2 Steps Back

Well yesterday sucked and not because it was Valentine’s day. Another shooting at a school. Nowhere is safe. Politicians suck and do nothing. People are becoming desensitized because this is the new normal. How did we get this fucked up?

Just when I thought I was making progress. I went back to Vegas for the first time since the shooting.

Day 1: I was a bit dark and did not feel like partying

Day 2: Got super drunk and cried myself to sleep

Day 3: Went back to the scene that night and retraced my steps. All the way to the room I hid in at Hooters.

I achieved some version of closure from that trip but it’s hard to maintain when the world is dying one bullet at a time all around me.

 

 

 

They are not waving at you

I know it’s only whatever time in the morning but it’s already a good day. Even though it’s rainy in LA (which is actually kinda nice). But today represents the SECOND night in a row that I slept through the night without drugs and didn’t have any nightmares!! Woohoo. Progress. It’s about f’ing time.

Side note and learning opportunity: Since it has been raining in LA everyone is freaking out, traffic lights stop working and people drive 3 miles per hour. The digital signs on the side of the road literally say ” It’s raining, Drive slow”. So on my way home last night I am at an intersection, the light is out so the police are directing traffic. I get to the front and am watching the traffic cop…he starts moving his hands and I. WAVE. BACK. *he was not waving at me, I am a moron, he was motioning for me to drive the car*

Cop:   

Image result for police directing traffic

 Me:

Image result for waving gif funny

 

 

2018 Finally.

Never have I ever been so happy to see the end of a year. Jeeezus 2017 was rough. Except for the wonderful 3 weeks we spent in Asia. That was amazing.

I brought up the idea to go back to the scene to confront all of the lingering trauma. S & M are down for a quick trip to Vegas later this month but now that I brought it up I am not sure I’m up for it.

Although I think 2018 is going to be a year of change so maybe I just suck it up and go. Get it over with. I’m tired of thinking about all of it and want to move on.

Cat Videos and Beer

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to attend the World Series when the Dodgers played in LA. Normally, I find baseball intolerably boring but the series had set itself up to be pretty entertaining.  We were given tickets to game 2 and I didn’t think twice about going. Joe was stoked because his former pitching coach from high school, Brent Strom, was the pitching coach for the Astros. (this was fun because Joe called almost every pitch) Since we were going to a sporting event it didn’t occur to me that I might be walking into an upsetting situation. My Dr prescribed anti-anxiety meds which I take as needed (turns out I don’t know when I need them) and which I did not take that evening. Big mistake. I was fine right up until we got to the entrance of the stadium and then a fighter jet did a pass overhead that startled me considerably.

Me = Cat, Toaster = Jet.   Not cool.

scared-by-toaster

But I managed to put a vice grip on Joe’s hand and walk in anyway. Stupid jets.

We walked into the crowded tunnel around the stadium, noisy people and cops all around . Now this was a normal crowd of excited fans but my brain couldn’t get past the crowd, cops and noise.  Instead my mind  went back to the last place I’d seen lots of cops with people running around yelling. I essentially lost my shit. So I did what any girl would do and went to the safe zone that is the bathroom for a bit. I was determined to get through this anxiety attack without having to leave the game. I came back out after about 10 or 200 minutes and went to get a beer. I didn’t have my anxiety meds on me, so next best thing, right?

We found our seats and sat down. Joe put his phone in my hand. A phone streaming with the longest compilation of cat fails ever. The man knows me well. I watched cats falling off tables while I sipped my beer. I tried not to look around because the steep stadium seating with the limited exits really freaked me out. It felt like a very familiar fish bowl that I didn’t want to be in. I texted S and M ( we have an ongoing group text that for a long time was a day by day check-in to see if any of us were spiraling *not into a weird sex fetish, that is just their initials. geeezz) it was my turn to freak out and for them to talk me off the ledge. S always goes back to the “what are the odds of something like that happening to us again” reasoning.  But as I looked around, my head was saying ” UMM PRETTY DAMN GOOD, HAVE YOU SEEN THIS SET-UP??? IT IS LITERALLY SHAPED LIKE A FISHBOWL ?!?”

After another beer and more videos and texts. I finally started to calm down. And wouldn’t you know it the baseball game actually started to get interesting. The volley of home runs had started and I was distracted finally.

Game 2 Dodgers vs Astros – probably around the 8th inning-ish #instagramlife

World Series 2017 Game 2

That experience was so awesome ( I mean that both sarcastically and literally) that we decided to go see Game 7 as well. That time I was prepared and knew what to expect. Also appropriately medicated. I felt better too because the seats were in the open versus being in the loge under cover. The bummer part of the evening was that the game SUCKED.

Great Seats, Crap Game

World Series 2017 Game 7

This experience helped me realize how real my PTSD is from Vegas. I’ve also become much more aware of my surroundings, noting exits and potential escape routes in crowded areas. Now Joe points out all of the bullet proof areas of the airport…I don’t know if that helps or hurts.

When shit gets REAL

What got real and instigated this change/blog was…Vegas. I love love love Vegas. Good food, gambling, shopping, dancing, what’s there not to love?? I used to go every year for my birthday plus a couple other times during the year. I live in LA, so not a long journey. PRO TIP (not that kind of pro, ew): Never. Ever. Drive. Always Fly. While the drive there is full of excited, intoxicated (admit it) carpool karaoke-ing  winners…The drive back is somewhere between dying from an alcohol fueled-broke-lack of sleep induced fog and a moral hangover full of self-recrimination, horrifying flashbacks and maybe even the lingering memory of a 10 by night, 3 by morning wake up call. All this while reaching top speeds of 15 mph on the only freeway leading out of the desert, that 3-4 hour commute 2 days ago turning into a sweet 6 hour crawl home. Like I said Vegas is awesome.

This was not the kind of Vegas story that lead to this blog. It’s taken a full month and a half for me to even think about telling this story in any form. Here goes…

It started like it usually does, with one of us (any of my best girlfriends) deciding she wants to go to Vegas to celebrate her birthday. It was the weekend of the Route 91 Harvest Festival and 3 of us decided to go for the weekend. If you are a person and have seen any form of media in the last 2 months you’ll know how that weekend ended. Jason Aldean was on stage, M had just posted a pic of him on stage.

mica

We were towards the front on the right side of the stage closest to Mandalay Bay.  While he was singing it sounded like fireworks were going off. We thought he was putting on a really big show but we never saw anything light up the sky. Then the shooting really got underway. Rounds and rounds of bullets that sounded like band snaps or poppers hitting the ground. Some of the crowd realized it was gunfire and people started to shout for everyone to get down. The signer ran off stage and the stage floodlights were turned onto the crowd. We were fish in a barrel with a spotlight pointed directly on us all.

After was seemed like forever, there was a pause in the gunfire. S had refused to stay down and was standing while we were crouched down. During the pause she shouted that we needed to run, close to the same time M yelled that she had been hit “…shot in the ass” to be exact. S was already running, I checked M’s ass for bullet holes or blood. I didn’t see any damage and told her we had to go. (Later we discovered M was hit by flying shrapnel that must have come from someone getting hit very close to us. She had what looked like a snake bite on her butt cheek. )I took off stumbling away from the crowd. I fell, a couple of guys were running close behind me and one shouted to the other to stop before he trampled me. I barely looked back, got up and continued to run. I passed a few fenced off areas, some food/beverage trailers and thought about hiding. Since I didn’t know where the shooter was or how many there were I decided getting as far away as possible was the only option.

The recurring thoughts as I was running were… hold on to your phone, do not die, get home to your kid. Once I got closer to the exit I tried to text my husband, Joe, as I ran. Fortunately there was a signal but even in an emergency auto-correct was still an asshole.

text1 text

Once I got out of the venue I called Joe and continued to move and shout at the people standing around me to run and not stand still. One guy was just standing there with his girlfriend, he looked at me and said “it’s just blanks, it’s not a real gun”. I kept running. I made my way down a street when I saw people filing into the basement of a hotel. (I later discovered it was Hooters) I followed them only to realize it was a tight enclosed space. We would be very easy prey if the shooter was on the move. I looked around and saw a service elevator. I went over to it and got in. A guy and two girls followed me in. The girls started to panic over being in an elevator and got out before the doors closed. The guy was still in there and while I was dealing with the panicky girls he had pressed the 10th floor button.

When the doors opened he shouted for me to follow him, there were a few people in the hallway. I called Joe to as we went down the hallway. One guy followed us into what turned out to be elevator guy’s room. (we called him Denver, because he was from Denver) Denver ran over and closed all the curtains, then proceeded to question and pat down the guy that followed us into the room. I laid on the floor between the two double beds, hung up with Joe and tried to track down S and M (not that kind of S&M. ew.)

Side note: One of my coping mechanisms is humor, many times dark and ill timed.

Once Denver was satisfied the other guy wasn’t a threat, he turned and asked who I was. To which I replied “Obviously, I’m the shooter”. (Both ill timed and fucked up.) He could tell I was lying and despite my immediate demand for a bottle of whiskey he agreed to let me stay in his room and he even helped me direct S and M to his room (again, not that kind of S&M. ew. ew. I am married). Finally they both made it to Hooters (there is a certain poetic justice in seeking shelter in Hooters) and we turned on the news to see what was happening. The news didn’t have anything until about 20-30 mins after we were in the room. We posted that we were safe on Facebook before anyone even had any idea what was happening. There was a lot of misinformation coming from all over the place. We didn’t know if it was a terrorist attack, if there were 1 or 10 shooters, if hotels were going to start blowing up. We watched the news non-stop for hours and sent texts or made calls to immediate family and friends.

I had gotten into Hooters just before 10:30pm and the girls each arrived within 10-15 minutes of that. At around 3:30am we decided it had been long enough and we wanted to get back to our room and get on the first flight out. We thanked Denver and each gave him an awkward hug goodbye. We didn’t exchange contact information, I still don’t know if that is weird or not. It was an intense thing to go through with someone and to end it with a “thanks, bye” seems a little anticlimactic.

We all survived with minor physical injuries but have been dealing with some hard core PTSD that has manifested itself in various ways. It is still hard to believe someone tried to kill us in real life and that it wasn’t a movie or a bad dream. We go to therapy every week and support each other however possible. I think the healing process is underway but it’s rough going.

My injuries included a major case of gross toe. Not sure how it happened, my whole foot was covered in blood. I didn’t realize it until S pointed it out in the room. This is a cleaned up pic a few days later.

Though I have a poor sense of humor, I take what happened and gun control very seriously. You can help support gun control https://www.facebook.com/Everytown/