Does Forgotten Pain “Count”?

Are you being cruel to yourself if you can’t recall how that cruelty feels?

During my latest meander through the maze that is cyberspace, I stumbled upon an article entitled, “Twilight Sleep: The Forgotten 20th Century Method Of Childbirth That Erased Memories”.

Twilight sleep sounds heavenly. No pain, no memory of childbirth. You go in, and next thing you know, your baby is in your arms. That sounds vastly superior to the method I’d have chosen, which is to knock me out and wake me back up when the kid is 21 and self-sufficient. Because talk about a time suck.  

Twilight sleep was really popular in the early 1900’s, but it has since (thanks be to God) fallen out of favor. On its surface, it sounds plausible. You give the mom morphine for the pain, and then regular doses of scopolamine throughout the childbirth to erase their memory thereof. Feminists at the time were huge advocates of this procedure. Anything that would make childbirth painless sounded good to them. This article will tell you how historically horrific childbirth could be.

In fact, at about the same time there was a vast increase in the number of mothers who chose to go to a hospital rather than giving birth at home with a midwife. Nobody wants to be in pain if they don’t have to, right? It also caused doctors to explore techniques of pain management in general, which, as far as I’m concerned, is a good thing.

Unfortunately, twilight sleep has multiple issues. Of course those drugs are passing through the placenta to the baby, and some babies were born not breathing. As the procedure became more popular, medical staff that hadn’t been trained had also been known to kill the mother with an overdose of the drugs.

But there’s another horrific reason why twilight sleep fell out of favor. Anyone who had given it the slightest amount of thought would have asked themselves why one would need to forget an experience if it were painless. Therein lies the rub. It wasn’t.

The woman would be administered morphine while still conscious, and I’m sure that felt like a huge relief. But it’s easy to overdose on morphine, so it’s not like the physician could knock the patient out completely or give additional doses once the pain came roaring back. Instead, they would administer the scopolamine to put mom in an amnesic state.

In other words, she felt the pain. She just didn’t remember anything about it afterward. The birthing room had to be kept extremely quiet during this procedure, because the slightest noise or distraction could snap the patient out of the amnesia, and there she’d be, in excruciating pain, and would then remember every moment of it. That sounds like a hellish way to wake up. So the nurses would often cover up the woman’s eyes, and plug her ears so she couldn’t hear anything. And then, because her body was still feeling the pain, they would often tie her hands and arms down and pad her body so she wouldn’t thrash too much. Many women woke up wondering why they had burn marks on their wrists.

So that begs the question: Does forgotten pain “count”?

To me, twilight sleep is a way to torture the body while the mind remains blissfully ignorant. It’s unethical. What ever happened to, “First, do no harm”? It’s like saying that if I drug a woman and rape her, it isn’t really rape because she won’t remember. (Bill Cosby was quite adept at this.)

As far as I know, no studies were done regarding the psychological damage to the unconscious portion of the minds of the women who went through this experience. The body was still in agony. That’s a trauma. Part of you must feel awfully helpless in that situation, feeling pain and not being able to engage the rest of the brain enough to make it stop. That’s got to leave a mark.

I suppose it could be argued that forgetting the pain, if that’s the only alternative, is better than nothing. Personally, I’d rather retain my own agency. I’d want to engage my whole brain in the epic battle against the enemy.

Pain, for the most part, is survivable. It’s not fun and it’s not something I would wish on anyone, but it’s survivable. (Chronic pain, on the other hand… I can see why someone would choose to forget that rather than endure it.) I highly recommend pain management, but I don’t recommend checking out and letting your body go it alone. At a bare minimum, your being would be undergoing inner abandonment issues. Self-trust would be obliterated.

There aren’t really many regulations regarding how a person treats his, her, or their own body. If so, there would be people walking around snatching the cigarettes out of the mouths of strangers. That sounds like heaven to me, but some might disagree. After all, we are the bosses of us. Or at least we should be. (And before anyone lights a fire in my comment section, this does not equate to having to wear a mask or get a vaccine, because those things are about protecting everyone, not just selfish old you.)

There’s a fascinating series, streaming on Apple TV+ right now, called Severance. In it, people are voluntarily undergoing a surgical procedure that severs their home and work lives. The minute they enter the elevator to get to their office, they have no memory of what they do during their off hours, and vice versa. It’s almost as if two people take turns using the same body.

The main character has signed up for this because he is devastated due to the death of his wife, but he knows he must continue to work. Severance means that he will only have to experience his grief while at home, and can function efficiently on the job.

Another character is having an intriguing debate with herself. Her “innie”, or the part of her that works, hates the job and wants to resign. But her “outie” refuses to let her, even though Innie is clearly suffering emotionally. Outie doesn’t care, because she doesn’t remember any of that. Unless both parts of her get on the same page, then no change can happen, leaving the opportunity for change at a distinct disadvantage. Outie’s lack of compassion effectively renders Innie a slave.

So, are you being cruel to yourself if you can’t recall how that cruelty feels? Are you torturing yourself if you don’t recall the pain? Does a person with dementia love someone that they no longer remember?

How much of your brain has to be in sync for you to be you?

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Excruciating Pain

You become like an animal.

Note: I wrote this post several weeks ago. I’m still in pain, yes, but I’ve just gotten a cortisone shot, and the pain is much more manageable. I’m not even wearing the left brace during the day anymore. Fingers crossed…

For me, writers block comes and goes. Sometimes I have so many blog ideas that I can barely keep up. But, at the moment, I’m staring at an empty, Sahara-like, monochrome, inner-landscape of nothing.

I’ve spent the last couple of hours looking for blog ideas online, in newsfeeds, and even in random word generators, but nothing is inspiring me. It’s extremely frustrating when you pile on the fact that I’m going to be going on vacation soon and I need to get ahead on my blog posts so I don’t have to stress out while traveling. So as a last resort, I’ve decided to blog about what is preventing me from blogging. And that is that I’m in horrible, excruciating, mind numbing pain. Tendonitis times ten.

Unless you’ve experienced chronic, agonizing pain, there is absolutely no way that you can understand how pain changes you. You become like an animal that only has one focus. And that focus is that you hurt. And if you can’t find a way to get past that hurt, then you just sit there in that pocket of agony and everything else falls away. You have no past or future, you barely even have a present. You don’t care about anything else. In fact, nothing else exists.

If this pain has been going on for a long time, you have the added burden of realizing that it’s completely invisible to everyone around you. If you mention it to them, you sound like you’re complaining rather than trying to explain your mindset. People lose patience with you, and you don’t have the energy to care.

For you the pain never ever goes away, but for them it becomes something they really would rather not hear about if there’s nothing that can be done to help. Your pain makes other people uncomfortable because they can’t relate to it or do anything about it. And because of that, pain is the loneliest thing in the world.

I know many people who are in chronic pain. And even though I’ve been there before, it had passed, and once it’s gone you can’t really remember it in all its many dimensions. One person I know, who is in chronic lifelong pain, let me down several years ago, and I resented her for it for a long, long time. But now I get it. I’m there. If she needed me at the moment, I’d let her down, too. Right now I don’t care and I can’t care and I don’t have even one more sh*t to give about anything other than the fact that I hurt.

The scary thing is there is no easy cure for my type of tendonitis, so I will most likely have to learn to live with this pain, and that makes me feel profoundly hopeless. This level of hopelessness is also something that most people can never relate to. I’m not sure I can stand it. I just feel like curling up in a fetal position and howling. And the whole concept that there may be no end in sight is terrifying.

It’s a safe bet that your primary instinct right now, dear reader that you are, is to leave advice in the comments section as to how to get past this pain. Rest assured that I am seeing a specialist. And rest assured I’m trying everything that I can possibly try.

The whole point of this article is that I’m not looking for advice. And most people who are in chronic pain aren’t looking for advice from anyone besides their medical professionals. What they’re looking for is compassion and support and patience and kindness and maybe the tiniest bit of assistance in toting that barge and lifting that bale.

They want to feel not crazy. They want to feel seen and understood. They want to feel less alone but at the same time they want to be left alone, and that’s a weird dichotomy to live with. At this exact moment in time, I would just love for somebody to show up and say, “Hey, I know you aren’t feeling well, and I’m so sorry. I brought you some coffee ice cream, some potato chips, and I’ll get you your softest jammies and your fuzzy weighted blanket, and here’s a list of recommendations for fun things to watch on TV that don’t require much mental effort to follow, and I won’t expect a single thing from you. Now I’ll leave you alone. But holler if there’s any way I can help.”

I just want to feel like a human being again. I want to be able to go through life and give my body no thought whatsoever and just assume that it’s going to be there for me when I need it. I long for the days when I could take things for granted.

Now I can’t even count on the fact that I can write legibly from one moment to the next, or put on my shoes without help, or grasp anything for any reason. I’m even having to dictate this blog post and it’s making me realize that I’m barely enunciating properly because of the pain and the dictating software doesn’t know what I’m saying half the time.

Here’s a random fun fact for you. “Excruciating” comes from the same root as “crucifixion”. I totally get that.

I hope there will be a day when I can reread this blog and barely relate to it my own self. But I also hope that someone else in chronic pain reads this and feels seen and understood, probably for the first time in ages. This is not a club that anybody wants to be a part of, but here I am, so I just thought I should introduce myself.

Hello. I am that ball of bright red, jagged, unrelenting torture that’s just out of sight on the other side of this computer screen, desperately clawing at it from the yawning abyss that I hope you never have the misfortune to enter. Nice to meet you. I’ll be here all week, and then some.

What a Difference a Person Can Make

You never know when someone will take your outstretched hand.

Last year, I went with a friend to the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition here in Seattle, and I blogged about it. I had a wonderful time. But beneath the surface, I was feeling this great, yawning, howling, aching chasm of loneliness.

While I spent most of the holidays bravely stuffing that down and trying not to let it overwhelm me, it was a very near thing. Sometimes I could feel it surging upward, and I knew that if I let it take over, I’d probably lose my battle with depression and start howling or something.

Even so, Figgy Pudding is a wonderful event, and I decided to make it part of my Christmas tradition. I went again this year with my husband. As we stood there, listening to the carolers beneath the glow of the huge Christmas tree, what I felt was joy. No physically painful ache in the pit of my stomach. No feeling of being on the verge of hysteria. Just contentment. What a gift this man is in my life. He’s all I need for Christmas.

And then I looked around at the crowd, and I realized that no one who looked at me this year or last would have known my state of mind. I’m sure there was a lot of joy in the crowd, but also a lot of longing for companionship. A lot of pervasive emotional pain. The fact that it often looks one and the same is a bit troubling.

I’m not saying that everyone in the whole world must walk about two by two in order to be happy. Some people are perfectly satisfied being alone. I know I felt that way for quite some time. Some people who are in relationships are even more lonely than their single friends, and that’s got to be even more emotionally excruciating.

I just find it kind of enlightening to realize that there’s really no way to know what’s going on beneath the surface unless you talk to someone. We need to communicate more. We need to put down our devices and actually connect.

And to those of you who are swirling in that deep dark pit of loneliness that I used to know all too well, I just want to say that it may feel like that’s your forever, but keep reaching out. You never know when someone will take your outstretched hand, and that changes everything. I’m living proof of that.


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Hostile Poetry

Don’t just bare your soul and leave it out there, exposed to the elements…

I will be the first to admit that writing can be very therapeutic. I have vented my spleen enough in this blog to be able to attest to this firsthand. And I highly recommend journaling or expressing yourself creatively when you are trying to work through your feelings. It can go a long way toward helping you communicate assertively with the person or persons who stirred up these emotions within you.

That’s the healthy scenario.

And then there are those who write bitter diatribes instead of communicating. They sit on those feelings for a decade or more, and let them fester and eat away at their souls. They can’t grow up or move on, like 13-year-olds trapped in aging bodies.

I got to read one such poem the other day, in which the author stated that he’d get a vicarious thrill in watching someone else get hurt. It really made me sad about his arrested development and his inability to communicate and get past his pain.

That this person chose to post this in a public forum makes me question his mental health. It’s a cry for help, but it’s an impotent one. It puts the focus on the pain instead of on the healing. The only thing it achieves is making others feel sorry for him.

Yes, there’s no guarantee that the instigator of your pain is going to understand or apologize or make you feel better if you try to talk to him or her. That person may not even be in your life anymore. But vomiting out your emotions for the world to see will only cause you to be pitied.

Write and then communicate. Or write to educate. Or just write. Or just communicate. Or seek therapy.

But don’t wear your wounds on your forehead for the world to wince at and then do absolutely nothing to treat them. It’s not a good look. And it sure as hell isn’t healthy.

Just a little head wound

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Let’s Just Say He’s Innocent

If there’s nothing to hide, there’s no reason to rush.

I had a nightmare last night that I was held down and sexually assaulted, and when I tried to speak out, I was mocked, threatened, lied about, and publicly humiliated. And a huge group of white men smiled approvingly while it happened.

“Can’t you just investigate?” I asked. “I’ll let the facts speak for themselves, if only you’ll take the time to look. I have nothing to hide. Do you?”

So they pretended to look, but they were in a hurry. They had other priorities. My pain, my trauma didn’t matter. They didn’t care.

I felt like I was brutalized all over again.

If only I had been taken seriously, if only a full investigation had been done. Even if my attacker was deemed innocent, I would have felt heard. But that’s not what happened. These men didn’t care about me in the face of their agenda.

Let’s just say Kavanaugh is pure as the driven snow. (We’ll never know, now.) Why not take the time for a full investigation, then? What harm would it do? In fact, it would do a great deal of good.

Because, today, I’m every woman who has ever been assaulted. I just want to be listened to, with respect. I want the world to acknowledge that what happened to me matters. Couldn’t Kavanaugh’s inevitable confirmation have waited a bit longer for a thorough investigation so that sexual assault victims the world over could feel acknowledged? What harm would that have done?

Before any justice is appointed, we all should be justly taken into consideration. That’s it. That’s all.

And that’s what didn’t happen. Instead, every aye vote felt like a stab to the vagina. Rest assured that we will all bleed our way to the voting booth.

Shame on all of you who were so busy praying that you’d get a judge that would vote your way that you were willing to step on millions of women to do so. Shame. You have shined a light on the darkness of your soul, and none of us will ever be the same.

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Don’t Overdo

Live to mow another day.

Your body is one smart cookie. It tries to talk to you all the time. Are you listening?

It’s really tempting to push through pain and exhaustion to finish up what you’re trying to get done. Believe me. I know. It’s also hard to stop having fun even when your body is protesting. But it’s not as if you get to trade your body in for a newer model if you wear it out. Aside from the possibility of a few replacement parts, this carcass, flawed as it may be, is pretty much it for you. So it’s important to take care of it.

The day I wrote this, I had been mowing the lawn in the hot sun. It was the only opportunity I would have to do it this week, and I really didn’t want my neighbors to give me the stink eye due to my neglect. That, and the lawn does look better when it’s properly maintained. So mow I did.

But I had to keep taking breaks. I was sweating profusely. My heart was pounding. I was getting dizzy. More and more, I had to stop, sit in the shade, drink some iced tea, and lie flat until my heart slowed down a bit. Then I’d mow some more, and sure enough, it would happen again. I’m neither as young nor as thin as I used to be.

At one point I thought I was going to pass out or vomit. Back to the shade. As I lay there, I thought, “You know, I could die. All alone in my yard.” That would suck. I have plans. I’m working toward a future, here!

Suddenly I realized that the lawn was not worth dying for. Common sense, you’d think. But it was actually an epiphany for me. So, the front lawn looks great, but the back yard is choked with dandelions and clover. But, hey, I’m alive. And the bees are thrilled.

Afterward I took a cool bath, and then a nap, and felt much better for it. I bet my body is astounded that it took me so long to wise up. I suspect it feels like that quite often.

I need to become a better self-listener. I’m not going to win some prize for pushing myself too far. There are no medals for abusing one’s health. I don’t know about you, but I want to live to mow another day.

Bee and Dandelion

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The Ingredients of Happiness

It always comes as quite a shock when someone famous commits suicide. Hearing on the radio that Anthony Bourdain chose to take his own life nearly caused me to swerve off the road. This is someone I’ve envied. He got to travel. He had crazy experiences and met fascinating people. He won countless awards. No doubt he also made a boatload of money.

This was someone who was successful, rich, and had an exciting life. Three things many of us strive for, and yet, now he’s gone. On the surface, you’d think that his was a life worth living. But to make this permanent choice, he must have been in a great deal of emotional pain. He must have been suffering. Surrounded by all of us, who admired him, he must have been all alone. Of course, this is pure speculation on my part. I doubt any of us will ever know the full story.

The only thing I can know for sure is that I am happier than Anthony Bourdain was. I would never have guessed this a week ago. But there’s incontrovertible evidence of this now. I’m still here.

So, what constitutes happiness? One thing is for sure: it isn’t money. I know that’s a cliché, but clichés become clichés for a reason.

I know someone who is a millionaire, but he’s also a divorced, estranged father and a raging alcoholic. He’s one of the most miserable people I have ever met. Money does nothing to solve your problems when all is said and done. Most of us know this, and yet so many of us still seem obsessed with filthy lucre. It’s such a waste of time.

As far as I can tell, the two things you need to be happy are connections and purpose. Humans are social animals. They need community. The more you surround yourself with people you love who love you back, the happier you will be. And having a purpose, such as a job you love, or a goal to strive for, or even a hobby, makes life worthwhile. If you have none of those things, I encourage you to become a volunteer. Helping others is the noblest of purposes.

Don’t get me wrong. None of us can be happy all the time. People who are happy all the time are mentally ill. It’s how we cope with the rough patches that truly defines us. But there’s a lot that you can do to make your life satisfying overall.

If you are contemplating suicide or know someone who is, I strongly encourage you to seek help. Here in the US, a great resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Their number is 1-800-273-8255. Please, just do that one last thing before taking any steps that, once done, can never be undone. Surely you owe yourself that much.

Anthony Bourdain, I hope you have found the peace you apparently could not find in this life. I wish you had made a different choice.

Anthony Bourdain

A refreshingly positive book for these distressingly negative times.


Incremental Changes

About two months ago I had a very old filling replaced, and that tooth has been giving me agony on and off ever since. It makes me wonder if I should have left well enough alone, and mercury be damned. Probably not. But I do have my moments.

At first, even the slightest contact with the tooth above would have me clinging to the ceiling like a cartoon cat. So, the dentist made a slight adjustment. Just the tiniest change, the size of the head of a pin. That was all it took.

But when you think about it, every mountain peak ends in a microscopic, pin-sized point. But when you pound on that point hard enough, the mountain feels it. (In this scenario I suppose I am the mountain, which is a comparison I’m usually loathe to make. I’d much rather be the mole hill.)

That first adjustment made a huge difference. Pressure was no longer an issue, but unfortunately heat and cold were. Those abrupt changes would send the pain radiating up to the very front of my mouth. That was no fun. So, more adjustments were in the offing. Each one made a slight improvement, and yet the pain persisted.

You have no idea how often you change the climate in your mouth on a daily basis until it causes a pain response. Mercy me.

So, yeah, the tooth is still a work in progress, getting better all the time, but it occurs to me that it’s also a metaphor for life. At least for my life.

I do stuff, hoping to make things better. Occasionally, all holy hell breaks loose. Sometimes I get hurt. So I make a change. It might seem like a small change, but it’s effective. Things get better. So I make another small change, and so on. Much of the time those around me don’t even realize that the mountaintop of my life is a work in progress, but I’m acutely aware of it.

Eventually, I hope to achieve balance and contentment. Isn’t that everyone’s goal to some degree? But it’s a process. Sometimes a painful one. I do take comfort in the fact that the one constant is that I seem to be learning things along the way.

It might be a daily grind, dear reader, but grind on. You’ll get there.

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What Took You So Long?

It’s heartbreaking when a beloved dog dies. People who don’t have pets don’t understand, really. They become like your children. Only, if you lose a child, there’s a vast support network. When you lose a dog, people expect you to snap out of it. They nervously offer up something about the Rainbow Bridge, and then they feel like their job is done. They don’t want to dwell on it. That makes it really hard to grieve.

I’ve lost a lot of dogs in my lifetime. It absolutely destroys me, every single time. But I try to comfort myself with the fact that I always do all that I can to give my dogs safe, happy, love-filled, and comfortable lives. And they give me so much love in return. There’s no greater gift. “You are my person, so here is my heart.” It’s a rare human who is that generous.

The last time one of my dogs passed away, some fool said, “You can always replace him with another one.” I nearly lost it. My dog is not like a toothbrush. It’s not like just any old dog will do. “Honey, while you’re out, can you pick me up a carton of milk and a new dog?” None of my dogs could ever be replaced.

Having said that, though, you’ll probably be surprised at what I am going to say next. I sincerely believe that when you lose a dog, you really should get another dog as soon as possible. That’s what I have always done.

No, I don’t mean the dog you lost can be replaced. In fact, no two dogs are alike. I’ve had a unique relationship with every single pet I’ve owned.

The reason you should get another dog, and soon, is that you are needed. There are so many dogs out there who are desperate for love and nurturing. You have a lot of love to give.

I know many people who have been so heartbroken by the loss of a dog that they never get another. That devastates me when I think about it. Because there’s a dog out there somewhere that is supposed to be loved by you, and that dog isn’t getting that love. It’s so sad.

I know the pain of loss is horrific. I know that you don’t want to go through that again. But do you also want to never experience that kind of love again? How can you pass that up? There’s a dog out there, just waiting for you. And when you go get him, he’ll say, “What took you so long?”


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The Anatomy of a Traumatic Experience

It was an unremarkable day. In retrospect, that was one of the strangest things about it. I was walking across the bridge to get to work, as I’ve done thousands of times. The sun was out. I had no plans, really. Think “status quo.”

And then I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned, just in time to see the guy hit the water. He had jumped off the next bridge over. There was this big splash, and that’s when time stopped for me. I think I will always carry with me a static image of him hitting the water, the splash and the waves it caused frozen in place. Because at that instant I knew he was dead. I knew it just as sure as I’m alive.

Needless to say, I stopped dead in my tracks. I stared at the body with my mouth hanging open. My mind started to bargain. “You didn’t really just see that.” “It’s not a body. Someone must have dropped something big and heavy off the bridge.” “This is not happening.” “No. This can’t be happening.”

Then I saw two boats race out from the rowing club. They tried to drag the body out of the water, but they couldn’t. Then the Harbor Patrol came screaming around the bend in the lake, and they were able to pull him out.

Somewhere along in there I had walked woodenly to the drawbridge tower where I work. (The sequence of events is forever hazy in my mind.) I climbed the stairs. “Did you see that?” I said to my coworker.

“See what?” She had been looking the other way. Time had been moving at a normal pace for her. And then I changed that, probably. She went down and talked to the officers on the scene, and then she left, after urging me to call our supervisor.

I talked to the supervisor for a long time. This is not the first time a bridgetender has witnessed a suicide, and it won’t be the last. She offered to let me have the day off, but I didn’t feel up to the commute. I was already there, and I could be traumatized at work just as easily at I could at home. She also strongly encouraged me to contact our Employee Assistance Program and get some counseling, because this was a big deal.

How right she was. I had never seen anyone die before. I’ve seen dozens of people consider jumping, but then get talked out of it. That’s upsetting enough. I’ve seen a few dead bodies, after the fact. But I’ve never seen anyone die before. It changes you.

I spent the rest of the shift feeling stunned and sad and sick to my stomach. I didn’t accomplish much. I kind of stared off into the middle distance a lot of the time. I thought about the jumper, and was heartbroken that he had felt so much pain and despair that he made that irreversible choice. I was heartbroken for the people who love him. I was upset for all the other witnesses, including the ones at the waterfront restaurant who were expecting to have a lovely salmon lunch, as I have on more than one occasion, and instead got an awful memory.

The weird thing was that I could see that life was going on all around me. Boats were happily floating over the spot, unaware that someone had just died there. People were jogging. Cars hummed their way across the bridge.

The waterway had always been kind of a sacred place for me. Now it had been violated. By the jumper? By the boaters? I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

I talked to several people during the course of the shift. My crew chief stopped by. He offered, again, to let me have the day off. He reminded me about the Employee Assistance Program. He told me a few stories about things he’s experienced, and how it made him feel. It was really nice of him to stop by. I kind of felt detached, though.

I also called my sister, who was predictably horrified and sympathetic, and a few friends, who were sorry and tried to be comforting. I even spoke to my therapist. But I felt… it’s hard to explain. I felt like I was in a different reality. A different place, where I couldn’t quite reach them, and they couldn’t quite reach me. I could hear what they were saying, but it was like I was at a high altitude, and my ears had yet to pop. At a remove. Alone.

At the end of the shift I expected to go home and have a really good cry, but the tears never came. As of this writing, they still haven’t come. But I can feel them on the inside.

When I got home, I hugged my dog, and then fell into a deep sleep. I was really afraid I’d have a nightmare and wake up screaming with only my dog to comfort me, but that didn’t happen. I don’t even think I tossed or turned. I barely even wrinkled the sheets. It was like I had been in a coma.

When I woke up, “it” was my first thought. But oddly enough, I felt calm. I felt rested. I was in a good mood. Could I have gotten past this so easily? It felt like I had been given a “get out of jail free” card. What a relief. Tra la la.

Okay, yeah, maybe I’ve gotten past this. Woo! What an adult I am! This is awesome! Just in case, though, I did look into sending a condolence note to the next of kin. I spoke to the Harbor Patrol Chaplain. Naturally, he couldn’t give me a name, but he might be able to forward the note on for me. I thought that would be a nice little bit of closure.

I also spoke to the Employee Assistance Program, and set up some counseling sessions, even though I was feeling great. Way to go for practicing self-care, Barb! I felt really mature and well balanced.

In fact, I spoke to a couple of professionals who thought I was probably over the worst of it. But my therapist told me, cautiously, that I’d probably experience ups and downs for quite some time. There’s a reason she makes the big bucks.

Again, that night, I slept well. I was rested the next day, but a little subdued. Nothing major. Just kind of bleh.

And then that afternoon I started to shake uncontrollably. I wasn’t cold. I was just suddenly overwhelmed. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had several semi-urgent things on my to-do list, but it was painfully obvious that I was in no shape to deal. I just… I shut down.

I kind of checked in with myself, and what I got was: I’m afraid. I feel out of control. Everything feels so fragile, like a soap bubble. I’m so exhausted that the air feels like the consistency of chocolate pudding. Everything takes more effort than normal. I just want to be left alone.

Which is kind of good because after that first day, most people stopped following up with me. They were over it. It was an awkward conversation. Life goes on. But I still felt, and still feel to this day, that I need someone to hold me while I cry, and that someone can’t seem to be found.

Yes, there’s therapy in my future, and yes, I’ll learn to cope with my new reality. I know this because it’s not the first traumatic thing that’s ever happened to me. I hope it’s the last, but I kind of doubt it. I am also well aware that things are cyclical. I’ll have good days and bad days.

Perhaps it’s the awareness of the cycles of life that have always prevented me from making the horrible choice that the jumper did. No matter how bad things get, even when the loneliness is so bad it’s physically painful, I know that eventually the pendulum shifts in the other direction.

That, and I could never put someone through what that jumper has put the witnesses, the first responders, and his loved ones through. Never. Not ever.

Having said that, though, I hope he has found the peace that seems to have eluded him in life.


Start a gratitude practice today. Read my book.