After a traumatic experience, the typical things that people say in the course of normal conversation can morph into unexpected punches to the gut. Some comments are obvious and clumsy, easily deflected. Others are casual and seemingly innocuous, but land on a carelessly exposed area. In some moments I’m able to cope with those blows and carry on, but the wrong comment in the wrong moment can leave me off-balance for hours, even days.

When that happens, I not only have to deal with the immediate wound. I also have to confront my own continued vulnerability. The very existence of that vulnerability calls attention to the painful fact that I’m missing out on having a typical life-course and a “normal” life experience.

I do not want to obsess over these comments. I know that they aren’t malicious. But they feel so “wrong” to me, highlighting such a disparity between my own experience and the experience (or lack thereof) that someone “like me” is expected to possess. My brain insists on picking through the comments and my responses to them, in one way or another. If I don’t give myself enough time to do that work in the evening, I will be forced to do it at three in the morning (and then spend the next day in an even more vulnerable state, with my defenses weakened by a lack of sleep).

It is exhausting, unwelcome work. But it is never-ending. It is not how I wanted or expected to spend my brainpower at this point in my life.

I could write a post each and every day, highlighting a new “solar plexus” comment. Here are a couple from just the past few days.

“This session is going to be a little rough because I haven’t used this format before. It’s like your first kid, you just make mistakes and get it right the next time.” (From a supervisor whose first child, born just months before mine, is still living)

“If something happens 1%, 2% of the time, you’re probably going to see that once in awhile. If it’s 0.1%, you won’t see it, don’t think about it.” (From a supervisor who has probably never been in that tiny margin himself, or lost a loved one to that tiny margin, as he advised me re: patient care)

“You sound a lot like me.” (From a new mother after I told her that I hadn’t been sleeping well; the difference is that she’s not sleeping because she’s taking care of her baby, while I’m not sleeping because I’m struggling with anger that I can’t take care of mine, and that even during his one day of life, I did not have the opportunity to care for him as I would have wanted to)

“Children will never understand how much their parents worry about them.” (From a 60-year-old male coworker who sees me on the “children” side of the equation, but likely knows far less about this topic than I do)