Paralyzed by Fear
I sat huddled in the corner of my pitch black bedroom with the sliding glass door to my right. Tears were streaming down my cheeks, and I was feeling confused and scared for my life. I tried to silence my loud cries, but I could not control the uncontrollable emotions I felt. My cries started to subside as my chest heaved in a fast rhythmic motion. My hands shook from the emotional tornado deep inside me.
From where I sat I could see down to the parking lot if I moved the vertical blind. I hesitated briefly wondering what I would see if I moved them. I finally got the courage to move the blind slightly so I could peer out the sliding glass door and view the parking lot below. I kept playing the events of that last 12 hours in my head like a movie. How could this have happened to me? I was a kind, caring, hard-working person. What did I do to deserve this? Would I awaken and find this was all a bad dream? The soreness in my neck and mounting bruises in my arms brought me to the reality that this wasn’t a dream.
I began talking to myself, think… Shirley….think…what should I do? He could be on his way over right now!
Fear and love are interesting emotions. Both can stop you from taking action. It started out that I didn’t take action or follow my gut because he said he loved me. Now fear had me paralyzed and I couldn’t move to do the next step to protect myself.
How did I get here was a question I would ask myself a lot in the days to come. I played back what had happen in the last couple of months like hitting the rewind button when you are watching a movie. It all started for me when I craved the simple attention of a man who would care and listen to me. I found that in him, temporarily, and then things started to go bad. Things I only saw in the movies started to become a part of my life. Who would listen to me if I told them what was going on, and would they believe me? I struggled with that and ended up keeping things tucked away deep inside me.
It started out as a fun and exciting relationship where his actions were of a caring and attentive person, turned into a dangerous relationship with a possessive, jealous, controlling person. Change can happen so slowly that you don’t see it until something happens that feels like a billboard just hit you in the head. By the time I noticed the changes it was like a snowball rolling down a hill that kept gathering momentum and speed. The billboard for me was when I came home from playing coed volleyball with friends, which didn’t include him. I was happy and feeling tired after a great game. I was taking a much needed shower replaying in my mind the evening I had with my friends. I grabbed the shower curtain and gave it a quick pull to exit the shower when I found him sitting there on the toilet. How? When? Why? These questions streamed through my mind as my heart raced to the point I could hear the blood rushing in my ears.
How did he get into my apartment so quietly without me knowing? How did he know I was home? He must have been following me! This was like living one of those scary stalker movies when the murder appears out of nowhere. This is when I knew I needed to get out of this relationship. I knew I had to do it carefully. This person that I thought cared for me was becoming someone I didn’t know.
The first thing I knew I had to do was change the locks on my door. I needed to feel safe in my home again. That was my first step, but things still were getting weird and more unpredictable. He confronted me about phone calls I had made. How did he know what numbers I was calling and how long I talked? As I played back the event over the last couple of months I remember ignoring that thing we call our 6th sense. That feeling we get but don’t know why or how to justify it or explain it. I remember coming home from work and getting this feeling that someone had been there. I couldn’t explain it so I would disregard it as my imagination. I know he didn’t have a key to my apartment any longer since I just had the locks changed. Was it my active imagination that was putting these thoughts in my head? Or was it my gut telling me? I decided it must be my imagination. I had no proof and once again who would believe me if I had no physical evidence.
Later on I found out he got a copy of my phone bill by calling the phone company and telling them he was my father, and he needed to know who I was calling. Just like that he had a copy of by phone records. As things progressed I also found out he got a copy of my key after I changed the lock. He went to the office of the apartment complex and told them some kind of story and they gave him a copy of my key. How could it be so easy for someone to be entwined in my life without my knowledge or permission? With the key he got from the management at the apartment complex he came into my home while I was at work and took personal items like pictures of me and my family, my class ring, and numerous other items that eventually would be found at his house and in a video.
My attempt to end this relationship in a friendly manner was not being accepted, and there were no signs that it would ever be. The endless conversations and attempts to get away from him only made him more determined and desperate. It became evident that there was a change in the relationship, and I knew I needed to get out of it as gracefully as possible. I thought I could gradually terminate it and be friends if I did it the right way. I knew I didn’t want to upset him with a cold turkey end to this because of his unpredictable actions. My attempt to distance myself gradually was not working.
He wasn’t getting the subtle hints. The notion he could do something more drastic if I broke up with him was weighting on me. The anxiety of being in a relationship I didn’t want to be in with the fear of him was occupying my mind most of the time.
How did I get here? It was a typical Saturday morning for me until the phone rang. It was him. The man that was once known to me as someone who was caring, a good listener and attentive was now transforming into someone I didn’t know or want to be around. His actions recently were changing. I was feeling controlled, watched and very uncomfortable.
Before he got squirrely I had asked him to care for my cat, Pace. My mom and dad had moved to Florida, and they couldn’t keep my other cat, Muchka that I had up North. It became clear after a few days of Pace and Muchka being together that they would not be able to live in the same house. I asked him to care for Pace, and he graciously accepted.
I did not have caller ID so I didn’t know who would be at the other end of the call until I heard his voice. He said Pace wasn’t doing well, she wouldn’t take her heart medicine, and I needed to come over right away. I have had pets all my life, and they always become part of my family. My cats always had unique personalities. They weren’t your typical lap cats that loved attention. I think that’s why I selected them or they selected me. They were somewhat like me. I liked the loving attention but never thought I was worthy of it. I wasn’t selective of the men I dated because I felt I was lucky if any man paid any attention to me. My self-esteem was low, and so was my opinion of myself.
After I hung up the phone my only thought was that Pace was sick, and I needed to help her. He lived one road over from my apartment so it wasn’t long before I was pulling into his driveway. The garage door was open, and the house looked welcoming as usual from the outside. As I got out of my car I got this weird feeling. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling but it was uncomfortable.
There was a small screened-in entryway before you got to the front door. I opened the screen door as he came out the front door. Obviously, he was waiting for me. The discomfort I felt got stronger. I tried to get him to tell me what was wrong with Pace. My goal was to resolve the issue without having to go inside. I knew at the time I needed to stay outside but I didn’t know why. It was my gut feeling that I continued to ignore.
After talking to him it was apparent I would not be able to help Pace without going in the house. Ignoring that uneasy feeling, I entered the house. Later I would put a name to it as my gut feeling, women’s intuition, Spidey sense, whatever term you would want to use. It was a warning sign that I chose to ignore. At this time, I didn’t trust myself or give my feelings credibility.
As I stepped into the house he followed closely behind me. With each step I took I felt like the walls were closing in on me. Something was different about the house, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it could be.
I was looking for Pace as I walked toward the kitchen. I began to think he might have hurt her or killed her as retaliation for me wanting to break off our relationship. I could feel his breath on my neck as I passed the door that goes into the garage from the house. As I passed the door with him on my heels I heard the door open and then the sounds of the overhead garage door closing. It felt like the slam of a prison cell door. It was like that sound set off a chain reaction, and my eyes opened to my surroundings. The window shades in the living room, which were always open and inviting, were closed. The vertical blinds that covered the large sliding glass doors to the lanai were closed tight. The once brightly lit rooms were cold and dark, and the doors were now closed and locked.
What had I done! The flood of fear rose through my body like a flash flood. In an instant I felt an unseen force pressing against my body. It was hard to breath, and I knew I needed to get out of there fast. I turned to head to the front door when he grabbed my arm and led me into the master bedroom. On the way to the bedroom we passed the large walk-in closet. It was empty except for a blanket and pillow neatly stacked in the corner. There was also a tall filing cabinet with a phone sitting on top. I wondered if this would become my prison. When we reached the bedroom he told me to get down on the floor and that I was not to stand up. I had to stay on the floor either sitting or in a kneeling position. It became apparent that he wasn’t going to voluntarily let me go so I would have to try something else.
I was never athletic nor did I have any self-defense training. I had flashes of things that I saw in the movies and I was told to do if I had to defend myself. At this moment I was dazed and confused.
It took a while for the shock to wear off to the point I could think and move. Fear was the only emotion I can remember during this time. I made a couple of futile attempts to hit him in the groin so I could run out of the house. My moves were slow thus making them easy to deflect. He basically laughed at my attempts to fight back. Looking back I realize one key element in my self-defense moves was missing. I lacked the confidence in myself and the desire to hurt this person that I thought loved me. I hadn’t gotten to the point that I realized he really would do me bodily harm. I did make numerous attempts to get away but the fear seemed to keep me from moving effectively. I struggled off and on to get away and screamed hoping the neighbors would hear me but my attempts were unsuccessful. Whenever I tried to scream his hand clamped over my mouth like a vice. I was never allowed to get up off the floor, and when I told him I needed to go to the bathroom he never left my side.
During the hours of struggling to get away I lost my contacts. Everything in the distance was blurry which was frustrating and yet comforting. It was as if I didn’t want to see what was coming at me or what my future may hold.
I lost track of time. I didn’t know how long I had been there. It seemed like an eternity. My struggles to get away were met with my hair being yanked, pulling my head back quickly. I would eventually settle down for a time and try to reason with him. The more I tried to reason with him the more bizarre his actions seemed to get. There are times in our lives that are turning points, whether it be in a situation or life in general. In this situation it happened for me when I was sitting on the floor and he brought a case out and put it on the bed. He opened the case and pulled out a gun that was wrapped in a cloth. It was at this point I accepted that fact he was going to kill me. I decided at that point I was going to go out fighting for my life. If I could at least get a shot off the neighbors would hear it. With every last bit of energy I had I pushed myself off the floor and lunged for the gun lying on the bed.