Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Handling a Break-in

Published:Sunday | January 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Jody-Anne Lawrence, Lifestyle Reporter

"When someone breaks into your house, everything changes. Whether or not you were there, you could never feel more violated and insecure," Lisa Harristold Outlook recently after being asked to talk about her ordeal.

"I had come home from work and I could see that the lights were on. I did not expect my parents to be home and my father's vehicle was not there, so I called my mother and she said she was not inside. In that moment, I was not sure what to feel. Anxiety and fear were only two of the emotions that came flooding in. My brother who was dropping me off decided to scan the house before he left. I entered as my dog seemed to be tired and not his normal, active self. As I approached my parents room, I noticed everything was ransacked. The drawers were pulled out, the mattress was moved. Clothes were on the floor. When I entered my room, I was equally horrified. Seeing everything overturned had my stomach turning. Then I saw my underwear all over the floor, I just felt like picking them up and burning all of them. There was nothing more invasive. I must admit I was in too much of a shock to even cry, say, or do much. I do not believe in my entire life I have felt anymore discomfort as I did in that moment. It changed everything that I felt about my living situation. That night, we got someone to fix the grilleĀ  that they cut through. Not that it
helped us to feel safer, but I guess it had to be done, then shortly
after, the windows were also grilled on the inside. So, while we were
not criminals, we have become prisoners in our own home," shared Lisa
Harris.

Psychotherapist Alina Apostol noted that
break-ins attract post-traumatic stress reactions, which differ in
individuals. What she believes is important is that people accept that
it is normal to feel these feelings, and take time to go through the
process.

"It is normal to experience a mixture of
feelings, and they will be more intense in the days after the break-in,
lasting up to three weeks after," said Apostol. "Something inside you
will be broken, so take care of your internal wound as you would
physical pain."

She listed a few of the feelings that
one would have after the break-in. These include fright, which leads to a
fear of recurrence, helplessness, anger, guilt, sadness, shame or
embarrassment, and hope.

"I was frightened for a
while. I think it took a month before I could, like, sleep through the
night. I never wanted to be home alone - day or night. I always found
somewhere else to go. In the night, if the fan happened to blow a book
or a plastic bag I left somewhere in the room, I would go into a panic,
jump up and turn the light on," noted Harris.

Fear was
not all she felt, "I was so angry that I could not feel safe at home.
There was a time when I felt like I lived in a relatively safe area. If I
came home at 2 a.m., I would be fine, but not after they broke into my
house in broad daylight. I hated that someone had the power to instil
that much fear in me," said Harris.

Harris suffered
from what Apostol described as the hardest thing for some of the victims
to overcome, the will to accept that bad things can happen to us. Not
in a million years did Harris believe that this would have happened to
her and her family, and it did. However, it brings us back to reality
and allows us to remember to live
small.

It took some time for Harris to feel
normal in her home and she admitted that, three years later, there are a
few things that still bother her.

"I do feel much
safer. I have no problem going home by myself or being at home in the
day. Once I am getting a ride, I do not even mind coming in late. So I
guess that most of the fear is gone, it is just the little reminders
like the windows that might bring back a bit of fear, or more so,
annoyance because of the prison feeling. I must admit I do not like to
be alone after hours, but I do sleep quite fine," said
Harris.

It takes time to get to this place, noted
Apostol, and sometimes psychotherapy is necessary to overcome these
fears. However, one thing that people can do is to rearrange the
furniture where possible.

"Many people will reject
that house and move away if they can afford to. A wrong thing in my
opinion, because they are trying to run away from something which is
felt inside them, so the anxiety and fear will be present in a new
house, hotel or any new place they might move to," said
Apostol.

What she recommends is that persons continue
with their personal rituals that make them feel good about their home.
If you can afford to, you can do a remake, and if not, make some fun DIY
(Do it Yourself) changes that you will give a new look but will be cost
effective.

However, what is evident is that time
heals all wounds. If the person witnessed the ordeal, it can cause much
more emotional damage. In these cases, therapy is more than likely
necessary to help this process of recovery.

"The
proximity of the danger makes this moment harder to digest and it
requires psychotherapy to manage. Some of us may forget right away the
exact order of events (the brain protects itself by erasing the
memories), but the body will always remember the trauma, hence the panic
attacks, with no reason that might accompany the person for the rest of
their life," noted Apostol.

While this is a tough
ordeal to overcome, we all have the power to move on from it. We just
have to believe we can and, if not able to do it on our own, seek
help.

What to do after a
break-in

  • Call or visit the police
    and file a report.
  • Call the insurance
    company.
  • Make video footage and take
    pictures.
  • Clean up all signs of the
    break-in.
  • Come to terms with the break-in
    emotionally.
  • Take measures to better safeguard your
    home.