Mental Health Diaries: Safe Spaces

Safe Spaces Part 1: They don’t exist

Content Warning: trauma, murder, vivid descriptions of mental health/illness, suicidal ideation

I witnessed my mothers murder in 2006. I was also stabbed during the break-in. It was the worst night of my life, as you could have guessed. This one night, one event, one hour of my life, changed every single thing. It has managed to affect it all in some way, great or small. I feel like before I begin any story about this, I have to go back in detail about the crime itself. I know, though, that I cannot each time. Today I want to tell you- or show you, rather- about safe spaces, how I rejected them, and how I learned to find them once more after developing PTSD.

When someone breaks into your home and uses a knife from your own kitchen to attack you, all sense of safety is lost. I was in the hospital for ten days recovering from my lung collapsing and the surgery afterward. I started therapy shortly after. My diagnosis was anxiety, depression, PTSD, and insomnia. To give you an idea of what a visit was like a few months after ‘the night’:

walk into the room. Must sit facing the door and windows so I can see where possible break-ins may occur. I rarely sleep, I’m always on edge. I feel like someone will attack me at any moment. I am constantly waiting for it. I have a bandage on the left side of my chest where the stab wounds and surgical incisions are- they are not healed and they are still oozing. It itches and every time I touch it, it hurts and is a constant reminder of what happened to me. My therapist tries to guide me through breathing and meditation exercises, but I can’t close my eyes. I simply can’t close my eyes and relax into anything. If I close my eyes for one second I might miss the chance to escape if someone comes after me.

I will not remember anything that we talk about that day. I call it “blackout years”, the times I can barely remember. At one of our sessions, she hands me a teddy bear that she has in her office and tells me to take it home and put it next to me in my bed, (where I never ever sleep, and never even lay alone. I am 18 but feel like a child because I can no longer have my own room) she tells me to imagine that it’s my mom if that will make me feel better. To use it as a comfort item, something that helps me feel ‘safe’. I know her intentions are good. I know it, but I want to scream at her “A FUCKING TEDDY BEAR? I WILL NOT FEEL SAFE NOW, NOT EVER, DEFINITELY NOT BECAUSE OF THIS TEDDY BEAR!” and throw it across the room. Instead, I smile politely (something I have always been good at), say thank you, and carry it out with me to the car where my nana is waiting for me.

I still struggle with the ‘blackout years’ and still have memory issues. I remember taking the teddy bear home and putting it somewhere, leaving it there and not really thinking much about it again. Parts of me wish I had it now, I crave pieces of me and pieces of that time, but I did not have the mental capacity to care about it or look after it. It probably ended up with most of my possessions during that time frame, somewhere in a dumpster (getting rid of things was wildly soothing for many years).

I don’t know what my therapist could have done for me to feel any relief, except possibly medicate me, but I refused. I don’t think anyone could have done anything that early on. I couldn’t cry. What happened to me and my mom (and my other two family members who were there that night) did not fully register in my mind so it would have been damn near impossible to begin healing. I was merely surviving, and that was a struggle in itself.

There was no ‘safe space’ that I could think of. Not even my mind. I would get so irritated that people could assume I would ever feel safe again. I didn’t have words to help them understand, so I didn’t try. I can’t tell you how many times people tried to offer these things to me- comforting items, pictures of my mom, meditation or other things- so loving and sweet, but useless at the time. All of the items were lost, put away… all of the pictures hidden, all of the relaxation exercises made me feel inferior. The only relief I could imagine was death. I would pray to god to take me in my sleep (if I ever fell asleep again), without any more pain or trauma.

— to be continued—

I hate to leave on such a negative note, but this is my real life experience. The dark parts. Now there is a lot more light, and I will tell you all about it when I get to that point. Bear with me <3 Thank you for reading. If this meant something to you, please share. 


I added this photo because it’s one of the safe spaces I’ve found on this journey. I CAN’T WAIT TO TELL YOU ABOUT MY CAR AS A SAFE SPACE. It is such a moving story for me, I still cry talking about it.

About Megan Ashley

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