For me, loss is like gunshot to a veteran
I watched West Wing, Season 2, Episode 10, on Netflix where Josh Lyman blows up at everyone because he relives the trauma of being shot. The trigger was the brass quintet that he “heard” as sirens. He even freaked out during the cello solo of Yo-Yo Ma.
Art was imitating life here. It was so true to form, I nearly wept when he was angry and yelling at people and knew, deep inside, that when he went on yelling, that I had done that too.
I admit my judgment has been off.
Climbing unsafe ladders and reaching through electrical lines was obviously the precursor to judgment impairment. Then it turned inward.
First, it started with a nasty migraine on one side of my head, then trouble thinking. At least that’s when I thought it started. I spent the morning flying off the cuff at my daughter for asking me the same question twice. I napped and didn’t want to get out of bed. My head continued to ache like something bad was happening inside.
It was the day after Mother’s Day — a day that is full of emotion and love for family, while also being a sharp stick poked into the new wound of mother loss.
We were unusually close. We had decades of Mother’s Days together.
When my best bee-friend came over to see the weak hive I had risked my life to save, he reminded me that sometimes you can’t save them. You don’t know what traumas they’ve already experienced. You don’t know if they’ve been poisoned, sprayed, or have been split off from a larger bee ball. He reminded me… you have to look at the tiny fist of bees and know that the numbers are too small to even save. Even in early May, they are hard to save…
There isn’t an ER unit yet for “premie” swarms. Not even close.
Only days before, I climbed a 20-foot ladder to save a softball sized lump of bees that had likely been sprayed with pesticide… it was ridiculous to try, but I did.
You have to wonder what deep loss a person has suffered when they must save everything. Save that little life. Save that tiny, translucent, hand… save, that tiny, closed fist of bees.
Inside of me, a triage nurse cannot accept the loss of life.
And there was Josh Lyman trying to un-explain why he yelled at the president. Why he relived his own trauma listening to the live performance of Yo-Yo Ma. And then there was me yelling and sobbing…
I have known my bee friend since my youngest child was a year old. She is 20. I came unraveled. I couldn’t form a sentence. I couldn’t act to do the right thing when faced with a tiny swarm. He observed it all.
He calmly said, “Call your doctor, this isn’t you.”
And I did.
Funny, but it seems that sort of floating out of your body and ranting helplessly is something people don’t know how to react to. But he is a beekeeper. Beekeepers, like surgeons of the heart, have to be tuned in and level. They must be patient. He stepped away for a moment then parsed no words.
“This isn’t you. You need a doctor’s appointment. Your personal affect is way off.”
Nobody told Josh Lyman his affective domain was off; they just called a trauma specialist. He had been shot, along with the president, and somehow survived his grave injuries. He stuffed his trauma down, deep down, and didn’t look at it again.
When my doctor saw me today, he asked me about my migraine triggers. I evaded him as easily as a martial artist does a punch. But when I watched Lyman, I got it. Mother’s Day — no longer having my mom. All the dead bees from a sick swarm and a queen bee whose crew was all dead outside the box. These were triggers. Loss to me is like gunshot to a war veteran.
For me, it was the guilt of going out of town for a writing conference… of all the fucking things to call me away.
It was mom and her massive stroke in our bathtub.
It was the MRI photograph of the massive bleed that continued in the ER.
I couldn’t stop the brain bleed anymore than I could stop the bees from dying.
In the end, Josh Lyman wanted help. He had to get his hand looked at after punching it through his window. Proudly, I have done no self-harm.
My doctor kept asking me if anything precipitated the event of the migraine and the emotion. I didn’t know yet. But then I watched Josh Lyman and I get it now.
You can be a caregiver and do everything right, and yet still need help accepting loss. It takes time. Apparently sometimes it takes time and television.