Moving On: 17 Years Later

Jamie (Kettlewell) Price

Columbine High School

Class of 2002

It’s been seventeen years since my life changed on April 20, 1999. The day I was trapped in my school while two gunmen opened fire and killed a total of 13 people, including themselves. Seventeen years. That seems like such a long time. I have done a lot of healing since then.

Directly after the shooting, I went through a period of time where I jumped at every sudden noise. I remember literally hitting the floor in the living room once, while my sister was in the kitchen and the dishes she was washing fell in the sink. A car backfiring while it drove down the road had me on the verge of a panic attack. But truth be told, these effects only lasted maybe a month or so. After that, it seemed like I was psychologically unaffected.

Years later, I went through an entire month of a near constant panic attack. Incessant heart palpitations, constantly out of breath like I had been running a marathon for days on end; I was so jittery that I was almost vibrating with anxious energy. You would think I would have been exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. For weeks, I suffered through hoping it would pass. Finally, my husband made me go to the doctor, thinking it was something medically wrong. It was then that the doctor referred me to a mental health group associated with their clinic.

I’ve been with that office now for three years. It took fourteen years for the effects of the Columbine shooting to finally take its toll on me. After telling the doctors my symptoms and basically relaying my life’s story, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD and depression as a result of the other two conditions.

Since my diagnosis, I have become a huge advocate for mental health in my community. I talk openly with people about what I deal with. Sometimes jokingly, sometimes very seriously. The point is, I’m not ashamed of my struggles with anxiety and depression. After what my classmates and I went though, I believe that I have a pretty good reason for it. I also try to utilize my negative experiences to help others. I believe my experiences have given me a different perspective than most people have. I am more open and honest with people about what I deal with and I’m not afraid to ask others about their pain either. In three years, I have been able to utilize my own experiences to encourage four different people to seek help.

Today, the effects are almost non-existent. I still have triggers, they will probably always be there, but I function just like everyone else. I’m not always scared or anxious– I don’t shy away from loud noises, I can handle the sound of gunfire and I can go to places with large crowds. The only difference is; I know my triggers. I have learned that it is the unexpected that catches me off guard and sets off my anxiety. Now, I utilize that powerful piece of insight and let others know what I need from them. If we are at the shooting range, don’t shoot without signaling to me that you are ready to start. If we are in a large crowd, find me some where I can see an exit. Talking to those around me, and being honest about my needs has helped exponentially in my healing process. It has also gained me the respect of my friends, family and community.

I used to be afraid that if I said something, I would be seen as weak; that I would be treated differently. I’m not. The only thing that has changed is the level of respect that I get from those around me. I know it’s not always easy to reach out to others, but when you do, you can almost always change your circumstances or the outlook of someone else’s life. By sharing yourself with others, there becomes a sense of community—that you or they are not alone. There is always hope, there is always tomorrow, and there is always someone there who will understand. So reach out. Reach out to someone and ask for help or reach out to someone and offer it.

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