About two weeks before Christmas, my new office was broken into. Things were stolen, walls were smashes, a mess was made. Thankfully at the end of the day it was not as bad as it looked, but it took awhile to bounce back.
A few days later, things kept happening because of that break-in. The landlords of the building were refusing to reinforce the door at the front, saying it was ‘tenant error’ that caused the break in. I logged into our bank account and we found out cheques were stolen and cashed. Our credit card was compromised. It was almost an entire day changing all our account information and stressing about what we might have missed. Five days later and I was sitting at my desk crying in absolute stress. I was overwhelmed and afraid, and I just broke down. My business partner kept telling me not to take it personally, but he just didn’t understand. My entire safety had been violated. For the first time in my single life living in the city, I was afraid.
Here’s where things pressed on me. First, I was completely alone. My business partner was away seeing family, so I dealt with the entire break-in completely by myself. I had the repairs done. I cleaned up. I dealt with the police. I made the decisions. I’m proud that I was able to calmly handle everything the way I did. But I was alone. When I went home at night, I felt unsafe in my normally very safe apartment. I got up and dreaded going back to the office, certain it had happened again. I hated sitting in the office knowing someone had been through all my things. I was convinced the burglars had gotten my address somewhere and would target my home next. I sat in the office by myself for a week, and felt completely exposed.
Over the holidays I went to my moms and we then took a trip to sun peaks. I was gone a week and a half. Every night I had this sinking feeling in my stomach that my apartment would be ransacked when I got back. I was afraid to go home. I stayed with my mom longer than I intended because I didn’t want to deal with it. The hour long drive back was one of the longest of my entire life. My heart thumped wildly in my chest as I went up the stairs.
My apartment was safe.
This is the part that really gets me. I don’t care about the space. I got it repaired. I don’t care about what banking info was compromised. At the end of the day the banks protected us. I don’t think I would even really care if my apartment was broken into. There’s nothing I have that I can’t replace. I’ve started with nothing once, I can do it again.
But the fear. The feeling of being unsafe. Looking at people as they pass and judging them, wondering if they are dangerous to me. This is something I’ve never experienced before. I’ve lived a relatively safe life. I’ve never been threatened or hurt. I go about life blissfully, thinking the best. That core belief has been shake, and I can’t seem to get myself back.
My mom says it will take time. She said I need to re-teach myself that I am safe. I’m safe in my building, in my home and at work. It was a one time thing that we have now taken precautions against. The people around me are normal, everyday people just like they were before this happened.
The other night there was an earthquake. Not a major one, but it was big enough that lying in bed by myself my bed shook. I sat up quickly, afraid. It’s normal to be afraid when something like that happens. But my mind leapt to someone doing this personally to me. It took me a couple of minutes to calm down and realize it was an earthquake. I called my mom an hour away and she also felt it. My brother had felt it. We’d all felt it. But lying in bed that night I felt supremely unsafe in my space. My beautiful apartment I was so proud of. I took care of it, cherished it. And now… I want to move back in with my mom because that is were I feel safe.
I think about people who deal with this daily. The down and out who worry about losing everything they have every single day. How do they handle this? How do they live with this kind of fear? It takes over everything. And what about those who fear for their life every day? If this is what happens after something as small as a break in, how can you go day by day worrying about something major like whether or not you’ll be alive tomorrow?
It wasn’t my stuff that mattered to me after the break-in. It was a violation of my safety. My belief in the people around me. I have to re-teach myself to trust.
Before I left on Holiday, I was stopped by another neighbour. My balcony and windows look at the building beside me. There’s a short distance between us. I’ve seen them, waved at them, but we’ve never really talked. I was packing up my car when a woman sort of waved me down and asked if I lived in 203. I said yes, and she quickly went on to tell me she’d seen me my balcony, and just wanted to tell me how much they appreciated me as a neighbour. I was a little stunned. I’ve lived there two years! Apparently the couple there before me were loud, obnoxious and completely unconcerned with anyone else. Before them was another single gal with worse habits! And then I moved in and they all apparently got together to say how wonderful it was that someone came in who was mindful of their neighbours.
I was touched. I got in my car with a smile, thinking how wonderful it was to be noticed like that. But as I drove away, I had this sinking feeling. I’d just told someone I lived in 203 and I was going on holiday with my family for at least a week. The fear began again.
I saw her again yesterday, and she smiled and waved on me. She’s a very nice person whom I convinced myself was a criminal. She’s older, has a warm smile, and she wears brightly coloured jewelry. There’s nothing at all about her that says criminal. But I’d managed to work myself into almost a frenzy at the idea that she was planning to rob me.
It’s been a week since I’ve been home and the fear has started to fade. I’m okay in my space again at home, but the office still feels strange. I too all the precautions I could think of, but three weeks and I still can’t settle back down. The violation was so much more than just my stuff.
Have you had a break-in? How long did it take you to feel safe again?