Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bad Things Do Happen

Today the reality of things came crashing down. Even though I walk around acting like all of this is okay and I will do whatever I have to do, there are times, a lot of times, where I just want to give up. I still think that I have become a strong person because of all of this, but this by no means indicates that I don't have moments of weakness, because I do.

Over these past few weeks I have been doing a lot of self-psychology, or as I like to call it, reminding myself why I decided not to become a clinical psychologist. Through this self talk, I have discovered a lot about myself. I have talked before about how messed up my childhood was, but this does not account for the problems I have now. I am able to accept what happened in my childhood and I am able to disassociate from it in a healthy way, so my childhood can't possibly be, entirely anyway, the reason I am the way that I am in the present. Obviously something else, a catalyst of some type, has contributed to these feelings of anxiety, vulnerability, and also to my depression. I have been going over my life, as if it were a timeline, scrutinizing every aspect of it. This is currently a work in progress but there are a few things that pop out at me. The first thing, and I think the biggest, is my early career choice. Before deciding to become a psychologist, my plan was to go to medical school to become a ER physician, possibly specializing in trauma surgery. Since this was my dream, I became a Certified First Responder at the age of 16 and volunteered one evening a week, after school, for the local ambulance service. I absolutely loved it. I knew that I wanted to take things further so I contacted a local college that offered Paramedic and Advanced EMT classes, and asked if I could enroll. NY State law indicates that a person holding this type of a license must be 18 years of age. I actually ended up getting special permission from the State to take this class over the summer when I was 17 as the test date was 2 days after my 18th birthday. I ended up getting accepted. I continued to volunteer for a while but soon I was hired by a commercial ambulance service that covered three of our local cities. I went from working under another person, to working by myself. Even though I was very young, I was damn good at what I did as I took my responsibilities very seriously. During this time, I not only was working full time (nights and weekends) I was also going to school full time during the day in pursuit of my bachelor's degree. I had a mortgage I had to pay so I had no choice at this point. I would get off duty at 7am, go home and change, grab a coffee, and drive 30 minutes to get to my classes.

Okay, this is all fine and dandy, but what happened to me? Through working with this commercial agency, I witnessed a lot of things that I don't think I was ready for. I was still a teenager when I started this and I was not prepared for the reality of life. I always thought that my situation as a child was something that I could escape and that as soon as I did, life would be peachy and there was an entire world out there full of peace and happiness. Boy was I wrong! I witnessed a 15 year old being shot and killed, a child who was brutally abused by her father, a 18 year old that had his head smashed in by other teenagers with a baseball bat...I could go on forever. During this time I developed a skill that allowed me to detach myself from these situations, so they wouldn't bother me. If the calls were really bad, we would have a mandatory debriefing where support staff was brought in, but I would never attend. I figured that the sooner I could forget about it, the better off I would be. Wrong again! There was one call in particular that I believe sent me over the edge. I won't go into gory details but it was a car accident that came in 20 minutes before I was set to go off duty. It was at an intersection, not too far from my house, and it happened during the morning commute. Again without going into great detail, a small compact car was t-boned in the driver's side. Driving that car was a man who was on his way to work. Because he was trapped in the car, we had to wait for the fire department to extricate him. I ended up crawling in the backseat to assess him while they did this. During this time, we had a nice conversation about how his daughter was getting married in two weeks and how excited he was. I was trying like hell to get a blood pressure on him but I couldn't. Our medical helicopter was enroute to the scene as we didn't want to take any chances. I kept trying to get his BP but I wasn't getting it. At this point I knew something wasn't right. He started complaining of being nauseous and soon became confused. The fire department had finally freed him and we started to get him onto the backboard. The minute we laid him down his eyes rolled back and he went into cardiac arrest. Because of this we had to transport him to the local hospital. We tried like hell to get him back, but we just couldn't. When we got to the ER his family was already there as one of the cops on the scene went and picked them up. There was his wife, son and daughter just starring at his lifeless body as we brought him through the door. I was still doing CPR at this point but as soon as we got him into the trauma room, the ER doc called it. It was over. As I walked out of the room his wife collapsed and his daughter (the one that was getting married in two weeks) got sick. I have worked many cardiac arrests in the past, but they never bothered me like this.

It was on this particular day that I realized that we have no control over our lives, and anything can happen at anytime. Just like this man, you can wake up one morning to go to work and get killed on your way. When my husband leaves in the morning, that could be the last time I ever see him. You just never know. It was on this day that I became obsessed with trying to protect everything around me. If life wasn't going to protect these things, then I had to. I don't have much in my life so I make myself crazy trying to make sure what I do have stays with me. Throughout this fertility journey I have struggled to gain control, but I have failed at this, as realistically, it is impossible to do. The part that makes this tough, and has also contributed to the way that I am, is all of the losses and my inability to protect my babies. Every once in a while when I am laying in bed at night, images of the ultrasound with the little fluttering heartbeats fill my head and I can still hear the sound of those beautiful hearts beating. Realizing that all of this is gone, the fear kicks in that I will never have this again. Or what if I do, only to have it taken away time and time again? Everyday I read this quote by Walter Anderson to try and put things into perspective:

"I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the more precious gift I have--life itself."


  1. Thank you. Your post spoke to me today, and I needed it. In fact, your quote may find a place on my office wall.

    I've been lurking here for some time, and I love the way you write.
    Very best wishes

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this with me...with all of us. What an inspiring appropriate.

    My heart breaks for you and everything you have gone through. As usual, you have managed to beautifully express something so sad and so raw. I adore you, Krystyn, as a writer and as a friend.

    Be well.

  3. What a great reminder about life and how quickly everything can change. I really like that quote as well. Thanks for sharing.