Currently hiding my tears at work, looking out a window at a lovely big tree. The sky is overcast. My heart is hurting about many things, and I must have been more upset than I realized about what happened with the library patron that crossed the line last week.
Every time I think of that person, a hidden host of Demons pluck at my clothes and send waves of hurt and sadness pulsing. She seemed in the grip of schizophrenia and its heartless devils, and she had been a problem for weeks at the library- I’d been warned, since this was my first week. Some staff seemed quite afraid of her, but I wasn’t, I was just careful and felt terrible for her: homeless, alone, in such grave need, untreated, uncared for, a lily of the field. My heart went out to her. She wanted help with a computer and she was alternately loud/friendly/manic and loud/rude/angry. Then she appeared at my side, grabbed my arms over the elbows, and without a mask began to loudly bully and make fun of me into my face. Then she said she was going to hit me in the face. This part happened quickly and I don’t remember some of it. My boss requested help from the police 20 minutes earlier when she got disruptive, but they hadn’t arrived. My boss called them again in the moments just before she got in my face; apparently the earlier request got accidentally dropped.
They had to arrest her. I didn’t want that to happen, I refused to press charges. She didn’t know what she was doing, she was just sick and alone and needed care. She didn’t mean to attack me or hurt me. I felt terrible. And weird about getting grabbed and threatened like that, but that took longer to show up- I wasn’t scared at all at the time- more on that later.
I wish a social worker instead of police could come in situations like this. Instead, mental health gets criminalized. I hate to think of her situation now, it must be worse than before- she needed a safe place like a library. She’s homeless, and has no one.
Ever since, a parade of coworkers have come to me one by one and say nice things about how I handled it, how sorry they were it happened, showing concern about me. So kind. I keep telling them the truth, that I mostly just feel bad for her and her situation.
What they don’t know is that mixed with compassion for her…was a feeling that is hard to describe. It comes from the way I grew up with family members who hurt me and damaged me- they were driven by their own illnesses and conditions, and I just had to take it, silently. And keep going.
Now I am able to think ‘they didn’t mean to hurt me’ but it’s a lot harder to feel the proper concern for your own well-being that is supposed to be there also, and I haven’t had that for very long- growing it is hard. For so long I’ve felt so undeserving of so many things- sometimes safety was one of those things.
Someone who couldn’t know any better crossed the line, and I slipped into the “I just have to take this” headspace, and I wasn’t there for myself. I kept telling myself ‘it’s fine, I’m ok’ and not listening to myself. Then you wind up with a subconscious feeling like “I don’t get to say ‘Hey that was shitty’, no matter how bad it gets- I only get to suck it up and say I’m ok”.
She was so alone. I can’t stop thinking about it. So today I had to duck into an unoccupied study room before I started leaking tears at Reference.