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6 Ways My PTSD Manifests as a High School Shooting Survivor

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I am currently 16 years old and I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I survived the Marshall County High School shooting on January 23, 2018. At the time of the shooting, I was 15. I never thought anything like this would ever happen at my school, but it has changed my whole life.

• What is PTSD?

1. I have nightmares.

Sometimes I have a few a week, then none at all for a month. Sometimes I have them spaced out in a month. Fortunately, I haven’t had any for a whole month. The dreams aren’t always flashbacks of what happened. Sometimes they are, but mostly they are nightmares about things relating to what happened, and not the specific event itself.

2. I already lived with anxiety, but now it is much worse.

I constantly fear going into crowded places, dark places, unfamiliar places and meeting new people. I feel I can’t trust anyone. I always want to see what is going on around me and behind me, but I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. I also get anxious if I am in a loud place. Being unable to hear makes me extremely anxious and uncomfortable.

3. I have random flashbacks.

I try not to think about the event. I try not to dwell on it, but it’s hard when I still have two years left of high school, in the same school in which it happened. Sometimes I’ll see something on social media about the trial and it triggers flashbacks. I can’t control them, and they are incredibly hard to pull myself out of without help from someone else.

4. I feel shame and guilt.

I knew the person who did it. I didn’t know his plan or intentions. I had no idea. I wasn’t a close friend of his but I did know him. People often ask me about him, as if I knew it would happen.

5. I get angry very easily.

I get angry when people ask me about him because they knew I was in band with him. If I wear a band shirt in public, I feel like people stare at me. I hate it. People I know feel entitled to ask me about what happened and the person responsible, but they have no right to do so. It makes me angry. I get angry thinking about what happened. I’m angry it happened at all. I feel as if all innocence and freedom I ever had in high school was ripped away from me. Now we go through security screenings and police officers stare us down at lunch as if we are all criminals. It makes me angry.

6. I often feel alone in what I am going through.

Not many people talk about having PTSD, especially teens. Many people associate PTSD with veterans. This isn’t always the case. Anybody can have PTSD. PTSD can be caused by any traumatic event, whether it’s serving your country, a school shooting, childhood trauma, an accident, the death of a loved one — anything. You shouldn’t feel invalidated because of what caused your PTSD and I want to speak out about for school shooting survivors and the trauma we have to carry with us the rest of our lives.

We are, and always will be, #marshallstrong.


Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Originally published: October 28, 2018
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