He was watching, from across the road, as I stepped off the bus.
He was (also) watching from across the road, as I came out of church with my friends.
He watched as I walked down the hill from the school gates.
He drove past, three times in half an hour, as I was sitting in my friend’s car chatting.
He was sitting on his motorbike watching as I came out of work.
It took about one to two weeks for him to track me down after I had shifted house. And there he would watch as I arrived home.
He sent flowers. My skin crawled. The flowers were ugly and I gave them away.
My flatmates were interrogated, either on the phone or at the gate. What was their relationship to me?
I was visiting my friends and he saw my car parked outside. They were his friends too. As he knocked on the front door, I snuck out the back door. I never visited my friends at home again.
I came out of a church from my friend’s funeral. She had died in a car crash. He was across the road, on his motorbike, watching waiting for me. He “just wanted to talk”.
He was watching, waiting, always. But he never touched me.
I was stalked by two men at the same time. They weren’t aware of each other. They never touched me while stalking me, and in those days that meant the NZ Police couldn’t do anything. The Police gave me advice, but I knew all that by now.
Constantly trying to avoid, trying to hide where I was, confidential phone numbers. The only friends I spent time with were those who would support my demand for privacy. The stalking went on for around 14 years in total. It started when I was 14, and I finally brought a stop to it when I left the city permanently at 28. It was a long time to convince myself that leaving town wasn’t giving in. It was taking control.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was diagnosed some years later, when I finally sought help (when I knew that help was actually available). You see, it wasn’t until after the stalking that I let out a breath and could finally feel my fear. I crashed. But relief didn’t come until I had the help. Meanwhile, I was still hiding, mistrustful of all.
The triggers started to play on me… they included, but weren’t confined to…
Every man, who wasn’t a blood relative, was potentially unsafe to me.
Anyone who expressed a romantic interest in me, especially if they were ‘too keen’.
A gap in the curtains still meant someone could be watching me.
Motorbikes, especially of them.
Going back to the city where it happened brought on terror in some suburbs and hypervigilance in all places.
The gift of flowers.
Later on, ‘friend requests’ on social media.
And many, many more.
After years of therapy for these and other issues, I really thought I’d finally beat the PTSD. The triggers controlling my life had lasted much long than the stalking, even though that had been long enough. It had been a long time since I had felt that all too familiar fears.
Then a few weeks ago, a man shifted into the house next door. Because of where I am living (temporary housing for earthquake recovery) our houses are very close. His kitchen looks into my bedroom. Our lounges look in on each other.
When I first shifted here there was a woman living in the house, and it was her practice to keep all her curtains pulled shut all of the time. Now I could start to understand why. I didn’t want anyone looking in on my bedroom and I have taken to keeping the curtains permanently shut for the windows facing his kitchen. Regardless of who he is, and what he does, I see him as a threat.
I hadn’t met him at this stage… but when I eventually did, I felt that familiar feeling. Elements of his personality ring warning bells for me. The fear instantly builds, and I admit that I don’t have much rational thought. I’d describe the type of man, but I can’t. And it wouldn’t be fair. Rationally I know he has done nothing to make me afraid, but this is exactly what PTSD does to me.
I just don’t want to be anywhere near that sort of man. I’m simply afraid. It’s difficult to know that this is about memories, and feelings, from a long time ago.
I’m afraid, and while I thought I had completely dealt with PTSD, I realise I haven’t. It’s not over for me yet.
Since meeting the man I have simply done my best to stay away, but I irrationally want to move out. I’m terrified that this man is going to do what I refer to as “turn into another stalker”. I know he has done nothing to stir up this fear. I know it is completely irrational. And actually, I irrationally think that every man will eventually “turn into another stalker”.
And do you know what? It really pisses me off that those stalkers of years ago can continue to have such a hold on me. I thought I was truly over it, but this man has shown me (by doing nothing) that I’m not. And that is so disappointing.
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