Years ago when I used to live in the Philippines. I am always paying attention outside with all sorts of negative energy, including pickpockets and harassment. This is very odd for me in my adult life to experience this here in Europe. I am in total awe how bad people with bad business are everywhere nowadays. Even on daylight, they exist, they are not afraid to engage their dark practices.
Ah! To cut my intro short, yes! I got mugged by four men nearby work during my precious lunch break. Walking on the street that I am totally at ease with my environment where I studied years ago. I don’t usually pay attention that much since I know the city of Manila is more dangerous, I was wrong; A big city like Brussels has 185 different nationalities, to begin with, you really have to open your eyes and be vigilant because you never know what can happen next. After the metro bombing, I am not using a headset to listen to music, I make sure that I am paying attention to everything around me.
How did it happen?
I was walking towards the pharmacy crossing the pedestrian lane in Place Stéphanie, Avenue Louise. Suddenly, I noticed a man smoking looking at me from afar. I wonder why? I said I will be alert then. I am right, a bump from the back pushed me, a man is already occupied on my left pocket looking for something. Maybe my wallet that happily, I put inside my blazer. He did not get anything. Another pushed from the back and a tall man took my phone from my right pocket. That he got, but I was so alert that my instinct allows me to take the step forward grabbing my phone back. Oooooh, my email, passwords, notes, bank application! No way he can take this away from me. I had my umbrella so I used this as a weapon to hit them one by one. I got it back and shout VOLEURS VOLEUR!!! Vous devez travailler!!!! in French, no one helped me. With all the people passing by at almost 5 pm, a lady sorting out the garbage is standing in front of the door in awe as she apparently saw everything. After all the pushing and toss I had I breathe. I can still see me in the slow-motion replay.
I felt proud of myself for 2 seconds. I called Marlon telling him what happened, went to the pharmacy to buy what I needed to buy as there are only 5 or 10 minutes left I should go back to work.
The Feelings and Thoughts
Walking back to the building, I am shaking, sweating and cried abruptly. Thoughts came in. What if they punch me back? What if they had a gun? A knife? What if they hurt me on the right moment it happened? I broke down crying when I finally went into the office. I am thankful to my boss, colleagues, who gave me hugs, encouragements and help me decide what to do next?
You will never until you are in the situation. Many people can’t understand, but there are so many who feels sorry, bad or pity about what happened.
My colleague Jasmine called my husband to inform him that we are going to the police. Incredibly, they asked us to go to another station where they treat all complaints and cases such. We have no choice but to walk towards the other police station. Brussels system is incredibly weird! However, we manage to file everything, describe the people who did aggression and theft attempt. I would say attempt as they did not have anything from me. The only thing I had is anxiety.
Anxiety and Fear
My life, emotion is messed up. I am not perfect and I am full of flaws. I strongly acknowledge this? I cannot be self-righteous and say I am perfectly fine and nothing to worry about. There is a lot to worry about? I can say I am stronger? Maybe a little later after?
I had to go the social welfare, that is dealing with this kind of situations. I can say, he helped me a lot, to think of the following in order for me to go on outside being vigilant but sane.
What if it happens again? This can be a coincidence or pure bad luck. When they saw an alone woman walking with a brown big pocket jacket. I wonder if I am going home, alone, and dark. How can I defend myself? I have my daughter, I got scared for her of course.
I felt, helpless for a while. I needed time to rest and to be honest it took a lot of courage, precious time to seat, to write a journal, talk about it to totally forget it. The truth is the experience and learning stays. I am until now freaking out when someone is behind my back at the metro, when people are pushing, looking at me strangely. I am totally an owl aware of what is going on around me.
Just last night, there was this white van roaving around the bus station by Aldi. I have to be alert and take care of myself I stay with the crowd. The van came in to pass twice in front and I noticed a man sitting behind the window acting like he will get off and grab someone. It is bad to think bad of other people, but hey I am just protecting myself. I immediately got the plate number and texted details to my husband. I have my alarm on my hand and I am so ready to run and scream.
I believe the most important factor of recovering to this bad experience is to believe kindness exists. Hope is everything, I couldn’t trust anyone yet perfectly, it is okay, this is a reminder you are human.
Also, I began looking after others. I looked at women with a child outside and if they need help I offer a hand. Old people who are struggling, men who are hungry. The world is so dangerous and to be honest, we can only do our own means to protect ourselves using our own effort. My husband bought me an alarm, that can attract people in public. I am carrying a hair spray in my pocket at all times.
I continue my psychologist session, to lessen the burden day by day.
I have hope that even if the world is crazy, that kindness will always win.