Safety. It’s the basis of all our primary needs. Safety, security and stability, when any or all of these are threatened, we go into survival mode. As someone who is widowed, these are in constant fluctuation for me. I have had calm days, stressed days and anxious days. The fear of being unsafe is something I’ve carried my whole life. Unfortunately, it has been repeatedly reinforced and manifests itself in strong ways. My life revolves around locked doors.
Maybe it started with seeing “monsters in my closet” as a kid. What I do know is that it was exponentially triggered when I was robbed. I had moved to Atlanta to be with my fiancé. We lived in an apartment and signed a lease to rent a home. Shortly after that, we had a heartbreaking breakup. I moved into that house having to start all over. I felt so alone in a new city, in a new place. The only safe place was my new house so I didn’t really want to go anywhere. A friend of mine finally convinced me to spend the day at the lake. Reluctantly I said yes and I had a great day. I was being reassured that I could enjoy things again. When I got home that night, I walked into the house to find the back door open, a window was shattered, my belongings were gone and the contents of the refrigerator spilled all over the floor and furniture. The police arrived and told me “This isn’t really your neighborhood” and left. There I was alone, surrounded by my damaged life, no help from the police and feeling horrifyingly unsafe. I couldn’t move out for another month so every night I laid on an air mattress in the living room with all the lights on and a knife next to the bed. To leave for work in the morning was scary but the return each evening was worse. I walked around the house to see if it was broken into before I’d enter. I’d check every room, behind every door and in every closet with a knife in hand.
When I finally moved out I noticed something new. I’d lock my apartment door and check it. Then I would check it again. Then I would walk down the hall and a great fear would come over me so I would go back and check the door again. I had days where I would leave in my car and have to turn around to check one more time. I started video taping me checking the door so I would be able to watch it throughout the day.
Over time, my anxiousness died down and I could lock the door and walk away until Clayton passed away. Here I was again, alone with my safety and security threatened by his death. I was robbed of him. I distinctly remember the first morning leaving for work after he was gone. I locked the door, walked away and a panic attack started. I had to rush back. I had to check. I had to be sure it was locked. What if someone broke in right after Clayton died? What if someone took my dog? My heart couldn’t take it. In an instant I was back in that house with a knife, on an air mattress unable to sleep and full of fear.
“Safety first” they say. So now I check all the doors and I check them again and again. I check the door to my house and the doors to my car but losing Clayton has added one more to the list – the door to me. It’s always been a tough door for others to open but right now it feels safer if I just recheck the lock…