Running tonight after work I was surprised at how strong the inertia was. For the first several blocks I just wanted to stop but a few minutes later it was as though a switch had been flipped and I felt much better. It turned out to be one of the better runs I’ve had since the weather warmed up. Despite my wandering mind I found some amount of ‘flow’. The air was cooler, there was less humidity and my mind and body relaxed into the pace of my feet falling, my arms swinging and my breathing.
When thoughts came, I couldn’t help but think of a friend in one of my martial arts classes who told me over the weekend how he had a very difficult time concentrating in class because his world has recently been rocked by violence. He has a cousin who got involved with some very bad people. To make a long story short, they tried to kill him. Like a scene out of Pulp Fiction, they went medieval on him. They beat him, tortured him and dumped him in his car to die. To add insult to injury, two crack heads pulled him out and then stole his car.
He was in a coma for a long time. At the hospital the doctor told the family not to expect a recovery. Fortunately he has regained consciousness but it’s going to be a long time before he recovers physically and emotionally. I imagine it will be a long time for his family too. Everyone has been deeply affected.
The doctors told my friend and his family that the mind blocks out a lot of the memory of the trauma so that it can heal. When he does get better and the memories return, they may find him becoming very angry at what happened. Who could blame him?
I felt so bad for my friend. He was obviously in deep pain. His scars weren’t physical but in his own way he was a victim too. To know someone who has been the victim of a violence is very disturbing. It shakes your world to the very core and stays with you for a long, long time. It’s a strange sense of very deep vulnerability. Mortality and morality are staring you in the face. I don’t know that you’re ever the same again.
When I was just out of high school I worked as a police dispatcher. I had no idea just how cruel people can be until I started dealing with them every day. One of the first calls I took was from a man reporting a burglary in progress. He ended up shooting one of the burglars.
Another call was from someone that had just murdered another man. I’ll never forget his answer when I asked him if the shooter was still there and he said, “Yeah, it’s me.” That lead to my first subpoena and testimony in court where I had to face the accused and his family.
Welcome to the real world.
Being young, naive and idealistic I experienced quite a bit of culture shock. I learned to not take it personally, to blunt the traumatic impact of it all by developing a gallows humor. We’d talk about it, make crude jokes and be very glad it wasn’t happening to us or anyone we knew. Unfortunately you can never completely get rid of the thought that it very easily could have been you or someone in your family. You can’t lose your humanity & when you walk the black dog it tends to be easy to identify with others and their pain. You feel like it’s happened to you.
One officer I knew went on a shooting call. When he got to the house he found a young boy who’d just been shot . . . by his mother. He held the little boy as he waited for an ambulance, all the time the boy was asking, “Why did my mommy do this?” How do you answer that? That little boy didn’t make it and that police officer could not shake the impact of that 20 years later. I’m sure it’ll be with him all his life.
No amount of gallows humor can steel your psyche from the effect of dealing with the dark side of humanity. That’s the reason police officers have such a high divorce and suicide rate. The culture demands that they be tough, in control and soldier on through some of the worst situations you can imagine.The idea of asking for help in sorting this all out is seen as a sign of weakness. They give help, they’re not supposed to ask for it.
In many ways it’s not all that different from depression. How often have you put off getting help? Man or woman it doesn’t matter. We all think we should be strong enough to handle it by ourselves. If we go into counseling maybe that means that we’re weak and can’t cope. If we go on medication then we’re really a mess. We should just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, snap out of it, etc.
The truth is more people need to talk like my friend did, to share their emotions and what’s on their minds. We’re all flesh and blood and emotions. You cut us we bleed. When life happens we get hurt. This is human. The sanest thing we can do is to get help. That is being in control and taking charge. This and practicing TLC are the bootstraps by which we pull ourselves up.