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I had just returned from my weekly grocery shopping at the local supermarket. After fumbling for the house keys, with arms straining under the weight of shopping bags, I finally got the door open, put my handbag on the table in the hallway and made my way to the kitchen. Once the groceries were packed away I went back down the hallway to get my handbag but what happened next changed my life dramatically.
I gasped with fright as I came face to face with a man in my hallway. He had just grabbed my handbag and was about to run off when I confronted him and screamed. He struck out and punched me in the face and I just dropped to the ground and lay there as I heard him run away.
The police were called, I was taken to hospital with a fractured eye socket and the man and my handbag were never seen again. My life was turned upside down and I lived in fear of something similar happening to me again. Whenever I went out and came back to the house I could hardly bear to open the door. I became paranoid about locking and relocking doors and windows, and I thought the man would come back and try to harm me again. In the end I simply didn’t go out any more and became a prisoner in my own house. My view of the world being a safe place filled with good people had been shattered and the frequent nightmares tormented me. I was sleep deprived, lost my appetite and became withdrawn and reclusive. I couldn’t imagine life returning to normal again and gradually became more and more depressed, eventually ending up on anti-depressants – I really had hit rock bottom.
Thankfully, a friend of mine put me onto a local service that supported people who had been impacted by crime. I was anxious and didn’t know what to expect, but I was desperate, so I made an appointment to go and see one of their counsellors. The Victims Counselling and Support Service was a free service and they had an office fairly near to where I lived. The counsellor was really accepting of me and made me feel very welcome from the very moment I walked in. She helped me understand that everything I was experiencing was an absolutely normal response to an abnormal and traumatic event. She said that most people who had experienced something like I had would have had the same feelings, thoughts and behaviours. This was just such a relief as I was convinced there was something wrong with me – at one point I’d even thought I was going crazy. My counsellor explained that being a victim of crime had changed my perception of life and the fear of being a victim again and feeling overwhelmed was a perfectly normal reaction to what had happened and that there was nothing wrong with me. She gave me several different strategies to help with my anxiety and fear and gave me techniques to help me sleep better. Gradually, I started to feel and cope with everyday life and things felt like they were returning to normal.
My counsellor didn’t judge me in any way and she was prepared to listen to everything that was going on for me at the time. I had never been to a counsellor before, but she made me feel welcome and gently helped me work through my feelings and emotions. She gave me a safe space where I could explore my issues at my own pace and she gradually gave me strategies to use if I became anxious again. Going to see a counsellor was the best decision I have made and it really helped me get back on my feet again. If you have been impacted by a crime please consider calling the Victims Counselling and Support Service (VCSS) on 1300 139 703. This is a free service for anyone living in Queensland and their professional counsellors will help you work through issues raised as a result of what has happened.