Most people nowadays know what the social term for stalking is. Digging deep and scrolling all the way down on someone’s social media profile is somehow considered stalking in 2018. But what about the other, scarier definition? The one nobody really wants to talk about?
Imagine that you’re being stalked by someone at the same school as you. Every gritty detail of your surroundings pass like a kidney stone. You get tired of feeling every minute ticking by, anxious for the school day to be over. You find yourself unable to sleep at night because the branches casting shadows outside your windows look like arms climbing up to the second story of your house, and you are kept awake by thoughts of your own helplessness. Walking around school in a haze, you become unable to discern what hurts you from what makes you laugh, just trying to keep yourself alert enough to avoid walking into him. Friends begin whispering about you behind your back, trying to come up with some way to help you go back to your normal, carefree self. Your father purchases motion-activated security cameras off the internet and installs them around the outside of the house, and every time they ring, your heart races until you look at the video feed and see it’s just a bird. Your mother becomes more protective, refusing to let you leave the house alone. You develop paranoid habits yourself, like glancing at every face around you in public just to make sure their features don’t match his. Your phone becomes an asset and an enemy; you can call 911 in mere seconds, but you also impulsively check your notifications every couple of minutes for sinister messages. When you eventually see one, it doesn’t matter whether they’re from a random social media account or a number you don’t have in your contacts, you already know it’s from him.
Grades dropping like feathers from a flightless bird, tears falling just as fast, you find that you’re clinging to the little bits of the normal life you used to have. Things look so hopeless that you tell your therapist, “No amount of medication can fix this.” You’re on so many it won’t matter anyway. Waking up in the morning with an ache that settled into your bones, you question how much the pills are really helping.
All the chains and locks and barricades in the whole world can’t make you feel secure; there is only paranoia and the voices around you.
With the rise of edgy, mildly offensive memes in 2016, the word “trigger” became one of them, and you know you shouldn’t joke about it either, but you can’t help yourself from saying it to your friends with a little nervous laugh before you break down. Your parents tell you that you should try to forget. Your school counselor tells you to try harder in school. Your therapist tells you that you have PTSD. But all of that takes a backseat to what is now habit: the scanning of faces and the pounding in the back of your head every time you step outside your classroom. You’re trapped inside your own head, knowing you need to try harder to put yourself back to norm, but unable to break out of the shell you sealed yourself in, the impenetrable wall of paranoia and restlessness. Even locked inside your own bedroom, the windows blocked off and the lights turned off, you are not safe enough. Every creak of the house makes you stir, every boy who says your name makes your head whip around and your body tense up as your adrenaline tells you to run. You start to disconnect yourself from everybody you care about and love because of one person whose vendetta against you is so strong it’s turning you against your own happiness. All the chains and locks and barricades in the whole world can’t make you feel secure; there is only paranoia and the voices around you. Days inevitably turn into months; you lose track of what the date is and your own personal responsibilities are forgotten.
Today, I feel as though I have come farther than I thought I ever could. I managed to wean myself off of every one of the five medications I relied on for so long. I don’t need to see my therapist or psychiatrist anymore, despite needing both of them for over six months. While some days are still unbearable and I still can’t see his face and remain calm, I feel stronger than I ever have been. It’s been a year of recovery. Ironically, a lot of people knew about what was happening despite my efforts to keep things hidden. However, talking about what happened and putting my emotions out there where anyone can see them gives me a strange kind of closure. Stalking is a serious issue that should be made more of a public threat. If not for the support from my friends and family, my amazing medical confidants, and a rather scary amount of medication, I may not have gotten through this experience. Serious issues can come from unexpected places, but as long as you get the proper help and know who you can rely on, you can get through anything.