help me move on.
January 7, 2011 8:53 AM   Subscribe

How can I psychologically process being mugged, and move on?

I had written up a ridiculously detailed description here of my mugging, its context, and my mental state since, but then realized this isn't the place to offer a second police report or get therapy itself. So I'll keep things pretty general.

I'm a mid-20s, decently large male who's had the fortune to live a pretty charmed life and have never up until now been the victim of violence. I was mugged a few nights ago in a situation where I was being un-street-smart to a highly uncharacteristic degree and thus made myself a target-- I basically did everything wrong; usually I'm very savvy and aware. I was hit over the head by a bludgeon at night on a dark street, taken completely by surprise by muggers who I had stupidly assessed as innocent passersby; they grappled me, I gave them everything on me and they ran; I ran the other way, called the police from a restaurant, and filed a report.

Here are the things I'm feeling that I want to "solve" or work through:

1) Over-the-top fear. I used to be relatively fearless walking the streets, and because I also tended to be very aware of my surroundings and confident, this worked out pretty well for me. This episode has definitely taught me to be more choosy about where and when I walk, but I am definitely feeling counterproductively disporportionate fear as well. I don't really want to be anywhere outside in the dark now, I get jumpy even during daytime if people make sudden movements or unexpectedly enter my field of vision, and I am feeling child-like fears of dark rooms in my apartment, closets, etc. Obviously I've learned a valuable lesson, but I don't want to live in fear. Is this just normal and something that will dissipate with time? Analytically, I know that I am almost never as tuned-out as I was when I got mugged and that it was-- reassuringly, in a way-- almost completely preventable, but I feel like it's going to happen again merely by dint of being outside (when in reality, I live in a quite safe area and I was mugged because I made myself an extreme outlier of unguardedness). I also feel irrational violation and discomfort at the fact that they have my wallet and the myriad attendant forms of ID. Even though all relevant locks have been changed, cards been canceled, and all other actual precautions been taken, it frightens me on a gut level that these people-- who are nonetheless not at all hardened criminals, and probably high school kids-- have a lot of information about me.

2) Obsession. I have had trouble thinking of just about anything other than the mugging since it happened. At first, I replayed over and over in my head the spinechilling moment when I saw the mugger's club swing out of the corner of my eye and realized I was about to get clubbed. Recently, it's morphed into an even more disturbing series of re-visualizations in my head of different ways the scene could have played out, sort of revenge fantasies. Imagining I had been armed with various defense weapons and really messing up my assailants. I get caught up in a certain rageful glee imagining knifing or punching or keying these guys to a point that really disturbs me; I am highly pacifistic by nature. On an analytical level I don't even harbor much antipathy towards these guys; they were stupid kids who wanted some money. Other than being brought to some sort of mild justice, I don't wish them ill in "real life". But I get caught up in these wild-eyed recreations and it scares me. I know it's an unconscious way of retroactively taking agency over the situation but I don't like it at all. Is this unhealthy?

3) Self-anger. On two levels: one, that I put myself in this dangerous situation and precipitated the mugging. Two, that my muggers were in reality basically scared kids and if I hadn't been so disoriented, I probably could have got away, overpowered them, or spooked them with a ruckus to cause them to run away. I keep dwelling on what I should have done, but who cares? It happened the way it happened. I can't internalize that, though.

It seems stupid to get so wrought up over an ultimately minor crime, but here I find myself. I think if I had just been threatened, it wouldn't have had such a profound effect on me, but the fact that they used actual violence has really shaken me up and made the event much more sinister.

How can I work through these problems? On an analytical level, I know exactly why I got mugged, and how to best not get mugged in the future. I know that what happened is in the past and that I can't change how it happened. I don't want to give another single ounce of mental energy to these thoughts other than letting the event rationally inform me. I'm moving to another city in a few weeks and I don't want to let this ruin my excitement. Will it just take time and all this will pass? Or am I, like, permanently fucked-up? Is there such thing as doing one-off therapy for a traumatic experience like this? I've never done any sort of therapy ever, and I wouldn't even know where or how to start.

How can I move on?

Sorry for the TLDR, and I feel bad whining about something so silly when people out there are getting raped and bombed and maimed. Thanks for your empathy.

Throwaway email if you prefer to respond in confidence.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Lots of people will recommend The Gift of Fear so I'll just drop it in to start things off.

Hopefully you'll get through this horrible experience & come out stronger the other side.
posted by pharm at 8:58 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was mugged a couple years ago and experienced all three of the feelings you are describing for at least a week if not longer after the event. I still get spooked, years later, when I am in a situation similar to when I was mugged (dark out, raining, near an alley).

I can reassure you that you are not permanently fucked up, that this is normal, and that it will pass with time. You can talk to your friends about what happened - they were a big support for me at this time. And try to just go easy on yourself for awhile - these things happen, and it doesn't make you a bad or stupid person.
posted by little_c at 9:00 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, yes, there is such a thing as one-off therapy. I went to one therapy session through a program offered by my employer after a really bad break up threw me for a loop. I could have gone back, but felt like I got some good insight from the one session and that was enough for me at the time.
posted by little_c at 9:01 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Call the police station with which you filed your police report and ask them for the information for Victim's Services -- they should be able to help you find local resources, for counselling or similar.

I was a victim of a home invasion, and while many of the same symptoms you describe have basically gone away over time, I am still jumpy when I hear voices in the middle of the night, and it's been several years since the robbery. I've always sort of wished I had contacted Victim's Services at the time and got hooked up with a little counselling. I think it would have helped speed the process along considerably, and I might not be left with residual after-effects that I still have.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:02 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is this just normal and something that will dissipate with time?

In my experience, yes. After I was mugged I was completely on edge every time I left my apartment and it really bothered me because I'd always been someone who didn't worry overly-much about crime and was comfortable walking around almost anywhere — certainly in my own neighborhood. I didn't really like the change in myself and worried that it was going to be permanent but I tried to keep to my normal routine and the edginess pretty much went away after a week or two.
posted by enn at 9:06 AM on January 7, 2011

my muggers were in reality basically scared kids and if I hadn't been so disoriented, I probably could have got away, overpowered them ...

I feel bad whining about something so silly when people out there are getting raped and bombed and maimed.

Sounds like you have some heavy gender baggage about this. As you have experienced first-hand, being a large man doesn't make you any less of a victim of violent crime. Furthermore, what these people did was an outrageous assault even if they're young and/or poor. (Most people who are poor or young don't go around committing violent crimes, and in fact it would be dehumanizing to say those who do so have no choice but to act how they did.)

Don't let people, including yourself, guilt-trip you into feeling like what happened was somehow any less bad because you're so "charmed" or "privileged" to be male (or big or well-off or whatever). Whether/how men are "privileged," or women are "oppressed," or anyone else is privileged or oppressed, may be an interesting discussion point for a sociology class or a Metafilter thread, but it isn't the issue for you as a unique individual. Being male does not stop one from being viciously attacked, but some people won't accept the most blatant evidence of this fact. Sorry I can't help with your other issues, but I would just like to say the ultra-PC apologetics and sympathy for your attackers are counterproductive.
posted by John Cohen at 9:13 AM on January 7, 2011 [10 favorites]

It doesn't sound like you're having an unusual reaction at all -- yeah, it just takes time.

I was mugged almost ten years ago (similarly, in a stupid situation, should have known better) and for a few months after was nervous about sudden noises, people walking up behind me, that sort of thing. And I thought about it obsessively and replayed the scenario in my mind and imagined doing things differently.

One-off therapy isn't a bad idea, either, but I didn't really talk to anyone about it (a professional, I mean, I told my friends) and now I don't have that anxiety or obsessive thinking anymore. Totally gone. The experience is just something sucky that happened in part due to my own carelessness, and now I know better. I hardly think of it all. So don't be too hard on yourself for letting it consume you for a little while; it'll get better.
posted by little cow make small moo at 9:16 AM on January 7, 2011

If you're otherwise in psychologically good shape, then yes, a lot of this will dissipate with time. Years ago, the apartment I was living in was broken into in the middle of the night, while I was asleep. Screaming and such chased the guy out, and no one was hurt and nothing was taken. But I was panicky and had a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep for several months.

Still, I wish I had taken advantage of whatever victims' services - counseling or something - was available at the time, if only to get a better grip on what was going on with me. It would have been helpful to have a context to put my reactions in, rather than feeling stupid and irrational for still being panicky after X amount of time.

You're not stupid or irrational for feeling the way you do, especially since this just happened a few days ago.
posted by rtha at 9:16 AM on January 7, 2011

I got mugged once in a similar circumstance (total failure of street-smarts). In my case, it was a misunderstanding about a drug-buy. They thought I had a whack of cash on me. I was merely trying to figure out if it was a deal worth pursuing (I had exactly $3 on me at the time). Either way, there was a blur to the left of my head, just inside my peripheral vision and POW!!! I was on the ground, seeing stars, getting kicked repeatedly until I finally grabbed my wallet, threw my three measly dollars at them (thank God it was dark; it took them a moment to figure out how little was there; time enough for me to get back on my feet) ...

And so on. My point is, it happened better part of 25 years ago and I can still remember every detail, including the shame, embarrassment, lingering fear I felt afterward. How did I get over it? I just did, one day at a time, kind of how one gets over any serious injury (my worst physical hurt was a badly bruised jaw; the bruises to my psyche lasted far longer).

But a few specific strategies come to mind:

1. Take it as a "hard-knock" lesson; life deals them out every now and then. In my case, the obvious message was, "Wake the fuck up, man. Be in the now. Pay attention to what's going on around you." This isn't just a skill that allows for danger avoidance; it actually enriches one's experience of everyday life in all manner of positive ways.

2. Be damned glad that you were lucky and tough enough to come out of it as physically unscathed as you seem. Give yourself some credit here. You took a serious hit and it didn't destroy you. Fact is, it might have just knocked a busload of sense into you. Use it.

3. Be brave and get on with your life, or as I heard it once: "Don't let your fear of death overshadow your commitment to life." Easy to say, of course, much harder to live by. But that's kind of the point. Play this right and you walk away with scar tissue that will make you stronger, if more humble. And certainly wiser.

Good luck.
posted by philip-random at 9:21 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

It usually annoys me to see therapy as the default answer to every question regarding mental health, but in this case I think therapy is a good solution. Others have said your symptoms will fade, but there is no reason for you to live with fear and confusion in the meantime. One or two sessions will probably do you a world of good.

As suggested above, call victim's services, or look online to find out information about who to contact. I don't know what city or state you're in, but I know NY has free hotlines with counselors that can reassure you and help set up a counseling appointment. I'm sorry this happened to you and good luck with everything.
posted by shoreline at 9:21 AM on January 7, 2011

I have a friend who was mugged not once but twice. The first time he was pistol-whipped and was pretty messed up over it for a few weeks -- he stopped going out to clubs downtown for a while, etc. The second time he was held up at gunpoint just outside of a house party I was at, and not 10 minutes later he was inside laughing about it and we were sending funny text messages to the guys that stole his phone, etc...

People adapt pretty quickly. Also, adults bounce back quicker from this kind of trauma than kids do.

It's good to be thinking about it. Write down what you're thinking, talk about it with friends. Try to avoid going to that area for a while, stay in well let areas when you're downtown and try not to go downtown alone. And also, let your friends know, when you go out, that it's very important to you that you not be left alone. Believe me, they'll understand.

After a while, it'll fade.
posted by empath at 9:26 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

"1) Over-the-top fear."

If somebody tried to hit you in the head with a blunt instrument, the difference between you posting this question, and being autopsied today, could have been fractions of an inch. The action you call "mugging" here could just as well be "armed robbery" and perhaps only by luck it isn't being reported in your local paper as "murder." The point I'm trying to make is that I don't think it's a good thing to minimize the experience, too soon, or too much, because that is kind of taking your luck for granted. I think the experience should get you into some practical self-defense training, at a minimum. I think you should get some professional help examining your present and future abodes for security (many police forces will send someone around, without charge to check your premises, and make basic recommendations where they see deficiencies in outside lighting, locks, window security, etc. Often locksmiths and alarm companies will do the same.)

"2) Obsession."

One area of consideration that you may not have thought of: by getting your wallet, you've just inadvertently convinced some kids they can probably successfully do what they did to you, to someone else, too. Until they are apprehended for what they did to you (or some previous or subsequent victim), or stopped by some other civilian or police in the act of a subsequent similar situation, I think they'll be looking a little more opportunistically at everybody they pass. It's reasonable, and even civil, to wish them apprehended, or forcibly stopped, before they kill or seriously injure others. And it's incumbent on you, as a victim, to assist the police with investigation, and if possible, the state with prosecution, as much as you can. And frankly, if you find yourself in such a situation again, I would hope you could be prepared and effective enough to stop such people, on the spot, without harm to yourself.

"3) Self-anger."

An old adage: don't get angry, get even. Or at least turn your self-anger to useful motivation in personal preparation to learn self defense, or, if you now or will live in an area that permits personal weapons (or defensive devices like mace, tasers, etc.), become appropriately armed, if that is reasonable to you.

"How can I move on?"

Do the positive things you can to increase your own security at home and while in public. Help the police and the prosecution, as much as you can, to catch these criminals, if you get the chance.

From what I've seen of such situations, the people that are most proactive, do the best in putting such incidents behind them.
posted by paulsc at 9:29 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you need to explore why being mugged was so disturbing for you - I mean, there are specific things that make the event especially painful for you, maybe having to do with your identity as a man, your over-confidence that led you to being in this situation, you coming to terms with your vulnerability and what to do about it... of course, some counseling would help you identify some of these things.

I think the fear and distrust will fade with time.

I also wonder if you can take up martial arts or some kind of self-defense clase - NOT for the purpose of attacking them back should this ever happen again, but just to feel stronger and feel like you are prepared.

I was mugged a few years ago, but it was very quick with no violence, and my anger and fear faded after several days. The tramuatic experience for me was when my apartment was broken into, very likely by someone I knew at the time, during a night that included a few other incidents, and I spent the next few weeks feeling very distrustful of everyone. I contacted my ex-therapist and had a 3 hour session with her to explore my feelings about the whole incident. It was quite helpful.

A few years later, and I am quite fine with both of these events. I don't feel paranoid, nor am I fearful - I just don't do the things that permitted these two unfortunate events to happen.
posted by Locochona at 9:29 AM on January 7, 2011

When I was a teenager I got mugged quite a few times, as I regularly put myself in less-than-white-boy-friendly neighborhoods in the Bronx to buy pot.

I remember experiencing 2 and 3 very frequently, and also telling myself to not take myself so seriously, that I should not be surprised to reap what I so obviously sowed, that the feelings would eventually dissipate, and that in the end I lost nothing but 20 bucks, a dime bag, and (goddammit, again!) a cd player.

Just telling myself those things seemed to make the process go faster... and a few months later it was well in the past. But I guess if you're still freaked out in a few weeks, I'd look into therapy.
posted by tempythethird at 9:33 AM on January 7, 2011

Have worked with a lot of crime victims over the years, and your reaction is completely normal. That none of us are safe, regardless of gender, size, training, sidearms, etc. is very hard to accept. To be frank, you didn't make a mistake nor should you be angry at yourself -- but these thoughts about how you could/should have prevented what happened are very classic in the wake of a trauma. It is your inner self trying to regain the sense of control over your destiny which this crime stripped away.

It helps a lot to talk about this experience, because discussing it helps you to master it. I really would recommend finding a counselor with whom you feel comfortable, and who has some training on dealing with crime victims. Go for as many sessions as you need.

Also, keep in mind that a crime can happen to absolutely anyone. What is distinctive and individual is what people do in response to being victimized.
posted by bearwife at 9:44 AM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Its totally normal that you feel the way you do - and those physiological and emotional responses to a variety of triggers are classic indicators of PTSD. (I say this as a former sufferer (armed robbery) not a clinician).

You might be able to "walk it off" alone and you might need some help. The former is probably *cheaper* than the latter, but please don't feel like getting help is a bad thing. Why not see a therapist who specializes in trauma for a consult? Especially if the range of triggering situations is expanding, or your responses are interfering with your life and leading you to curtail your activities.

Logistically: you can start with the cops, or get a recommendation from a friend, or just lookup some random mental-health professional. Call that person and ask for recommendations for a social worker who specializes in trauma. It should be pretty straightforward to set up one-off ~interview-ish sessions with some people.

Maybe one session will set you free.

If not, when you find someone you can connect with, you can negotiate - maybe you'll start with an end point based on some success criteria (no more fear of the dark), or number of sessions, whathaveyou.
posted by janell at 9:49 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Totally normal response to a traumatic event. If the symptoms don't abate after a few weeks, you might have PTSD, and should seek treatment. If you have any pre-existing anxiety/depression issues, then you might want to just get treatment now.
posted by yarly at 9:56 AM on January 7, 2011

When in my early twenties I woke up in the middle of the night to the window of my garden-level apartment crashing in nearly around my ears (I slept on a mattress on the floor about 5 feet from the window) and angry voices arguing just outside. It turned out to not be a particularly dangerous situation: a neighborhood drunk I'd unwisely befriended had decided, in a stupor the cops subsequently described as leaving him nearly unable to walk, to touch me for a couple of bucks, at 2 in the morning. Surely a few gentle kicks to the window would rouse me to his aid.

I mention the details to say, the actual "seriousness" or danger content of the event isn't all that relevant. The moments of fear and adrenaline and survival reaction, regardless of their source or outcome, leave a deep impression on our minds.

It's frustrating to have an isolated incident make an impact on you repeatedly. Here are the things I learned from mine:

It was important for me to put my reactive moments of irrational fear in their proper places. I had to force myself not to recheck locks, peek out the windows at random street noises. It's a fine line, obviously I don't want to advocate abandoning caution but the conclusion I came to is that every time I did something overboard and irrational, even if it was a small thing and even if it calmed me momentarily, I was basically telling the fear that it was right to be there. I was justifying it as rational even though I knew it wasn't. The fear was telling me that you must always treat the absolute worst case scenario as the thing you are guarding against and preparing for and frankly the conclusion I came to was that this was no way to live your life.

With respect to unwanted vivid recollections and fantasies, this has actually been an issue in my life in general as I am prone to anxiety-driven thought and visualization and recollection. Of course we can't absolutely control what our minds do but I've discovered that there is a lot of value in observing and inwardly refuting bad trains of thought. One of my key mantras is "that isn't happening now." That isn't what I'm dealing with. Maybe I'm dealing with fear, unpleasant images, bad thoughts, but I'm NOT actually living through whatever possibility is plaguing me.

My incident really doesn't have any emotional teeth left after all these years but I continue to fight with unrelated pathological thinking and I've found that ongoing, concerted defiance - saying no to bad thoughts, defying them as non-rational, dragging my brain onto a different topic, even if it feels totally contrived and the thing "really" on my mind is still chattering transparently in the background - has had a long term, very discernible impact of making my thinking more healthy and manageable and making the bad thoughts briefer, less intense and less resilient and persistent.

How foolish you actually were is hard to say, of course, it's always easy to be smart in hindsight. Obviously feeling angry at yourself is counterproductive. Particularly though stay aware that you did the right thing in response to the attack. Fighting back in a situation like that is exactly the wrong response. Physically engaging is the last resort in almost any situation like this. These desperate, unpredictable individuals wanted some crap that doesn't really matter and you gave it to them and they went away, exactly the right response.

A last couple things: there is a positive aspect to this incident in my life. It played a significant role in making concrete for me the abstract idea of living in the moment. A big part of overcoming anxiety based on future potential adversity for me has been embracing the idea that we live in the moment. The moment is the only place you can live. The crises as well as the quiet and every day. Experiencing a real moment of physical crisis - even one with such a mundane ultimate cause and outcome - made that abstraction much more real for me.

And try not to dwell on this being not a big deal or feeling bad about it's relative seriousness in relation to what others deal or have dealt with. It's not at all strange or unusual that you are feeling this way. Feeling strong emotions over it and taking it (and dealing with it) seriously are absolutely nothing to feel bad about and they certainly don't trivialize or diminish in any way victims of more serious crimes.
posted by nanojath at 9:57 AM on January 7, 2011

Seek solace in video games and maybe buy a punching bag.

I was mugged and had the shit beaten out of me by eight guys almost two decades ago and although the after-effects seem fairly universal, I'd wager the cure for them is fairly specialized for everyone.

I tried therapy; it helped a little. I bought some pepper spray and carried that around for a while; it helped a little. Nothing helped as much as Tekken and the punching bag, however. (Which I guess is just therapy of a different sort.)

Tekken, because it's a fairly realistic-style fighting game. I remember the first time I played it, I broke out in cold sweats and was gripping the controller so hard I'm surprised I didn't break it. First I was just getting beaten up - experiencing that same sort of absolute powerlessness I did during the attack - but eventually I learned how to kick some serious ass as Jun Kazama. (Why, oh why did they ever get rid of Jun? Infinite juggle!!)

Eventually, I could play it without looking like I was mental. I stopped sweating, learned to lightly finger the controls rather than flex every body muscle I had to move a stupid joystick. Individual results may vary, but once I started playing Tekken (and got pretty good at it), the nightmares stopped and the obsession over my mugging faded away.

The punching bag was therapy in a similar vein. I got a headache bag and set it up on the patio. Headache bags are tricky little fuckers. I suppose that if I was more disciplined, I could've taken a martial arts class. (I tried, but got bored quickly.) Anyway, I made the bag a part of my workout, and after a few months, I basically felt 'normal' again.

I guess this all boils down to therapy anyway: Tekken = reliving the event, processing it, gaining a sense of control; headache bag = empowerment.

I should say: I don't ever want to be in a fight. Neither Tekken nor the punching bag taught me any real-world fighting skills, and that wasn't the point for me - it was more about exorcism.

And realize: there's a difference between vigilance and hyper-vigilance. I am definitely not the same when I go out at night, but hopefully I'm more aware of my surroundings than someone who has never been mugged. I don't see that as a bad thing.

My heart goes out to you. Shitty stuff to deal with. But it does go away. It does get better.
posted by zylocomotion at 9:59 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Along with what everyone is pointing out above - reframe it- muggings are like car accidents. Society doesn't immediately victim blame when it comes to car accidents- they happen, just as often for many people, though no fault of their own. It's a thing that happens and it sucks.

The question now, is how to get yourself in a space where you feel mentally safe and not jumpy anymore- and that's what therapy and giving it time is going to do for you.
posted by yeloson at 10:13 AM on January 7, 2011

Right now, Acute Stress Disorder. If it lasts more than a month, you're looking at PTSD.

There's a ton of theory and practice out there related to how to stop acute stress disorder developing into PTSD. A trauma counselor is the person to talk to about this. Find one through victims services, your GP, or just by calling therapists and asking for a referral to a specialist.

My ten cents worth is that you should definitely spend a session or two with a trauma counselor. This is one of those areas where a stitch in time really does save nine.

I'm leave it at that, not because I don't want to be helpful, but because it's easy for non-professionals to mess this up. Good luck.
posted by Ahab at 10:41 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your experience is totally normal. It'll fade—if you don't let it fester.

This is the kind of experience people have after violence or even things like car crashes. I could substitute "totaling a car" for "getting mugged" in your story and it would match my experiences directly.

Getting licensed for teargas by the state (four hour class) and buying a stungun (and getting trained in how to use it) did wonders for me after getting jumped by a bunch of guys on the street. Feeling more competent on the street was a huge component of feeling better. But the more "inward" work that others recommend is equally valid too.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:51 AM on January 7, 2011

I have no advice to give you, but I can offer my sympathy and support. I'm in almost exactly your position - after a charmed decade of city life, my apartment was broken into last week. Now my identity has been stolen. It's a fucking mess. I don't feel safe in my own home.

You are in my thoughts.
posted by Sara C. at 11:01 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know a combat veteran who was mugged while walking down the street recently. He's a big, strong guy who got bombed at during wartime, shot at, knifed, watched friends die, you name it. Felt very confident in his ability to take care of himself physically. He was and still is really freaked out that some random dude on the street was able to knock him down from behind and take his wallet. Made him lose a lot of faith in himself and his abilities, which he had previously been so proud of.

This is mostly to say that your reaction is normal, and you don't have to have lived a charmed life to be so upset by a mugging. If you still feel the same way after reading all the responses here, I would recommend a therapy session as well.
posted by wondermouse at 11:14 AM on January 7, 2011

I think therapy can help with the anger at yourself, and most of your symptoms will improve with time. I think the recommendations about getting into fighting sports can really help. Getting comfortable in the physical world can give you confidence in areas of your life that have nothing to do with defending yourself. The other suggestion is dog ownership. My Rottweiler passed away a few months ago. As someone else mentioned you can never be 100% safe, but when I was going for a run with the dog, I knew that between my fighting skills and his loyal protection, it was going to take a lot of determination to mug us. He also really helped with my jumpiness around the house. When I'm home alone, I get intrusive thoughts that I'm going to be stabbed in the shower. Mr. Dog made that much easier. Hand in there.
posted by DTHEASH1 at 3:30 PM on January 7, 2011

: " Two, that my muggers were in reality basically scared kids and if I hadn't been so disoriented, I probably could have got away, overpowered them, or spooked them with a ruckus to cause them to run away."

I don't think this would be a good idea, really. What if one of those scared kids had a knife or a gun? I think I've read before that a scared kid with a gun might be worse than a seasoned criminal with one, because the kid is much more unpredictable and might shoot if spooked badly enough.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:19 PM on January 7, 2011

Ahab is correct. Acute Trauma Response is probably the right term.

Having gone through something traumatic relatively recently and having some similar issues, I suggest getting help ASAP.

What happened to you was violent and frightening. You might feel like you're overreacting or being dramatic, but you absolutely are not. I'm glad you're seeking help--reaching out is the right thing to do.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:18 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

And in terms of things going away--for a while I had to wear earplugs even in my apartment because unexpected noises terrified me. It has largely gone away. I was scared to go outside at all--almost completely gone away. Counseling helped tremendously.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:23 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

All I have to add is that it gets easier every time! I've been racking up experience for years, and my last mugging was the best one yet! I felt like someone took my lunch money v. earlier ones causing more traumatic/rage feelings.

We could probably start 5 years ago when my identity was stolen by vagrants I let stay at my place. Original birth certificate, social security card, state ID, the whole 9 yards. YAY. This was, of course, "my fault" for trying to help people and 'being stupid-nice'. I don't make that mistake so much anymore!

Then 3 years ago, when I was chased and jumped by 3 teenagers, I looked back at their mini-van and there were three more people inside ready to get out. Guess what? I decided it wasn't worth fighting for and yelled "WOULD YOU STOP HITTING ME FOR A FUCKING SECOND" (which lead to a semi-shocked pause) and started go for my wallet. They grabbed my shoulder bag, which had a CFL bulb, a piece of wood and a dissertation on consciousness in it and ran into the van, leaving me with my $100 and my wallet. This was literally around the corner from my doorway. I went into the basement, turned off the upstairs lights, and wrote a rant. I thought afterward "maybe I could have taken them" and then thought "What are the repercussions of beating the shit out of teenagers trying to steal your stuff? Is it worth it? Conclusion: no." I also was having a shitty day and not "being alert" until I had 50 ft to run to the door, but what would have happened then? They could have caught up with me, pushed me inside, kicked the shit out of me and taken everything.

Then 2 years ago, a friend of mine and myself were walking down the street and someone popped out with a gun. We gave him our wallets. He wouldn't even let my friend keep his ID. How rude! The bouncer across the street saw it and ran over, hid behind a car, and called the guy out, accusing his gun of being fake. The guy fired it at him to confirm its authenticity. Chase ensues, bouncer returns empty-handed, we talk with police. Detective suggests that inciting man to fire gun is perhaps causing more havoc. This is on the block I live, down the street.

Then 6 months later, I'm walking home, two blocks away. I run across a busy intersection, hear a door open and see a few people get out. "Oh, it's this again" I think, and slow down and face the people approaching. It is amazing how quickly my mind/body can identify a mugging-about-to-occur now. "Why you stop running?", one of them says. "What's the point?" I say. I stop and wait as they approach, wondering how it's going to go ass-kicking or just theft. One of them has his hand behind his back and fake vampire teeth ( you trying to keep people from ID-ing you by your "GRILLZ"). He starts to move, but the guy that spoke to me first says, "No, hold up." "Empty your pockets" (this amuses me inside as my friend's have a game called "What's in Jack's pockets?" because I frequently have lots of random shit in my pockets). At this point in time, I had started carrying a "decoy" wallet with a small amount of cash and my bus pass. I start emptying my pockets onto the sidewalk. Three dollars come out eventually, which they got excited about, and I laughed inside. It's taken some time, and one of them seems like he wants to pat me down. I briefly think of the consequences of them discovering my real wallet. "You don't got any weed?" "Nope" "Forget it, man, we got something.", the leader-dude says, and they run back and get in. I pick my shit up off the ground (they left my cell-phone, decoy wallet, flash drive, etc) and start walking home. What's next? Check-points? "OK, sir, please stop here, it's time for your daily shake-down." IDK, it hasn't happened yet.

I moved to a quieter neighborhood (4 blocks away, but less bars and more homeowners) and haven't gotten mugged since! I don't expect that to be a predictor of anything, however. As some people have said, I am sometimes "lost in thought" or whatever, which perhaps increases my chances as a target. I'm also 'white' and insist on living in some of the few diverse sections of the city, integrated with people of other races and incomes, which often border on areas of extreme poverty and unemployment. I'm still not overly convinced that there is anything ever that I can do to ensure that I am never mugged, or to choose the circumstances of the mugging. I'm fine with that. It's not my fault I got mugged, and now I am a skilled muggee. It's way easier when you cooperate, if you're given the chance. Furthermore, I've given up on what I now consider to be silly ideas of revenge/rage/assault. Maybe I would do it given the right situation, but most of the time, I'm just happy when I can get a nice easy mugging and get on with my life. Getting clubbed in the head sounds shitty, and getting "beat up" (I didn't even have bruises) by children was pretty humiliating for me, but what the fuck am I going to do about that? I don't want to beat up stupid kids whose lives will likely be ended by gang violence shortly anyway.

Does this help? I don't know, but as one of the most-mugged mefis I've seen respond, your feelings will settle, and if it happens again, it (hopefully) won't be nearly as shocking/unsettling. Obviously I can't guarantee that, just like I can't guarantee I won't just get shot in the back of the head as a part of a gang initiation. Is that comforting? Probably not, but it's an uncomfortable world sometimes, and I'm just glad when I can manage a smile.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:50 AM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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