You know when you get that voice telling you to do something? Well I can honestly say that had I not listened to that voice in the middle of the night when I was 16 years old, and had I not got up to go to the bathroom at that exact time, I may not be here today! For when I returned to my bed, what I found sticking out of pillow would have done me serious harm.
This is my story of how my family was terrorised for nearly 5 years and forced to move home.
The area I grew up in Bristol seemed liked something out the film 'the goonies' it had fields, trees to climb, and everything seemed like an adventure! Well that was up until the age of around 11 as that's when I can remember a real change. You see I grew up in the late 70's, early 80's and it always seemed like there were so many kids about in our area, and prior to all the crime we would jump on bikes, play football, and just generally be kids having fun!
I can always remember the start of how things changed as we would start seeing some of the kids from the neighbourhood stealing mopeds and breaking into sheds, and I'm not going to lie there was a huge amount of peer pressure. However, I was more frightened of upsetting my parents than to take part in these actions! I just remember one day we were all playing football and suddenly out of the blue this 4x4 truck drove onto the playing field and started heading towards us. I then heard one of the kids shout to everyone else that it was the guys from number 5 (it then transpired that the guys in the truck had their garage broken into the previous night, and knew that it was one of the kids who we were playing football with). Thinking back on it , it sounds crazy for a vehicle to go charging around a playing field at a bunch of kids but hey this was the area I grew up in where at times it did feel lawless. So, as the truck continued to aim and circle around us all, I felt that it wasn't the time to explain that I had nothing to do with this, so like everyone else I ran for my life! A few of us scaled up the drain pipes of the school and took shelter on top of the roof, my heart was pounding and it felt like I couldn't breathe! We all sat there until the truck drove off and it got dark, but thankfully no one got hurt. We scaled back down the the drain pipe and ran to our homes, our parents of course completely unaware of the incident.
Things like this continued for a few years with some of the local kids getting into more trouble, and then it became more difficult to move around the neighbourhood as it seemed different alliances were being formed, some may call these gangs. You kind of had to pick the people you wanted to hang around with and suffer the consequences if you were to run into one of the other gangs. I just remember the smallest thing would cause a fight and then it would escalate quite quickly, you really had to learn to defend yourself, however, this didn't work all the time so I just learnt how to run very fast!
I know this may sound crazy but you just got used to your surroundings and knew that you may get into a fight, have something stolen from you, have your home broken into 10 times or even have your car stolen on Christmas morning! I, of course, say these things lightly, but of course at the time this was playing havoc on my mental health, as I would just bottle it all up and to be honest I'm dealing with the aftermath of it all even to this date.
Then just as I thought things couldn't get any worse I was lying in bed at our two bedroom, downstairs, council flat and heard a car screech to a holt outside our house. We lived in a quiet road so a car entering our road would have been heard, plus the old council house glass windows were so thin you could basically hear almost everything that was going on outside. After the sound of the car stopping I then heard a massive bang, and as I looked out of the window I witnessed two men hitting my dad's car windows with baseball bats! They smashed all the windows and then jumped back in the car and drove off at speed. Myself and my dad rushed out to see the aftermath of the situation, but we were not alone as the noise woke up the whole street. My dad and I were stood there and it must have been around 1am in the morning, the car was completely trashed and I remember looking at my dad thinking what can I do to make things better and why did this happen?
The next few days felt very strange as it was the only thing we spoke about as we had no idea why it happened or who did it. Eventually my dad purchased a new, second hand car and we never spoke about it again, although I could tell it was always on our minds. Six months went past and nothing happened apart from the fact that I had developed a sleeping anxiety, in which as soon as it started getting dark and I knew it was close to bed time my chest would tighten, and I would feel so anxious, but I kept this to myself as to not worry my parents.
It was nine months after the car had been trashed, and I still had severe sleeping problems, and I remember it had taken me ages to get off to sleep. However, I awoke at around 2am, when I say awoke, I remember bolting up right in bed as if something had woken me with a stick or a loud noise! I then took myself to the bathroom and while I was in there I heard the loudest smash which sounded like glass. I ran back to my bedroom to see the window that was right next to my bed, smashed, and on my pillow was a large shard of glass stuck in the actual pillow. This made me so scared yet so angry! I felt like this needed to be stopped and I was so fed up off living in fear, to be honest I don't think I was thinking straight and I was acting on pure adrenaline. I ran to the backdoor, passing the kitchen and grabbed a giant saucepan off the cooker hob, I then ran out into the street dressed only in my boxer shorts. I saw two men run back to the car and the car sped off at speed. In a haste of anger I launched the saucepan as hard as I could at the back of the car. It felt like everything was happening in slow motion, as the pan took to the air and came down directly onto the back windscreen of the car, and as it hit, the whole of the back windscreen smashed. The car then stopped, the brake lights felt so bright, and just as the car came to a complete stop, out of the car came 4 very large blokes, at this point I completely froze and just knew what was coming. I mean I was 16 years old stood in my boxer shorts in the middle of the road at around 2am, and just smashed the car of 4 blokes, without going into too much detail lets just say I took quite a beating that night. The police were called and statements were taken, however, at the time there were no witnesses or evidence, and the police best advice was to find whoever did it and do it back but don't get caught.
My bruises healed and as a family we started to get back to normal the best way we could, my parents put in a request to move house with the council but despite the reasons for moving we still didn't reach the criteria, you see it was done on a points system and we just didn't have the points. We were put on the waiting list but it was near the bottom and knew it could take years.
My stress and anxiety was through the roof and I was now on antidepressants and had a real fear of the dark. This was so debilitating as it was winter time which meant it was getting dark at around 4pm, as well as my anxiety I had developed stress eczema from the tips of my toes all the way up to the top of my head, this made it practically impossible to sleep at night. Along with my other concerns, I remember just lying in bed and listening out for any noise, I would even put my fingers in my ears and try and hum myself to sleep.
Incidents kept happening for the next two years on and off until we had the best news which was a letter from the council telling us that we had been accepted to move home. My excitement was quickly dampened as I began to worry about if these people, whoever they were would find our new home and do the same to us there. I expressed my concerns to my dad and we decided that we would move in secret (well the best you can when moving house).
We moved house and to this day we still do not know who it was carrying out the acts of vandalism and I guess we will never know.
So how how has it left its mark on me? Well even to this day when it starts to get dark I still have a slight concern even if it is just for a minute or two. I still get concerned at night if I hear a car outside, and I'm incredibly protective of the people around me. But as with all of us, it is a part of my story, a part of my growth and self discovery, and one that shaped the person I am today. And if any part of my story helps just one person seek help, reach out and talk or simply just feel less alone in their own journey then its worth sharing.
Thank you for reading my blog and please feel free to read any of my other blogs on my journey.