This past Friday night, right before the shooting at the Cascade Mall, less than a mile from my house, I had tucked myself in before 8pm from sheer exhaustion after a week of little sleep due to trying different meds for my migraines and sleep needs. I was almost giddy about the sleep I would finally get…then the texts started pouring in about the shooting and then more about how the gunman (young man) was seen running in the direction that could possibly lead to my neighborhood.
At the time, my husband was at work and I had the kids and their friend playing happily in their room. I called my husband to fill him in, and then had to tell the kids. After calling my brother in law to come get us – yes, I was too afraid to go out to my car – things started getting more real…helicopters in the surrounding neighborhoods, streets blocked… and I started getting more scared, and so did the kids – because I had to tell them to turn off all the lights and get down and be quiet. My youngest quietly sobbed as the others looked to me for how they were supposed to respond. I just kept repeating that we need to be quiet and that it will be ok.
I hated to see them live with that kind of fear – rushing to the car as soon as help arrived, knowing the shooter could be anywhere. I hated not knowing if I could protect them, even if I knew how. I hated that I relied on others to protect me and putting them in danger to come get me, but that was my reality.
Saturday came and after a fitful night, I was even more exhausted then Friday. Then in the wee hours of Sunday morning I woke with a migraine that kept me up till it was time to get out of bed. Sunday was a blur. My muscles and brain felt unusually fatigued, like after severe jet lag and travel (if you’ve ever experienced this, you know what I’m talking about). I remember thinking “I probably shouldn’t be driving today” and later missing my exit when coming home from a meeting after church that I barely made it through, sure that I would fall asleep once seated!
Here’s my current reality: Just as I was feeling like I was getting a handle on fear in my life and my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in this area, the shooting happens, and the rug is pulled under my feet. No, I don’t think someone is going to shoot me. PTSD doesn’t work like that. Instead it’s like your senses are heightened and you are on edge waiting for your safety to be jeopardized because it has in the past.
Don’t worry – I am good most of the time, except when something seems off, and then it’s as if I’m sure something horrible will happen and I’m a target. Fear grips me so fast and hard that I’m not sure what’s reality and what’s not, and I wonder if I can tell my body to move while my stomach and mind are racing in directions that only crash and jumble into one big mess. It’s a bad combination.
I’m on my face before God with this issue and I won’t give up. I am seeing a therapist and continue to pray and read God’s word.
I write this because I don’t want to be silent, and because I know a lot of people live with PTSD and feel like failures because they know a part of them is broken and they feel defeated. If that is you, I want you to know I get it – but you don’t have to feel shame, embarrassment or anger over what you live with. It’s part of what makes you who you are and your journey isn’t worse than another persons, it’s just different.
Sometimes we can be thankful that PTSD rears its ugly head, because it can make us look in the mirror and say, “I need help” and if we choose to go to prayer, scripture, a friend and sometimes a counselor or therapist, we find safety, comfort and pieces of healing. It reminds us of our frailty and our need for one bigger than us – the one who made us and can save us from this and comfort us when we can’t take care of our own self.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (NIV)