One thing I’ve come to accept about myself is that I’m a textbook neurotic. Well…if it was in textbooks anymore. Psychology may have retired the term but, for good reason, it’s found a home in my vocabulary. I like to believe I do a pretty good job of masking and milding my compulsiveness, obsessive thoughts and irrational fears. Still, they slip through sometimes.
Neurotic as I am, I find myself wondering where the line is between irrational fears and a healthy sense of paranoia. This is one of the reasons that I love Mozzie so much in the tv show “White Collar.” He’s so wildly paranoid and eccentric it’s comforting. In one episode he says, “Paranoia is a skill. The secret to longevity.” I wonder if he’s not a little correct.
While living in the Bronx (which is definitely not the safest part of NYC), I developed a lot of somewhat peculiar behavior as a result of my paranoia. For example, my first year living there my apartment, which was the upper level of a row house, was only a few doors down from a bus stop. Whenever I rode the bus home, I always let everyone else walk a head of me and waited until they were nearly to the next block before I got to my door and went in. Ensuring they wouldn’t see where I lived.
If walking down a street alone at night (which I did nearly every day for two years), or walking down a rather vacant block during the day, I would casually cross the street if a man or group of men were walking towards me so that we had a greater span of distance between us. Especially at night, I would casually glance behind myself every once in a while and listen to footsteps behind me. (I felt it a great kindness one night when a man, who walked behind me for a long ways, made sure to maintain a steady pace and significant distance the entire time before eventually turning down another street).
These are only a few examples of what I did to give myself a sense of safety. Many of my female friends, who have taken self-defense classes, have told me that they were taught these types of things in their classes. Hearing that was incredibly comforting. I definitely credit my paranoia with my safety during those years.
Back in the Midwest, my paranoia feels more outrageous. I don’t do the same things as before. Now I never go to the fitness center at this apartment complex at the same time so that a serial killer, or rapist, or creep can’t learn my schedule and accost me. When walking around the complex at night I stay about 50 yards away from shadows and wooded areas (okay, that distance might be a little bit of an exaggeration). The examples could continue…
When I start to think my paranoia is completely out of control, that I’m giving in to a host of irrational fears, I find it comforting to visit http://www.safetyforwomen.com. Then I just pat myself on the back for instinctually following most of their tips and advice.