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Surviving a Workplace Shooting and Navigating PTSD, Insomnia With Marathons and Prayers

“My symptoms began immediately following a workplace shooting on Saturday, November 28, 2015, and were exasperated due to the activity of the company, the criminals, and the cops. The company treated me as if I were a criminal, the criminals attempted to kill me three additional times, and the cops (Houston Police Department Organized Crime Unit) treated me as if I was a thorn in their flesh.”

Hello! Who are you?

Raised on the west side of Akron, Ohio, at the early age of ten years, my mom moved our family to Houston, Texas, to an area affectionately known as Alief, AKA the S.W.A.T. (Southwest Alief Texas). 

I was an independent entrepreneur in the music business doing Radio, Retail, Internet, and Video marketing until I pursued a career in Retail Management for a big box chain. Currently, I’m on total disability due to severe PTSD suffered from a 2015 workplace shooting where I was shot five times while saving several coworkers’ lives. 

I’m single and searching for a help meet suitable for me. Although I’m a pet lover extraordinaire, I currently have no pets but share in the joy of family and friends and Starbucks Puppachino pets. I’m passionate about people โ€” people watching, serving others, and building communities. 

At my worst moment in life, I was and am happy. Happiness depends upon circumstances and your actions and attitudes about your circumstances. I understand that I am able to experience multiple emotions based on this and choose happiness. 

Aaron Burros

๐Ÿ’ก By the way: Do you find it hard to be happy and in control of your life? It may not be your fault. To help you feel better, we’ve condensed the information of 100’s of articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet to help you be more in control. ๐Ÿ‘‡

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

I suffer from a severe case of PTSD. I experience hallucinations, hypervigilance, anxiety, depressive moods, uncontrollable crying spells lasting for two up to four hours, and sleep deprivation which lasted seven years and four months from the night of the shooting (I didn’t sleep for the first 10 days following the shooting) Saturday, November 28, 2015, until March 15, 2023.

The anxiety, depressive mood, and crying spells would run in cycles one after the other several times per day. However, as I fought to get mental health help from both a psychiatrist and psychologist and have continued in treatment since mid-January 2016, the cycles have gotten further apart and not as frequent.ย 

My symptoms began immediately following a workplace shooting on Saturday, November 28, 2015, and were exasperated due to the activity of the company, the criminals, and the cops.

The company treated me as if I were a criminal, the criminals attempted to kill me three additional times, and the cops (Houston Police Department Organized Crime Unit) treated me as if I was a thorn in their flesh.

This made me lose hope in humanity, the city of Houston, and those who were sworn to serve and protect. I’m on my own. 

Over time, the PTSD only got worse. For the first four and a half years, I literally thought I needed to be committed to get help. I expressed this to my psychologist a few times during this period of time. He, however, didn’t deem being committed to getting help was the best course of treatment.

He was the only person I trusted. I couldn’t even trust myself. There were times when the lines between reality and the unreal were blurred and I couldn’t tell in which realm I was living.

After experiencing multiple attempts on my life, being intimidated by the criminal who had left a blood-soaked shirt, a blue bandanna, and an open-faced wallet of another one of their shooting victims on my stoop outside my apartment, and apparently killed one of their own who failed to kill me as I ran along a Bayou, I began losing all hope in living life. 

The struggle with PTSD affects me yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, and every second of every minute of my existence. There’s not a moment whether I’m awake or asleep that it doesn’t affect me.

At first, I thought, as a man, I was weak, fragile, and broken. Then I realized that I’m just human and that Superman only exists in the mind of his creator and Hollywood films. I’m not Superman. I’m a man. Not only is it okay for me to have these frailties, but it’s not a weakness and doesn’t define my manhood.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

The struggle is real. But so is happiness. At first, I thought it stole away my happiness. That was until I realized that it actually stole my mind (emotions, intellect, and will). It took me a while to refocus and gain control of my ability to make a conscious decision to choose happiness

When it came to others, it wasn’t a small thing that something was wrong. I went from the life of the party to the living dead. I began by not being able to leave home, to fighting to leave to go to the Starbucks across the street where I would sit until they closed.

Sometimes I would sit there even after closing time, after which I’d go home and start it over the next day. Time was one big tick and one big tock that lasted several years. Until this very day, I find my refuge in sitting in a Starbucks. I’m still working with my psychologist to get away from having to go to Starbucks in order to feel safe away from home.ย 

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

Things were unfolding like the seven-seal judgment of God in the book of Revelation. Nothing seemed to get better. That was until the day I found myself telling God that He gives His beloved children rest and asking Him to either let me sleep or bring me home to him as I’ve done hundreds of times over the past several years.

I had just returned from Tokyo, Japan where I failed to complete the 2023 Tokyo Marathon by missing the second cutoff, the hardest of nine, at the 11K. This became the pivotal point that changed everything for me. Sleep, what a beautiful gift. Thank you, Lord.ย 

My doctors (primary physician, psychiatrist, and psychologist) each inquired of me what changed. โ€œWas it the new sleeping medicine,โ€ my psychiatrist asked. No, I responded; it was God answering my prayers. I told my psychologist that only God was to be credited 100% for giving me sleep and that it wasn’t anything anyone had done, including me.

I reminded them all that there was only so much they could do, and that my hope was in a person, Jesus Christ. It was at this point of sleeping, I knew I would get better. 

228,792,600 seconds, I had struggled with sleep deprivation. That’s seven and one quarter of a year I suffered without quality sleep. I understand why people would confess to crimes they didn’t commit after being sleep-deprived by police. What I learned that I didn’t know was that you could actually die from lack of sleep.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

I immediately sought safety to overcome my struggle without fully understanding what I was even struggling against. I was forced to come back to work by my employer under threat of termination if I didn’t.

Upon returning two days after being shot and not having had surgery to remove any bullets and prior to having the opportunity to get Mental Health help, I asked my immediate supervisor to open up the computer room.

He complied, and I hid in there until I left work at the instruction of the insurance company who called me to make sure I knew about a doctor’s appointment with their doctor. 

I had to fight from that day Monday, November 30, 2015, for the next few years to get the surgery I needed, to get the mental health needed, and to survive the onslaught of actions that continued to follow from the company, the criminals, and the city of Houston’s cops. I had to depend upon others to fight for me because I couldn’t fight for myself. 

I pray that no one would ever have to experience what I went through. I wouldn’t want my worst enemies to find themselves in my shoes. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in. And the reality is that many are walking in my shoes.

I recommend that if you find yourself wearing my shoes, pray above all things. Get help legally immediately. I didn’t want to get lawyers involved and had even expressed as much to the company. Get legal representation immediately. 

Another piece of advice I’d give is to work closely with the insurance company’s representative who deals with claims and any third parties involved as well. Keep a log of all communications (past, present, and future). Believe me, you’ll need it.

Your company will cut access off immediately. And if you have personal items at work, arrange for someone to pick them up immediately. Ask questions and address any and all communications in writing or with follow-up emails and text messages. 

Do not talk to anyone without asking who is on the call. Get the contact info for anyone on the call. As difficult as this can be, be diligent in doing this. Accusations are real. You’ll be blamed for making claims and/or threats.

The investigating on-call detective who interviewed me said I was a hero, but I would quickly be made out to be the villain. Had I not done the things I am speaking of, it would have been my word against several salaried employees of the company who had a dog in the fight to defame me and my character. 

Finally, be patient. Like me, you don’t know what you’re going through. Unlike you and I, the company, criminals, and cops have been through this song and dance. They have a playbook and people in place to execute what they will do.

Seek to bring about accountability. It has been just over eight years, and I’m still looking to do so with the city of Houston and its corrupt, uncaring, and self-seeking organized crime unit. Don’t give up. 

As I looked (and still look) to overcome what I am going through, I took responsibility for every aspect of my dealings with anyone from my workplace to my worship. I had to become CEO of my fight to live.

I never would have thought that I’d find myself being attacked with a smear campaign from the company and complained about by the organized crime unit because I wanted those responsible to be accountable. My persecution became a profit for everyone while I was suffering the most I have ever done in my life. 

What truly helped me was praying to God for help. I also had to recognize those who were there to help me and be honest with them about my lack of trust in humanity.

Those who were there to help understood, whereas those, including family and friends, who were there to gain off my vulnerability would become upset at me about holding them accountable or addressing what concerns I had.

Another thing that helped me was that I tried to give what I needed no matter how small my contribution to helping others. Do whatever you are able to do. You’ll get back what you need and more. 

I needed hope, therefore I gave hope. Where I couldn’t see the answer to my prayers, I gave what I could to someone else’s prayers. There have been many times that I couldn’t pay my bills or didn’t have enough money for food. I gave whatever I could to others to help them pay their bills or get food.

Whether it was information or the last dollar I had in my pocket. I recall during Hurricane Harvey in Texas, I went to Gallery Furniture in Sugar Land Texas, and volunteered to help with those displaced.

Another lady and I had arrived and organized things in such a manner that the employees thought we worked at Mattress Mack’s corporate office. While I struggled and didn’t have enough to live, I took the opportunity to help others who were experiencing worse than myself.

Still, today when it rains in Houston, I see people who pull over on the road or refuse to drive because of the PTSD experienced by Havey. 

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

I’ve shared my story with any and all who will listen. Things had gotten so bad, and I figured that if I was killed unexpectedly, people needed to know that the company, the criminals, and the city of Houston Organized Crime Unit were who did it.

All three were culpable. This is why I went on a quest to run marathons for my 50th Birthday. I knew if I didn’t do something, I would die (be murdered, be killed โ€” there, I finally said it).ย 

Although I’ve grown comfortable talking to strangers about my struggle, I only grew to trust my psychologist. Eventually, my trust would grow to talk to my lawyers and psychiatrist as well. Beyond that, I trust no one.

This isn’t without warrant. I’ve gone from a company where I worked for nearly ten years to family and friends, as well as perfect professionals who were strangers, to abusing my trust for profit. 

I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my struggle at all. My trust in humanity had been completely shattered. Actions speak louder than words, and many people (private, personal, professional, and public) in my life were showing actions that were screaming, even after the betrayal until this very day.

However, I had a choice to either shut down or step up. I chose to step up. This wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination.

For example, the company reached out to my daughter’s mom and partnered with her to slander me in a civil proceeding regarding child support, visitation, and asking the court to bring charges against me claiming that I had defrauded the federal government by filing a false claim against the Social Security Disability Insurance Department.

I would not see my then thirteen-year-old daughter for five years until she turned 18 and graduated. 

I was desperate to share my story even though I felt as though I was going to be murdered. I recall crying and being paralyzed with fear the night before the clock struck midnight just prior to my 50th Birthday.

I had to share my story as difficult as it has been. It gets easier but not because the difficulty has decimated, on the contrary, it has increased โ€” but because in sharing I’ve heard from others who’ve stated how much I’ve helped them with their struggle. 

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

I would just be repeating myself at this point. However, if there was one single piece of advice I could share it would be to hold people, including yourself, accountable for what has happened, what is happening, and what may happen.

There’s only one of you. And once you’re gone, you’re gone. Once your time passes, you can’t get it back. And once you can’t work any longer, you’ll be replaced. I wish I knew that not even the closest family members can be trusted when you’re experiencing the worst time of your life. 

I don’t watch much TV. But when I do, I like Forensic Files. It reminds me of studying the Bible. You investigate and let the evidence speak for itself. There’s a phrase used by one of the forensic investigators that I would encourage anyone to remember during tumultuous times like mine.

The investigator simply says that people lie but the forensics evidence never lies. Look beyond your emotions, beyond faulty reasoning, and let the forensic evidence speak. It never lies. Truth is what has led me through the Forest of deception.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Sitting outside and considering the creation of God and soaking in vitamin D!

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Strava.

Or you can read more about my experiences in my book Medal Monday!

๐Ÿ’ก By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. ๐Ÿ‘‡

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This Cheat Sheet Will Help You Be Happier and More Productive

Thrive under stress and crush your goals with these 10 unique tips for your mental health.

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

1 thought on “Surviving a Workplace Shooting and Navigating PTSD, Insomnia With Marathons and Prayers”

  1. It’s one thing to talk about your trauma, it’s another thing to write about your trauma, but it’s something all together different and defining to read what you’ve talked and written about concerning your trauma.


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