Posted by: Scared | 2009-03-12


Dear Cybershrink

Last year I got a job offer. It was in another town, and since I did not have a car, I had to use the public trains to get to work. This meant that I had to leave home when it was still dark, and I would come home when it was already dark.

About year ago, in March, I was robbed on my way to the station. A guy ran up behind me, pulled out a knife, and demanded that I hand over my cell phone. When I tried as him to give me my sim card (as I thought that he had plenty of time to get away as there was no one else around) he brought the knife closer, and I just gave him the phone.

I found another route to the station which seemed safer, but I was still scared and paranoid. Every time that I see someone along the way I would immediately think that the person would try and rob me. I started to leave my cash at home, and I carried a corkscrew in the sleeve of whatever I was wearing. That wasa bit ridiculoues, because I would never have enough nerve to stab someone, but I did it because I heard somewhere that pepperspray is not that effective.

Before I walked out the gate of the complex I was living in I would spend a few minutes hiding in the shrubs, peering over the wall, making sure no one would see me. I wanted to make absolutely sure that there was no one in the street before I eventually left. Whenever I would see someone walking down the street I would stay in the shrubs, until that person left, and a few minutes more to make sure the person did not see me, and did not return.

After a few months a friend of mine also had to commute, and this left me a bit at ease. But I was still paranoid because I would have to walk down my own street in the dark, alone, to meet him along the way.

Once I got so worked up, that it was difficult for me to breathe, and I thought that I would pass out!

This year I moved closer to work, and I felt much safer, as I can walk to work when it' s light outside. Yes, I was still a bit scared at times when I came across a dodgy looking person. But it wasn' t that bad. But I still don' t want to be alone when it' s dark outside.

About 2 weeks ago I was walking to work. To me it seemed as if he was heading straight towards me, walking with a mission to rob me. My throat felt tight and it felt as if I couldn' t breathe. Even though I was walking I felt as if I froze. Then I heard someone running behind me. I then thought that they probably organised this, and that the person running up behind me was the one that would actually rob me, not the one walking towards me.

My whole body went numb! Then the person walking towards me passed me, so did the person running up behind me. It turned out that the person running was a girl, dressed in a chef' s uniform!

The relief made me even more numb. I thought I would collapse right there! I' m not sure if it was a panic attack.

Last night I had to help a collegue with something. It went on for longer than I thought, and when I returned home alone, the road that I was using seemed deserted. I immediately started panicking, thinking that someone was waiting for me along the way, and was going to rob me.

As it' s been a year, I thought that I had dealt with the incident. But now as I look back, I remember that I didn' t even cry. At that time I was more concerned about getting my phone back as I had tracking on it. Not that I would ever had used the phone again. I guess it kept my mind off what I was feeling about the incident. I went on and on about the phone with my friends, till they started telling me to forget about the stupid phone!

I didn' t even tell my family about the incident until the end of last year, as I thought they would want to do something drastic to ensure my safety. I didn' t want them to worry about me.

Now I don' t know what to do. What if this fear never goes away?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Sorry to hear about the ugly experience and all the anxiety it has since caused you. I know what it is like, and while we live in a country that continues to be much more caring towards criminals than victims, many of us share similar experiences. These sorts of reactions are typical post-trauma reactions ; not necessarily PTSD, but still typical. We can go through life feeling somehow magically personally invulnerable until running into such a crime, and then may over-react in the opposite direction, feeling much more vulnerable than is realistic. The challenge, which a counsellor can help with, is to get the dose of caution right, to be alert and self-protective enough, but not to the point where the extra caution harms you without adding to the degree of protection.
The other reaons you descibe are also typical --- focussing on one relaively safe aspect ( like the phone itself ) ; the orge to talk about it though others don't want to hear ( and they don't want to be reminded that they are also vulnerable ).
Do see a counsellor to help you get things back into proportion, and to regain a realistic sense of your own abilities to look after yourself.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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