Trusting Your Intuition: Invasion of Boundaries



There are some moments that just make you stop and ask, "Really? Did that really just happen?"  I've had many moments in my life like that, especially as a child and young adult.  Most were right after someone had chosen to abuse or violate me in some way, and I very rarely had the courage to stand up for myself and my rights.  All too often I was low in self esteem and even compliant with the offender.
Those days are gone.  As a result of having pent up all of my anger at the wrong doing inflicted upon me by others in the past...as a result of stuffing it down, pretending it didn't happen, and not standing up for myself, anger is coming to the surface and sometimes spilling over. 

It's only natural.  These feelings had to come up sometime. Now, as an adult in my mid-thirties, due to a recent incident at work where I was sexually harassed, I decided once and for all that I would no longer be a victim.  I would not behave like one and would not let someone treat me like one. 
If someone showed some type of offending behavior, I'd confront it, and I certainly wouldn't stick around for a repeat offense.  Gone is the scared girl who would put up with most anything due to fear, not knowing any better, or some sick, twisted ideas around my deserving the treatment. 

I have compassion for that former part of me.  Being a victim is what she knew. It started in childhood, and without enough proper intervention, it continued into adulthood. 

This time was different.  I've been taking good care of myself around this recent issue.  Although I have mixed feelings coming up around my self-advocacy, I overall feel empowered and supported.
I am currently in IOP (Intensive Outpatient), which is my "safe place" aside from home right now.  When something happened today to threaten my sense of safety, I freaked. 

The rest of this - the situation that triggered me - may be too triggering for some readers. Please exercise caution and discretion and take care of YOU.

Last week, a new person entered IOP - a young male, probably in his early twenties.  I tried to be friendly with him, but he was very standoffish and kept to himself. I decided that was okay with me and moved on. 

This morning, as I was registering for IOP, he came up to about 3 feet away from me and just started staring intently at me.  Needless to say, I was uncomfortable.  There he was, in my personal space, and the man wasn't blinking.  At first I pretended not to notice, but I felt so uncomfortable that I decided to look up at him, hoping he'd be embarrassed and stop. He wasn't, and he didn't.  He said, "Hello," softly and with a flat affect -- no real facial expression.  I said, "Hello," smiled, and looked back at my wallet to finish the transaction.  In a soft voice, he then said, "Good Morning."  Harmless enough, right? I repeated it back and smiled and then got back to my transaction.  

The whole time, my gut was telling me something was wrong. I was afraid. I thought he was going to hurt me in some way.  Then I started to doubt my reaction and thought perhaps he was just trying to be friendly.  He seemed a little "off," but I didn't have to be so judgmental, right?

I sat down next to another girl from IOP in the waiting room. He sat across from me diagonally, rested his head on his arm, and said to me, "What's your name again?"  I told him.  He asked, 

"Are you in school?"
"No."
"What do you do?"
"I'm a writer, and I work. Are you in school?"
"No."

Then he got up and started pacing around the room, getting closer and closer to the other girl and I.  I didn't notice, but she said he became aroused. I was so frightened by the pacing, the flat affect, and the weirdness of it all that I kept saying to the girl in a whisper, "Something bad is going to happen. I know it. I'm so scared right now. I'm freaking out."

We all got called back to the IOP session, and he followed behind us. Suddenly, walking alongside me, the other girl was thrown forward. "What just happened?" I asked?  I kept asking because no one was answering.  A therapist saw the incident from in front.  "Did he just push you"" I asked.  "No, he grabbed my ass!"

Oh no. No he did not.  At that point, I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my system. I became furious, frightened, and anxious all at once. The therapist took the boy aside and talked to him. I could hear her asking what happened.  The girl and I each checked in with another psychologist.  She seemed unaffected.  When asked why she wasn't upset, she, an attractive young woman about the same age as the boy said, "It happens all the time. I'm used to it." The doctor told her that this doesn't mean that it's okay.

I, on the other hand, became triggered, tearful, and angry.  I asked if the person was still in the group, and we were assured that he is no longer in the program. Deep breath. I kept asking the girl if she was okay, before the group therapist finally redirected me back to myself, "Are YOU okay, Debbie?"
I was once I knew he was out of the group, but I felt very unsafe and scared in the lobby.  I was getting ready to have to go kung-foo on this person.  My goal was to get safely into the IOP section, sit by a doctor, and express my concerns. I wasn't going to let it go.  He escalated things, obviously, and the problem was resolved by staff.

What did I learn?  

  • Always trust my gut instinct. There are times when we are kind of/sort of sure, and then there are those times when our gut, or intuition, lets us know we are in danger, and that instinct turns out to be right.  I'm getting better at recognizing that self-protective mechanism. It was right this time.
  • Think about my surroundings, the context, the people around me. If I feel scared or unsafe, take care to get myself to a safe place and around safe people. 
  • Nothing anything anyone does is about me. It's about them. Think about that for a moment. Not personalizing another's action releases us from unnecessary additional pain and suffering.


Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

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