Page 7 of 7
In 2004, she says, "My life, externally, started going really well." She got a new job with another nonprofit. The work was satisfying. She believed that she had reached a turning point.
"But something that lingered, always, was that people saw me as a victim," Juliette says. "And I got special treatment because of it, I think. People carried things for me because they knew my arm was kind of jacked up. I just didn't want that anymore. I just wanted not to be that anymore."
She left her job and went back to school for a doctorate. She stopped taking her anxiety and depression medications cold turkey. And she started drinking — not a lot, she's careful to say, but enough to keep a regular buzz going. Enough to stay numb.
All the pressure that Juliette put on herself to shake free of victimhood led to a huge crash. Those who witness or experience intense violence often go through bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder. The PTSD that hit Juliette was like "living in a constant panic attack," she says. At the same time, pain in her shoulder forced her to return to physical therapy. To her, it felt like a major setback.
You can't slam the book on victimhood, Juliette realized.
Today, Juliette is preparing her dissertation. She's back on medication, which helps her live with constant pain. She has to be mindful of what she eats because doctors have removed sections of her intestines that were damaged in the attack. Deciding on a balance of drugs that will keep her comfortable but not act as a chemical crutch is "a constant mindfuck," she says. Her last vice is nicotine gum.
Molly and Juliette are close and fiercely protective of each other. Though she winces a little when Molly describes the cute boys at her school, Juliette says, "I can't just lock her up like I've locked myself up. I was definitely making out with guys at her age, and I can't not let her have that. So it's just something I'm going through, I guess."
When the August humidity descends on the city, Juliette finds herself on guard. Small rituals make the month easier, like scheduling a visit with a trusted massage therapist whose hands will iron out her anxiety.
The week of the anniversary, Juliette is treating herself and a niece to pedicures at a salon. For her, it's more than cosmetic — every time she surrenders her feet to a stranger's touch, the bad association recedes a bit further into the past.
Click here to write a letter to the editor.