coping mechanisms to get fully past the violated incident I experienced. The healing is not over but has come a long way since some tough days in December and early January. But at least it has started and I have moved from “okay” days to recently some “really good” days. I am hopeful for “great” days ahead.
In reflection, what I have learned from this experience is:
- I am humbled and grateful to be okay – it could have been so much worse.
- I am thankful to have opportunities to seek help and to improve my wellness when needed – while many others do not have the same opportunities, and often turn to drugs as a coping mechanism or way out.
- I am privileged to be surrounded by so much love and kindness from those in my life, which has truly helped pull me through this – actually, it is the only reason I’ve been able to pull through it the way I have so far and…….
The world needs more love, so give it. Why? Because there is always someone struggling who needs the support or encouragement, and because it could be a turning point in their life. AND…because we can.
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Photos taken by D by denise team member Ashley-Anne Schmidt