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  • jolwajda

Forty-eight months.



It's an incredibly electrifying, all-consuming, insanely dreadful feeling to believe your life will end at someone else's hands.

I am writing a book. I think it's a good book. But I had to step back and take a break over the last month. I had to stop writing altogether. Stop writing this book that I believe to be good.

I Stopped because it was starting to overtake me and the progress I had made.

For the past two years, I have been putting down on paper the fear of someone I believed would end my life. I have been compiling court dates, reviewing legal documents, and ensuring I retell this journey as accurately as I can. I want to do it justice (how ironic). And as for the two years before this, Well, I lived smack dab in the middle of that fear.

Only a few people in my current life have any idea what has happened to me over the last four years. Because I have chosen for it to be that way. Because I do not know how to bring it up in conversation, because I wouldn't even know where to start the topic off, and because my heart beats abnormally fast any time I think of what I have gone through, it's always on my mind. So it goes without saying that this poor muscular organ that sits in my chest has been palpitating in overdrive for far too long.

It bothers me immensely that I haven't found the correct wording, the right timing, a good setting, etc., to do so. And I feel a weird sort of shame that I haven't summoned up enough mental capacity to share my story with people I have grown close to over the last several months. It feels like I am omitting something. Like I have this huge part of my identity blocked off, hidden away, the shadow always there though, the blackness of it all following my every conscious step. Which actually makes sense. I got the colour right. It is quite dark.

For two years, I was stalked.

By a man who was a stranger.

A sexual predator.

A repeat offender.

I have only ever spoken about this one time over social media. And that came shortly after I had put this man behind bars. The outpouring of love and support I received from my post was overwhelming. But I imagine most people believed that is where this story ended.

But they would be wrong. It was really only just beginning.

First off.

There is something you should know.

And that is that I was pretty fucked up before this happened.

Now I will try my best to make this part short and concise because my adolescence isn't directly involved in the story I'm about to share, but indirectly, I guess it is. Because, let's be honest, those past deep-rooted traumas we endure in our formative years start to shape who we are and how we react to certain situations. I mean, unless one has all of the tools and resources at their disposal in real-time to actively work on ensuring that the outcome aforementioned is not the one that happens.

But I didn't.

Instead, I spent the time in my life I am going to tell you about trying to keep my head above water.

I was just trying to survive.

And since then, I guess I haven't really stopped.

To air out all of my laundries so publicly, not only what has happened to me in the last four years, but also a synopsis of what I went through in my adolescence, to put all of this in writing and send it out into the free world. It's fucking scary.

I have come close to scrapping the whole idea many times.

I phoned my oldest friend about a month ago and told her what I was working on, I told her how daunting it was for me, and then I asked for her opinion.

Her response was,

"I think you should do it. You need to do it, but if you do do it. Like really fucking do it."

She gave me the push I needed to keep moving forward with this. Her opinion is so significant to me, and her answer had many "do it's" involved, so I knew she meant business.

The raw vulnerability of sharing my own deepest darkest secrets, of essentially allowing all of my skeletons to topple out of the closet, is a lot for me. But I hope that doing so will bring awareness to certain subjects. It may also help people relate to me with things they have gone through in their own journeys. And selfishly, I hope it brings my inner being closer to peace.

They say to write what you know. Well, this is what I know.


In my teenage years, my home was filled with drugs. I'm not talking about a few pounds of pot. I'm talking about enough hard drugs to put someone away for a very long time.

I was surrounded by violence and a lot of addiction. In a three-year time frame, my uncle died of cancer. My father had a massive heart attack. And my brother was almost beaten to death.


That's quite a bit of trauma for someone not living in a drug house. Now add on the fear of being raided, plus the constant fear of people you love being murdered. While you have zero control over your own existence, all taking place while you're just a teenager?

Wild.

The night my brother was almost beaten to death, I set up post beside the phone. I was waiting for a call from the hospital or, worst-case scenario. A knock on my front door from the police informing me my brother was dead.

Because I knew this assault was happening before it even happened. How messed up is that? That may speak to you a little bit about what my life was like so many years ago.

In the end, it came as a phone call from the hospital. I answered the ring, already frantic. The nurse on the other end assured me my brother was okay but that he had suffered a concussion. She was phoning to ensure someone stayed with him throughout the night. She finished our conversation by telling me he was on his way home in a cab.

I hung up the phone and ran to the front door. When I opened it, my brother was in front of me. He was knelt over, in almost an upright fetal position holding his stomach in pain.

He made it only to the spare bedroom that was just past our family's upstairs bathroom and fell onto the bed. I layed down beside him.

I pray most of you reading this have yet to sit beside a dying family member, and for the ones that have. I am so sorry for the pain that surely brought.

I have done it twice.

The second time was when my dad was dying, but the first time was when I layed down beside my brother in our spare bedroom, off the living room, in our family home, so long ago.

The energy you feel when someone you love's soul is leaving their physical being.

It is unexplainable.

At that moment, I begged my brother to let me bring him back to the hospital.

He moaned in pain between telling me that he loved me.

I finally wore him down. He eventually agreed for me to escort him back to emerg to be looked over again. But when he got out of bed, he collapsed on the floor. So instead, I rushed to phone 9-1-1.

The ambulance arrived and whisked my brother away. Before my mother and I left the house to follow the paramedics in our car, my mother hastily scribbled a note for my father (who was working a graveyard shift at the nickel mine) on a piece of paper.

It said,

" E.R, hospital"

The note didn't need any more explanation than that.

Once we arrived, my brother was rushed to emergency surgery. It turned out he had been kicked so hard in the stomach so many times that his spleen wasn't only ruptured. It was clean split into two.

An internal organ, once whole, placed neatly inside his bones, was now two separate parts of him, floating around aimlessly in a belly full of blood.

My brother didn't die that night, but he came close to.

The outcome of those years changed the trajectory of my family's lives going forward.

So yes,

I was fucked up before this shiny brand new trauma even began.

I needed to touch on my adolescence here, so you are able to see the origin of where my angst initially started.

I'll tell you right now, though, that the universe bamboozled me.

I naively thought that my triggers were at their worst for all those years.

Silly me, I had no idea what I was in for.

Overnight my fight or flight went from Sunwing and cable T.V to Etihad Airways and Paperview M.M.A's.

If my survival mode were food, it would be caviar.

Creme de le creme, baby!

The best of the best!

Top-notch grade A. anxiety.

Out of all the memories I have from my life way back then, that particular one I just shared tops them all. It constantly makes itself heard in my present mind. It's a nice little flavoring spice added to the batter of recent years..

But again, This blog post is not about that time in my life.

Please forgive me. I was merely trying to set the scene for you.

I am writing a book. And I think it is good.

In this book, I explain every detail, court date, and emotion I have suffered through in the time frame it occurred.

I am not going to do that here. Instead, I would like to focus on the effects of the aftermath this had on me.

The carnage, if you will.

I will let you in on a few things about the last four years though.

Number 1. When things escalated and reached an all-time high, I believed this man, who was a stranger, would murder me.

Number two. I seriously contemplated bankruptcy when I had no other choice but to move from my home because it no longer felt safe.

Number three. When all else failed, I barged into the police station and screamed my lungs out until someone would listen.

Okay,

Well, nowwwww, I feel like I have to get a little more in-depth about these three things.

Number 1. I did put this man in jail at the beginning of Covid. The post I originally wrote on social media three years ago referred to this time frame, and in that post, I explain in detail how I finally was able to catch this man outside my window one night while I was falling asleep. I also touched on the court process I went through. But then he was released, and things began to get much worse. He would pass my place several times a day, he would continuously park on the edge of my property line, he would taunt me, he knew he held the power, and I did not. This is not the whole story. Obviously, the entire story is in the book that I've written. This book I believe to be good. But this gives you a general idea of what I was up against.

This brings me to,

Number two. When the threat became all-consuming, when I felt I was in direct danger of this man harming me, I moved. I left my home in the middle of a pandemic with no Job. I moved to a discreet apartment on top of an office building in the city. Every single month I was hemorrhaging money, money I didn't have to keep myself safe. My mantra at the time was,

" Bankrupt or buried."

" Maxed out or murdered."

Those felt like my only two choices, and I chose the former, not the latter. I would rather be broke and still breathing than have some money in a bank account while I'm buried six feet underground.

onwards,

Number three. Moving turned out to not be enough because one night he found me. Now again, I will not be going into detail about this. Because it's all written down in my book, the book I believe to be good. But what I will say is if I had not been vigilant in my surroundings that evening, I think the outcome could have been very different. That night in question, I phoned 9-1-1—the same old song and dance. I was so used to punching those three digits into my cell. When the officer that had been sent that night finished checking and securing all of my windows and taken my statement, he promised me the file would be forwarded to my lead investigator on the case. The following day when I phoned the precinct, though, there was nothing in the system. I was LIVID. I called my mother and told her to meet me at the police station. When we arrived, she and I walked in together. I asked for the Corporal on my previous case, and when he came out to speak with me, I absolutely lost it.

" What are you guys waiting for?!! For me to end up in the papers?!!!"

I yelled at him.

" No one is helping me!! I had to leave my home! Move somewhere else for my safety! He is not stopping!! Last night proves this!! He is going to hurt me. I think he is going to kill me! What the FUCK are you guys waiting for?? I NEED HELP!!! "

The Corporal, my mother, and I stood silently for a moment after I finished yelling. I think we were all a little bit stunned.


But my outburst worked. It got the ball rolling again, and this man was arrested for a second time.

For two years, my life was court dates, postponements, potential trials, 9-1-1 calls, interrogation rooms, police statements, and crisis counsellors. For two years, my life had no color, only shades of grey and black.

I am so proud of myself for surviving this. And for writing a book about my experience. This book I believe to be good.

As you can probably imagine, there is so much more to tell of this story, but as I said previously, in this blog, I am going to focus on what life is for me after the fact.

This experience has changed me fundamentally as a person. It has rewired how my brain works. As a result, I don't think the same anymore. I feel broken. But I have a few things going in my favour, one is hope, and the other is moxie.

In my experience, feeling that you are going to die makes you really want to fucking live. And one thing that feeling gave me was the courage to share my writing.

I came up with the idea to start a blog and write about all the people in my life that I care about, that I couldn't imagine living without, and also encounters with individuals who have inspired me over the years. All while driving myself across the country to a new home, a new beginning, and to what I prayed would bring me a newfound sense of safety.

Every few hundred kilometers or so travelling on this trip, I could feel myself becoming lighter. Every city and town that I passed, onward West, meant I was that much further away from what I had just gone through. That much closer to a new life. By the Quebec/Ontario border, I felt light as a feather. But by the time I reached northern Ontario, I experienced my first panic attack since I started this venture alone in my car.

I had hit a spot in the northern part of the province that was quite desolate and had no cell service for a good stretch. I had no vehicles passing me and no vehicles behind me for what felt like a good length of the highway. The next time I glanced in my rear-view mirror, though, a vehicle had all of a sudden emerged. And it was the same make and model as the man who was stalking me's truck.

I knew that it was highly implausible that it could be him, but it wasn't impossible. My back became stiff as a board. I chain-smoked while I drove, I white-knuckled the steering wheel, I thought about the people I loved dearly, who I wanted to hug one more time. I glanced at the things I had sitting on my passenger seat to keep me safe, wondering which one I would use first. And I told myself, like so many times before, that I would go down fighting with everything I have when he attempts to take my life from me.


Eventually, the truck turned down a side road. Eventually, I regained cell service, and eventually, my heart slowed down. But this would prove to be only the beginning of years to come filled with similar moments of sheer terror—and severe P.T.S.D.

The new life I was driving my way towards was a gamble. I didn't know a soul in the little town I was going to. I had never even stepped foot into it before. And I had yet to determine if the job I had secured would work out.

But I am a big believer in the universe, and the way it either subtly nudges you in the right direction or pushes you away from the wrong one. In this case, I knew I was heading down the path intended. There was something so different spiritually about this move compared to all of the others over the years. I'm sure it had much to do with what I had just experienced. Regardless though, it almost felt like I was leveling up. This video game of life I had been playing was finally saying.

" You found the treasure chest! Collect your gold! "

Everyone makes up their own version of what something is going to be before they experience it. I did the same with where I was going, and it was one of the only times in my life when it turned out to be better than I had imagined. I love everything about the town I live in, and I am so grateful to work in the place where I do. Of course, I have qualms. I am only human. I still get upset sometimes over silly things that don't matter. But when I can pull myself back from the insignificance of it all, I repeatedly thank the magic around me for inviting me to the party.

But I also had some major hurdles to jump when I got here. And the first one was living in shared housing. Staff accommodation in the town I live in is a very normal thing. But it was new to me.

During my first six weeks in my new town, I lived in a staff dormitory with a shared kitchen, living room, and bathrooms.

It was torture.

Not because I didn't like the other people occupying the space.

It was the noise, the goddamn noise, but probably not in the way that you think. It wasn't a particularly crazy party scene. What I had trouble with came late at night (for obvious reasons.) The sound of doors closing, the shower running, or people talking in the hallway made me crazy. Every unexpected sound was a panic attack waiting to happen. Every unidentified bang made me aggressively alert. I drank a good amount of wine at night to try and shut off my mind and keep the incessant ruminating thoughts at bay.

I also had difficulty just acting like a normal person in normal situations. Being surrounded by so many new things, experiences, and people was a lot for me. Mostly because I lost some of my ability to do that with what I had just gone through, again, I found myself going out with new acquaintances, drinking too much, and trying to find my footing in a new place, all while carrying this dread of blurting out the wrong thing, reacting in the wrong way, not daring to speak of the things I had just been through.


Just shy of two months in the dormitories, I was placed in a condo with three other roommates. And I felt my life slowly starting to get better. I never sleep well, but living with only three other people meant that every noise I heard was more or less accounted for. If I heard something I wasn't expecting, I could easily in my head work out the equation of who just got off work and what the sound was, the fridge door closing too hard, someone talking to a friend on the phone. I could make up a probable, logical conclusion for every thump in the night. It was a really welcoming feeling.

It wasn't only that, though; I also immediately felt at ease with all three of my roommates. They were funny, and kind, and respectful. Over the course of several weeks, I felt more and more at home.

But again, I was new to the whole staff accommodation way of life. So I naively thought that I would not be moved anymore once I was situated.

I learned the hard way that that isn't always the case.

About six months into living in my condo, I received a text from one of my managers on my day off from work. The message said I would be put into a new location. As I said previously, these things are not uncommon in staff housing. The shuffling around of people, but, at the time, I did not realize that.

I was visiting a girlfriend when I received the news. I felt utterly blindsided by this revelation. I quickly went into full defense/survival mode. I could feel my body gearing up for a severe panic attack. My hands wouldn't even allow me to email my housing manager. My friend had to take my phone and write the words for me.


I left abruptly from my girlfriend's home, trying to make my escape before I unraveled entirely. I got in my car and drove down one of my town's side streets. I reversed my vehicle so I could park with the front end looking out towards the ocean and mountains.

And then I phoned my mom. When she answered, I was already so head-on into my episode that she couldn't even understand what I was saying to her through my laboured breath and stream of tears. I remember spitting out words like 'safety' and 'moving.' Eventually, she was able to piece it all together, and when she did, she said to me,

"Jo, you are going to figure this out. If you have to scramble, pack up your car, and exit this situation, that's what you'll do. Remember, you're resilient."

She was right, I am resilient, and I would figure it out, but I didn't want to figure it out. Up until this scenario, I was starting to find a steady sense of calm in my life. And I wasn't ready to lose that.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am stupid with routine. I eat the same meals five days a week. I wash my hair every Wednesday and Saturday. I have two coffees in the morning and two in the afternoon. I save half of my breakfast smoothie to bring to work and enjoy during my shift. You get the drift here. My life has been so precarious for so long that routine is another tool I use to feel grounded. If you know exactly how you spend your time, you have little room for uncertainty and error and less chance to veer off course.

But at that moment, as I sobbed on the phone to my mom, I felt very off course.

While on the call with my mother, I sent somewhat of an SOS text message to two of my closest friends. They have lived through this trauma with me; they have both spent many nights in the past listening to me sob on the other end of the line, saying things like,

" I know he is going to kill me. I can feel it in my bones."

After I let go of my mom, I drove home, the home I would have to vacate in mere days. And phoned one of these friends; again, what I was saying was hard for my friend to decipher, but when she, too, could put it all together. She said,

" I just rented an apartment in Vancouver but don't move home from the States for five weeks. So it's yours until I get there."

For the second time, this particular friend was not only saving me mentally but physically, giving me somewhere safe I could reside. My other friend had phoned me twice by then, and I had ignored both calls. I told the first friend I was talking to that I had to phone back the second friend, that she must be worried about me. My first friend made a joke and said,

" I feel like I should call her beforehand and say, 'Okay, well, I've got her out of the manic phase' You're up."

I laughed hard through all my tears. How dare I be so lucky to have so many loving souls in my corner.

When I phoned my second friend, she immediately offered me a plane ticket to her, like it was nothing, like she had all the money in the world (she doesn't) but that didn't matter. She just wanted me to be safe and loved. While she spoke into the speaker with words of support, I heard a gentle knock on my condo door; I turned my head over to the direction of the sound, my friend Dyson slowly turned the handle and peeked his head in.

" I can't hang out right now; I'll call you after."

I said.

My eyes were visibly swollen. He nodded and quietly closed the door. A few minutes later, though, I got a text message from him saying,

" I hope you don't think that you're not going to talk to me about this."

After declining my second friend on the phone that evening's offer, I thanked her profusely. And then I told her I had to tell my third friend, who just came by, what was happening. I texted Dyson and asked him to come over. He showed up immediately.

For the fourth time in a few hours, I broke down and sobbed as I told him the situation. Dyson put his hand on my kneecap and told me all the logical reasons this would turn out okay. Having the physical touch of someone I trusted actually on me brought me out of my episode. When I could breathe normally again, we went and sat in my car, "car talks," we called them. It was our thing. We fell more in-depth about the situation before he turned to me and asked,

" Do you want to go to Ireland?"

I stared at him; Ireland has been my dream for as long as I can remember.

" I have no fucking money."

I replied.

" I'm not asking if you have money; I am asking if you want to go to Ireland."

He responded and told me that he had a lot of money saved and thought we would make good travel partners.

" Dyson, you can't take me to Ireland!"

I scoffed in disbelief.

He said that, indeed, he could, and sometimes I just need to accept other people's kindness.

Then Dyson said something to me that forever secured his place in my heart. His exact words were,

" If you leave, I leave."

I whipped my head around to face him,

" You'll leave with me?! We Can we start somewhere new?! "

I said in awe.

" Ya, just not Alberta."

He laughed.

In the end, everything worked out. In the end, if you let the world turn and do its thing, it usually does.

Four people that night pulled me out of the darkness. Four people went into full battle mode for me.

I'm the luckiest girl in the world.

If you thought that those few triggers would be it, well, then I just bamboozled you.

No, siree bob, we're just getting started.

Next up, Whistling, yes, whistling.

What a stupid trigger, but I have it, and it comes from a situation I had with the sexual predator that stalked me. I won't tell you the origin of this trigger now. Because it's all penned out in the book I wrote,

the book that I believe to be good.

But I'll tell you that particular past experience made a hell of a trigger for me going forward.

I work with a guy, a lovely fucking bloke. I say 'bloke.' because he is the most English dude I have ever met. Seriously, picture your version of the quintessential guy from the U.K. and then triple what you are thinking, and you will get him. For the sake of this story, let's call this bloke London. London wears corduroy pants and sharp blazers. He has brown-rimmed glasses that add to his over-the-pond look. He reads more than anyone I've ever met and almost always has a cuppa in his hand. London also has a unique talent. And that talent is whistling.

London actually ended up being my roommate months after the fact, but in the timeline of this story, he was living a few doors down from me. London worked overnight shifts, which meant he would be strolling home after his stint very early, around 6:30 a.m.

The first time I heard this talent of his, I was tossing and turning in my bed after another sleepless night when all of a sudden, with what sounded directly outside my bedroom window, I heard the distinct sound of perfect whistling. My body tensed up, and I immediately began to sweat profusely. It took me a second to understand what I was hearing, but by then, my panic attack was already in full swing—a great way to start the morning. I found out later on in the day that the whistling I heard was coming from London. I wasn't planning to say anything to him, hoping to myself that it was just a one-off. But the following morning, it happened again, and the day after that. By the third day of waking up from a restless sleep and falling face-first into bouts full of anxiety, I knew I would have to say something. I had no idea how I would approach the subject, though. In the end, I chose humour.

That afternoon I passed London at work. I started off my conversation with him by saying,

"Heyyyy, is it you whistling in the mornings?"

He chuckled back and said.

"Ya mate, sorry did I wake ya??"

I responded.

" NO!! It's ok!! I was already awake! (Lie), It's just that it's weird. I'm weird! (Truth) You're really good at it!! (Truth) but whistling freaks me out (Truth). I don't know why it does, though."(LIEEEE).

He looked genuine as he said back to me.

" Bollocks, sorry about that. I'll stop."

And London was true to his word. He did stop. I know that if he ends up reading this, he will feel horrible because he is kind. I imagine he'll say to me at some point something along the lines of.

" Bloody hell, I had no idea. I feel like a right wanker now, don't I?"

But there will be no need for apologies. Because how could he have known?

I've been granted the opportunity to house, dog, and cat sit several times over the last two years. In fact, I am doing just that as I write this part of my blog. I am an excellent candidate for it. I'm single, quiet, clean, and very respectful of other people's places. All I really want to do is write, and house-sitting allows me my very own space to do so. An added bonus is the company of furry little friends. But this gift, too, comes with a price.

I have to preface this part by saying I resoundingly trust every person I house-sit for. If I didn't, I wouldn't do it. That goes both ways. If they didn't trust me, they wouldn't have asked. It is a very mutual respect.

But being photographed and videotaped in my most private moments for so long has evolved into yet, another trigger for me.

Every single time I house sit somewhere, I find myself thinking in the most random moments,

" What if there is a camera in here."

Again not because anyone I house-sit for would EVER do that. But instead, more along the lines of,

"What if there is a nanny cam they forgot to tell me about? Or maybe, like, a camera somewhere just to secure THEIR safety and peace of mind?"


At one point or another, I always find myself sitting on the couch early into my stay, racking my brain on where a camera could be. But I quickly talk myself out of that thought process. What I never fail to do, though, is walk the perimeter of the property at night to make sure you cannot see into the house I am occupying.

Over the last holiday season, I house-sat for a family I know.

They have a beautiful home nestled in a suburb of the town I live in. One evening just shy of December twenty-fifth, I was in their kitchen, baking a tray of almond brittle to bring over to a Christmas dinner I was going to attend. I was listening to festive music—most lights on in the house, and two vehicles parked in the driveway. What I am saying is the place looked occupied.

As I worked away on the baking I was doing, I chatted with a girlfriend over speakerphone. Just as I was pulling the almond brittle out of the oven, I heard a knock at the door. Quick and aggressive.

" WHAP, WHAP, WHAP."

My body became paralyzed instantaneously. I panicked and said to my girlfriend.

"Someone just knocked on the door."

Now, most normal people would think,' Someone is at the door. Answer it.' But I am not normal, so I do not think that way, and because of what I have gone through and put my friends through over the last few years, neither do they.

The friend on the phone I was talking with immediately started bombarding me with rapid-fire questions.

"Who knows your there??? Is the door locked?? Are the windows??! Do you have something nearby to use as a weapon??!!"

She asked anxiously,

I looked in my right hand and responded,

"I'm holding a knife."

Because I had been, the one I had picked up after I had dropped the baking sheet on the counter fresh out of the oven. It took us both a moment to realize just how fucking bonkers we sounded. And when we did, we both laughed. Because, in actuality, it was bonkers. I never did answer the door, though. I'm sure it was one of their neighbour's from close by who saw all the lights on in their friend's home and thought they would swing around to say Merry Christmas— again, a very normal thing to do.

Fuck I wish I was normal.

I house-sat for this family over the holidays because I couldn't afford to return to the East Coast. When I finally broke the news to my mom that it wasn't going to happen, she said to me,

" Awe, Jo, I can't pretend I'm not disappointed, but I understand. You are going to work hard to save some money, and eventually, you will get here."

I mirrored my mother's sadness at the realization I wouldn't see her or Hank (my beloved dog) for at least another year. But at the same time felt an unbelievable amount of relief.

The absolute worst thing this stranger took from me was the feeling of home.

I feel like I no longer have one. Maybe I am being bratty, lots of people do not get to have a safe haven, and I'm lucky that throughout my twenties, after my parents relocated to the East Coast of Canada and bought a little bungalow, I did ( because obviously, my adolescence years were not filled with any stability).

I have heard stories about people who have experienced a break-and-enter in their homes. And how the outcome of that situation took away all sense of security that person had felt before the robbery, before the violation of a stranger entering their home without consent.

The man that stalked me knew my sleep patterns, what bedroom window was mine; he knew both my mother's and my nightly routine. He knew that after I shut off the bathroom light, I would head downstairs to my bedroom and change. And he knew the surroundings of my house like the back of his hand.

I don't feel that I'll ever become comfortable again in the place where I was incessantly watched from the outside in.

Can you really blame me?

I have this friend that I work with; we tend to get into tiffs once in a while; blame it on our strong personalities, I suppose. But we rarely take it to bed, and if we do, we make sure to squash it the next day. Early on, I learned that one way this friend would extend an olive branch was by leaving a little gift on my windshield, something like a lovely seashell or unique rock. What a wholesome gesture, right? That is a pretty normal way to think about it.

But as I said before, I do not think normal.

The man that stalked me left gifts on my car in the early days. To be fair, I am glad that he did because it proved to me and others that I wasn't becoming increasingly paranoid for no reason. It gave me physical evidence, so jokes on him, I guess. But obviously, I had some trepidation initially when I found something on my vehicle after I had moved out west.

The first time my friend placed a little token of apology on my car, I did not find it until that evening, when I was leaving my second job. I went to turn the windshield wipers on for the first time that day as we had just experienced a rare winter afternoon with no rain.

When I did though, I heard the screeching sound of a somewhat heavy object that my wiper was failing to move. I put my vehicle in park and jumped out to inspect what was making the noise. I reached out with my hand and retrieved a light pink crystal about the size of a golf ball. Something of that nature would never naturally just end up on my car. It was placed with intent.

Of course, the first thing I did was get back inside my vehicle, lock my doors, and phone my mother. She answered right away. It didn't matter that it was the middle of the night where she lived. She always answers. I explained the situation to her, and the two of us went through all the most likely conclusions. She said she was certain that it was nothing and that she was confident I would find out who placed it there by asking around to people I knew the next day. And she was right; I did. I never told my friend about this after he said it was him. Because it was a kind gesture he made, and little gifts on my car aren't as scary when they are not anonymous. I just wish my mind would not jump to the darkest conclusion before I have all the information. But that's trauma, baby! It's a motherfucker.

Another thing that has come from this situation is that I'm weird about money. A few co-workers have told me over the past year and a half that I am pessimistic about things because of it. It feels like a slap in the face. But also, I respect when my friends check me and put me back in line. I need that sometimes. We all do. I am most definitely not the only person out there with debt. I guess I correlate money and safety as going hand in hand, I almost went bankrupt once by trying to protect myself, and I never ever want to face that dilemma again. But I am also learning not to care so much about money (or lack of). I believe in things working themselves out when the time is right. Truth be told, Materialistically, I own less than I ever have, yet as of late, I am happier than I have ever been. Yes, maybe my life hasn't turned out how I envisioned it would in earlier years. But I get to spend my days in one of the most beautiful places this planet has to offer, and while doing so, I am allotted the gift of pursuing my passion. Monetarily I may not be flush, but I have survived everything the universe has thrown at me so far, the fucking grit of it all, and I'm still kicking. So when I look at the big picture, It's quite easy for me to recognize just how rich I actually am.

To say that I have encountered some 'ups and downs' in my mood since I started my new life on the west coast would be severely selling that statement short. After I settled in and found my footing, I began to have almost manic highs and lows. You have to remember I had just left an incredibly high-stress situation and immediately began to write about what I had been through. Not only had I just lived through this trauma, but I was also now reliving every detail piece by piece for the retelling of the book I am writing. The book I believe to be good.

In hindsight, I guess it would be strange not to have significant lifts and drops in how I felt.

My scariest mood change, though, started off as a high. It was about the eight-month mark of my living on the west coast. I had the day off, and it was beautiful out. My bills were all paid for that month, and I had a few hundred dollars extra to my name that I could use on myself. So I decided to drive the next town over to get a Poke Bowl from my favorite restaurant. As I drove down the highway in my car, I listened to the song 'Waikiki' by the band Deep Chills and sipped on my smoothie, feeling increasingly happier and happier along the way. I got to the point in my trip where I was passing one of my favorite beaches. To the right of me, I could see the water of the pacific ocean made sparkling silver by the brightness of the sun that shone through the openings of the trees. And for a moment, I felt utterly euphoric. But all of a sudden, I had an intrusive thought dance through my mind. Now, obviously, I am quite used to those. This particular one scared the shit out of me, though, because, for a few fleeting seconds, I believed it. The thought was,

" Cody killed you. You're already dead."

As I said, shaking it out of my mind took me a few seconds. And once I did, I knew it was a crazy one to have had. If I look at the situation logically, I know that my brain had trouble at that moment of accepting the feeling of true happiness—a full-on feeling of contentment. But even more so, it was the feeling of safety. Of not having to look behind me constantly. I didn't know that world could exist again.

I still do, though (look behind me, I mean). Because not only is my brain conditioned to do so, it's just a smart thing to do. But over the last several months, I have noticed a change in myself, and that is even though I still look behind me often (when I run, go to the beach, or walk to my car.) I no longer do it out of fear. I no longer have the feeling of someone following me, intent on harming me. That feels like progress, and dare I say, maybe even the beginnings of starting to heal.

I still suffer from metaphorical open wounds, though, and those open wounds tend to bleed over into my everyday life. Earlier, I had said that I had two things going for me, one is hope, and the other is moxie. This is where the pair come into play. I believe time heals all wounds, and I believe that the invisible gashes on my body will one day turn into scars --that's the hope part. I know I will forever carry them with me, but I am determined not to let them overtake me -that's the moxie part.

The conditions that the court placed on this man for my safety ended this year, March eighteenth, to be exact. It would be disingenuous to say that I don't worry about that. But I do not believe I am in direct danger anymore. This man is sitting in jail somewhere thousands of kilometres away from me. I do not believe I was special to him. I believe this man fixated on a target and then went after it.

His actions have mentally destroyed me in many ways. How could they not with what he has put me through? Yet, he was never granted the satisfaction (though try as he might) to violate me physically. I am so unbelievably lucky for that.

His victims before and after me weren't as lucky, though.

It's the ones after me that fuck me up the most.

I wish there were some way I could have helped. Someway, I could have warned them.

It's true. I may not have been able to help the victims that came after me. But that doesn't mean I can't help warn other women of the dangers that lurk in the shadows.

I felt completely and utterly alone for the entirety of living through this nightmare. Do not misconstrue what I am trying to say. I had an unbelievable support system in my corner, and I still do, but what I lacked throughout this journey was someone to confide in who could directly relate to what I was going through.

But here's the thing, I am that person now.

I have lived through having my safety threatened, my dignity stripped away from me, and my most personal moments recorded. I have endured countless mornings of being unable to pull myself out of bed. Instead, I would lie under the covers and cry, wishing that this man would just get it over with, just fucking rape and murder me already. Because the unknowing was pure torture. It was an unsustainable way to live. I have gone through hell with the court system. I have experienced it all.

What an absolute waste it would be to not find the courage within myself to share my story with others.

I am now the woman that I so desperately needed a few years ago.

That is what my book is about, the story in detail of what this man has done to me, the mistakes I made throughout the process, and also the things I did right to protect myself. I cannot control the things that have happened to me in the past, but I can take what I have learned from this journey and share it with others.

So when the time comes, when I have finished my memoir completely. When I get it published or self-publish, or whatever road I take to get my story out there.

I hope you all read it.

If it helps change even one woman's mind on how they advocate for their safety, I will deem it a roaring success. I have the utmost faith that this book can do that for other women.

This book that I've written. The book that I believe to be good.




J.W
























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laceyraewhite
24 mai 2023

I can’t wait to read your book Jolene , you are a wonder with words and as I remember always have been, Happy belated Birthday May 23rd has always stuck in my head 🥰

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