Surviving survival

So that’s the name of a book. Which I’m reading. For obvious reasons.

The other day, the sound of a helicopter caused me to have a panic attack.

Yes, ’twas a helicopter that airlifted me out of the desert.

But the sound of those buzzing blades takes me back to the Friday night and Saturday afternoon when a chopper flew for hours near the area where I lay. For me, it’s a noise that reminds me of how it feels to lay helpless.

Last week, Hubs and I went back. A member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Search and Rescue Team led us back out to the area  where I was found.

The hike itself was empowering.

I can do this, I told myself again and again. And I did. I even found my little mesquite tree all by myself.

But the hard part is the now. Because with that trip came new pieces of knowledge.

For one — I didn’t realize how far off the trail I was. Nor did I know that I probably wouldn’t have been found if I hadn’t been able to yell for help when search teams were near. I was in a deep ravine in a cut. No way was the helicopter ever going to see me.

I also didn’t know that coyotes were gathering 200 yards downwind of where I lay unable to move.

Search-and-rescue teams had heard them yipping and howling all morning  — calls from one family of coyotes to another. When I was found, a pack of half a dozen had assembled, waiting for the smell of imminent death that would let them know it was time to approach and attack.

I don’t blame them. Coyotes have survived by being opportunists.

This week, my medical records arrived in the mail. Apparently, my body was in the midst of renal failure when I was found.

So the coyotes were pretty dead-on. A few more hours, and I would have been oblivious to their attack.

Or maybe I wouldn’t have been oblivious. Maybe I would have been all too aware and yet unable to fight back.

Regardless. On the one hand, I feel good about going back. At the same time, I’m now subject to a new kind of panic attack. I feel like my body remains adrenalized, poised for a fight that’s over.

Right now, I cherish evenings, when I’m at home, snuggled up in blankets and surrounded by my children and husband.

Daytime finds me irritable. Why can’t people appreciate how good they have it? Why can’t people quit bothering me while I heal?

I’m not talking about those who want to know how I’m doing. I’m referring to those who can’t understand why I haven’t just snapped back. Why I’m not jumping when they snap their fingers or call me umpteen times a week.

I’m trying. I really am. But please. Give me a little more time to find the me that was the reporter — the me that wasn’t a victim.

Because right now, on most mornings,  I would rather just stay in bed, huddled under the covers where it’s safe.


11 thoughts on “Surviving survival

  1. So glad you’re back (again), safe and sound. It takes time to heal, and those who really care will let you do it at your own pace. As much as most of us wish we could snap our fingers to make things better, the realists among us know that true healing takes work. You’re well on your way, so let yourself mourn, rest, get angry, cry, laugh maniacally (I can help with that one) … whatever it takes, just do it, and be happy you did.


      1. You are so welcome, my friend, and remember, my office door is always open if you need it (even if you just need some alone time … just ask and I’ll take a powder for a while).


  2. We are so glad you are safe Cathy and stay strong!!! You can do it and are a survivor!! The rest will fall into place.


  3. Well, I couldn’t say it better than Brenda so I won’t try.But I will add that when you’re feeling the most anxious, just remember that it was you who yelled for help — you who saved you when you needed saving.No matter how bad you’re feeling or how much you are struggling to make sense of all that happened, that voice is still inside you.


  4. Take all the time you need, Cathy. I’m glad you’re safe and snuggled at home, and ever so grateful for those who found you and that you were able to call out for help.


  5. Makes me think of the Five for Fighting song, “Superman.” “…Even heroes have the right to bleed….” Take your time working through all this and ignore the sound of those snapping fingers. There’s no deadline to meet this time, friend. This is your story, and it’ll play out on your timeline, not anyone else’s. Just keep on keepin’ on. And if you ever need anyone to talk to, I’m available to listen.


  6. As so often happens, reading your account of your experience in the wilderness and your healing process leaves me with tears. Hugs to you, Cathy. Take all the time you need — we’ll be here for you when you’re ready. You (and Hubs) will heal on your timetable — no one else’s.


  7. Thank you so much for sharing all that you are dealing with right now. Healing from the trauma that your body, mind and soul endured in the desert will take time and, in the end, you will be a very different person for the experience. Be kind to yourself. Do what feels right to you at the time. Rely on the friends and family who lift you up and offer you comfort. Did I say be kind to yourself? Above all, be kind to yourself.


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