by Luigia Bailey. Luigia is a volunteer with LOSS. Her brother Danny died by suicide. This was written on February 25, 2019.
It still catches me often…
Sometimes multiple times daily. An unpredictable, fleeting thought or image catches me and transports me back to that day, or a day years prior. A memory becomes reactivated, triggering a feeling to start throbbing again.
Snippets of a song, a snowflake, even a color. Tiny reminders that automatically grab hold of my thoughts and carry me to the past. The reminders can happen in a split second, without my control and even without my awareness. Just all of a sudden, I’m caught.
Sometimes the “catchers” don’t even make sense, as they are seemingly unrelated to the trauma I have lived and the grief that stems from it. But sensical or nonsensical, they grip hold of my psyche with invisible fingers, pulling my emotions down into my gut and leaving me caught… again.
My response to these “catches” varies.
Time, setting, company and energy level usually determine how I must react to being caught. Most frequently, the stars do not align and I’m unable to indulge myself in processing what caught me. Situational factors force me to put thoughts and feelings on hold. That often feels like a relief, and I appreciate the distractions.
When I’m lucky, I have both the opportunity and ability to choose whether or not to allow my “catches” to rule the moment. “Nope, I’m not going there right now” or, “I want to remember…” Being in control refreshes me, and makes me feel a bit more like my old self. The luxury to decide when, where and how to access thoughts and feelings–on my terms–provides dignity and comfort. The ability to “turn it on” and “turn it off” reassures my fragile spirit that I’m not totally crazy.
It would be dishonest to claim that I always have the capacity to select my reactions. There are many times when I don’t, and then whatever caught me holds me captive. “Catches” that are so in-your-face that they demand attention, regardless of time or place. What can I do but go with their flow? Sometimes it’s a nasty roller coaster of the mind, jostling me about and spitting me out the other side. Other times it’s a hurricane of the heart, blowing me around and knocking me over.
But no matter how severe the attack… I survive it. I survive it.
When it catches me, I can survive. I’m not always sure how, but something sustains me. The “catches” may send me to bed for an entire day or ten… they may require increased medication… batter and crush everything within me… render me unable to function for awhile… exhibit as physical sickness… paint my world so dark that I can barely see an inch ahead… and they may even hurt so intensely that a physical feeling of heartbreak becomes palpable. They may visit, but they do depart. They may approach, but they do retreat. I can survive them.
I DO survive. The ocean of life carries inherent risks. At any given moment, the shoreline of grief may creep closer to my toes, then splash my ankles with frigid water. It may climb knee-high, waist-high, neck-high. Sometimes it rises up over my head, enveloping me in its rip current. Will I drown? No, I will not. I know that if I let the current run its course, rather than try to fight against it, it will eventually break and my head will rise up out of the water, my lungs will fill with sweet, fresh, life-giving air. Air that lets me breathe… in and out… one breath at a time. The sun hits my face and warms my chilled body. The wind lets me know that the tides will change. The scent of flowers and the laughter of children remind me that surviving is worth it. Surviving…is worth it.
Yes, the “catchers” will come back. Yes, there will be new rip currents. And yes, I will get caught again. But although I don’t like them, I need not fear them, because I have survived them before. And I will survive them again.