This post is Grassroots, meaning a reader posted it directly. If you see an issue with it, contact an editor.
If you’d like to post a Grassroots post, click here!

October 6, 2022

Ignorance is Bliss – how blocking difficult emotions worked as a coping strategy in a crisis

Following the motorbike accident, I went to see my husband in hospital – not sure what to expect at all.

We have all seen hospital dramas – so it’s tempting to think it’s going to be like that, all intense emotion whilst retaining that feeling of hope that you’ll be one of the lucky ones. Love is enough and conquers all – right? My dad came with me. Obviously.

I was shown to a cubicle in A&E where they drew back the curtain. There he was. It still looked like him, though he wasn’t showing any signs of life. Whilst he had received a major trauma to his face and head (as they told me later), he looked intact mostly, despite the blood everywhere.

He’d had an emergency tracheotomy, which I didn’t question at the time as presumed there would be a good reason and I would find out later. FYI his airway was blocked by tissue, bone, teeth and dirt – a pretty good reason I’d say.

There was a lot of activity. He was connected to a lot of machines. I remember noticing how dirt and mud were mixed in with his grazes and surmised it must have come from the verge where he ended up. Also, apart from the big mess sitting on his shoulders, he had a huge wound on the back of his hand. Nothing else appeared damaged.

Medics talked to me and I registered that they were saying he needed a brain scan. As the hospital we were in didn’t have the correct machine, it was necessary to transport him to a bigger hospital in London. They avoided any questions about how he was doing or his prospects. I’m sure I would have politely thanked them very much and went home.

Always so well-mannered, even during trauma!

I called the hospital in London during the night and was told he had been put on a ventilator. Luckily I didn’t know that a ventilator was a life support machine and that they had to do that to induce a coma. If I had known that I would have freaked out.

I was later commended by one of the nurses who said they had been able to talk to me so directly because I had been so calm in the face of a crisis. Little did I know then, but I think that might be my superpower.

They hadn’t expected him to survive the journey to the other hospital, or even the first 24 hours, but wisely didn’t tell me that until later.

When I went to visit him in the London hospital, I took my mum this time. I was breastfeeding my 10-week-old baby so they both came with me on the train.

I wish they had warned me.

About how he looked I mean.

I walked on to an open ward, no cubicle or curtains this time. There he was – and he didn’t look like him at all. Everything that could swell up had swollen up. His head, his eyes, his nose, his lips, his tongue, his chin.. it looked like a bruised and blackened melon on shoulders – I have never seen anything like it, before or since. It was a lot to process.

I am not – what I would call – a handwringing/wailing type of person and no criticism is intended of people who do express themselves in this way. At all.  In fact, I wish I could be more like that, more connected to how I’m feeling and more able to access and express them in a demonstrative, physical way. I just seem to shut down and go inward. I swallow them.

I was brought up in a loving environment, but also one where open displays of emotion weren’t encouraged to the point of being disapproved of – as a child, I was shushed and told not to make a fuss in case people looked.

So that is what I did. I instinctively remembered my training. I swallowed my cocktail of horror, panic, pain, fear and grief. Swallowed it so deeply that it has been stagnating in my gut for 34 years. Must have been my coping mechanism I guess, but it isn’t serving me anymore and it needs to come out.

So, remaining in control, I fetched our baby girl from my mum, who was rocking her a bit too hard with a very fixed expression, and placed her in the crook of his arm, the one without tubes. I sat with him, talked to him and promised that everything would be alright because we could do anything.

I needed to dig deep into my reservoir of hope, find my courage and absolute self-belief. It didn’t let me down and I believe they are in all of us – even though they might be hiding sometimes..

So, dear reader, what do you look for when faced with a crisis? I would love to know.

Wishing you love, light and happiness xx

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Elizabeth Dun  |  Contribution: 2,405