Coping With Loss – Chapter 18 : Echoes

There is always that voice in the back of your head weighing in on things going on in your life. Sometimes it is warranted, like a second opinion except biased and irrational. Other times it is unwanted, and it continues to say things you’d rather not hear or continue thinking about.

After the passing of my mother, I struggled with listening to my own thoughts. A lot of them were dark and brooding, telling me that life wasn’t worth living and things will never get better. Other times it continued to remind me of the emptiness I felt, pointing out what would be happening if she was still around and what could have happened in times I need her. It is like a cave, echoing the things you don’t want to say out loud and instead bounce around inside your head.

I try my best to ignore it, casually acting like I live completely devoid of self-thought. The echo is a large factor in why I struggle with my anxiety, its constant reminder of what I fear and doubt. Listening to the constant barrage of negative and frightening things wears me out, and sometimes frustrates me. I’ve come to learn that fighting it is akin to a shouting match between two stubborn people. The louder voice is the victor, and if I can shout positive things out loud, it drowns out the negative things that ring throughout my head.

There is no real problem with hearing the things you’d rather ignore. It can be helpful in facing problems that you attempt to stuff under an emotional rug and force you to move on from them. For me, it was a big factor is slowly coming to terms with my loss, as hearing the things I will never experience again braced me for the times when I felt things were amiss. Being able to know why I feel a certain way helped me move towards acceptance and slowly adjust to my new life without a mother.

On the other side, being reminded constantly that every bite of food could trigger my gag reflex or every sip of water could cause me to choke is less helpful. When I am in the midst of a panic attack, a big factor in overcoming it is to keep loudly telling myself things to calm me down. It looks weird from a bystander’s perspective, but to me, it is equivalent to a heated debate I am clearly never prepared for. I yell to myself things like “vomiting wont kill me, and it is irrational to feel sick when it takes a minimum of two hours for a body to register food it has eaten is spoiled“. Debating facts about the human body, true or not, causes myself to question if the feeling I am having is genuine or not.

When you hear a scary noise coming from outside your door, most of the time you tell yourself that there is nothing to be afraid of. You do this by reminding yourself that all the doors and windows are locked, you never heard the sound of broken glass and ghosts don’t exist. Factually, any of these could be false. You might have forgotten to lock something or maybe you are attuned to communicating with spirits, but never the less, you calm your worries by spouting things to yourself in an attempt to overrule the echoes.

I worry that in time my echo will adapt, find ways to overpower my own voice and finally push me down every chance it gets. An uncontrollable wave of anxiety and negativity flooding my subconscious so loud that curling up in a ball and desperately trying to force sleep is my only reprieve. Getting to that point might be impossible, but it is also somewhere I never want to be. Unable to so much as stay awake long enough to enjoy life before it is loudly shouted away by a force of my own making.

I feel that listening to the echoes can have its list of benefits. Sometimes it can remind you of the way you truly feel while you consciously put on a façade. Other times it can force your knees to buckle in fear and self-doubt. The key to finding a balance lies in knowing the right time to listen and the right time to ignore, how you go about doing either is irrelevant, so long as it works. A question that will always haunt me however is; what were the echoes my mother heard before she closed her eyes for the last time? Was it just a calming silence or a flurry of fear? I guess one day I will know, when I too am facing my last fleeting moments. My only hope is that for once in my life, I will hear nothing but the sound of my own breathing, followed by the familiar sensation of losing consciousness.