I sit next to her in the empty, echoing silence of the ER. I am so unsure of what to do . . . I lean forward awkwardly, trying to do the “mom” thing despite my profound inadequacy for the role . . . I smooth her hair away from her face, trying to find words, or to figure out when to be silent. In the moments when I choose silence, I find myself blogging my way through it in my mind, beginning to write my way through my confusion.
I am thinking about being there, about my own exhaustion, and about the fact that at times like this, I don’t do well at asking for help and support from others. Questions such as “Do you want me to come up there for a while?” or “do you need a break?”, or even the more ambiguous, “let me know what I can do” are presented to me, but I would not know how to accept these offers if I tried. I don’t know
what I need . . . I don’t know why it is that I am simultaneously unable to imagine not being there myself, and yet incapable of asking others to come alongside of us. But because I cannot ask, and because I must be there, I remain.
she tells me more than once “you can go back to work” . . . she knows that I have much to do . . . but my response is swift– “As if!!!
” I’m not leaving her here. What she needs in this moment is to not feel alone, to have someone there with her who can validate her pain, who can advocate for her. (Did they really come in while she was doubled over in pain and say, “sorry you’re not feeling well, your co-pay is $100”?!) To make matters worse, there is an unclear diagnosis. What should have been straightforward is now anything but, thereby adding layers of psychic insult to the physical pain. To add loneliness to this, to leave her there by herself, is clearly unthinkable.
And sitting there, I am suddenly transported back, remembering where the intensity of my conviction comes from . . . remembering my own isolation, self-imposed though it had been.
I am certain that I frightened them, disappearing for a day, then providing only limited details, leaving them to fill in the blanks, and ultimately to have to come and find me in the hospital . . . in the ICU . . . as one of them stated afterwards, “we had no idea what we were walking into”. Of course, they had no way of knowing that I had already overheard a nurse say to another, “what is this?” and, when she was told why I was there, replying with disdain. “What’s she doing HERE?” My diagnosis was clear . . . charlatan . . . waste of time . . . one of “those” people. But my friends still had to steel themselves.
But I am never one to disappoint. I smiled at them, oozing reassurance and contrition as if I hadn’t just returned from the cavernous hole of self-destructive intent. Now was the time to make clear the message, “Crisis is over! No need to worry about me!” Even in my most self-destructive moments, I was always so careful to take care of those around me, to make things easier for them. Of course, it could be argued that the actions that had gotten me to that place were anything but selfless, but no matter . . . my role now was to reassure, to help them put this all past us . . .
and now my thoughts return to the situation at hand, and I start to wonder if perhaps in the very act of being here, I am contributing to my own healing . . . if I am in reality mothering myself at the same time that I am making these fumbling efforts to mother this hurting young woman in front of me . . .
I am so very tired . . .
I am so incapable of healing her pain . . .
but I am here. and at the end of this weary day, all I can do is hope that this counts for something.