When we experience trauma we seek out help via 911.  We head for the nearest hospital.  We are normally injured and the wounds are visible.  We’ve experienced a natural disaster, a car accident, a fire, an act of terrorism, or an act of war. My brother’s suicide on February 8th was traumatic for  my whole family. The sound of my baby brother’s voice so frantic coming through the speaker of Shelby’s cellphone, the terror in Shelby’s eyes, and the pop of a gunshot forever etched in my mind. These memories all painful and chilling like that of nails down a chalk board and sometimes they come sudden and sharp like a knife plunged into your chest.  I remember clearly calling 911 that night and the flood of feelings that followed. Moments frozen in time like still shots in my brain.  The days that followed all to long and sudden at the same time.  A haze of gut wrenching decisions and emotions that spread like cancer. My brother was rushed to a local trauma center that night, but ultimately would not survive his self-inflicted gunshot wound.  The visible wounds; easily explained to the outsiders.  The pain of those visible wounds  easily understood.  The aftermath for those left behind brings about a different kind of trauma and no one seems to understand. What do we do with a wound that’s killing us, but no one else can see?  Where do we go for help for those wounds that aren’t bleeding, broken, or bruised? Who do we turn to when we are drowning in a tidal wave of feelings and emotions we cannot control? Humans tend to like things to be simple; black and white.  Suicide doesn’t work that way.  It’s full of messy gray areas that are complex and hard to understand.  Sure I’m grieving, and that’s completely normal even understandable.  I am also more terrified of my anxiety and depression than ever, full of rage directed at everyone and no one all at the same time, confused, guilt-ridden, and relieved.  I am relieved that he’s no longer hurting, no longer wasting away in the hospital bed on the ventilator, and no longer battling demons inside his head and those present in his life.  I’m confused about why he felt the need to choose such a permanent solution to temporary problems, why his ex-girlfriend who was living with him at the time didn’t seek help at all that night, and why he left Shelby who loved him so deeply for someone so cold and calculating.  I am mad at everyone for their condolences and also at those people I didn’t feel were here for me when I needed them most.  I am mad at the world for the rumors circulating our little town. I feel guilty for not saving him from “that girl”,  the pain he was feeling, and mostly from that entire night. The panic attacks have been so much worse since all this happened, because now I not only deal with whatever event triggered them, but I am paralyzed in fear by the attack itself.  I fear the dark days that seem so frequent right now.  I had sought help for my own mental issues about a year ago and continue to do so. In many ways my brother’s suicide makes me feel as if I am starting over on my journey and somehow farther down that path all at the same time. I am terrified that my own inner demons will lead me to that same choice despite seeking help. How do we know when the trauma is over and its safe to come out from our hiding spot?

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