I survived a mass shooting. My life was never the same afterward.

Before the shooting, I didn’t think much about my safety at the grocery store, or at church or the movie theater. When a mass shooting occurred, I’d hear about it in the news and think about my personal safety for a day or two, but then it left my mind. (Then again, 11 years ago, mass shootings were less deadly.) But after the Virginia Tech shooting, I thought about safety everywhere I went. I overanalyzed which seat to choose at the movies or church based on my best escape plan. My eyes scanned everyone around looking for unusual behavior. My ears could hear a pin drop.

I remained in a flight-or-fight state for months. I always wanted to know: When will it be safe again? Or really, when will I feel safe again? Within seconds, the feeling of safety I’d always known was stripped away, replaced with fear, sadness, loneliness and self-doubt. Figuring out how to deal with these feelings, while regaining a sense of safety, without pushing everyone and everything away — it’s challenging, to say the least.

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