Dear Recent Mass Shooting Survivors — Love, A Fellow Survivor

Numb. Dead. Unable to feel. Feeling EVERYTHING. Feeling weird grief that comes in waves then goes and you feel numb again. Can’t sleep. Can’t eat. Replaying scenes. Nothing feels real. Scared at loud noises. Scared at people acting shady. Freaked out in crowds. Songs make you cry til 4am. Wandering in a fog. What is a body, even? I don’t feel mine.

They will tell you over and over again to let you know if there is “anything I can do, let me know.” But you have no idea what they can do, or what you need, because you can’t feel much of anything.

You are grateful when a friend doesn’t ask — he just brings over movies and puts them on and sits there and watches them with you, quietly. Finally, one person who doesn’t have to ask. One less thing to take care of.

They will ask you how you are, and they will cry in your arms while you stand woodenly, and when you ask how they are, they will react in shock that you could even ask such a question “when you’ve survived such a tragedy.”

They will tell you that your peace means “you’re so strong.” You will think that you are not strong and you don’t know why people keep telling you this.

Mainly, you are shocked that your sisters (or friends, teachers, loved ones) are dead.

The media will get in your face. They’ll hound you for interviews. They want to know what it was like to survive a shooting. They want to broadcast the horror; you want to tell them that no one should ever know how that horror feels. Good Morning America will send a basket to the hospital where your father is. You’ll have to come in a back entrance to avoid them. They will call your phones.

Your phone. You’ll be trying to field a million text messages. You’ll talk to relatives you haven’t heard from in years. Everyone is so sorry. Everyone is horrified. You say thank you a million times but the words almost lose their meaning. They ask you what happened and you repeat it, for the thousandth time, the words feeling unreal when they come out of your mouth.

You are numb. Or bawling. Or feeling heavy. So heavy. Unbearably heavy. How could you ever feel un-heavy again? Or normal again? You wake up the next day wondering if other friends have died overnight. Part of you doesn’t want to live anymore. It’s too hard.

The images are constantly replaying and you almost want to put a hand over your eyes to block them. You feel cold, so cold. You want a blanket just to wrap around you for a moment. You want someone else to do your life.

No one will understand how you are feeling, unless they were there (or unless they were somewhere similar). So many people will say things that sound incredibly stupid.

For 5 years, I wished to find a community of survivors who knew what I went through. Finally, after Newtown, I saw a news article talking about The Rebels Project. 5 years I carried all of the above around, and more. Experiences that no one else could understand. Things I could not talk to my immediate family about, even though they were also there. Finally I had a place to lay it down.

I’m just letting you know, for a second, that you’re not alone. There’s more of us out here who get it (Search The Rebels Project on Facebook and you’ll find us). And when you have a second to breathe by yourself again, come find us. We’ll be waiting for you with open arms. We’ll walk you through.

I’ll walk you through myself. I’ve been there. I’m still here. And you will be, too.


Assume Crash Positions! It’s a FEELING!!

The title pretty much describes my outlook on life. Anxiety? DUCK AND COVER! Depression? THE WORLD IS ENDING. Fear? OMG IT’S A DISASTER! Brace yourselves, at any time a feeling could come and assault your perfectly sculpted life!

You never know if today will bring…

An unexpected bill…
A communication misunderstanding…
“She loves me, she loves me not” in a friendship…
A reminder of how f%$ed up my childhood was…

Or other sundry reminders that WHAT? FEELINGS HAPPEN? and life is not without them. It could even occur from something such as a quick glance at my planner. I mean, let’s be honest, that’s pretty much a cue for an instant heart attack.

To me, feelings are as dangerous as a hail of bullets, and they seem to assault me in a similar fashion. Even the terms I use to refer to my feeling state are quite revealing. Like I said to my therapist yesterday about an instance that happened last year…

“It was a DISASTER.”

I instantly stopped, laughed at myself, and realized that I equate feelings with “disaster.”  Like this past Saturday at my homegroup. I started crying profusely because TOO MANY FEELINGS. The overwhelming experience of everything I was feeling then caused flashbacks of being shot at. That’s how dangerous my feelings appear to be. That also assumes that I can’t control my feelings. They are coming at me and I can do nothing about them.

But now I’ve thankfully gotten a chance to step outside of all that and I can see the truth.

A feeling is only a FEELING. It doesn’t have the power to kill me. I am not going to get shot at or assaulted by feeling feelings. I am not bad if I am feeling a feeling. I can just feel it, and move on. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with me. It just means I am human.

I know it sounds elementary, but I am finally just getting this at a heart level. As an addict, I’ve avoided feelings for years while simultaneously being driven by them. It takes a lot to unwind the old way of doing things. I’m used to: “Oh no! I feel a feeling! SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH ME!!! I had better take a drink/talk to a boy and drown that out now, because feelings are BAD, BAD, BAD. And if I am feeling them I must be BAD, BAD, BAD.”

This realization is a brand new thing for me, too. It was yesterday that this clicked – during therapy, of course. One of my therapist’s favorite sayings is a sarcastic, “Well, it’s only a FEELING.” And after my babbling beginning (seriously, I babble at the start of EVERY session) he said, in amusement, “You really hate feeling things, don’t you?” After dealing with that idea the whole session, I left a new woman with a new perspective.

Today has been full of interesting moments. “Wow. I am anxious. Really anxious. Want to crawl under a rock and hide forever anxious. I want to freak out. But this is just a feeling, Laurie. Just a feeling. It’s okay. You’re not going to die from anxiety.

It’s weird.

But everything seems much more manageable this way. Here’s hoping I can hang on to this brave new world where FEELINGS aren’t actually lethal.