Sounds Like A Gun

Brooklyn Stevenson, Staff writer

I would never think that loud banging noises would bring me back to the time where I was running away from gunshots on my own school campus. I used to love fireworks, balloons never intimidated me, and an unexpected bang would just catch me by surprise. But with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, things are different. I run and hide whenever I hear fireworks. Balloons intimidate me because I do not want to hear the loud noise they make when popped. Whenever I hear a loud banging noise I look over my shoulder and question if an active shooter may be in my presence.

Normal people know the difference between a firework, a balloon popping, and a noise that is not the sound of a gunshot. They do not question if an armed person may be nearby, nor even think about being in a situation where a gun gets fired. I think any sudden bang sounds like a gun being fired and I need to run. Ever since my innocence got robbed from me, I am terrified of being in sight of a person carrying a firearm. Normal people may think I’m crazy for reacting and thinking in such a way, but they do not comprehend the event I experienced as well as the trauma that followed.

Mostly everyone loves fireworks because of how pretty they look in the sky and that exhilarating noise. That booming, however, reminds me of when I was at school, fleeing as it felt like the sound of gunshots were trailing behind me. Those memories still haunt my mind to this day and will come up whenever they please. To anyone else, this factor is not taken into consideration and many individuals will even launch fireworks illegally in their own yards. So much for a peaceful sleep – I will just have a PTSD episode and nightmares for the rest of the night.

Balloons, oh how colorful they are. Great for decoration and to add to a gift. When the balloons burst, it is only almost a solemn moment. Whenever I hear that dreadful sound I get horrible flashbacks of hearing gunfire at school. I try not to make a fool out of myself by cowering, even though that’s what my body wants to do because my survival instincts get triggered whenever I’m put into that predicament.

Whenever an outburst occurs, it is normal to be startled within that moment. Most of the time, individuals will just jump out of surprise and continue with what they are doing. For me, those noises trigger a trauma response. Most of the time I react by running out of the area or recoiling. On rare occasions, whenever it happens, I completely dissociate because the trigger becomes too much.  

Dissociation includes the body shutting down because of a trigger and the person looking like they fainted for a very short period of time. It almost feels like the soul of the person left the body, and then returned. Whenever I experience dissociating, I feel stuck while the world keeps running. Everything goes dark because my eyes shut close and my body feels like stone. Triggers do tax my energy, and my body cannot always keep up. Sometimes dissociating feels like the easiest reaction for my body to perform. It is scary when it happens and I never want to do this. I want to be in control of my body and escape.

Sounds and PTSD do not mix well at all. My biggest triggers are sounds because the day my school got shot up, I was hearing all the gunshots loud and clear. I am trying to overcome the triggers but it is hard – it is very, very hard to overcome such painful memories. Hopefully, one day, sounds will not trigger me so much, but for now I am just going to have to learn to cope.

If sounds like something you can relate to call any of the hotlines listed below

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (also affiliated with Mental Health America): (800) 273-TALK (8255). Available any time of day or night, 365 days a year, this toll-free PTSD helpline has trained volunteers standing by to provide crisis intervention, to offer support for people in distress, and to give information and referrals to people with PTSD and their loved ones.
  • Veterans Crisis Line: (800) 273-TALK (8255) and press “1”. This toll-free hotline is available for veterans and their loved ones. You can also send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential, free support and referrals.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741. This service is available 24/7 and provides free crisis support and information via text.
  • National Hopeline Network: (800) 442-HOPE (4673). Available 365 days a year, volunteers who staff this toll-free hotline are specially trained in crisis intervention to provide support, information, and referrals to people in need. You can also access services via chat by pressing the “Chat Now” button on its website.
  • PTSD Foundation of America, Veteran Line: (877) 717-PTSD (7873). Providing referrals, information, and helpful resources to veterans and their families, this toll-free hotline is available 24/7.
  • Lifeline for Vets: (888) 777-4443. Also geared toward veterans and their families, this toll-free PTSD helpline provides crisis intervention, referrals, and information.

Remember to never be ashamed of this mental illness, many people are in the same boat, talk to a loved one or a trusted individual.