Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Sh*tty Pair of Sunglasses

trig·ger (triɡər) noun an event or circumstance that is the cause of a particular action, process, or situation.

I hate triggers.  They are cruel, heartless, and generally unintentional reminders of an unfortunate past that all too often sneak up on us when we least expect them. Triggers are ruthless little bastards that seemingly come out of nowhere to ruin our day and turn people into quivering masses of jelly and tears.  The amazing part of a trigger is that you never know when it will affect you.  It could be something that you have seen over and over again on a daily basis, but on that one particular day, it hits you from out of the blue.

A trigger can be in the form of a song that reminds you of a love long lost, it can be a scent in the air that takes you back to a time when your life was not what you had hoped for, or a sensation that leaves you hollow and empty.  For people like me that have lost a loved one to suicide, they can be especially harsh, a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the face that drops you to your knees and leaves you on the floor of the coaches locker room screaming into a towel to muffle your anguish.

My trigger was a sh*tty pair of convenience store sunglasses.  Peyton had found them at a track meet about six months before his death.  They were mirrored, Aviator ripoffs that some kid had left behind at the long jump pit.  I told him to wear them around in case some one recognized them and wanted them back.  He strolled around the whole day with those ridiculous glasses on, and at the end of the day, asked me to put them in my backpack for safe keeping.  Since that day, those glasses stayed in my bag.  Through the rest of that season it was because I thought I may need them in case I forgot my own sunglasses.  Last year, it was because I convinced myself I might need them, but in reality, it was because I couldn't bear the idea of getting rid of them, even after I found a pair of Ray Bans after a meet in Houston.  Once the season was over, I hung my back pack on a hook in my locker and left it there over the summer, untouched until last week.

The month of August has been a cornucopia of weather changes here in the Houston area.  We ended almost two months of little to no rain with several days of torrential down pours followed by an almost daily chance of isolated thunderstorms, some possibly severe.  That meant that the bright blue cloudless sky I saw out of my window at the end of 5th period might be replaced by a downpour of Biblical proportions by the end of 6th, or vice versa.

It was on a day when all looked bleak weather wise that the nature gods took perverse pleasure on the populace.  After a morning of rain and gray clouds, the sun came out to heat the Earth and raise not only the temperature, but the humidity, to equatorial levels as well.  I had ventured out of the coaches office that day to drop off papers for copies.  Having noticed the bright sunlight, I went to the locker room see if my old Ray Bans were still in my track backpack.  When I opened up the side pocket, a spray can of sun screen, several pens and pencils, the Ray Bans, and the sh*tty pair of sunglasses fell onto the floor.  After a wave of profanity, I bent to pick up the flotsam from the floor. I shoveled most of it back into the side pocket, the Ray Bans were hooked into my collar, and the last thing left were the sh*tty sunglasses.  Rather than put them back, I knelt there staring at them.  I started to think about how they came to be in my possession, and then the wave hit me.  Suddenly, I was flat on my ass on the floor.  I tried to hold in the tears, but they came anyway.  I scooted across the floor and grabbed a towel from the basket, buried my face, and cried.  We're not talking just a few tears, this time, the water works opened and I let them flow.  I didn't care, I just needed to let out what had been building for a while.  Eventually, I composed myself, picked myself up off the ground, washed my face, and headed back to my day.This is not the first trigger I have dealt with since Peyton's death, but this one floored me.

I have been dealing with triggers since Peyton's death in October of 2014.  Whether it was walking past his room, looking at pictures on my phone, going places we had been together, his birthday, the anniversary of his death, seeing his friends growing up, or his sister Emmy ask when she will see him again.  I know I am not alone in my grief.  There are so many people out there that can no longer live a normal life as they had before the suicide of their loved one.  It is little things like triggers that get in their way, that stop them in the middle of a store, oblivious to everyone and everything around them, and leave them dumbfounded.  No one asks for this life, but unfortunately, there are far too many living it.

One of the worst for many survivors of suicide is the terminology in today's society.  You refer to people that are different as crazy or insane without taking into account that 90% of people that complete suicide are dealing with some sort of mental illness.  You make statements such as "I should just kill myself," or "if I were her, I would commit suicide."  You make gestures such as shooting yourself in the head (the number one method of suicide) or hanging yourself (number two) When we hear or see you spout such ignorance, we want to scream at you, grab you by the lapels and shake you, and pummel some sense into you.  I know you may be thinking "How was I to know that you lost some one?"  With an excess of 40,000 suicides in the US each year, and with each death affecting on average six people intimately, there is a good chance that some one in your life, be it a friend, relative, or acquaintance, has been affected.

Just last night, a friend of mine posted to face book about a t-shirt she had seen that depicted a San Francisco Giants fan standing on a chair with a noose around his neck, a Los Angeles Dodgers fan sitting down, eating popcorn and seemingly enjoying it, and the caption reading "Suicide Watch".  I had seen similar shirts before on Amazon, and heard the anguished and angry responses of people who has suffered loss, and now I have to hear them again.  Seeing this image was a trigger for some, and caused them grief.  For others, there was outrage that some one would find this funny.

As I stated earlier, triggers are ruthless little bastards.  They have the power to bring a person to their knees.  Some are unavoidable because of their personal nature, but others can be avoided.  References to suicide and killing one's self as a joke, should become taboo in our society.  You would never tell some one they should contract leukemia or heart disease, so why suicide?