“Slums may well be breeding grounds of crime, but middle class suburbs are incubators of apathy and delirium.” ~ Cyril Connolly
I have post traumatic stress disorder, as you probably know already. You probably also know that the side effects of post traumatic stress disorder include nightmares, flashbacks, and generalised anxiety. You may or may not have realised that in practice that makes me a somewhat noisy person to have as a neighbour.
On the nights when I have the worst nightmares I tend to wake up screaming. When I have flashbacks there’s a lot of shouting, and sometimes also screaming. I also have a tendency to yell at things when I’m in the midst of the worst form of panic attacks. And when I say screaming, and shouting, and yelling, I mean like I sound like I’m being pretty violently attacked. I mean, half the time I’m doing it because I’m reliving being attacked.
My neighbours must think I’m a crazy person because there’s no chance that they could have failed to hear me. Same goes for anyone walking past the house. They don’t know me, they’ve never even met me, so they think that either I’m crazy or suffering some pretty horrendous domestic abuse.
And yet not one single person, not one single time, has ever either come round and knocked on the door to ask after me or called the emergency services to ask them to come and check on happening.
And I just can’t imagine doing that. Living like that. I mean, I can’t imagine that the couple who sleep in the bedroom just the other side of the wall from me have simply assumed that the times I’ve woken them up were because I happen to be suffering from PTSD. I mean, when you don’t know what’s going on with something what you imagine is always worse than what’s actually happening, right? Especially in the middle of the night. So they’ve got think that something’s happening to me; that, or that my mental health is currently far, far worse than what it is.
And yet they don’t do anything.
They just ignore it.
Presumably because they don’t care.
It can’t be that they feel unsafe. I’ve seen both of them, they’ve seen both of us, they have approximately three times the greater mass. Also, they have the same party-political flyers shoved through their door banging on about how this is the safest district in the safest city in the country.
Besides which no-one’s going to get shot, stabbed, or beaten mystically across the 3G network if they place a call to the local police station while staying safely tucked up in bed.
I have no idea what their deal is.
I suppose they may have just become used to the interruption and learned to ignore it; I’m now a part of their background noise. They’ve seen me coming and going, seen that I’m in one piece and decided that I’m fine so they tune out the sounds of my illness they same way they do the traffic and the other neighbours’ kids.
But what could they possibly have been thinking the first time? Or the second? Or the time after that? Before what was for all they knew the sound of the woman next door being raped or beaten up became part of a pattern that they could imagine an explanation for and dismiss.
I can’t think of a scenario to which I could relate.
I know I’d call the police if it sounded like anyone was hurting them. I know I have called the police whenever I’ve thought I somebody was being hurt – even when I lived in the city centre, round the corner from a nightclub, and they were just as likely to be drunk.
I remember one night when I lived in halls at university – long before all the mental health drama happened – something similar happened. I had a nightmare that I was being raped. I woke up screaming. I must have woken up half the building.
Ten minutes later a squad of police officers were outside combing the area for a non-existent assault victim.
Because, why, for crying out loud, would you not report that shit?
Most of the time I don’t think like this. Most of the time I incredibly guilty about how ridiculously annoying my neighbours must find me. It’s just that occasionally there are other times when I really feel that it’s a good job I’m living in such a safe area, and with someone who wouldn’t hurt a hair on my head, because if I were attacked and needed help again I know I’d be pretty well screwed. Which isn’t exactly doing wonders towards restoring my faith in humanity.