When I was diagnosed with PTSD at the beginning of the year, it came as a surprise to me. I’d gone to this psychologist for a potential BPD diagnosis. I walked out with not only that, but four years’ worth of PTSD as well.
It was surprising because in these four years I’d not once thought about this disorder; it never even occurred to me. But as I thought about it, letting it sink in, things started making sense. And since the diagnosis, I’ve had to think about what happened. Because I really didn’t deal with it; I’m still having trouble figuring out where to go from here.
I know it could’ve been much worse. Others have had it so much worse than me. But I’m trying to stop that way of thinking. What happened was awful and it did change me. It does me more harm than good to invalidate my own feelings.
February 2012, I was 18 and had been living on my own in Toronto for seven months or so. One morning I was followed.
The bus stop was right across from my apartment building. I noticed him waiting for the bus and he gave me this smile that sent a chill up my spine. I didn’t want to be rude, so I quickly, barely, smiled back. I noticed him get closer to me as we stood waiting for the bus. My gut was immediately telling me something was off about him. And as he stared at me from across the bus, my heart was pounding. It’s funny how when your intuition is telling you something’s wrong, even when you’re surrounded by other people which usually would mean safety, you feel so alone. Just you and whatever is making you want to run.
I think the driver noticed something was wrong. How uncomfortable I was, looking anywhere but at the man staring at me. But there was nothing he could do as the man followed as I got off at my stop.
I remember thinking, “Just 10 more minutes,” as I made my way to school, so aware that this guy was behind me. I probably walked faster because of that knowledge, getting there in half the time.
That’s when the verbal harassment started. He just kept saying the same things basically, only more and more aggressively as I ignored him, walking closer and closer behind me.
“What’s the matter, honey?” “You should smile.” “Slow down, honey.” “I just wanna talk.”
I was already on the verge of a panic attack, I could feel it, especially as his tone got harsher and I could hear him closer behind me.
A mere 10 feet from safety — that’s when he grabbed me. Right outside my school.
It all happened so fast, I don’t remember much. But I’ll never forget the feeling of his large hands when they clutched at my ribs. Or when his elbow collided with my left eye. I think he tripped over his own feet in the struggle, which was my chance to tear open my school’s door and get inside.
It was so quiet in the building since everyone was in class, but my sobs broke the silence. I didn’t give myself a chance to catch my breath or anything, just rushed up the stairs trying not to have a complete meltdown.
Late to class with tears falling, the bruise already forming. I hugged my arm to the pain in my side, finding it hard to breathe. What a sight I must’ve been when I walked into class.
Stupid me, I did nothing about the assault. I didn’t know the man, wasn’t sure I could describe him accurately enough. I just wanted to forget about it.
A week later, I was alone in the laundry room when he walked in. He lived in my building.
I bolted. I locked myself in my apartment, hyperventilating. I didn’t leave for five days, at least. And from there, everything just kind of went downhill. I stopped going to class. I had constant panic attacks. I never left my tiny apartment unless absolutely necessary.
This went on for two months, until I finally decided to quit. I became a college dropout and I moved back to my hometown.
And here we are just over four years later. I’ve wanted to go back to Toronto, still do. And it wasn’t until this PTSD diagnosis that I understood what was going on with me whenever I thought about moving back. Just the thought made me burst into tears instantly, often resulting in a panic attack. I didn’t understand why. I just thought that it was probably the fact that I’d be alone again that scared me. And I’ve always had anxiety, but in the past four years it’s become crippling.
I know I still have a lot of work to do in getting help with this. And I know it could’ve been a lot worse — probably would have been if I didn’t get away as fast as I did. But this is my story and it’s changed who I am. For the better or worse, who knows. But I can’t be silent anymore. I have to find a way to face these demons; the fear and anxiety and loneliness. I’m tired of waiting and wondering when I can finally start living the life I want for myself.