Depression & Trauma Recovery | Gunshot Violence Survivors Speak - OC87 Recovery Diaries

Depression & Trauma Recovery | Gunshot Violence Survivors Speak

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B was 16 years old when he was shot. By his best friend. With his own gun. His friend was joking around when the gun went off and a bullet went through B’s neck. It clipped his spinal cord. It was an accident that changed the trajectory of B’s life.

B is actually Steven Smith. (Since he was a kid, he has been known by the first letter of his middle name, Brian). Today, B is a motivational speaker, mentor, author and anti-gun violence advocate. He’s also an awesome storyteller who shares his journey of recovery in the latest of our four-part series “Beyond the Bullet: Gunshot Violence Survivors Speak.” The series presents members of the Gun Violence Survivors’ Support Group, based in Philadelphia, who tell of their journeys of pain and healing, isolation and community, and, most beautifully, stories of recovery, love and support.

Why did B have a gun in the first place? Well, B says, it was in his house because he was a player “in the game” of selling drugs.

“I got into the game for popularity and to be able to talk to girls. That was my biggest thing. But when you get into the game, all of that comes along with it. You never really know. The drug dealing, the gun violence, carrying guns, hanging around different people, getting involved with a lot of stupid crap. Fighting.  All of that comes along with the game.”

Now paralyzed, B found himself drowning in depression, frustration, and anger. He was 16 years old, unable to walk and breathe on his own, and mad at the world. He didn’t have any interest in participating in therapies that would help him try to make the most of his new life.

​However, B had a turning point when a caregiver at the recovery community pushed him to reconsider. Her tough love did the trick.

“I thought, ‘Either you’re going to live or die. Do you want to be dirty? Do you want to smell bad? Do you want to get dressed and be sort of your normal self? I know things are different, but do you want to be ‘sort of’ your normal self?’ I had an epiphany and I just thought to myself, ‘You know what? I’m going to try it.’”

He returned to school and began to build his new life. Through years of hard work, B now focuses on the positive energy that he wants to share with the world. Today B is uncle to 14 nieces and nephews, host of the podcast “Ya Connect,” and a volunteer mentor for people who are new to spinal cord injuries. He also travels around to high schools to share his story to promote gun violence awareness and help prevent another tragedy.

“I think about people that have it worse than me. I’m fine. I tell people, don’t let the wheelchair and the ventilator fool you. I’m fine.”

“I want my legacy to be that I was a fighter.”

I hope you enjoy listening to and learning from B as much as I have. If you want to learn more about him, check out his website: blessed4greatness.com.

All of the voices in this series deserve our attention. Their lives are the window into the very human suffering that gun violence has on our society, and their stories are filled with a strength and resilience that is awe-inspiring.

EDITOR IN CHIEF: Gabriel Nathan | EDITOR: Glenn Holsten | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman | PHOTOGRAPHY: Jaleel King

Glenn is an award-winning director who loves to create compelling documentary story experiences of all lengths for screens of all sizes. He is an avid reader, studied literature in college, and his passion for stories with strong characters and interesting narratives stems from those years. His career as a visual storyteller began at WHYY (the public television station in Philadelphia) where he worked for 15 years before becoming an independent filmmaker. In addition to his PBS documentaries about arts and culture, he has directed films about justice and human rights, and now, mental health. He was emboldened to undertake his current documentary project, Hollywood Beauty Salon, a colorful feature-length documentary about surviving mental illness and finding the courage for recovery, after his transformative experience directing OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie, along with Bud Clayman and Scott Johnston.