How Victims of Gun Violence Cope

If you were a victim of gun violence, then this blog post is for you. I am reaching out to anyone whose life was drastically affected by an act of gun violence.

My story is told in part on my blog. You may read the older posts. I also wrote a book on my story of survival, pain and healing.

I would like to hear from you if you too suffered as a result of gun violence. I am particularly interested in how you coped, how the healing process is coming along for you and if you are now doing anything that you may not have done if you had not been shot.

The purpose of doing this is to start a blog series with stories from survivors. The intention is to provide stories that imbue hope for others who may be struggling to cope with a desperate situation. Through reading about the overcoming of adversity by others, perhaps someone might be able to make a positive change in their life.

Initially I am focusing on gun violence but I am willing to interview victims of violence generally.

If you are willing to be interviewed so that your story can inspire someone else, please leave a message in the comments below or you may email me at caron_asgarali@yahoo.com

The stories will be published with or without real names depending on your choice. Primary  (actually injured) or secondary (affected but not shot) victims are welcomed.

In my third book, I wrote about the value of deflecting attention away from yourself to help others. It really does work to help you heal when you help someone else. I look forward to hearing from some of you, as we take this leap forward to help others.

Leave a comment in the space below to let me know your thoughts.

A Different Approach to a Book Launch

My third book has been out since December 2016. I have not done, planned nor have I thought about planning a book launch.

This time around things are different. My book is about resilience. The title is “Bounce Back Better 10(+1) Key Steps for Building Resilience.”

It is a follow through from my first book “From Lion to Lamb A Spiritual Journey”.

The first is a memoir based on the incident that changed the course of my life through a severe injury. The third is a self-help book for anyone who has undergone some kind of difficulty and needs encouragement to move forward from that setback.

Both books have come after one act of gun violence. The theme for both books is the same, peacemaking not peace breaking.

Thus after the first book launch which was steeped in formality, planning and structure, I have decided to try a different approach with this third book.

I have put the word out on Facebook that my new book is available. I have my FB page linked to my Balboa Press website. The book is also on Amazon.

In keeping with the theme of the book, I organised an event to launch another of my projects, RARE.

RARE refers to Raising Awareness on the Ripple Effect of gun violence. RARE seeks to raise awareness on the physical, emotional, financial and spiritual effects of of one act of gun violence on the victim as well as those directly and indirectly connected with the victim.

On a deeper level, RARE promotes peacemaking and resilience building.

The launch included four different speakers for each aspect of gun violence. I spoke to pull all aspects together. I did not directly pitch my books but showed the connections between the books and the work being done.

At the event I had all three of my books on display and available for sale. Attendees received a prayer card with one of the prayers from my second book, Gently Powerful Personal Prayers for Collective Grace. Lots of refreshments were available.

 

Critical in this event was:

  1. Ensuring that everyone was clear on their role in the programme.
  2. Having my thoughts well organised before the event day, so that on the day, regardless of any physical setbacks,I was able to clearly communicate to the attendees the purpose of the event.
  3. Having people to handle the distribution of the prayer cards, the sale of the books, the thank you cards and the refreshments. Special thanks to my family and friends.
  4. Sending out much more invitations than the estimated amount of guests.
  5. Having an outline or programme of event so that the evening flowed smoothly.
  6. Outsourcing the refreshments. I already had enough to do without having to worry about preparing refreshments.
  7. Having a good, experienced host for the evening, who was able to hold the fort and bring harmony among the speakers.

There is more but I will leave that for another post.

So a book can be promoted without directly promoting it in a classy way (not that I think I am classy).

Feel free to ask me anything about launching your book.

A Bit About Gunshot Wound Mechanisms

The penetration of a projectile(bullet or fragment) into tissue is categorized as a special form of blunt trauma.
 
A gunshot wound consists of:
  • tissue penetration,
  • crushing and rupturing of tissue,muscle, capillaries, nerves and bones(depending on size and density),
  • the formation of a primary cavity or more accurately a permanent wound tract or channel,
  • the formation of a secondary cavity and
  • for close range shots, greater injury as a result of the blast effect from the bullet’s propellant gases. If the bullet is retained, tissue burning takes place.
 
The movement of the projectile through tissue follows fluid dynamics, a complex engineering topic. The immersed projectile is considered to be moving forward with surrounding tissue “flowing” around it.
The chances of survival depend on the nature of the injury. This in turn depends on how deep was penetration, the type of gun and bullet, the distance, the type of tissue into which the bullet entered, the degree of “yawing” and tumbling of the bullet as well as the amount of blood lost before the victim is treated.
Here is an illustration of the mechanism of a bullet wound for one type of bullet.
figure8

The “GAME SHIFTER”

Image result for game shifter meaningYou may have heard of game changers. A game changer is an event, idea or procedure that brings about significant difference in the way of doing, saying or thinking about something.

A game shifter I have learnt is a video game or some such thing involving what looks like a gear shift mechanism.

However I use the term “GAME SHIFTER” in a different way.

My new go to saying is “gradual steps to glorious living”.

What  I mean by this is that by gradually making small changes or shifts in your thinking, lifestyle and actions, you can achieve great rewards.

Sometimes there can be big jumps in your circumstances and results. More often though it is rare to get overnight success.

Even what appears to be a sudden stroke of good luck is usually the culmination of a series of concerted smaller efforts.

The “GAME SHIFTER”  is a collection of key steps for building resilience to help you overcome difficult situations and to promote peaceful living. The steps are discussed in my third book, Bounce Back Better 10(+1) Key Steps for Building Resilience.

Goal Setting

Acceptance Through Grieving

Moment by moment

Exercise and Things Physical

Seek Support

Honour God

I after you

Forgive

Train the Brain

Embrace Giving

Reflect

Glorious living through gradual steps or shifts.

 

 

 

Violence… a learned behaviour

aggressive-violent-behavior-nature-or-nurture

The response of violence to conflict is, to some extent, a learned behaviour. This statement includes gun violence.

It comes from a place of fear of being a target, fear of living daily with the threat of gun violence and fear of not conforming. That is a lot of fear.

Even before a crime takes place, guns, and the accompanying violence, play a significant part in the lives of those in communities with a reputation of violence.

The outcome of such fear and learned violent behaviour is a lack of respect for the value of life, individual, community and national life.

Those who suffer directly or indirectly from the effects of gun violence all reach to the same place emotionally and mentally.

This congruence of feeling and thought creates a hopeful opportunity. It ought to become the catalyst that gives us the will and courage to address the gun violence that is becoming a part of our daily life.

Religious leaders are casting blame on the lack of coherence of family units for the increasing violence in society.

Alternatively a family may be unified but their environment and learned responses of violence precludes the teaching of respect for anything including life.

One leader has included the availability of drugs and weapons as well as the existence of gangs as factors contributing to the rising violence and incidences of gun related crimes.

All of these are true. The reasons are valid and relevant.

However my aim (no pun intended) is not to cast blame or vent anger or frustration against the system or the perpetrators of violence.

Instead my aim is to amplify the message of the sanctity of life and the kind of respect each one of us needs to have for the life of another.

With every pull of a gun trigger, there emerges a bullet that may hit a living target.

That bullet may penetrate through tissue, tendons, nerves, muscles and bones causing physical damage in the immediate area.

figure8

The kinetic energy of that compact piece of lead disseminates to surrounding organic matter causing further damage not immediately visible.

Similarly, that same bullet penetrates the psyche of the victim and his or her family, friends and associates, tearing their lives apart emotionally, spiritually, mentally, financially and in other ways.

The ripple effect of that nucleus of destruction is far reaching and has no time limits.

The learned behaviour of violence in response to conflict can be unlearnt. New, more peaceful responses can be learnt which lead to greater respect and harmony.

Your response?

R.A.R.E.

Raising Awareness on the Ripple Effect of gun violence. R.A.R.E. GuV

Paving the way toward peace.  

The two statements above are representative of the work I am about to undertake. The actual title and tagline are still being worked on but soon enough I will get there.

This work ties in with the availability of my third published book, Bounce Back Better, 10(+1) Key Steps for building Resilience. The idea for working to combat the forces that drive violent actions was born at a Global Leadership Summit I attended in Trinidad during October 2016.

I had plans to raise awareness of the plight of victims of gun violence prior to that, through the book, and I had a vague concept of what was needed to be done but, attending that summit brought a degree of clarity that was missing.

In this post, on this new page, I give you the rationale for such action and the nature of my stance i.e. a position of action not reaction, not blame. So here goes.

Sunday January 29th, 2017 will mark the fourth anniversary of the day that gun violence made its indelible mark on my life and the lives of many within my inner circles.

There are those who would trivialize such an incident by remarking, “It has been four years after all, move on, forget about it.”

Sadly, though it may be easy to utter such words, anyone with a social conscience will know that path of simply forgetting and moving on is obvious only for the unenlightened. For those who have been through the fires of such an adverse situation, the path forward requires more than physical and emotional healing. Recovery is an ongoing process that demands giving of self to elevate society.

As such I have come to that point in my personal journey where I may now serve by sharing from my experience. The prevalence of gun violence in my beautiful twin island home of Trinidad and Tobago is increasing. It has now become almost the norm to hear reports of yet another fatality or injury through gun violence. In fact the current statistic available at the time of writing this piece, taken  from the Trinidad and Tobago 2016 Crime & Safety Report , reveals that 81% of murders in 2015 were committed by the use of a firearm (https://www.osac.gov/pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=19522). No figures were available for 2016.

Being a former victim positions me to speak out in favour of peaceful resolutions instead of violent persuasion. The burden of responsibility for raising awareness about the ripple effect of gun violence is squarely cast upon my shoulders.

The position I have chosen to adopt  is not to cast blame or seek to point fingers at anyone. It is not intended to vent anger or frustration against those who choose the use of guns. Instead the purpose is to raise awareness of the ripple negative impact of the use of guns. Through that awareness, the mission is to generate peaceful resolutions and attitudes. The ultimate purpose of R.A.R.E of gun violence is to bring to the forefront the sanctity and value of life and the respect we need to have for individual lives.

The effect of gun violence has already impacted many of our citizens in the past. Perhaps even as you read this, someone else may be affected. It may have indirectly affected you. Who knows what the future holds? Let us not keep assuming it is going to be someone else and their family. Let us strive to add our one drop to the ocean to make a difference. Let us embrace peace and work toward developing our moral, mental and spiritual consciousness as we systematically reinforce our strengths to defeat the kind of environment that breeds violence.

Let us pave the forward peacefully.

Bounce Back Better

My third book is now available online. I have included a link below. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Bounce Back Better

Bounce Back Better

For those of you who are interested in self-publishing or independent publishing, look out for some posts soon.

Those who are looking for different ways to launch a new book, I will keep you updated.

Thank you for your support.

Let me know, in the comments below, what particular questions are troubling you about the publishing process or about a launch. That way I can tailor my post to your needs.

Leaving you with my special brand of sunshine for now.

Today is World Mental Day, 2016 and there has been a host of information coming at me from the newspaper, Facebook posts and a Radio programme.

For the first time I delved into the pages of activists for mental health. I am amazed and impressed by the few I have had time to look at for today only.

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2013. I accessed excellent psychological, medical and social support, through the public system, friends and family.

Truth be told though, upon careful examination of my life, I think I may have been experiencing bouts of depression for a much longer time than I can recall.

Over the years I can recount many, many occasions when my thinking was fuzzy and there was mental fog.

I would be hard on myself, always believing that I was just anti-social. Anti-social, because I would avoid going out, refuse to answer telephone calls and generally withdraw from many activities.

Activist/comedian based in the United Kingdom, Ruby Wax, likes to quote that  1 in 4 persons are suffering with some form of mental illness and, in the same breath, suggest that the figure is really 4 in 4. In other words, almost all, if not all, of us have some degree of mental problem.

Image result for mental health

If those figures are to be believed, then there are several implications with which we need to deal. I will focus on just one for today’s post.

If so many of us are ailing in this aspect of our lives, then we should be more compassionate toward each other. All of us are hurting, why do we need to add to that hurt by placing negative labels?

The stigma of a diagnosis associated with mental health is real. It is so real, that many are unwilling to admit it even to themselves. It is so real that it is a flowing source for comedic relief.

We do not hear of jokes about heart health, kidney health or other physical illnesses. In fact to laugh at any of these physical problems would be highly insensitive.

Yet…we continue to cajole or even badger those who are experiencing mental challenges to shrug it off, get going, stop being lazy and just get over it. We get impatient and intolerant when they begin sharing their situation with us.

Sadly instead of being supportive, what is needed, we become less available and less encouraging to those who have real mental challenges.

A mental health diagnosis is not necessarily a sign of being totally out of control of your thinking, beliefs and actions. Dr. Hanif E. A. Benjamin expressed it so well this morning on a local radio programme.

He said that mental health illness can be considered as falling along a continuous spectrum. There is a wide range of problems, from minor to severe. Some problems allow a person to function at a high level in society while other problems reduce that level so  that a person is unable to function according to societal norms.

The statistics are real and are a reflection of the times in which we live as well as only accounting for those who actually seek help. This means that the figures are probably much higher in reality.

There is help. We all can help. Ignorance and lack of compassion are unacceptable in these so-called enlightened times.

Let us all join in  fanning the flames of passion lit by the activists for and professionals in mental health. Let us start developing our compassion, humanity and respect for all life. Let us nullify the stigma as we stand in solidarity with each other for mental health issues.

Are you on board? Are you willing to help educate and support in the field of mental health? Are you already doing your part? Please leave a comment and let me know.

 

Of Strength and Courage

The following post was written as one of the daily devotions in my second manuscript. Many of you may already know the story of that defining moment in my life. Do not let that deter you from reading on, to be inspired by God’s Word as interpreted in this post. Read and Be Blessed.

 

 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Joshua 1: 9

The Quiet Strength of a Wolf by MiniMoo64

On the twenty ninth January, 2013, I received gunshot wounds to my face, chest and shoulder. The wounds were life-threatening.

My face had been shattered. Blood gushed from my chin, warm, fresh and cloying. The tranquility of the night exploded into panic, chaos and turbulence. Glass fragments were scattered everywhere; some were embedded along my upper left arm and my face.

Fear produced an acrid taste in my mouth. Resounding gunshots resonated loudly in the stillness of the night, rivalled only by the screeching of the car tyres as the driver of my car made a getaway.

We sped off along the familiar streets, which somehow appeared eerie on that night. My friend, the driver, asked in horrified disbelief, if I was sure I had been shot. I do not remember how I was able to speak. I do remember telling him to look at the blood pouring forth from my chin, in a never-ending flow. He started to scream out.

Strangely I remained quiet. Many thoughts filled my mind. I was aware of being scared to touch my face and scared to move my mouth. For a moment I thought about the destruction of my face and if I would be able to deal with it.

Just as quickly as all fears and doubts clouded my conscious mind, so too they were removed and my mind was refocused on remaining calm. I knew that too much movement would precipitate too much blood loss.

I knew my life depended on staying as still as possible. I also knew that in that stillness I had to turn to God.

As I have repeatedly mentioned in my first book, From Lion to Lamb, my comfort and strength came from the scripture, John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

How do you think you would have coped in the face of such calamity?

Many persons have since commented on my strength and courage. I accept the compliment at the same time reminding them that my strength and courage were never inherently mine: they were granted to me by the grace of God.

What do we mean when we refer to strength and courage? What situations require extraordinary strength and courage and what can we do to develop such qualities?

Strength is regarded as the ability to stand firmly either physically, mentally or morally. It could also be linked to emotional staying power and stability. It is considered to be an inherent quality of a person.

Someone is either strong or weak by other’s perceptions in relation to themselves. If someone loudly and openly makes their opinion on a topic known, they are regarded as strong.

On the other hand, someone may quietly state their position and remain fixed on that idea. Such a person may still be strong. Quiet but strong. Alternatively, someone who is secure in their value and worth, may listen to other ideas, and issue a new opinion as a result. This is not a weak person but a mentally strong individual.

The manifestation of strength by someone in the face of fear or a dire situation requires courage. Courage and strength are interchangeable, used as synonyms of each other.

However, being able to lift a heavy object may require physical strength but it does not require courage if the object is safely located in your home or a church for example.

If the object is in a room of a house which has been caught on fire, then attempting to lift it from that room requires both strength and courage. Some may argue that it requires only physical and mental strength; others may deem the person crazy to attempt to run into a blazing building!

So strength may encompass courage but courage does not necessarily mean strength. Different situations require us to display strength and/or courage.

As just discussed, sometimes all that is needed is the muscular strength. This strength is needed in physical situations which pose no threat; when a threat is involved, then physical strength and courage are needed.

Perspicacious activity requires mental strength and perseverance. For example pursuing a medical or engineering degree requires and develops mental strength; perseverance when a loved one has just passed away or become seriously ill will call for both strength and courage to face each day.

Such situations also highlight emotional and spiritual strength. In crisis times sadness and grief could become overwhelming and threaten to engulf your being. Keeping your focus on daily activities and responsibilities during such times calls for emotional strength: harnessing negative emotions using positivity.

The underpinning force behind strength and courage in seemingly impossible situations is spirituality.

The highway of life is interspersed with smooth road and bumpy areas. Coasting along the smooth roads makes it easy to slip into indifference about accountability to a Higher Authority.

It takes spiritual strength to maintain values and virtues and to acknowledge that there is more to life than having a good time.

Having to slow down for road bumps, potholes and obstacles, in times of abject fear, wanton destruction, and life-threatening conditions, causes some persons to lose hope and submit to defeat; other persons stoically persevere holding onto something which grants hope and optimism. That “something” is spiritual courage.

In Joshua 1:6-9, the words “be strong and of good courage” are repeated three times. There are numerous other references in Deuteronomy and the Psalms as well as others.

How do we develop the strength and courage that was given as a mandate to Joshua? Fortunately God provides the tools necessary for all His directives. In Joshua 1 He furnishes guidelines by which we can develop those qualities needed to persevere and to withstand danger, fear or difficulty.

When Joshua was called by God to complete the journey to the promised land that was started by Moses, God first gave him this reassurance found in Joshua 1:5: “as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

God told Joshua that no man would be able to oppose them successfully. We also have that reassurance. Whatever may be your predicament, you can have the comfort to face it confidently knowing that God will always be with you.

Your obligation is to follow His commands and always keep praying and giving thanks.

Against the backdrop of God’s promise to never leave, Joshua was directed to keep focused, never turning from God’s laws, neither to the left nor to the right.

Another guideline to developing strength and courage for all of us is to resist the temptation of people, situations or things which could result in straying from God’s laws. Instead we are to follow His commands like a beacon guiding us to eternity with Him.

We can only follow His laws if we know what they are. We can only know His laws if we do as He directed Joshua to do in the book of Joshua 1:8. In this verse Joshua is directed to meditate day and night on the word of God. In so doing Joshua will be able to internalize scripture which would reveal God’s precepts.

Developing strength and courage to face whatever obstacles may arise in our lives requires that we read and study scripture at every opportunity so as to store His word deep within our hearts.

Finally Joshua was told that if he follows what God instructs him to do, he will be rewarded with the inheritance of the Promised Land to divide amongst the people. This is encouragement for us to stay the course, stand on His word and submit to God’s will: fulfilling His requirements has an eternal reward. Attaining that divine goal requires staying power or strength and courage which can only come by following His guidelines.

Life is full of temptations. Carnal thoughts, deeds, things and people abound; it is easy to choose the carnal over the spiritual. God has provided for the insufficiency of human strength through guidelines. Following these guidelines makes us strong and of a good courage to be victorious in any situation.

Be strong and of a good courage,
when temptation and strife flourish.
Recall God’s faithfulness to Joshua,
And know that He will be with you forever.

 

I can tell you that today as I write this conclusion I am outraged. The murder statistics in my tiny “paradise” island of Trinidad are rising alarmingly. Cowards are toting weapons in every area of my country.

Strength and courage to me is not some muscular (or not) felon carrying a massive tool of destruction, believing that the bigger it is, the braver he or she is.

True strength is being able to control negative feelings of hatred, anger, malice, envy, avarice and intolerance of any kind.

True strength and courage to me is epitomized in someone who can face the depths of despair and hold on, in desperation, to respect for life, the values of forgiveness, humility, compassion, love for others and peace.

True strength and courage is an autistic young lady who inspired all around her by her apparent joie de vivre, who always had a smile to share despite her situation…

Tell me please, what does strength and courage mean to you?