Sunday, October 27, 2013


Hello InterWebs,

M. Peevie here. I took a year off from guest blogging my annual birthday post on The Green Room. I was working on my post last year, didn't quite get it done, and then my brother Aidan died. As Mim has said, we lost our whimsy--and since these posts are generally chock-full of whimsy, I just could not hit "publish."

(Mim, or Mimsey, is one of my nicknames for my mom. C. Peevie came up with it. I am also fond of calling her by her first name, and I get a small rush of pleasure when her friends overhear this and make a shocked and horrified face. Mim doesn't mind, she said, as long as it doesn't feel like disrespect to her. I guess so far it doesn't.)
Me, Aidan and C. Peevie, December 2011

So. Aidan. Yeah. It's really hard to talk about that. I love to talk about Aidan, and I miss him all the time. Sometimes I wish my friends would talk to me more about him, and ask me about him. The part I don't want to talk about is how I feel about him dying or about how much I miss him, because I don't really have words for it, and I don't know how talking about it is going to make it any better. So I just sort of go along missing him, and remembering him, and telling Aidan stories when I get a chance.

So much has changed in my life since my last post when I turned 11. I am nearly thirteen now, and I am a different person.

I left my little school where I had lots of friends, and teachers who love worksheets and who sometimes seemed to love rules more than children, and went to a big school, Whitney Young. I went from having two brothers at home to no brothers at home because C. Peevie left for college in August. I went from being a pre-teen who likes big words like "anthropomorphism" to an actual teenager who still likes big words like "precipitously" and "petrichor" and "sesquipedalian." 

I went from getting straight As in school without breaking a sweat to getting almost straight As but definitely breaking a sweat. When I was 10, I wanted to go to DePaul on a softball scholarship. When I was 11, I wanted to go to MIT to study architecture and engineering. And now I have determined that it makes more sense to get a liberal arts education first, so I want to go to DePauw University, and then maybe MIT, or maybe somewhere else, depending on where the liberal arts take me.

My school is great. I have new friends (Hi MK! Hi BB! Hi Beckham!). I like that my classes help me understand important topics in our country like the Affordable Care Act, the debt ceiling, and the government shut-down. I made advanced honors band, which keeps me awake at night with anxiety. I have to keep up with kids who are in high school and who have A LOT more experience than I do. 

I am riding the school bus for the first time (boo) with other seventh and eighth graders who are loud and obnoxious and immature and annoying and stupid. They make me envy deaf people. I also take CTA now (yay), and have my own Ventra card.

It might interest you to know, InterWebs, that I have become a Fangirl. Fangirls are girls (duh) who are fans (duh) of certain TV shows, movies, and actors--but we are more than fans. We are obsessed. My particular areas of obsession include Doctor WhoSherlock (the BBC version), Supernatural, and the Marvel Universe. I'm pretty sure that Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, and David Tennant all love me as much as I love them, which is a lot.

Oh, and I am now a card-carrying Nerdfighter--one who is not ashamed to be intelligent, and who fights to decrease WorldSuck. Nerdfighters are entirely composed of awesome. I highly recommend that you check out the books of the Nerdfighter in Chief, John Green, and in particular, The Fault in our Stars, which I have read multiple times.

That is about enough for now. This is M. Peevie, signing off.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


One day, more than seven months after that shocking, horrifying day, I stood on the spot where Aidan died and felt my breath being sucked out of my lungs. I put my hand on the wall and exhaled a long groan. That spot, that place--I walk past it, over it, 20 times a day. But in that moment, I looked down at the floor and saw him lying there, a pool of blood by his head; my brain somehow re-created the sound of M. Peevie crying and praying in the office a few short steps away.

Sometimes these punch-in-the-gut flashbacks come from nowhere, or from the slightest circumstance or reminder. Driving past the hospital where the paramedics rushed him. Seeing a fictitious murder victim on a TV crime show. Hearing the sound of multiple emergency vehicle sirens wailing past my normally quiet block.

These are the intrusive memories that accompany post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)--stark, harrowing images that pass through my mind like a Hiroshima slide presentation. I talked to my own personal best-friend-slash-therapist, Dr. Paradigm Shift,  about this. I told her how the projector behind my eyes starts running with the unwanted video, my breathing gets shallow and my skin feels clammy; sometimes my reaction is so physical that I double over and grab my gut as if it's happening right in front of me, again, right then and there.
Aidan and his buddy at the Cubs game.

It's a symptom of PTSD, she said, and the literature confirms this. "Intrusive re-experiencing is a core symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can take various forms, including intrusive images, flashbacks, nightmares, and distress and physiological reactions when confronted with reminders," according to one scholarly article.  

Besides all the crying and sighing and generally missing my boy, these episodes added insult to injury, making me relive the horror, fear, and agony of that day. I wanted it to stop. Dr. PS suggested, and my own therapist agreed, that the best course of action would be to consciously and intentionally replace those grim, intrusive visuals with thoughts and mind pictures of happier times. 

"Come up with one or two images in your mind of Aidan that make you smile, that make you feel happy and peaceful," she suggested. "Have them ready to recall. When the intrusive images come, force your mind to replace them with the good images." It sounds like it won't work, I said. These powerful, supraliminal movies force themselves in front of the eyes of my brain; I didn't think something so simple as thinking happy thoughts would really be effective.

"It takes practice," Dr. PS said. "It's not going to make them stop; it's not going to make them go away right away. But if every time an image comes, and you don't want to stick there, take out the mental photo album, and start looking through it. Focus on the good pictures of Aidan." 

Now, nearly a year later, the PTSD flashbacks come far less frequently, and when they do, I am usually able to quickly change the channel in my mind. I go to Aidan on the beach, Aidan playing Pokemon cards with his friends, Aidan kneeling next to his bed, writing in his journal. I go to Aidan alive, here with me, where he should be.

And then I'm just sad. I can change the channel from PTSD, but every other channel is the grief channel. 

“When someone you love dies, and you're not expecting it, you don't lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there's a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she's gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” ― John IrvingA Prayer for Owen Meany