One of my Regulars came into the office today, absolutely fuming with rage. She was yelling and ranting nearly incoherently and talking to her was impossible. It took her a loooooooooooooooooooong time to calm down. I was maneuvering so delicately with her that I was paying attention to my posture: I made myself consciously sit back in my chair every time I knew I needed to lay off her a little, and for some reason that helped slow her down too. (I don’t know if it helped because of the message I was sending her or the message I was sending myself, but that’s the level of detail we were at.)
When she finally relaxed a little, I had her start coloring. I was having a really rough day and she’d sent my stress level through the roof, so I figured I’d try my own medicine. I got up from my desk, sat at her table, and colored with her (while hoping hard that no adult would walk by, see me, and doubt my ability to do my job). While we helped each other pick colors for our pictures, some wall inside her almost visibly shattered. Without warning, she started talking really openly about her life and bringing up all these memories.
She ended up telling me a story about being outside years ago with her little brothers and seeing a man get shot to death. She remembered every single detail of the shooting, even though she’d had to push her little siblings to the ground when it started. She knew what was said beforehand and how many times he was shot in each part of his body and how the man looked as he died. She could describe which of his family members had found him without a pulse and how the news stories had been mistaken about the getaway of the shooter. Then she got all tough again and said, “But it’s okay. I didn’t even cry.”
No, baby, it isn’t okay. It has nothing to do with whether or not you cried. You are human and that horrible moment matters to you. There is a reason you can remember every detail so clearly. This is not a time you have to be tough. You are hurting and that’s okay. Has anyone ever told you that? You are hurting. That’s the part that’s okay.