6 years later.
It was a normal day, slowly waking up, wrestling the covers and fighting to keep my eyes closed because opening them would have meant immediate pain from the light. I reached for my phone as I did every morning, had to catch up on what I missed while I slept. Facebook was my go-to to kick off the daily news cycle. “What concert did I miss last night? Which new restaurant did my friends go to? And why was I not invited?” The usual FOMO sets in.
I keep scrolling, eyes opening more and more with every post.
And then, in all CAPS, “BREAKING: Virginia TV Journalists Shot Dead Live On Air.” My eyes are now completely open, wider than normal, letting in as much light as possible so I could read every detail. I click on the link and exit Facebook. I’m scouring Google to find every “BREAKING” news article and video I can. I have to see what happened.
I’m now in that part of the movie where the camera is spinning rapidly around my head in one direction while I’m spinning frantically in the other. My eyes are racing through every sentence, every video frame. My chest is hardening to keep all the breath in my lungs from escaping because I need that to fuel the anger boiling in my mind. This is definitely that part of the movie where the realization of the truth is so clear but so foggy. I now know something is very very wrong, but I don’t know why.
All the memories from Tom’s shooting 6 years ago raid my thoughts. The parallels are unmistakable. I’ve now read and watched everything I could on the shooting and have edited my own movie of the events and I hit play. I’m watching both shootings simultaneously, side by side, comparing and contrasting every detail.
And this would go on for 16 hours that day.
Fast forward to dinner with a friend and I’m recounting my conspiracy theories when I watch as a cyclist is hit by a car on 17th Street. His bike flies 20 feet in the air and in that second moment as my eyes are again open as wide as they can be, I let out all the air I’d been holding in, but not because I’m relieved. No.
Because I feel guilty for having survived.
-To bring light to #WorldMentalHealthDay (10/10/2019) I wanted to share the moment that helped me seek the treatment I needed for my PTSD from a workplace shooting that occurred 6 years earlier. For those 6 years in between, I hid behind a mask of a happy face because that’s how I was raised. But the survivor’s guilt I felt just kept building and frankly, holding me back from realizing my full potential in work, life and my relationships.
I found an amazing therapist who specialized in EMDR Therapy. It’s like the one piece of code in my head that was not working just needed a little tweaking and the outcome was truly life-changing.
Ultimately my goal in sharing my story is to help others see that #mentalhealth is not a bad phrase, that we all suffer from various forms of trauma, and that seeking help should be like going to the dentist. We have to take care of ourselves and we should not feel embarrassed to talk about and take care of our whole selves.
If you’re interested in learning more, please feel free to reach out directly and I’d be happy to share how we’re helping organizations break the biases surrounding mental health conversations. Just because we’re going to work doesn’t mean our mental health takes a break – we’re all still dealing with our issues no matter where we are.