To Kim Kardashian West, From a Fellow Home Invasion Survivor
We haven’t met, and probably never will. I admit, I’ve never been a fan of yours. I find your TV show to be annoying and your family generally self-absorbed. But today, my heart is with you.
I know what happened to you in Paris will change the rest of your life — because it happened to me, too. Like you, I was robbed and held at gunpoint in the one place I should’ve been safe, my home. On the morning of November 28, 2014, I was loving my life in sunny San Diego when a stranger burst into my home. I am disabled due to cerebral palsy, so I had no way to defend myself as he put a gun to my head and threw me out of my wheelchair onto the floor. I lay there helplessly as he took my loyal caregiver of five years to the back bedroom. My life as I knew it was over.
In your case, the attackers stole millions of dollars worth of items. In mine, he only got a few hundred dollars worth of jewelry before being interrupted by my courageous caregiver, who escaped from him and ran to get help. But the amount of money doesn’t really matter. What they stole from us is far more precious: our sense of safety. Our basic belief that we can go about our lives without a stranger trying to harm us.
As I lay on the floor, terrified and waiting to find out how it all would end, so many thoughts ran through my head. I wondered what he wanted. I wondered if he would come back and shoot me after he finished doing God knows what to my caregiver. After she ran and he followed, I wondered if he would shoot her. I wondered if I could ever feel safe or be happy again. And I wondered, if I survive this, will I have PTSD?
I know that seems like a strange thing to think about, but I have my MA in psychology, and I had previously experienced post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms after surviving an abusive relationship. Even as I was laying there, I knew I wanted to survive and be able to thrive. I had been through too much already.
I did survive, and so did my caregiver. Her escape scared our attacker off, and neighbors helped me back into my wheelchair while she called police. Thriving… Well that’s a different story.
For me, things weren’t over after the robbery ended. The attacker started sending me death threats by email. I had to move to another state for safety reasons. Eventually, he was caught. He turned out to be the boyfriend of another caregiver I had fired. They are both in prison now and will be for a long time.
I hope they catch the people who attacked you soon. Knowing those who hurt me are in prison has helped me tremendously. But it’s not enough. Right now, you’re going to need your family and friends. Don’t be afraid to lean on them for support. Put aside any disputes of the past, and love them, and let them love you back. Take note of the people who step up to be there for you emotionally, and those who don’t. If anything good comes of this, it’ll be that you learn who your true friends are.
Maybe life afterwards will be easier for you than it was for me. You have many resources I don’t. The $40,000 I lost having to move and start my life over again isn’t much more than a night on the town in your world, whereas to me it was devastating. You have a team of bodyguards and can increase security even more on your homes. But that might not be as comforting as you expect. You might wonder how you will ever feel safe again. The truth is, I’m not sure if either of us ever will. But that doesn’t mean giving up.
In the days and months after the robbery, I learned the answers to the questions I asked myself as I lay there not knowing if I would live or die. Yes, I have PTSD. No, I don’t feel safe a lot of the time. But yes, I am happy again. I struggle with panic attacks, sometimes relive memories of the attack, and I’m often hypervigilant and jumpy, especially at home. I have a few triggers: men in hoodies and strangers coming up behind me can make me nervous. I almost never sleep more than five hours a night because I’m afraid to get in bed and feel helpless. I take medication, and some days are harder than others.
But despite those struggles, I’ve found happiness again. I’m using this as an opportunity to start over. I didn’t think I’d like the place where I live now, and I still consider it a temporary stopover while I regroup, but I’ve found a community of people who accept me and help me feel safer. I have a new job I really like, a loving father and stepmother, and wonderful friends old and new who have supported me through everything. And most importantly, I’m doing things that heal my soul and help others, like continuing my work as a travel blogger and public speaker, educating people about disability and overcoming adversity.
Right now, you might be wondering if your hands will ever stop shaking. Or maybe you’re wondering if you’ll ever feel up to “breaking the internet” with booty photos again. I don’t know exactly what you’re feeling, but I believe you’ll soon be at a crossroads. I encourage you to use this as an opportunity for change. Take time to heal, and then find something you believe in, a cause you can help with your tremendous fame and influence. Channel your emotions into doing good in the world.
We who have survived violent crimes need your voice, to advocate for better mental health services and compensation for survivors who have been financially devastated by medical bills or moving costs. We need society to care about rehabilitating nonviolent criminals before they cross the line to committing heinous acts. We need someone like you to be our advocate… if and when you feel ready to share your story. It’s been tremendously healing for me to share my story, and I believe it would be for you, too.
I know it’s probably hard for you to see beyond your terror and anger right now. But I promise, you will. And on the other side, you’ll find hope. I may not be a fan, but as a fellow survivor, I’m here for you if you ever want to talk. I wish you the best.
Follow this journey on Free Wheelin’.
Lead photo: Kim Kardashian West, Facebook.