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Thread: Surviving an assault- 10 years later

  1. #1

    Default Surviving an assault- 10 years later

    (Note: I wasn't sure where to post this. My tablet always screws up blog posts and those get ignored sometimes. This memory always brings up a lot of anxiety and depression this time of year and, for the first time, I wanted to put it down into words.)

    In Canada, it's the labour day weekend.

    Every year, I think back to that Labour Day weekend in September, 2004, while I was out on my morning run, Running has been my lifeline for many years and it has prevented me from being swallowed into a life of depression. On this morning I was randomly attacked by two thugs. There was no motivation to attack me personally. They were just out looking for someone to beat up, and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In attempting to escape, I ran faster than I had ever run in my life and I lost my balance. At full speed my knees smashed into the pavement and my head hit the ground. I was unconscious for several seconds. When I came to and tried to get my bearings, I opened my eyes to see one of my attackers flying through the air attempting to land by kicking my head in. Bizarrely, I had a very surreal thought as it was happening that it reminded me of an old Juicy Fruit commercial, with a snowboarder flying off a hill. I could almost hear the music. I also recall thinking that I needed to move aside before he smashed my head in. It still amazes me to think back on this and remember all these thoughts that must have taken place in a split second. I don't know how I moved quickly enough to avoid the contact but I did. I rolled out of his way and avoided the death landing. Bystanders were calling 911 as the attackers fled the scene. My knees and elbows were covered in blood and my head and shoulder were bruised. I was in a daze.

    It took several days to determine the extent of the injuries and I was terrified I would never be able to run again. Not only did they assault and traumatize me, they killed my only coping strategy to deal with stress and depression. How was I ever going to survive? I wasn't sure I wanted to. I went from being a runner to someone who had difficulty walking more than a street block.

    It took nearly two months of therapy before I was able to start running again. When I began hitting the running paths again, I felt motivated to sign up for a local half marathon. At that time, I had not run a race in 21 years and thought those days were far behind me, yet somehow, it seemed a way of reclaiming my life. The race route took me right past the place where I was assaulted, and it seemed like a symbolic way of putting it behind me. There were tears in my eyes at the end of the race. I was still alive, still running, and even though they never caught my attackers, I was moving on with my life.

    After the euphoria of crossing the finish line I slowly began realizing the trauma, anxiety and stress were not so easily erased.

    On the first anniversary of the assault, I recall going out for a run, aware of the significance of the day, and feeling some anxiety that it was going to happen again. I could intellectualize the likelihood of such a phenomena repeating itself exactly a year later, but I still felt anxious. I managed to get through the day without falling to pieces.

    During this time I had found a book titled "Working with Available Light" a biography about a woman who was brutally assaulted while on a run and the impact it had on her family. I'd just started reading it before the first anniversary and I got to the point in the book where she talks about not feeling any better a year later, that in the initial months she felt that she was moving forward, yet, she really wasn't. In the space of a few short moments, the assault changed her life and took away any sense of joy and pleasure.

    For the first time I broke down and cried because I realized that I felt exactly the same. In that short time of violence, it's like you've been lifted put of your life and you land in a slightly different place where things just aren't the same. You live with the anxiety and an even greater feeling that you or someone you care about could get hurt. You live with a heightened awareness of the fragility of life. And eventually you learn to appreciate every day of life.

    Ten years later, the memories are still present, but they are not quote as vivid. The flashbacks, the PTSD are far less frequent, and there are genuine moments of happiness again.

    These days, I am more aware of the difference I have made in the lives of people. I have always been passionate about my work as an advocate for tenants and low income people. In the years since the assault, I am appreciative of the numbers of people I've been able to help, and the fact that I'm still here to fight passionately on their behalf. I also spend more time reaching out to family and friends, especially this time of year, sometimes making them a gift, as a way of saying I'm still here.

    Labour Day weekends are still hard, but after ten years, I'm still moving forward.
    Last edited by Starrunner; 30-Aug-2014 at 15:24.

  2. #2

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    I'm glad you had the courage to write this.

    I hope the weekend is not too bad for you and you can enjoy the long weekend a bit.

    Keep getting better and moving forward. It's good to see that you're not letting two random thuggish idiots ruin your life and that you can still help other people as well.

  3. #3

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    That sounds absolutely terrifying, starrunner. It's no wonder that you suffered some PTSD after an event like that. The upside of this is that you seem to have also gained some insight and personal strength after some time, which is sometimes referred to as "post-traumatic growth." From Wikipedia:



    Quote Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    Results seen in people that have experienced posttraumatic growth include some of the following: greater appreciation of life, changed sense of priorities, warmer, more intimate relationships, greater sense of personal strength, and recognition of new possibilities or paths for one's life and spiritual development.


    So while we can not possibly take away the pain of that moment and its immediate aftermath, it is amazing that you have grown beyond that moment and beyond who you used to be as a person before it happened. It is also such good news that you are still able to run and participate in marathons. What I find the most encouraging out of anything in your post, though, is actually that you are so passionate about your work and you find it meaningful. That is a wonderful thing to have in life - passion for something and meaning in life. Deeply depressed people are mostly apathetic... quite the opposite. So that gives further hope that you have indeed moved passed this, as much as any person can be expected to do considering the shocking, senseless violence you experienced.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. #4

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    Starrunner thanks for sharing another inspiring story with us. You show us with your dedication and hard work how to overcome adversity.
    I'm sure in your job in daily life that it's very rewarding helping others in their struggles in life. So enjoy your labor day weekend and enjoy it.

  5. #5

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    I'm sorry this happened to you Starrunner. Since you're Canadian I don't suppose you can buy this, but the Bursa Thunder 380 is a small, compact weapon designed for self protection. I'm probably going to get one. I ride our bike trail and it's usually safe, but not always. We get the criminal types on rare occasions, but of course it only takes one time to ruin the experience of being free with the wind blowing in your hair, or in my case, bike helmet.

  6. #6

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    Thanks for the kind words, everyone, I'm actually doing pretty well this weekend. I ran twelve or thirteen miles yesterday, training for a half marathon on September 21st and I'm running better than I have in years..

    An assault is an experience I wouldn't wish on anyone. An encounter that lasts several minutes can change your entire outlook on life, resulting in a loss of happiness, and even the simplest things, like reading, can no longer bring pleasure. For years afterwards, it didn't feel like my life anymore, just a semblance of what it used to be. I'm still not sure I'm back to the way I was before it happened, but like other things in my life, I've learned to live with it. I can't help but feel the presence of a ghost of violence that wasn't in my world before the assault, but at the same time, I appreciate the beauty of the world in new ways and I'm grateful for each day I'm here, and the difference I can make while I'm on this planet.

    The sad part is that the assault happened on a Tuesday, late in the morning. It was a long weekend and I took the Tuesday off to get a four day weekend out of it. If I hadn't done that, and just gone to work instead, none of this would have happened. Like I said; the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Frogsy, I 've never heard of post traumatic growth before. I can see that some of it may apply in my case. I'm realizing throughout my posts that there have been contradictory feelings, depending on how I felt on any given day; dealing with depression while contrasting it to the appreciation of being alive and able to make a difference. Fortunately, my work has always been important to me; I've often described it as a more of a mission or a calling than work. Throughout the process of coping with trauma, it was my passion for advocacy and commitment to assisting vulnerable populations that continued to give me hope and a sense of purpose. Still, there were days I was a total mess.

    Dogboy, thanks for the advice and your kind concern, but I'm going to take a pass on the weapon suggestion, mainly because of the statistical averages. I've been running along the Rideau Canal every day since 1979, averaging at least six miles a day. There has never been an incident until September 2004, and I continue to run my same routes without incident since that weekend in 2004. I won't let a single random encounter change the faith I have in people.
    .
    Last edited by Starrunner; 31-Aug-2014 at 14:59.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by starrunner View Post
    Thanks for the kind words, everyone, I'm actually doing pretty well this weekend. I ran twelve or thirteen miles yesterday, training for a half marathon on September 21st and I'm running better than I have in years..

    An assault is an experience I wouldn't wish on anyone. An encounter that lasts several minutes can change your entire outlook on life, resulting in a loss of happiness, and even the simplest things, like reading, can no longer bring pleasure. For years afterwards, it didn't feel like my life anymore, just a semblance of what it used to be. I'm still not sure I'm back to the way I was before it happened, but like other things in my life, I've learned to live with it. I can't help but feel the presence of a ghost of violence that wasn't in my world before the assault, but at the same time, I appreciate the beauty of the world in new ways and I'm grateful for each day I'm here, and the difference I can make while I'm on this planet.

    The sad part is that the assault happened on a Tuesday, late in the morning. It was a long weekend and I took the Tuesday off to get a four day weekend out of it. If I hadn't done that, and just gone to work instead, none of this would have happened. Like I said; the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Frogsy, I 've never heard of post traumatic growth before. I can see that some of it may apply in my case. I'm realizing throughout my posts that there have been contradictory feelings, depending on how I felt on any given day; dealing with depression while contrasting it to the appreciation of being alive and able to make a difference. Fortunately, my work has always been important to me; I've often described it as a more of a mission or a calling than work. Throughout the process of coping with trauma, it was my passion for advocacy and commitment to assisting vulnerable populations that continued to give me hope and a sense of purpose. Still, there were days I was a total mess.

    Dogboy, thanks for the advice and your kind concern, but I'm going to take a pass on the weapon suggestion, mainly because of the statistical averages. I've been running along the Rideau Canal every day since 1979, averaging at least six miles a day. There has never been an incident until September 2004, and I continue to run my same routes without incident since that weekend in 2004. I won't let a single random encounter change the faith I have in people.
    .
    Hi starrunner. Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us. It's deeply unfortunate that there are people in the world who perpetuate violence without a real understanding of the consequences they cause. But it is also uplifting to read about someone like you who may have suffered from that experience, but has also gained new perspective on the beauty and joys that life has to offer.

    I am impressed by your response to Dogboy that you won't let an experience like that change your faith in people. I think that's an incredibly generous attitude, one that I wish more people would adopt. I also happen to be personally of the opinion that adding more weapons to the world doesn't really solve any problems, so it makes me happy that you choose to pass on getting your own. I know some people disagree with the attitude that I have towards ownership of weapons for self-protection, but I'm glad that there is a range of responses to violence, beyond just the potential for protecting oneself with greater violence.

  8. #8

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    That's true but it depends on where you live. I live in a small city that has a very unsavory part to its population. In the past two months, we've had one drive by shooting resulting in a fatality, and another shooting and fatality very close to the school where I taught at for 12 years.

    I actually do not carry a weapon on the bike trail, but rather, my cell phone. That can also be used as a deterrent. If you have enough time, you can take their picture and post it to your Facebook account. You can call 911. There are options. What's seems sad in your case Starrunner is that if their were witnesses, why didn't they come to help you? The other observation is that there are a lot of crimes committed and there's never a cop.

    On our bike trail, we do have personal who are on the trail, but they are few and far between. You really are on your own, and if a gang of big guys approach you, then what? Where I live, I see it all the time, though not in my immediate neighborhood. One merely has to drive across town, something the bike trail does.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by dogboy View Post
    That's true but it depends on where you live. I live in a small city that has a very unsavory part to its population. In the past two months, we've had one drive by shooting resulting in a fatality, and another shooting and fatality very close to the school where I taught at for 12 years.

    I actually do not carry a weapon on the bike trail, but rather, my cell phone. That can also be used as a deterrent. If you have enough time, you can take their picture and post it to your Facebook account. You can call 911. There are options. What's seems sad in your case Starrunner is that if their were witnesses, why didn't they come to help you? The other observation is that there are a lot of crimes committed and there's never a cop.

    On our bike trail, we do have personal who are on the trail, but they are few and far between. You really are on your own, and if a gang of big guys approach you, then what? Where I live, I see it all the time, though not in my immediate neighborhood. One merely has to drive across town, something the bike trail does.
    Hi, dogboy,
    Overall, I live in a safe area. The latest crime statistics have shown a decrease in crime over the last decade, and violent crime, in particular, is down. Regardless, the thought of carrying a gun is just not something I would consider. It's just not in my DNA. (starrunner crosses his fingers and begs this doesn't turn into a debate about gun control, we can start another thread for that).

    As for why nobody came to help me, well, I've wondered that as well. There was an upper and lower path where the assault occurred and I was running on the lower one. There were several people who were on the upper path. I think it all happened really fast and they may have been trying to figure out what was happening until I yelled for someone to call the police. I was probably on the ground and unconscious for a few seconds after that. I was pretty much on my own in spite of the people around. Someone did call the police and a few stayed to be witnesses, but that was the extent of it.

    Archieroni,
    Thanks for the support, but believe the whole process was far from uplifting, and it took time to develop this perspective. During the time after the assault, I was telling my best friend how scared I was, that I would never be able to run again. She tried to give me some foraging words. She knew my life and history and reminded me that I had been through tough things in my life and that with all my willpower I would work this out and get back to running. I got angry and snapped at her, saying at one point' would you tell a person in a wheelchair that he can walk again if he just puts his mind to it?' Pretty mean comment to someone who was trying to help. I also remember getting mad at someone who offered to get a pillow so I could put my leg up on a chair. I thought I was being treated like an invalid, and having been a marathon runner, I was not appreciative of this kind of help. So I was pretty horrible to people who meant well.. After I started running again, I really thought I had moved forward when I ran my first race in 21 years after the assault. I didn't realize until much later that I was simply in denial and blocking it out of my mind.
    Last edited by Starrunner; 01-Sep-2014 at 14:17.

  10. #10

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    I think there are a couple reasons that nobody helped. One is an instinctual one. Seeing violence leads to fear in most cases. Even if, rationally, a group of oeople could intervene together, unless they have some previous organization, they will all be individually afraid.

    The second reason is a more rational one. A person committing violence might have the capacity for more violence. If someone else intervened, the assailants might draw a knife or a gun and shoot the people around them. As such, the safest thing to do when witnessing a crime is to call the police and get away, even though that doesn't immediately help the victim of a crime.

    This is also why, in the rare circumstances where a person does intervene to help, we call them a hero.

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