So here we go with number three among the five favourite posts I’ve ever written. When you read it you will understand why I say this is not an actual favourite as it’s content was difficult to share, however it marked a new beginning for me. Prior to writing this I’d only ever told one person about what I was living through. This post tells the story of just one of many difficult days.
Silence is the greatest enabler of abuse.
I lived in silence for many years and no one heard me roar. This is an account of one such a day.
As I walk the corridor of the hospital ward I am nursing on, I think I glimpse him in the distance. He turns the corner and is gone. A sharp pain of fright travels up my neck and explodes inside my head. My heart begins to beat so fast it leaves me breathless. I break into a cold sweat, as I make my way down the corridor. The nearer I get to the corner the sicker my stomach feels. Is he here?
He is my stalker. A man twenty years my senior, who stole my teenage years. Now that I am older and stronger he has become frantic. On discovering I have a boyfriend he seems to have become unhinged, his behaviour even more bizarre than before. He is consumed by jealousy and hate and I fear what he might do.
Arriving at the corner I peep around. There is no one there. The lift doors are closed. Had my imagination played tricks on me? My heart begins to return to normal rhythm, and my fear fades.
I turn and walk back to my duties looking after the patients in my care on the ward. There are dressings to be changed, stitches removed, and various other nursing tasks undertaken, but I am shaken, distracted. Outwardly I smile and chat, putting patients at ease and laughing with fellow nurses, but inside a very different conversation is taking place. “What if it was him?”. “Was he getting bolder?”. “Was he coming to kill me?”.
The day passes with no more sightings. I remain on high alert as I walk the corridors, or emerge from behind bedside curtains. Visiting time is particularly stressful, as I scan the face of every man who enters the ward.
Yet all this time I never tell a soul. There are twelve nurses working this shift with me, and many more besides, such as doctors, cleaners and kitchen staff. Help is at hand, but I cannot ask for it. This is my secret going back nearly ten years. Locked away deep inside me, this silence has been a part of my life for so long that I no longer have the words to speak of it. It has become a part of what I am. It is not for sharing.
As the day ends I walk with my fellow nurses out the front door of the hospital. To the passing eye we are a group of noisy young student nurses, finished for the day. But if anyone looked closer they might observe that one member of the group speaks as loud as the others, but is ever watchful. While chatting and joking she remains on high alert, ever watchful, even turning on occasions to check if anyone is following.
Quickly, under false pretenses I excuse myself and run back inside. An underground passageway links the hospital to the nurses home. He knows what time my shift finishes. I run along the poorly lit, empty passageway, all the time silently screaming. “How much more of this can I take?”. When I emerge from the passageway I leave the nurses home out of sight of my car… and him. I know once again I will be taking the bus home.
As I make my way, ever watchful, to the bus stop I wonder if I imagined seeing him on the ward? But with a sick feeling in my stomach I know I did not. His stalking behaviour is escalating. I wait for what seems a lifetime for the bus, hoping he does not drive by. On this occasion I am lucky.
I take my seat, relieved to be safe. With an enormous sigh of relief, I close my eyes, sit back and wonder will this ever end?