“There would always be before, during, and after.

And nothing would ever bridge the three.”

Elise Blackwell, Hunger

My mom almost died. That’s why I have to write this journal. Dr.  Sanderson says it will help me sort through my feelings. “Sometimes,” she says, “putting things in order helps our mind make sense out of the senseless.” I’m not sure what that means. All I know is, I have to come up with a topic for each letter of the alphabet related to my mom almost dying and what it's been like since then. And, I am not allowed to skip around. I need to go from A to Z. I need to put things in order. Seems a bit rigid to me but Dr. Sanderson used to work in a hospital Trauma Intensive Care Unit and she knows how to help people “navigate trauma”. She also worked at Hospice getting people ready to die. Creepy. Dr. Sanderson says this journal is supposed to be private so I can express myself freely but she hopes I’ll find some things to discuss with her while writing. So, ‘A’ stands for Alphabetical Journal. And, Aftermath – that was Dr. Sanderson’s idea.

Aftermath means the consequences or aftereffects of an event. In my case, the event was a shooting at my mom’s work, a Jewish charity, and the consequences are probably the fact that I am seeing a therapist a year later because things still aren’t back to normal – whatever that is.

Mom found Dr. Sanderson through Jewish Family Services. Dr. Sanderson isn’t Jewish but Mom and I are. Plus, she takes our insurance. My mom and I haven’t been getting along well lately. I want her to stop worrying so much and she wants me to “understand”. Apparently, Dr. Sanderson is going to help me “understand” and another doctor is going to help Mom stop worrying. Or something like that.

I have to see Dr. Sanderson twice a month. Dr. Sanderson told me she won’t read my journal unless I want her to. Mom said that I should allow Dr. Sanderson to read everything. She said that the doctor can’t help me unless I let her. She also said that if I listen to Dr. Sanderson and follow directions, she’ll buy me a $50 gift card. That’s cool, I guess.

So, here I am on my bed as the rain slips down the window and pools on the sill because the seal is broken, writing in a red spiral notebook with my appointment time on the front. Tuesdays, 4 pm. There’s a yellow sticky note with my second appointment date stuck to the cover: July 28th. What a fun way to spend the rest of my summer, in a shrink’s office. I guess it’s better than last summer. Anything is better than last summer.

* * *

Dr. Sanderson is nice, I guess. She has a daughter, Hailey, who’s also 14 and Dr. Sanderson likes to make comparisons. My hair is brown like my mom’s. Hailey’s is the same shade of blonde as Dr. Sanderson’s. I like pop music. Hailey likes Jazz. I had my Bat Mitzvah when I was thirteen. Hailey won her first track meet, or whatever they call it, when she was twelve. I think Dr. Sanderson talks about her daughter to make me feel comfortable, like she knows me because she has a kid my age and that makes her an automatic expert or something. It’s kind of annoying, but she seems like a nice mom. She let Hailey get her nose pierced for her thirteenth birthday which my mom would never do. My mom has to process everything first. She has to weigh the pros and cons and research possible outcomes and solutions. It takes her forever to make a decision. That’s probably why it took her so long to get me therapy after the shooting. I bet Dr. Sanderson would have gotten Hailey therapy right away.

Dr. Sanderson says we have to work on recreating the pathways in my brain. A year of pathways have been formed informing my thoughts and feelings and I am supposed to reroute my brain somehow. She keeps telling me I need to draw a new roadmap. Apparently I am a trauma survivor. The trauma she’s talking about is the shooting. But it’s not just the shooting. It’s the way mom has changed since the shooting. She’s different. So am I. We used to laugh a lot. She used to be my best friend. Now, she’s just sort of...there. Not really much of anything. It’s like she just wants to get through a day without something bad happening. Then she takes a pill to help her sleep. That’s pretty much life right now. Dr. Sanderson says I need to reflect on what is different about me since the shooting. What things did I do before that I don’t do now? What interests did I have before the shooting? Are they different now? I never really thought about how I’ve changed. I can see so many changes in my mom, but not in myself. I guess I did laugh at jokes and hang out with my friends more. I cared more about their lives. I don’t care as much about the boys they like or the clothes they buy. It seems silly now. Like, that stuff doesn’t really matter.