No one wakes up one morning expecting that their life will forever be changed. That’s the chaos of trauma, it’s sudden, unexpected and violent. Even when the trauma suffered is a continual violation of yourself, there is a part that hopes and believes that it will be different this time. In a world where trauma, terror and pain is on a constant reel on the nightly news, you begin to be desensitized to all the violence in the world. Still, there is a part of you that believes that those things happen to other people, not to you, and not to your loved ones. That’s how it was for me. For a long time prior to the event that changed the course of my life, I had already experienced trauma and pain. I was suffering in a way that no one could truly see or understand. I was the rebel, the loner, the one who always seemed to mess everything up. No one really knew and I believed no one could understand the pain I was experiencing. That if I told someone what was going on in my head they would commit me to an institution, deeming me incurable for life.
Not much was different the morning of April 20, 1999. I woke up hating myself and hating the world, and expecting another day of bullies, pain, and isolation. I definitely didn’t expect that day to be both the final straw on the trauma of my life that would push me over the edge to dissociation and chaos and the catalyst to change the course of my life. Truth is, I never expected much of anything to break the daily monotony and torment. Although the memories were scattered and incomplete, they haunted my life. All of a sudden, the small amount of safety that I felt, was ripped from beneath me. I was breathless, devastated, and shattered. The next 5 years are completely gone. I had jobs, met people, and did things I have no memory of. I was barely existing in this life. Then one day, I just decided that enough was enough, that I was tired of barely existing and that if I wanted anything different in this life, then I was going have to start living my life. I had been slowly self-destructing for years, and I just woke up one day and realized that I wanted more than the destructive life I was living. Which meant trying once again to find someone who would help me and not just slap me with some destructive and permanent label, someone who cared enough to help. Fortunately, God already had that meeting organized. I had babysat for this woman’s children many years before, and God brought me right to her. When I began dealing with the effects of the shooting on my life, it started to come to light how many other things had happened in my life and that the effects of those traumas were exaggerated by the shootings. This gave me an opportunity for true healing. So often, we try to deal with the immediate issue, the most recent trauma, and ignore the effects of cumulative trauma, those other things that compound the negative effects trauma has on our lives. What I quickly learned is that since everything in my mind was so intricately entwined, I had a choice, I could deal with my past as a whole or settle for partial healing. I chose to dive in head first. If it was going to be painful and hurt to deal with the shootings, I might as well deal with everything so I could finally feel complete. 10 years later, I am mostly free and healed from the pain of my past. The lingering effects that are the constant battle are the negative thoughts and beliefs about myself and others that were created and cultivated through years of pain and trauma. The difference is that now, I’m aware of those things and can actively work to heal those parts of my life also. I am no longer blind to why I think and believe the way that I do, no longer unsure of where the pain and continuing struggles come from. Before the shootings, I was wandering in pain, just hoping that one day it would all end. For the first few years after the shootings, I was the same way, just on a massive scale. However, if it was not for the shootings, my determination to get whole again, and the grace of God as I struggled and failed spectacularly in my attempt to live life the way I wanted to, I would never have been able to be the person that I am today. The shootings were the beginning to the end of my barely surviving this life and finally embracing myself, all the brokenness and the pieces of my shattered life, and beginning to live and understand the new normal that is my life. I still wish that no one would every have to experience the pain of severe trauma and hurt, but I have a new understanding of the role that plays in my life. It has allowed me to find strength in a way that I never knew I was capable of and to be able to help people in a way that is intimately entwined in who I was created to be. I was always meant to help others, to be the light in the darkness, and to speak truth and justice in every aspect of life, but I would not be as effective and capable of fulfilling this calling in my life, if I hadn’t experienced pain and tragedy in my own life. I never wanted to experience so much pain in my life, but every tear that has been cried, every painful spasm in my body, and every broken heart and broken piece in my life, God has cataloged and seen, and they will not go unused or unhealed!