How my life changed forever in less than 10 minutes

First article in a series as I write about my experience with life altering trauma and what I have learned.

Los Angeles County - How one particular Sunday would alter my life forever. Like most Sundays unless I requested to be off, I was working. This particular Sunday was like any other Sunday until the last ten minutes before closing. A group of young adults [three] walked into the store. I asked my associate to check with them to see what they needed help with while I try to wrap up the family we were already helping. As my associate was trying to approach them, I briefly noticed the group split up. Then this eerie sense of feeling came over me and before I could ask the family to give me a few minutes, I felt an arm around my shoulders. As I looked up to see who it was, I felt a jab on my stomach...it was a gun!

The incident lasted no more than 10 minutes, but those minutes were the longest of my life. All I kept on thinking was, don’t let your associate or anyone of the family members [six customers] get hurt. It was especially troubling because the mother was carrying a six month of baby. You could see it on her face she was terrified, borderline hyperventilating. Of all the emotions coursing through me, what pained me the most was not being able to protect any of those inside my store. I never felt so vulnerable. Afterward, everyone told me that it was the best outcome possible. I was told these incidents happen and I understand this to be true. There are plenty of trainings and you hear about other locations getting robbed almost constantly. However, when the incident involves you, you're suddenly part of the statistic.

"I ignored my instinct. Against my better judgement, I stayed on because that was suggested to me. I was pouring myself into my work and each day I felt like I was losing a piece of myself.

After the incident, I stayed on to work. I came back the very next day as scheduled. I thought if I kept myself busy, that I would be able to move forward. It wasn’t like I haven’t experienced one of life’s test before. I tried to keep working, but I started noticing that my mind would drift a lot. I became forgetful and irritated by the smallest things. I was no expert, but I knew these weren’t normal behaviors for me. When I found out a counselor was coming, I was ecstatic. I thought this opportunity could provide some answers to my recent change in behavior. This was not the case unfortunately.

A week later, the Crisis Counselor was finally there. When she arrived, the store was busy. After roughly an hour, I was finally able to sit down with her. When we were able to begin talking, the first thing she said to me was that she wasn’t in anyway involved with the company. I was a bit taken back. I didn't know where this was coming from nor did I care. I just needed a professional opinion about my change in behavior. During the conversation, I felt like I was at fault. According to her, I was looping the images of the robbery and how this was not healthy for me.

At one point, she asked if there was anything that continued to bothered me? I explained to her that I was still having flashbacks whenever I stepped into our inventory room because that was where we were held up. What did we do, we went inside. She insisted that I do a breathing exercise while I will inside the inventory room, I was mortified. Thankfully, I was finally rescued when one of my associates came asking for a manager. I knew things weren't right, but I still need to know something and so I asked for her professional opinion.

I ignored my instinct. Against my better judgement, I stayed on because that was suggest to me. I was pouring myself into my work and each day I felt like I was losing a piece of myself. Three weeks had come to past since the incident, I was on the sale floor working alone side my team when a customer came in. He wasn't outright rude, but he was condescending to one of my associate and I snapped. Another associate came and pulled me aside and asked for me to step away. I realized at that moment, I couldn't continue and that I needed professional help. So I finally left.

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