Last night, right after I turned off the bedside lamp, snuggled up with the cats, and closed my eyes to sleep, it came…that wave of sadness and panic that sometimes comes to visit. I laid there with tears streaming down my cheeks, suddenly trapped in the sharp claws of pure panic, having trouble breathing.
Will’s been gone for over a week now for training. The training is only two weeks, and that’s not what caused last night. The first few days he was gone we were at least able to talk on the phone. Then, last Wednesday, he said that it’s the last time we speak for a week, because they’re going somewhere else for the other part of training and have to leave all their personal things on base. Seven days without talking to him, I thought, would be hard but doable. And sure, it is doable, I’m currently doing it. But then there’s episodes like last night.
It’s been over three years since Brandon died, and I have gotten used to these waves that come out of nowhere, crash on my shores for a while, and then leave, as if they were never there in the first place. I know to expect them, just as I know when they come, they will leave. It’s not as terrifying as it was in the early days, when I had no idea if the panic would ever leave (it does). So when it happened last night, I knew I just needed to let the tears come, to feel the fear, to lay there for a while and take it.
I felt this panic earlier last week, the first day I didn’t talk to Will. The best explanation I’ve come up with is this: I’m being triggered. Not being able to talk to Will, however temporary, is triggering the fear, sadness, and abandonment I felt right after Brandon died, when I felt so alone in the world, when the only person who I wanted to talk to about it, was, well, dead. I remember feeling so very alone and isolated. I know I’m not alone or isolated, I could have easily called someone, like my friend Mick, last night and he’d listen in a heartbeat.
This isolation I’m feeling isn’t a general “I feel alone”…I know there are people I can reach out to. This isolation is more specific; it’s the isolation from that one person, that one person who is your world. I can’t begin to put into words how painful and debilitating it is to lose that person, and when you’ve already gone through that once, well, you can’t help but worry and wait for it to happen again. It’s like waiting for that other metaphorical shoe to drop, so to speak. Before Brandon’s death I never gave much through to death, but when it comes and knocks on your door, stares you in the eyes, you know it can easily happen again. Whatever illusion the majority of the world lives in has been shattered. I see death everywhere. And thus, the panic. Sometimes this panic overtakes me. I’m so terrified of losing Will, sometimes that fear paralyzes me.
When I first met him, I briefly thought about not getting involved. If you don’t care or get involved, less chance you’ll get hurt again, right? But I realized that’s not how I wanted to live my life. Closing myself off would mean that I’m letting the tragedy that happened define me. I don’t want Brandon’s death to define who I am. I’m more than that. I loved him, we had a good life together, and something terrible happened. If I curl up into a ball and close the world off, I’m not honoring him. He was full of life, and if I’m not able to learn from this grief and find a way to move forward with it, then I may as well have pulled the trigger on myself in the spring of 2013.
And if I’m being completely honest, I was drawn to Will instantly. He’s such a warm and kind person, full of empathy and understanding. Around him I felt complete and normal, not like the broken and damaged person I thought I would always be. Somehow he looked at the baggage I was dragging behind me, and it looked manageable to him. So I jumped in, I opened myself up to loving him, and I let the love surround me and carry me along. It’s the best decision I made in years, and I don’t regret it for a second. But I am damaged, and these grief and panic waves are just my new normal, something I have to live with. It’s the price for loving Will, and it’s a price I’m willing to pay; he’s worth it. He makes me a better person and he inspires me to see the good in life.
I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say anymore. I guess maybe that since Will is in my life, these waves come to visit more than they otherwise would, but you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way.