People have a lot of different ideas of what should be considered trauma. Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives us one definition that says it is, "an injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent" and Dictionary.com gives us one definition that trauma is, "an experience that produces psychological injury or pain." I'd say it is anything that has happened to someone that was traumatic for them. It might look different for you: maybe your parents got divorced when you were young, maybe you grew up with addicts for parents, maybe you lost a loved one and you have never been the same. We all have our own stories of trauma, but does your story end there?
I can list off a number of traumatic events that have happened in my life: my parents' ugly divorce, my dad going to jail for putting his hands on my mom during a heated argument, running from a mass shooting on the strip, heartbreaks, sexual assault, etc. My parents' divorce was brutal for us kids. Our parents went through a nasty custody battle; mom and dad were enemies, mom's side of the family was enemies with dad's side of the family, mom and dad were our enemies, (you get the point). That was very traumatic for me as a 12 year old girl. It made a mark in my childhood, and I would say it contributed to making me the person I am now, so it is an unforgettable time of my life.
We got through that, with some heartbreaks and bumps that came after, but then 2017 hit. This was the year that my best friend and I had been trying to get tickets to Route 91. We tried for months, but they were completely sold out. We tried to buy them and then win them on the radio, and when we couldn't, we decided to try to sneak into the concert. Her birthday fell on the weekend of the concert, and we thought we would make it a little adventure. I am not proud of trying to sneak into a concert, nor do I suggest it to anyone, but we were 19 and wanted to see Jason Aldean so we went for it.
Long story short, we got there and there was no way we were getting into that concert, so we walked up the bridge to the Las Vegas Coca Cola Factory. We hung out there for a while, drank some coke, and then headed towards the New York New York Roller Coaster. We walked down the sidewalk and I suddenly heard a loud pow, pow, pow. I thought it was a helicopter, so we kept walking, and made it up the stairs to the bridge connecting MGM to New York New York. Soon after, I heard pow, pow, pow again. This time, we stopped in our tracks. Everyone around us was looking around wondering what was happening. A third round of pow, pow, pow went off, and as I looked down the stairs, I saw HUNDREDS of people running towards us. I will never forget seeing a young man holding a young girl's hand, while he dragged her up the stairs. Then a middle-aged woman grabbed my arm and yelled, "RUN". Without another thought, my friend and I took off running towards the MGM. We stuck with a group of women and took the elevator up to the 13th floor of the hotel. We waited there for some time, and then a group of people came out of the elevator, headed towards their hotel room. A woman explained to them that there was a shooting and we needed somewhere safe to go, so they welcomed us into their hotel room. We turned on the TV waiting for the news to give us more information. I didn't really understand what was going on, and I felt so much shock that I don't think I had the ability to be scared yet. The news reporter came on talking about a mass shooting, and the number of people that were shot. I looked out the window and saw another hundred people running. Our phone service was not working, and I had no way of contacting my parents, so at that point I was scared. My mind thought of a million ideas, and I remember thinking someone was going to come knock on our hotel door and shoot us all. I was finally able to get reception and talk to my parents, but the streets were shut down and there was no way for anyone to get to us.
We were stuck. By now, this hotel room was full of about 20 people hiding out. With nothing else to do but wait, I got on twitter to look and see what people were saying. I saw repeated tweets saying "pray for Q". I messaged someone and asked what that meant, and he responded telling me our high school friend was shot and that nobody knew where he was. I was dating a guy at this time, and Q was his best friend. I knew Q in high school, but I had gotten to know him better that year through my boyfriend. He was out of town while all of this was happening and there was a time difference. It was already late in Vegas, so he was sound asleep. I called him on the phone about 18 times, hoping he would eventually pick up, and he finally did. I told him the events of the night and that he should contact people regarding Q. After that, all 20 of us sat in the hotel room, terrified for our lives, for hours. Around 3 o'clock in the morning, my dad was finally able to take a back street and come pick us up. On the drive home, I got a phone call from my boyfriend saying Q had passed away. I'll never forget that conversation, or that car ride home. I stayed up all night, crying and replaying events of the night.
The following days were brutal. There were events to attend in his honor, a funeral, and more. There is so much more to this story, I could honestly write a book, but I'll save that for another time. I was completely traumatized from this event, and I hate to admit it, but I went a little crazy. I went through some depression, dropped out of college, smoked a lot of weed, drank a lot of alcohol, and went to the wrong people in hopes of finding healing. None of it worked. In fact, it made it worse. I was stuck in this place for so long, it truly felt like a lifetime.
My point in telling this lengthy story is that it was more than traumatic for me, but there is good news. My story did not and does not stop at the trauma. I struggled so much after this happened, and I have just recently started to find my way again, but I am finding my way again. I found the right sources to give me healing, and I am healing. I have never been the same since October 1, 2017. A lot of people have not. There were so many people affected by this, and if you're reading this, you might be one of them. We went through some trauma, we were hurt and it was not fair, but then comes triumph. The feeling of overcoming is something you'll never forget. Once you realize you are not defined by your trauma, you realize what triumph is.
Unfortunately, this practice isn't mastered to the point of never having to revisit it again. Things happen again and again in life where we have to take that lesson of trauma vs triumph and remember what we learned. And my story continues. Shortly after I realized my need for a true source of healing, I started seeking God. I met someone in a coffee shop that was involved at a church in town and I got connected. I started spending my time at church and made friends. I loved having these friends; people I thought were true friends. Sadly, this came to an end. Not going into details, some uninvited sexual advances were made towards me by one of these friends, and I was traumatized. I felt unsupported by the church, alone, and humiliated. But I got through it. I took my past experience of trauma and triumph and applied it to a new situation. It is not easy, but it is possible.
If anything, I hope there will be some readers out there that need a sliver of hope or encouragement, and you get that. You may feel alone, but you are not alone. There are so many people going through something that may be traumatic. So share your story; yes, it is scary, but it is worth it. That is not just some feel good advice, it's so true. I have been afraid to share my story out of fear of judgement, but I am not afraid anymore. My life is evidence of redemption and renewal. If it touches even one person, I have made a difference.
God has been good to me. He was watching over me when I could not get into the concert that night, and it reminds me to be thankful for each day. God has helped me take traumatic things and learn something from them and to be a stronger version of myself. We are not victims to trauma, we are agents to triumph. Don't forget it. Take one step. You got this.
Trauma. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2020, from https://www.merriam-
Trauma. (n.d.). Retrieved 2020, from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/trauma