Misconceptions Around Psychologists

An acquaintance’s comment that psychologists live a perfect life and always know how to respond to all kinds of situations left me astonished. I wish…..! I am no different to anybody else: just human, just a mother trying to do her best.

It has been a long inner journey to where I am today. And the lessons and challenges continue. So allow me to share one incident in my life as a wounded healer.

4 August 2012: Saturday. What will the title of this day be when I look back years down the line? Also “Our son caught a wave that changed his life?”

2.30pm: a call from a stranger saying you had injured your eye badly while surfing and we need to get you to the hospital. We fetched you at your favourite surfing spot. We couldn’t get the story from you, but there was a large amount of blood. You took Dad’s cell phone and took a photo of your eye. That was so eerie. As I write I feel my stomach turn and my throat close. You went through directly to the ward to be seen by the GP while Dad did the paperwork. I stood around not knowing what to do. Can I go to you or will the staff insist I stay outside the way they did when Dad was admitted for inhaling poisonous fumes a few years ago?

The GP said they were going to transfer you to another hospital. It felt like hours before the ambulance arrived. Because they had to make sure there was no pressure on the eye the driver had to drive slowly as the bumps in the road could add pressure. We reached Stellenbosch at 30kms an hour. It felt like hours. Same story: waiting at Emergency till the doctor arrived. While waiting I recall asking that the right people be put on our path. It is as if deep down I knew that this was a journey I was not going to be able to do alone.

You went into theatre. And then the nightmare began: the waiting and not knowing. We were meant to have friends over for supper. Instead we went to have supper with them. I was becoming scared, very scared and had to wash the dishes to stay busy. After 1 hour I felt this dread, the operation was beginning to take too long. It was not going to be good news. Then the call at about 8.30. There was nothing that could be done to save your left eye.

That night I woke several times: saying this can’t be and then realising there is absolutely NOTHING that can be done to save your eye. It has been removed. It is out. There is NO hope. There are no other options. It is DONE. So I can’t even bargain with God.

The worst was going to be to have to tell you the next morning. Oh how I wish I could have spared you this. You had the most beautiful lively brown eyes: No longer brown eyes, just brown eye. This sounds wrong. I asked that we also will be able to manage this financially.

Dad told you that you had lost your eye. You asked sometime if there was nothing that could be done and he had to say no. This was hell. For the rest of the day your jaw was locked with the severity of the incident and the impact on your life as a 17 year old teenager.

Your healthy eye was closed. You hardly spoke but it was very clear that you were busy processing the magnitude of the loss. l know you so well and know that when you go so incredibly quiet you are taking serious strain. I was scared for you. I had no idea what was going on. The doctor came early and told us he would send you for X-rays on Monday to see if there were any broken bones.

I had to know if there was any chance of brain damage and caught him on his way out. He said no he would have picked up other signs. I still could not relax until we knew what the X-rays said.

So what kept me going through this time and witnessing our son’s adjustment?

I called on help from a Higher Power. In the past I had always felt that the buck stops with me. That no one other than me was going to help me. But this time it happened so spontaneously when I asked for help. I just knew I needed extra support.

When I heard that our son’s brain was unaffected I “clicked” that he has his life. He can live a normal life, albeit with one eye. The ophthalmologist had said it is so much more difficult adjusting after the loss of a limb.

There were umpteen “synchronistic events” showing that our son was being taken care of. We heard about shares that my father had that no one knew about. He had died 13 years earlier. This meant that medical expenses were covered. I bumped into the mother of a girl who had been at pre-school with our son. She gave me the name of a family whose son had lost an eye some years earlier. I was able to talk to their son and hear a bit about his journey. Through him we contacted a professor who did a coral implant a year later.

A friend who is a psychologist saw our son to help him work through the loss, at no charge!

The ophthalmologist was caring, warm, sensitive and honest. He listened and took his time to explain everything. He treated our son as an adult and included him in discussions. His whole energy exudes gentleness and compassion. I am eternally grateful that we ended up with this specific ophthalmologist.

I learnt how precious home cooked meals from friends are during a crisis. To be able to take out a meal from the freezer for 2 weeks after the accident made my load so much lighter.

I spent a great deal of time alone: processing, thinking, working out what would be best for our son. I allowed him to guide me and honoured his wishes. This was hard initially. But I very quickly realised that my role was purely to be the loving caring Mom, not the psychologist. When I made this switch it was easier.

Every week I wrote an email update to our family and close friends. Writing enabled me to process as well as assess what had happened the previous week. I realised that hardships I had experienced a few years before had prepared me emotionally and psychologically to deal with my son’s loss.

Eventhough I kept on checking where I was on Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ grief curve, I soon learnt to surrender to the moment, and to honour my own process.

Our son has been blessed richly since the events of 4 Aug 2012. It is as if it heralded a time of abundance with such generosity and magnitude that at times it was hard to believe.

Posted in Heart and soul stories.