I was sleeping, but some rustling noises woke me up and I unconsciously reacted to them by jumping out of bed and running into the living room, where the noises were coming from. Them BAM! There he was — a hugely tall guy one foot away from me, in the middle of tearing through my living room. I was being robbed.
It felt like a nightmare and I froze in horror. He took off through the front door with his arms full of my shit. I eventually unfroze and looked out the front door, and he was already in my car. My keys and purse were in my entryway so it was an easy escape. I had various thoughts race through my mind about trying to stop him from stealing my car, but then I slammed my apartment door shut and went to fetch my phone to call 911. Then I realized he’d stolen my cell phone, too. I started panicking not knowing how to call for help, then noticed the knife he dropped, laying on the floor by my bedroom door. Had he been in my bedroom while I was sleeping? I can only wonder.
I found out that he had broken in by getting the back window open, which is located next to the door so they could get their arm through and open the lock. A terrible setup. He took my purse with all my IDs, money, and cards, so I had no way to get a rental car until I finally got a new license and cards in the mail a week later. I could not work for a month because I was so dysfunctional and sleep starved. I could barely function. I had bad PTSD symptoms for a couple of months, and still have intrusive, but not as debilitating symptoms. I am forever changed, this I know. My brain and sense of security are altered. Prior to this, many years ago, I had a different car stolen from a lot, and it was difficult financially. Yes, it made me feel violated, but I didn’t feel directly physically threatened WITHIN my own mostly secure home.
Having someone break into your house while you are in it is an entirely new level of horror.
Having someone break into your house while you are in it is an entirely new level of horror. I do not feel safe — I feel extremely vulnerable. I feel personally targeted and like I must be perceived as an easy conquest, since I was home when it happened. I noticed a mark on the window he reached through, so I was cased and specifically selected in advance. I feel very lucky, too, that I did not get attacked. But I am still not okay.
Worse still, sometimes they come back. The main cop in my case warned me about that. Sure enough, two months later, I came home from work and the back glass storm door had been messed with and they had dropped and left the prying tool between the storm door and regular door before giving up. So my added security measures worked. They could not get in. I added both external and internal security and extra security to my car. I moved away anyway.
I talked with two Iraq war vets who have long-term PTSD from serving, and were eager to share support and advice for dealing with trauma. They both pointed out that no one should tell you how to feel, and that safely talking about it helps you deal with it in a healthy way. The locksmith who came to my house to change the locks (since my whole key chain was taken) was horrified. The detective knew how scary it was and even she said it would change me. On the other hand, a family member told me to say a few prayers and to move on with life, and then started talking about sports. That was a huge slap in the face and made me feel like throwing up. Some people will not be supportive.
It is a total change to feel this vulnerable.
It is a total change to feel this vulnerable, I have always been a totally fearless, adventurous person. I’ve traveled all over the USA by driving alone. I’ve night hiked in the wilderness alone (risky, yes, but with proper tools). But not now. I have had many other personal bodily and property violations in my life (my city has a crime problem), but none of them has had the all-encompassing, emotional, intellectual, and physical problems, long-term constant on-edge state as this. Maybe the fact that I was living alone made it more difficult? I can’t say for sure.
Moving on to feeling safe
If this has happened to you as well, you are not alone and there are things you can do. You can install bright motion detecting lights and motion detecting alarms as well as a security system. Head to a home improvement store and talk to some of the employees in the security section for lots of new ideas. They can even help with the window next to the door problem. They are usually eager to share their ideas. Don’t be afraid to talk about it when you need to, especially in therapy. The people you love may sometimes let you down, but there are people who will understand and give you support if you seek them out.
More advice if you get robbed: