The reason for me starting this blog was to share my truth with others. In more recent years, I have found that sharing my thoughts and feelings with others has been very therapeutic for me. Not only does it get everything out in the open, rather than me bottling everything up inside until I explode, but it also helps me to realize that I am not alone, and that I do have others there for me. The support I receive when sharing my truth is amazing, and I couldn’t possibly trade it for the world. Everyone knows that I will love and support them forever, so having that same support and love reciprocated to me is an amazing feeling.
In honor of mental health awareness month, I wanted to share an experience with others that not everyone may know about. It was a hard hitting moment for me, one that will continue to hide out in the shadows and spook me from time to time. One of those things that you learn and grow from, but never truly forget about. I am going to tell you about the robbery.
I was about seventeen years old. I was working at a small privately owned pharmacy right near my old house. I had just informed my boss the day prior that I was moving and we were making settlement on our house in Jersey soon. I was giving him five weeks notice to find another employee. (That didn’t last very long). He gave me a hug, congratulated me, and wished me the best.
It was a chilly November Tuesday evening. It was just starting to get dark out around 5pm, so it had to be sometime around 6pm. The store was quite slow, only having had a few customers come in and see if they could get their scripts filled, others picking up. The pharmacist and I were standing, waiting for the clock to hit 7:00 so that we could start cleaning up for the night and lock up. Time was ticking by so slowly, as if the shift was dragging due to the extremely low volume in the store. That quickly changed.
The bell went off to let us know a customer was entering the store. A stack of papers in filing bins was in front of me, so I had to move to the left to see the customer coming in. Only I couldn’t see them. I heard footsteps, but not just from one person. Soon revealed were two men in black masks, lurking up the two center aisles, one with a gun pointed directly at me. The pharmacist dove to the floor, and I followed. During that time, my first immediate thought was to open the cabinet where all of the narcotics were. I could only assume they were coming to steal those. They had leaped over the counter, presumably, and came behind to where we were lying on the floor. They grabbed two reusable bags that the other pharmacist kept handy off of one of the shelves, and immediately started cleaning out the narcotic cabinet.
The one with the gun kept it pointed at me, and I can’t particularly remember if I was staring at it or him or just in space because I suddenly felt like my life was slowly flashing before my eyes. I had immediately thought of every single person in my life that meant something to me in an instant. I thought about how all of them would be if I were gone… if this was my way to go. I know my family would be devastated. I know my friends would be devastated. Anyone who knew me would probably be devastated, that I was gone so soon and so suddenly.
The one man without the gun was more aggressive; he grabbed duct tape and wrapped our hands together above our heads. He also felt our pockets to see if we had any other valuables in there that he could take. He demanded for our purses, money, etc. We said we didn’t have them (mine was in the back hidden). My phone was still up on the counter. The other man with the gun (still pointed at me) told us that they didn’t want to cause any harm, they just wanted they wanted. He told us to have a good Christmas. He then asked me if that was my phone. I said yes. He said he was going to leave it there, but the other man insisted that they take it. He slipped it into his pocket. That was the last time I saw that phone.
After cleaning out the narcotic cabinet, taking any of the money that was in there, swiping off the shelves all of the cough medicine, and taking a bunch of lottery scratch offs, they fled on foot. No one had come into the store at all. The pharmacist and I sat in silence for what felt like forever. I waited for her to get up. The tape wasn’t as tight around her wrists, so she was able to grab scissors and cut them off. Mine were tightly bound around my wrists, and I couldn’t seem to wriggle them out. I said, through a quivering voice and shaky hands, “Please, get it off.” The cops arrived shortly after. He was trying to ask what happened, but it then seemed as if it was all catching up to me what just happened. I was unable to process it all. I was holding onto my stomach because I couldn’t catch my breath. The world was getting smaller and smaller and shrinking further and further away from me. I felt like my chest was on fire. I could barely croak words out. I had to regain my composure. That’s when the pharmacist hugged me. I sobbed into her shoulder and couldn’t stop shaking.
Shortly after, other police officers and detectives showed up. It had become a crime scene, and we had to sit there and be questioned for hours, telling the same narrative over and over. I was wondering if anyone was trying to get ahold of me. Wondering if my parents were trying to call and check in. I was completely disconnected from the outside world for a good two hours. I was able to use the pharmacist’s cell phone, which somehow wasn’t spotted by the robbers. I called my dad and told him what happened. He profusely apologized for that having happened to me, and asked if I wanted him to come up to be with me. I told him no, and that I would be home soon. I explained to my boss that I couldn’t continue working there. I no longer felt safe and knew that I would be trembling in fear every time that I heard the door open.
My boss walked me to the back where my car was parked. As I was racing to my car, a person that worked at the beer distributor next door appeared out of the shadows and said, “Are you okay?” I jumped what felt like a hundred feet in the air. I was so on edge, anything could have scared me then. I mumbled, “Yeah I’m fine,” and got into my car as fast as I could. I drove home as fast as possible, considering the speed limits. I was sobbing and hyperventilating the whole way home. I ran up to my house and into my front door. My sister was sitting on the couch and immediately asked what was wrong. I tried to choke out that the pharmacy got robbed, but I couldn’t get the words out into a proper sentence. I spit out what I could. She immediately jumped up and hugged me. She held me as I cried and tried to get control of my breathing again. My mom came downstairs shortly after, asking why I was crying but not realizing the severity of the situation. I told her the pharmacy got robbed and I was held at gunpoint, and she shrieked, “What!” and dropped to her knees in front of me. She held onto me, very closely and tightly. My dad came in moments later, and we all sat and talked about it. Sometime after, I eventually made my way up to my bed. I didn’t sleep at all that night. The nightmares of what had just occurred, and the thoughts of what could happen next kept me alert and anxious all night.
For the next couple of months, I was a different person. I couldn’t go outside, to a store, or in any sort of parking lot or garage without feeling fear. Was I going to get jumped? Was I going to get car jacked? Kidnapped? Robbed? What could possibly happen to me now? I went around my house multiple times, making sure that all of the doors and windows were locked. I kept my car doors locked while I was driving. Upon entering a store, I would check my surroundings of anything that may seem suspicious. I was completely aware of what was going on, and trusted any of the vibes that I may have caught. That was only when I actually did go outside, though. A majority of my time, I spent locked up in my room, either packing for the move or in my bed. I was far too afraid to do anything, or to go anywhere. The world was out to get me, and I wouldn’t dare allow it to take control by throwing myself into situations where I could get hurt. In the months to follow, I experienced a lot of post traumatic stress that could set me off in an instant.
Eventually, I wasn’t as anal about making sure everything was locked, refusing to leave my bed due to safety reasons, etc. I was able to go back into the world, get another job, and not spend my days worrying as much. My dad said something to me that night that still, to this day, resonates with me. He told me that yes, though what had happened was a tragic event and he was so sorry that it did happen to me, it was almost a blessing in disguise. These sorts of situations that we are put in, though they are terrible situations to be put in, can be ways to make us stronger as people. These situations are lessons for learning, for being forced to be become much wiser and more aware than before. For instance, the things that I do now are totally involuntary, and I do them without even realizing. I am always aware of my surroundings when I go places. I still go around the house and make sure everything is locked. I still drive with all doors locked. Though that situation was such a horror to me, a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from, it also ended up teaching me things I could have never known before. I wish I didn’t have to go through it, and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. However, I have really learned to count my blessings, and consider myself lucky to have lived through that and come out stronger on the other end.
To find some resources on PTSD, you can visit this link: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Posttraumatic-Stress-Disorder/Support