Confessions of the Heartless

A lifelong friend from home recently wrote to let me know he’s thinking about me.  In his very nice letter, he stated that any decisions I make, if I make them from the heart, I won’t be wrong.  I shivered when I read this.  I thought to myself “I don’t have a heart anymore. It’s gone.”  So here, clearly I am not talking about my heart, the actual organ. I’m talking about my brain heart, my inner being, my soul–whatever else you want to call it.  The things that made Kristen–Kristen (in the BEFORE).  This thought has been on my mind for a few days and I just kind of accepted it.  Okay–there’s nothing left inside of me.  I have no heart.  Now I can be a bitch whenever I feel like it.  Cool.

Then, a few days ago, I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  I did some research and found these symptoms on http://www.webmd.com:

  • Reliving: People with PTSD repeatedly relive the ordeal through thoughts and memories of the trauma. These may include flashbacks, hallucinations, and nightmares. They also may feel great distress when certain things remind them of the trauma, such as the anniversary date of the event (or a tree–not actually on webmd.com, added in by me).
  • Avoiding: The person may avoid people, places, thoughts, or situations that may remind him or her of the trauma. This can lead to feelings of detachment and isolation from family and friends, as well as a loss of interest in activities that the person once enjoyed.
  • Increased arousal: These include excessive emotions; problems relating to others, including feeling or showing affection; difficulty falling or staying asleep; irritability; outbursts of anger; difficulty concentrating; and being “jumpy” or easily startled.

Well-DUH. I guess that diagnosis was no shocker.  Now I could tell myself that I’m not actually a heartless person–its all a part of the PTSD.  Except I didn’t believe that.

My oldest son tried out for the swim team at the beginning of last August.  His dad took him for the try-out and he was offered a spot on the team.  Then, everything happened and the swim team thing just got lost in the shuffle.  Recently, I contacted the swim team coach and asked if Jake could start now.  He asked me to bring my son in to swim with the team and see if he liked it before we committed to it.  My son hadn’t been swimming since last August-but we went.  My son was the smallest and youngest kiddo there.  He didn’t understand the numbers the coaches were yelling at everybody.  He was terribly out of shape.  But, he stuck with it.  Some kid was mean to him and he wanted to cry, but he stayed in that pool and swam his little heart out.  I watched my son from the sidelines and I felt my heart break for him.  I wanted to run over, pull him out of the pool, hold him tight and kick the kid that had been mean to him in the head.  (No I didn’t do any of those things).  My heart broke as I observed his vulnerability.  My HEART broke.  In order for it to break, there had to be one there in the first place.  Phew.

I remember the first time I felt this way about my oldest son.  Jake and I were at a BBQ at a co-worker’s home.  My son was about two years old.  For the first time ever, he tried to hang with the “big kids”.  He was running around, following them, trying to play their games.  The big kids weren’t very welcome or accepting of my son.  But my son was oblivious.  Later, Jake and I talked about how we felt watching that happen.  We discussed how we wanted to take the “big kids”, shake them and scream “PAY ATTENTION TO MY AWESOME KID!”.  But most of all we agreed we had never felt anything like that before.  Like our hearts had been ripped out of our bodies and were running around trying to keep up with the “big kids”.  That’s how I felt watching my son at swim team.  That’s when it occurred to me that I do still have a heart.  It may not be completely intact, but it’s still there.  Hopefully, it’s a little piece of the BEFORE Kristen that might still be there.  Even if it’s confused, and hurting, and has no patience or energy right now to pretend to feel badly for other people’s problems.

So, the good news of the day is–I am not heartless.  But if I come across that way to you-I’m totally fine with that.

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