It has been eight months to the very day since I last sat down and let the chaos that had taken residence within me flow out and empty itself in the form of my writing. Every so often friends or family will mention, “You haven’t written in a while.” “Yeah…” I reply, “I’ve just been really happy…”
You see, my brother, Mike, killed himself two and a half years ago. It was and remains easily the most heartbreakingly horrifying experience of my life. Images of his body convulsing and lips turning purple were tattooed to the backs of my eyelids. Every time my eyes closed I was back in his hospital room helplessly watching his life slip away, replaying the events in our lives that had lead us to that moment. To say the feelings and the images were overwhelming would be an incredible understatement. In the second he took his last breath I thought it all made sense, for that split second I understood a pain so crushing and unbearable that the only thought even more unbearable was the notion of living with it.
It was months before I was able to sleep through the night or keep down and meal beyond mashed potatoes and raisin bread. Even longer before I was able to simply lay back and listen to music. Every song and musician had a memory of ours tied to it. I was weak and afraid of everything.
At that time in my life the only thing that brought any kind of peace and silence within was swimming. I was up at 4:30am every morning and out the door to the pool. It wasn’t just laps, I swam miles. The repetitive motion of the stroke became second nature; my body knew what to do. The only thing I had to remember to do was breath. Funny how that always seems to be the most difficult…
It wasn’t too long after my entire world had shaken up and flipped over a friend sent me a message. Long story short, she wanted to set me up with a friend of hers. She went on and on about what a smart, sweet, wonderful person he was (and is). I read the message about four more times before yelling at it. “Seriously?! Are you out of your fucking mind? I’m a fucking basket case!” I felt better after my little outburst, not wanting to become a total hermit I agreed to meet.
I felt immediately comfortable in his presence, but beyond that I was inspired. He knew pieces of my story and he didn’t run away. I think I used to do that…I used to run away from issues, problems, and people and I used to run pretty fast. I didn’t want to run away anymore, I didn’t think I could run away from this, I needed to face it all. I began to write. When the images became too much and all I could hear was the beeping of machines from his hospital room I wrote it down, trying to articulate as vividly with my words as the images and sensations were. What was incredible was that as soon as I wrote it all down, the sights, sounds, and smells ceased to haunt me. It’s not something that I ever forget, but at least it does not play on constant loop.
It wasn’t long after we met that Mr. Smart Sweet and Wonderful introduced me to a friend of his that had experienced a suicide loss as well. He told me about the non-profit organization he was trying to help them set up and the bike ride across the United States that was in store for them.
It was these boys (Thomas and Zak) we have all come to know and love that took me to my first SOS meeting. That day just so happened to be the first time I met them. I didn’t know what to expect, I was nervous and scared and having a mild anxiety attack in the parking lot. I hadn’t opened up and talked to anyone beyond my therapist. Even then, I think I just sat in her office and cried for an hour every other week. That night I was met with such genuine love, kindness, and an unspoken understanding not only from the boys, but from every single person sitting in the circle. It was as if I left that night and picked up a piece of myself that had been shattered. I continued to go to this group, picking up a piece of myself every time, feeling my fiery spirit making its way back to me…making me stronger.
I started to volunteer my time with the LOSS (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors) program. It is difficult and emotional and drags to the surface many thoughts and memories of my own experience, but for the first time in my life I felt like I was on the path and doing what I was put here to in fact…do. Getting your life together, that carries with it a certain sense of peace and happiness.
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