Archive | 11:03 pm

Defense Mechanisms

22 Mar

There is this show that plays over and over again on Discovery Health called Trauma: Life in the ER. The show features doctors and nurses from some of the biggest trauma centers around the country as they treat severely injured patients. The show does not shy away from anything – burn victims, bullet wounds, people dying on the table, organ transplants … car accident victims whose bodies have been broken and battered and bruised and brought to the brink of death. They show it all and block out nothing.

I can’t get enough of the show. I watch it whenever I can. I don’t know why.

Some days I think I watch to convince myself that if it did happen again to someone I love that there is a chance they might be saved. That what no one could do for my brother might be done for someone else. That someday someone I love is going to have an accident or get sick. And it is possible that they will be okay.

Some days I think I watch because I want to know what happened to him. And I want to imagine that he was rolled into a hospital on a stretcher instead of loaded into the back of a coroner’s van in a body bag. Maybe he would have been in pain and bleeding and badly injured, but he would have been alive.

But most days I think I watch to stare my biggest fear – losing someone else I love to a tragic accident – in the face. To dare the world to do it to me again. I think my mind believes that if I can be prepared – that if I can look at broken bones and blood and brain matter that it won’t be so overwhelming if it happens again.

And this is what it all comes down to. Me trying to be prepared for it to happen again. The root of all my anxiety and fear comes from the unpredictability and the inherently uncontrollable nature of life – that no amount of love or hope can keep those we love safe.

Even now, six years later, my mind spends hours trying to barricade me from the pain.

So I don’t allow myself to remember much about my brother. I don’t talk about his death. I spend hours in my own mind, planning exactly what I will do and say if I should receive a call that something happened to Hubs or my other brother or my parents or someone else I love. I research the diseases that my children have ever shown even the mildest symptom of. I stare at my children every night before I go to sleep. I can’t go to sleep myself until I’m sure they are breathing and safe.

I know none of this helps, or even makes sense. It probably makes it worse. There is nothing I can do now that will prepare me if someone else I love dies suddenly. Nothing will make it easier. But when I received that phone call at 3:19 am on March 24th, any sense of safety and peace I had was shattered. I haven’t been able to put it back together again and my mind tries desperately to hang on to something, anything, that gives me back some of the control I lost that day. But I know I’ll ever get that safety and peace back.

Today marks six years since I’ve spoken to my brother. Saturday marks six years since he died. These six years have been exhausting. I’ll never live a day in which I don’t panic about something – a day in which I don’t have that ice-in-my-veins terror take over if I have multiple missed phone calls or if I hear about an accident in the vicinity of where someone I love travels or if my phone rings after 10 pm.

I am tired of hurting and tired of worrying. And it’s only been six years.

Only six years. Today it feels like forever. As though I’ve lived ten lifetimes without him. But when I think about all the years I have left ahead of me that don’t include him, I realize I have a long, lonely way to go.