Fattal: Are there any other changes in your life that you’ve noticed?
Hamp: One difference was my eating habits. I had just turned 21 when the shooting happened. I hadn't developed a toolkit for what to do when life hits you with a challenge. This was the first big challenge in my life. I didn't want people to know that I was struggling with those feelings and with that issue of safety, so I turned to food and exercise to cope. You go to it with good intentions. I started exercising because I knew that was good for my body. But too much obsession over a good thing ends up being unhealthy.
When one of the counselors I went to the summer after the shooting asked me if my eating habits had changed, I would lie and say no. You feel that in your gut, where you’re not telling the truth. My eating habits were changed, but I didn't understand the relationship at that time between my eating habits and the shooting. It was a slow development of an eating disorder. Virginia Tech didn’t cause the eating disorder, but it was triggered by it. There were lots of seeds already planted, and Virginia Tech just started to grow them.
Fattal: Is is something you're still dealing with today?
Hamp: I got help two years ago. It was actually infertility struggles that made me decide to be honest with myself about my eating habits. I threw myself into counseling.
Fattal: Did you go to counseling after the shooting as well?
Hamp: I did go the week after the shooting. I also went again later that summer before I returned into the classroom. And I went for a handful of sessions back home. And then I kind of called it quits on counseling, because I didn’t understand how counseling worked. I thought—because you think of them as doctors—that it was similar to when you go to the dentist and need to get a cavity filled. You really don’t have to show up mentally to get that cavity filled. That person’s just going to take care of it for you. You don’t have to click with that dentist. But with a counselor you have to feel comfortable telling them your most vulnerable feelings, so you really have to trust them. You have to mentally show up and give of yourself. I did not understand that at 21 when I tried it.
Fattal: Was when you returned to counseling around the same time you started sharing your story publicly?
Hamp: Somewhere in there. I went to counseling and had low self confidence, although on the outside you probably wouldn’t have noticed that. As I went to counseling I regained my actual, internal confidence. That was when, as I started to regain it, that I got to the point where I thought, this is probably more common than people realize. By sharing this, it not only could help me in my continued recovery, but it could also help other people.
Fattal: What are some things that you think are important to note about the experience of survivors?