A couple of weeks ago, now, I got one hell of a shock, something right up there with a death in the family. And, in fact, it's hitting me harder than a death in the family would, at this point, since I out-lived all of the family I was ever actually close to long ago. (The Hickses are mayflies, and I ain't exactly young any more.) My closest real-life friends and loved ones know the details; they're the only ones who do need to know. All the rest of you need to know is that I'm grieving a horrible, crushing, crippling loss. And I do that very poorly. This whole two weeks, I've been telling myself that this particular bit of drama does not merit the level of grief I feel, that I need to get over it, pick myself up, and get on with my life. But in that whole time, I've actually slept through the night only once. The rest of the time, I thrash around trying to sleep for an hour or so, sleep for 2 to 3 hours, wake up with my mind racing, and then can't get back to sleep. Then some number of hours later, it repeats because I'm so exhausted I can't concentrate on anything, can't even keep my eyes open. But the brain still races, keeping me from actually sleeping. Even in my dreams, the brain races; no more nightmares than usual, maybe one dream in three, but almost all of them intensely detailed and vivid.
(If you don't know the details from me in person, you don't need to. Even if I had permission from the people most directly involved in the drama, I wouldn't drag it into this journal. I don't care how much of a LiveJournal tradition it is, I loathe that kind of drama-whoring, not least of which because I've never not seen it wreck lives.)
I had occasion recently to mention to someone why stuff like this hits me so hard, by way of comparing and contrasting with others. Gods forgive me for doing something so flippant as to explain it in gaming terms, but it's a handy vocabulary for extending the metaphor of "taking damage." In gaming terms, you've only got so many "hit points," and when you run out of them, you're over. There are four kinds of defense. You can dodge a certain percentage of attacks, you can be hard to hit. You can have armor that absorbs a certain percentage of each attack that hits, you can be easy to hit but hard to hurt. You can regenerate damage, some percentage of as fast as it's coming in, you can be easy to hurt but hard to keep down. In psychological terms, this one is now called "resilience," and there's some tremendously fascinating research going on in the clinical study of PTSD, and who does and doesn't get it at various levels of trauma, all related to the fact that it seems that it's not so much that the people who survive trauma without getting traumatized seem to be the ones who take the hurt, yes, who feel the pain and the trauma, but who heal more quickly than others. Or you can be a brick, you can have so many hit points that it takes a ton of hurt to grind you down.
That last one is me. I don't go out of my way to dodge hurt, and when I've tried, I haven't been clueful enough to be very good at it. When I was younger, I used to maintain a lot of armor to absorb incoming damage, but that just left me numb and dangerously disconnected from the people around me; I had to pry that armor off to be able to survive at all. The god knows how much I admire, and often adore, the people who get hurt, feel their hurt, and then almost instantly get back up and without a moment's complaint or any fear of getting hurt again go on with their lives; what I wouldn't give to be one of you, but I'm not. No, me? I came into this world with a tremendous capability to accept pain and hurt. That extra capacity to be hurt is like a kind of psychological "ablative armor," extra emotional "hit points" before I actually feel any pain. But I repair it, I heal it, very very slowly, and each time I get a little less of it back. I will heal. At least, some of the way. But apparently it's going to take me longer than I thought. And I guess the first symptom I'll notice, when I start to actually heal, is that I'll sleep through the night two consecutive nights.
"In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade.
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
Or cut him 'til he cried out in his anger and his shame,
'I am leaving, I am leaving,' but the fighter still remains."
-- Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, "The Boxer"