Restricted Access

It’s four am and the memory of Sam has awakened the black hole in my chest. I don’t know how to go close to it in words or perhaps I am just resisting going near the fire.

It’s physical. It’s not a story to tell or a picture to present. It’s the bleeding of a soul.

The first time I hyperventilated was on the school ski trip to Mount Washington in Grade 7.  Sam had fallen so much that he had given himself a concussion. The drama of his medical care had interfered with my breathing and caused a fuss to the point that my reaction cost our French class the airfare of another chaperone for our trip to Quebec.

In my twenties, I did several silent 10 day Vipassana meditation retreats based on watching your breath and observing your sensations. The first retreat was a misery of knots up the spine and muscles rebelling at being told to sit still for 11 hours a day. The other ones were back-to-back panic attacks. As my eyes would close, the choking would begin.

It starts with a moderate strangling in the neck and chains around my rib cage are cinched tighter and tighter. The heart burns, throbs, and bleeds. My stomach bubbles nerves and nausea runs up my spine to tickle the gag reflex in the back of my throat. Breath becomes shallow and fast and once I’m in it, my body holds me captive in core-breaking devastation and existential terror.

As I age, I am less tempted by the story my mind tells me to distract from or wallow in the pain. On most days, I no longer believe that God killed Sam to punish me.

When my sister had recently become a Christian, she invited Sam and I to a youth singing event at a church downtown. In the car along the way, Sam said,

– My Dad told me not to sign anything.

One of the last memories I have of Sam is walking out of self-directed math class with him and Amber, driving to China Beach in Sooke and heating up a tin of beans on the camping stove he used to bring to school to make lunch.

Wise people tell me to be grateful that it happened rather than sad that it ended.

Sam’s death not only led to my expulsion from high school but it has made intimacy painful. Love feels like our past experience of it and the proximity of real love near my heart triggers grief. Loving means losing and that makes it hard for me to breathe.


About Morbid Optimist

My name is Katryna Mary Brooke Ormiston. I am 35 years old and after living in Vancouver for a decade, I am returning home to my 81 year old father’s hobby farm on Vancouver Island to care for him in the final stages of his life. This blog is to document my journey, process my experiences along the way and hopefully share and feel connected to a community beyond the three and a half acres I find myself on. A message in a bottle in the cyber-sea.
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6 Responses to Restricted Access

  1. j3r3myjf says:

    Sam was a great friend with a lively but gentle soul. I remember building forts with him on the beach at Dallas road and we’d lie in the top and watch the stars at night. We’d talk about our brothers and how awesome it’d be to build a house on the beach. I miss him too. Thanks for posting this – and thanks for keeping him in your heart.

    • Jeremy! Amazing that when we were young we had the freedom to be on a beach at night. It was a beautiful childhood roaming the streets of Fairfield. Wasn’t your house across the street from Sam’s Mom’s? Thank you for commenting Jeremy.xo

  2. Dangus says:

    Have you tried smoking? That can certainly calm the nerves. I love you Katryna Ormiston.

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