The Life You Save May Be Your Own

DID, knitting, sci-fi, and strong opinions

Portrait of Paranoia May 1, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 2:13 am
Tags: , , ,

9:11 p.m., and kung fu class is over.  No more after-class chatter; it’s time to go home.  I can feel the endorphins dropping and the panic rising.  I’m glad it’s only a ten-minute walk back to the apartment, even though I know it will feel like much longer.


I’m the only one who walks this direction, so I’m alone.  As soon as I come around the corner from the dojo, my head is turning back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  We could pretend I’m making sure there are no cars coming before I cross the street, but who am I really fooling?  I’m less concerned about cars than about people.  Are any people coming?  From the side, from the opposite direction, from behind?  That car is slowing down–are they going to try to grab me?  No, just going to the laundromat.  Okay.  Safe for the moment.


Breathe, Sara.  Fucking breathe.


Oh god, a guy on a bike.  We haven’t discussed how to defend yourself against a bike-mounted attacker.  What could I do when he attacks?  Kick the bike over.  Yeah, that would work.  I’ll kick the bike over.  They’re not especially stable vehicles from which to launch an attack.  Okay, he’s passing me anyway.  Don’t look behind you.  God, why do you always look behind you after someone passes.  It makes you look like a paranoid freak.


Probably because I am a paranoid freak.


Guy across the street.  Don’t stare right at him, for god’s sake; you’ll just provoke him to hurt you.  Okay, he’s going into that house.


Fucking breathe.


But when I turn this corner, there aren’t street lights.  Totally dark.  What then?


You can still see; there are enough lights on King Street that you can at least see a silhouette.  And for fuck’s sake, you don’t need to walk around with your hands in fists all the time.


The hell I don’t.  If someone comes, I have to be ready.  If someone comes I have to be ready to react instantly.  It’s freezing that gets you hurt or killed.  They love it if you freeze.  But what if there’s more than one?  We haven’t learned to defend against two attackers.  Oh god, what if there are three?  Or four or five or a whole fucking army?  Fuck!  I can’t let them hurt me, I can’t, I have to figure out what to do, I’d be too much of a failure to go back to kung fu if I let them rape me.  Oh god, what am I going to do?


For fuck’s sake, Sara, there’s not even anyone here.  I don’t think a flash mob of gang rapists are gonna come out of the Catholic church.


They could, they could come out of anywhere.  That’s why I have to be able to see everything.  I might not hear them coming because my hearing’s complete shit, so I have to make sure I can see them before they can get to me.  I have to be able to see.  What are the statistics for rape in Northampton?  There’s all the colleges, so I bet it happens all the time.  God, what do I do if there’s a bunch of them?  That car’s going fast; I should just jump in front of it before they can hurt me again.  I can’t let them hurt me again.


Oh, for christ’s sake, Sara, you’re almost home.  Why the fuck would you want to kill yourself?  You’re finally happy, so no jumping in front of cars.  Just cross the fucking street and go into the house.


3 Responses to “Portrait of Paranoia”

  1. Grainne Says:

    I have a similar internal dialogue, as you know. It’s amazing how much energy that can take up in such a short time. I’m glad you only have a short walk to safety too…even if you’re not really in as much danger as you feel in those moments.

    Also glad you choose to fight, rather than flee or freeze. That’s something I’m never entirely sure I’ll be able to do. xx

    • weordmyndum Says:

      Oh, I’m definitely a freezer, not a fighter. It’s one thing to fight in a class or a tournament, where you know you’re safe aside from some accidental injuries. Nobody really wants to hurt you then. When you’re point sparring, all you have to do is touch the other person to get the point called, and you’re wearing enough sparring gear to make you look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Full contact is more intense and involves less protective gear (usually just headgear and a mouthpiece), but you’re still not trying to just beat the crap out of the other guy. There are rules and respect.

      If I ever needed to defend myself for real, there aren’t going to be rules and respect. If someone’s trying to hurt me, that automatically says they don’t have respect for the rules or for me. If I were able to fight back, I probably wouldn’t follow the rules–you go for groins and eyes and try to break bones. I hope that if I’m ever in that situation, the training would kick in without my having to think about it.

      But probably I’d just freeze. I have a lot more training in freezing than in fighting. I’ve never hit anyone outside of martial arts training. (I did come close once, but close doesn’t count.) Even as a small child, I hated the idea of it. I took tae kwon do briefly in kindergarten, but I always refused to spar because it terrified me. When I started taking karate in college, I wouldn’t hit anyone. (Interestingly, I had no problem being hit by other people. I guess I was just repeating what I knew.) One of my sensei frequently joked that he’d turn me into a “scary killer woman.” I have gotten better about being able to hit people in the context of sparring, but outside of that safety, I don’t think I could. I’d just freeze and shut down. I dissociate; that’s what I’m best at.

      • Grainne Says:

        How poignant, and sad, that you were fine being hit but didn’t want to hurt anyone back. I feel you here too. I don’t even retaliate emotionally most times, let alone physically. That said, I’m at an advantage. I have my little guy who I would defend with my life so all I have to do to break free of my ‘freeze training’ is to think of him.

        I wonder if your Martial Arts training would kick in at that moment that your brain stops thinking and your body starts reacting to the danger. You seem to be able to focus your energy there so well…maybe it would just take over…like the dissociation does, or the heightened awareness.

        Still sounds like a hell of a walk home. *hugs*

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