It’s funny how muscle memories work

So about a year ago I wrote a long post about why I have a hard time connecting with people, and how it started. How I spent a year or more of my life being harassed by a guy. (You guys can read it over here.) It has been about five years since I met John* and when everything started to unfold. I have barely had any interaction with him in the last three and a half years, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any. I remember sitting at a Starbucks, and him and one of his co-workers came in, and saw me sitting there. I remember feeling myself being really aware of all of his actions. He had put his hand on my shoulder, and I could feel my skin crawl, and my body going into defensive mode. This was about two and a half years after everything happened, and I could still feel that I wasn’t safe around him. When I left my job I completely detached myself from him, and when I came back, I made sure that I maintained that detachment.

Before Christmas, while I was waiting to hang out with one of my closest guy friends, I ran into him. I was in the lounge at the company my father works for, and he was coming to take a quick nap on his break. I don’t normally go in there anymore, but I had a bit of time to wait, and it was the quietest place I knew of there where I could read in peace. When he came in, he had turned off the lights, not seeing me at first, and when he did, he turned them back on. I had my book out, and both my headphones in, and he came up and waved his hand in front of my book to get my attention. I was actively avoiding trying to have a conversation with him, but clearly he didn’t understand.

He proceed to try and have a conversation with me, and as far as conversations I have had with him go, it was relatively okay. We talked a bit about what I’m studying in school, and his job a bit. It was okay, but because of everything that had happened in the past, I still felt at unease around him. I remember when he sat down my body responded by crossing my arms and legs, showing that I was in a defensive and self preservation mode. While my arms were crossed, they weren’t relaxed or casual, but very stiff and even though I was having a relatively pleasant conversation with someone who made me feel so uncomfortable, my body wouldn’t let me forget.

My mind was working a million miles a minute to try and not give him too much information, and to structure my sentences so that they wouldn’t encourage him to try to establish any sort of relationship. When he got up to go back to work, I could sense that he was going to try and do that, by asking what my plans were for my break, and I am so thankful that I had plans with my closest guy friend. I used my plans to go for tea, frozen yogurt and shopping with this friend to imply that he wasn’t just anyone to me, and that maybe I was going to be spending a lot of time with him and other people. A while ago, I had told this friend about my situation with John* and also some unwanted attention from other guys. He was having some similar situations, and we agreed that if we needed someone to be our covers for situations like these, that we would be okay using each other. Having that in my back pocket was a God send because I truly believe that it’s what stopped John* from asking for my new number.

I have become smarter, and less naive since I was that young girl, dealing her first (and hopefully only) situation of long term harassment. I have learned that even as sweet and I can be, I can still be kind but take no crap from people who are unwelcome from trying to insert themselves into my life. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m glad that even though I went through a terrible thing, I have come out fighting, stronger and better prepared.

Don’t let someone make you feel unsafe, don’t let them make you feel fearful to be in places that you want to be in. You have a right to your life and your safety. Stick up for yourself and don’t let them dictate the things that you want to do in your life. It will only make you sad, scared and miserable.

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