There’s a before and after an assault. And not only the physical.
There’s a before in the way you think, act and live. And there’s a very different after.
Before I was assaulted, I wore noise-blocking headphones and I got lost in a song as I walked to the train station. After my assault, I didn’t even walk by myself to the train station.
And no, it wasn’t my fault because I wasn’t careful or I wore headphones. In fact, I wasn’t even wearing headphones when it happened. It was the person's fault that attacked me, it was his/her fault.
It all happened on an early, cold, Boston winter morning. Just like any other morning for me that winter, I woke up around 5 am, got myself ready and walked to the train station to jump on the T, as Bostonians like to call it, to head to my job.
At the time I was working as a front desk staff at a well-known gym in Downtown and I had the opening shift. I didn’t mind it, waking up early and walking through the cold streets. I liked it. I liked sitting on the train and seeing the hard-working people's faces. I liked walking through Washington Street and seeing the Paramount sign. It was the only time you could see it properly lit without crowds. I liked the dark mornings, the empty streets, the sunrise.
All this changed. Since then, I am not able to enjoy a walk by myself without feeling paranoid. Without having to turn around every two minutes to see if someone is following me. Since then, I don’t use noise-cancelling headphones or walk alone when it is dark.
I remember it like if it was yesterday. As I was walking to the train station, I heard someone’s steps behind me. I told myself not to panic, that it’s just like every other morning, it was someone walking to the train too. Then I heard them closer to me, and I held my bag tighter against my body, looking for some comfort. I took a deep breath and I repeated to myself that it was just someone else walking to the train station.
But it wasn't.
I heard them closer to me again, and when I thought to look to the side to corroborate what I had been telling myself, it hit me. It hit me so hard that it knocked me down.
I don’t remember much of what happened after. I have a vague memory of talking to my fiancé on the phone and saying- “ I just got hit”. A few memories come here and there of an ambulance and a crowd of people. The next thing I remember is laying down in a hospital bed.
From what we know, which is not a lot, is that I started screaming for help right after I fell. That some people noticed me in the dark and the person that hit me ran away. That somehow I grabbed my phone and dialled for help, and that some people called an ambulance for me.
It has been 3 years since this happened. It has taken me a while to walk by myself again. To understand that even though I was lucky, and that it could have been worse, that it wasn’t my fault and that it’s ok to feel scared.
There are a few things that I changed since then. One of them is to be aware of my surroundings, to trust my gut when it tells me something is up, and the second is my headphones.
I told you I wasn’t wearing headphones that day, but that wasn’t the norm. I was always wearing headphones.
After what happened to me, I only wore headphones at home or in the gym. It was hard to go for a run or walk by myself and not listen to my favourite podcasts or songs.
Not long ago I came across AfterShokz. I honestly thought it was some weird black magic and I was a bit skeptical about them. I wondered, “How are you going to hear through a mini vibration?” and thought “There’s no way you can still hear what was around you”. I thought it was impossible, but I am so glad I was wrong.
Slowly throughout the years, I went back to run by myself, and now my AfterShokz have joined me. They gave me this confidence that I was able to hear everything around me but still get lost in my favourite song.
I had been able to go back to a semi-normal before AfterShokz. And although a pair of headphones is not what gave me full confidence, they definitely helped. They helped me to remember what it was like to listen to my favourite tunes while feeling the sun coming through in the early mornings.
You can keep up with Ana on her life and fitness journey on Instagram.