and i finally caught a dream...
It’s been a long while since I wrote.
I have not wanted to. How can I sum up what the last two-ish years have meant to me? I didn’t think I could find the words, so I didn’t try. I was scared I’d fail.
I was never really scared of failing until about two years ago. I lived with no fear. I’d take any risk I could think up. I hopped on a plane and went to the other side of the country for college without a second thought. I didn’t know a single soul there. I didn’t worry about if I was gonna make friends or if I would feel lonely. If no one was available to go somewhere with me, I travelled by myself because the longing I felt to experience new things was greater than the fear of going alone. I lived in Mexico for a summer just cause. I signed up for races I did not think I could ever complete. I’d take on any dare proposed to me. I started a doctorate program. I truly did not think I could fail.
Until I did.
When I failed to keep my youngest brother safe from himself, I finally felt true failure.
I know, I know it wasn’t my fault.
But since January 16th, 2021, I have lived in fear. I’d even dare to say consumed by fear, but I don’t want to sound dramatic (or make you pity me).
I couldn’t sleep without being in fear. Fear of what I would wake up to the next morning. Fear of the tormenting nightmares I would have every night. I couldn’t walk alone at night anymore. If I didn’t hear from someone, I would assume they were dead. Loud noises from across my house would almost send me into panic.
I guess some would call it PTSD, but I have never cared for labels. (Then that’s when my therapist says I’m deflecting and minimizing my “trauma” ha ha). There was a lot I felt like I couldn’t do anymore having developed PSTD. But worst of all,
I found myself not being able to dream anymore.
The future was grim. The future meant life continuing without my baby brother here. The future was scary.
And that felt so foreign to me.
My brain, my daydreaming home, was always such a sunny and bright place. Abundant. It was never hard for me to stay positive or see the silver lining in every situation. I was never not imagining my future. I’m an idealist, what can I say?! I was the poster child of “if you can dream it, you can do it”
Until my brother died.
The fact that I even have to type those words is a bit surreal. Even two years later. Some might call that still being in denial. I guess. I just don’t think you can ever fully come to terms with something like that. My brain no longer felt like a safe place to be. I couldn’t silver lining, travel, or run my way out of how scared I was feeling. Those coping mechanisms carried me for such a long time.
That is something I have realized (with the help of therapy—yay). I love to run. Yes, literally run, but also run from negative emotions. Running from those are the best,
Until it doesn’t work anymore.
My heart literally could not handle running anymore. I would get palpitations, light headed, extreme fatigue, and most of all, scared. Scared I was going to die.
So I stopped.
I stopped running from everything.
I had to face those negative feelings head on or they were going to consume me. Like they did my little brother.
And you know what? I discovered something.
I realized my biggest fear was that I did not know what was going to happen to me.
I have been so extremely blessed to have balanced neurotransmitters. Depression, anxiety, OCD, etc were never on my radar before. But, I knew that a death like my brothers could send someone, even myself, down a very dark path.
And that terrified me.
Me. Sunny. happy go lucky. always okay. always fearless and inspired. I could have ended up in a dark hole. A hole I don’t know if I would even try to claw my way out of. I was so petrified of what would happen to me and my family. Would my parents even want to be alive anymore?
The unknown is terrifying. I used to LOVE the unknown. It used to excite me. Cause all that was ahead of me was blue skies. Now that I know what real fear is, I understand.
I understand why you have a hard time getting out of bed sometimes. I understand why being around people may drain you. I understand why taking that solo vacation scares you. I understand why you gained weight. I understand why your heart is racing and you can’t figure out why. I understand why you binge. I understand why you find it hard to take showers or care for yourself. I understand why you chose to use that coping mechanism you’re trying to quit. I understand why you had to quit your job or drop out of school. I understand why you have to avoid certain people, places, songs, movies, etc.
Cause once something happens to you or someone you love, you realize that tomorrow is never promised.
I wish I could say my brother’s sudden death helped me live more in the moment.
For a long time, it didn’t.
But I find myself at the end of 2022, beginning of 2023, actually
I’m as surprised as you. If you would have told me two years ago that I would have ended up depressed, anxious, and hopeless, I actually might have believed you. I was terrified that was my fate. But that is the funny thing about fate,
As a believer in God, fate has always confused me. Do you have control over it? Does God? I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s a bit of both. I do know you gotta put in the work.
And that’s what I did.
Through grief and therapy, I learned to let myself feel everything. Once I did, I realized I was still here. Still alive! Those scary, negative feelings didn’t eat me up. I was still breathing.
I learned to cry. Crying and laughing can coexist (news to me).
I learned to see the silver linings AND the hard stuff. These can also coexist.
I learned to go slow.
I learned a lot about PTSD.
I learned a lot about myself.
I learned I am still full of joy.
That last one is what means the most to me. I was so scared that no one would want to be around me grieving. I was scared I would change and my friends wouldn’t like who I have become. Luckily, I have great friends.
I can still laugh. That actually never stopped. Even on the hardest of days, I laughed.
Cause that is me.
Even with grief, PTSD, a global pandemic, grad school, I still was myself. Who I truly am at my core. Those things were never gonna change.
So, here I am. Two years later.
I’m running again. Not from my negative feelings. I lean into those now. (It’s still not fun though). I run slow. I try my best to not compare myself to how I used to be. Be gracious with how much I’ve change. How much my body and mind has changed. I have been able to sleep through the whole night without any nightmares for over eight months. I dance. I dance a lot! I swim in the ocean. Every time I break the water's surface, I imagine myself being reborn. Made new. Free. And best of all,
I am even starting to dream again.
Although there are still days I long to be like my old self, I spend most of my time dreaming of my future self. I’m starting to feel a little lighter. I am definitely less scared. I find myself wanting to go explore the world with friends again.
There is this song that came out my freshman year of undergrad, shortly after I left home. These lyrics always made me tear up:
And I finally caught a dream
If I’m honest, it’s a terrifying thing
And I remembered who I was then I learned to dance with the fear that I’d been running from
I never knew why these words struck up so much emotion in me.
I get it now.
I am so proud of myself. I am finally starting to understand the dichotomy of life. And it’s so beautiful. I’m finally catching my dreams again. It feels both scary and right. Like how it should.
God used and is still using my brother’s death for good. The amount of people he has helped is humbling and inspiring. Maybe I'll write about that next, but for now, all I'll say is: I now I realize he helped me, too.