11 Apr

My little brother, Nick, has arrived at his destination. He called me this afternoon from a bus headed from PA to DC. We tried to have a conversation but he said the fan in the bus was so loud that he could barely make out what I was saying. All I could picture is that scene in Forest Gump where he meets Bubba and the bus is so loud that he has to shout at Forest about all the different ways to cook shrimp. It occurred to me in that moment that I wish I knew a little something about shrimp so that I would have something to say. I was at a total loss for words and so this is what was running through my mind: nonsense.

And guilt. Always the guilt. Nick told me that all these boys’ families were there to see the bus off, crying, hugging, and wishing them well. I never even knew it was an option to see the bus off or else I would have been there. So I feel guilty that he didn’t receive the fanfare that everyone else received. My other brother was there to square him away and wave him off, but I really wish that I was there too.

I’m feeling a little strange. I haven’t lived at home for almost 9 years so I am used to not seeing Nick on a daily basis.  In many ways, my day-to-day life hasn’t really changed. However,  the overall picture has changed drastically and it feels like I should be reacting in some way. It feels like I should be crying, like I want to cry. And yet, I can’t. I feel it coming. I feel the weight getting ever so slightly heavier in my heart. There is definitely a pressure that wasn’t there yesterday, a pressure that I must find a way to relieve.

Typically, I would have a good cry, my husband would pick me up off the floor, encourage me to take a hot bath, and I would sleep the burden away. But what do I do when the tears won’t come? I’m afraid that if I let them come then I won’t be able to make them stop. I know I can’t cry my brother back home, but that’s just how I work. I cry when I am scared, happy, surprised, angry, anxious, or sad. But what am I supposed to do when I feel paralyzed with fear and dread?

Panic attacks became my modus operandi when my other brother joined the Army, but even that didn’t start until the first time he was deployed overseas. Nick is only in South Carolina, yet I think there is some residual fear left over from what I went through with my other brother and what I am sure is an inevitability in Nick’s military experience. (I will try to write a full post on the history of my anxiety, how/when it began, and why, but the short version is that it all started the first time my brother was deployed to Iraq. In no way does this mean that he is at fault, it was merely bad timing and his deployment served as sort of  “straw that broke the camels back.”) That being said, you can see why my brain associates these two experiences.

But panic attacks are not okay anymore. They are not a coping mechanism that I am willing to allow back into my life. Instead I just have to sit with these feelings of anxiety and wait for them to dissipate. Hopefully the tears will come soon so that I can relax my shoulders, ease the tension in my jaw, lessen the weight on my heart,  and start to breathe again.

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