An Avalanch of Fear

This post is for anyone who, since losing a sibling to suicide, has felt overwhelming fear and anxiety. In me, it manifested as a hyper-vigilance towards my own mental well-being. It gets better with time as long as you do not fight the fear and let it come in and out.
I was 24 when my sister took her life at 27 years old. This was a year and a half ago. Before then I’d lived relatively worry-free. I was a shy kid, and I hated oral presentations, and I wasn’t great at parties, but I took comfort in my silence. I liked being by myself. I would consider myself “normally” anxious for someone who preferred to watch movies, go to art shows or create things at home.
My sister struggled with Borderline Personality Disorder most of her life. She hid it from most of us very well. I was very sheltered, being her brother. My mother and father, and my sister herself, did not want me seeing her in any bad states. That made things a lot worse, in hindsight.
I was numb for over a year, but the anxiety & grief manifested in ways I didn’t notice. I’d become obsessed with my work, obsessed with perfection. I would become irritated over very small things, and I noticed it getting worse. Finally, I had my first panic attack a year out. After that attack the waves of grief began hitting me. I’d go from depressed to terrified, back and forth, for a few weeks. What made it worse, and what I hope someone reading this can see, is since I had been numb for a year I thought I had gotten “over it”. Thus, for a while, I was convinced I’d gone crazy, that I had suddenly developed some disorder that couldn’t be cured.
I sought therapy almost immediately. My fears manifested as overwhelming worry over my mental stability (something I never worried about before). I would ruminate, trying to convince myself I was ok, trying to find “reasons” for why I wouldn’t take my own life like she did. Finding explanations for my existence, for my being okay, and eventually poking holes in those ideas. Sensations of panic would hit me for “no reason” (I’ve since learned there’s always a reason), sounds were very loud, and I rarely had an appetite.
Therapy, and talking about my fears, was my salvation. Externalizing how I felt forced me to structure my emotions, and in order to structure them I had to feel them. Since then I’ve been able to not react to the fear (still hard at times). Grief can manifest very similarly to generalized anxiety. You can get a pit in your stomach for “no reason”, a bout of dizziness, a beating and racing heart, a shortness of breath. During my worst days my mind would wake me up as I slept, out of a fear of the unknown.
I really want to shed light on how suicide-bereaving siblings should never accept diagnoses of “disorder”. Disorder is an ugly word. I can’t think of anything more befitting of sensations of fear and anxiety than losing a part of yourself to such a sudden and scary act. The only way to get through those moments is just that, to go through them. Adding fear to the fear, by being scared of the arising negative emotions, even if they aren’t even tied to the sibling you lost, compounds things.
Be strong and accept the negative emotions. Know when to reach out. Fear and anxiety aren’t scary monsters. They are our brains’ ways of telling us something is wrong. And indeed, when we lose someone so close to us to suicide, something is wrong. But it doesn’t always have to be wrong. Sit with things being wrong, eventually wrong will not “feel” wrong and become another dimension of your human experience. Your emotions, negative or positive, are there to guide you. By respecting your emotions there’s a possibility of building trust within yourself. And in the end, nobody can go into your mind but you, so it’s kinda great to trust yourself.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

You are allowed to enter 2 URL(s) in the comment area.