Maybe It Needed to Hurt

I lost a patient today.  A 32 year old man who came back fucked up from Afganistan, with a wife and three children, and schizophrenia that set in while he was in country, died today.  We don’t know if he messed up taking his meds or if he did it on purpose.  All I could think was about his baby.  She is just over 6 months old and he’s brought her to group a number of times.  She’s a tiny olive-complected child, with soulful brown eyes and a tiny little mouth.  She’s the kind of baby that makes no noise.  She just stares in wonder at everything.  Her name is Sophia.

He’s a funny guy and a good dad.  He always came to group and he knew he has schizophrenia and wanted to do right by his kids.  He worked hard at his recovery, putting together a nice life for his family.  He had a big truck he washed every weekend and a really pretty wife.  He did homework with his kids.  He ushered at his church.

Traveler and Quinky Girl got back into town on Sunday night and I gave them back their keys and got kisses.  I’ve been achingly missing them while they were gone and it was so fucking nice to see them.  I sent Traveler a message yesterday morning telling him that I was looking forward to our date Friday or Saturday but that I really missed him and asking if we could have a dinner or a coffee or something before then.  He said he’d like to see me too and we scheduled Tuesday night, tonight.  We didn’t really have a specific plan.. just something with a snuggle, whatever.  This morning Quinky Girl popped up and asked if I’d like to have a little dinner with her and Traveler during the time I’d planned to have Traveler.  I missed her like crazy too, and I didn’t to miss out on seeing her too, so I said yes, but admitted I also really needed a few Traveler snuggles.  She’s totally cool like that and we set up our dinner.  Later in the afternoon she texted that Peaches was coming too.  I love Peaches and was excited about that, but I was bummed I wouldn’t get my snuggles.  Then my patient died.

I felt leaden.  My limbs were just heavy.  I couldn’t do anything really.  I didn’t call anyone or finish my notes.  I left work when it was time to go and left my charts just piled there.  I could not make myself sit there a moment longer and it was 430, so I just left.  I didn’t even log out I don’t think.  I got up and walked woodenly to my car.  I came home and cried while I washed my dishes.  I cried while I picked up my house and I sat there with my computer in my lap staring at my TV playing the music station.  I told Traveler that I was disappointed that I’d given up a chance to be with him for a family dinner.  Please please please don’t read into that.  I love my family.  I love Quinky Girl.  I love Peaches.  I love being with them.  I just felt so sad I wasn’t going to hold Traveler is all.  That really is all of it.  I just missed him.  He said he’d swing by my house on the way home and give me snuggles.

Then my patient was dead.  Traveler got out of work late, but the dinner was a little later too.  So he came here and held me for a few minutes.  I had stopped crying and looked normal, I think.  We went and lay on my bed for a bit, just holding each other and then talking about our day.  I told him that my patient had died, but I didn’t want to cry anymore, so I asked him if I could just not talk about it yet and he said “Of course”.  He held me really tight, and we pet each other.  He told me about his day and work and I kept it under control.  I wanted to go and have a nice dinner and not ruin the night.  I wanted to crawl into my closet.  I wanted to pretend I was sick.  I wanted it to be my night.

He left after a bit and I cried some more, thinking nothing.  And then I was done.  I freshened up and went to dinner.  Quinky Girl gave me a huge hug when I came in.  I think she just did it, just loved me.  I don’t think she knew my patient had died.  She just wanted to hug me.  I felt a lot better.  It was a good night and I needed it.  I loved sitting back listening to the conversation, sipping wine and eating Quinky Girl’s cooking.  I had the period of time at the dinner table when I felt heavy again, just so fucking sad, thinking of my patient’s family and where they were and what they were doing.  I thought about those horrible days after my dad died and all the revelations kept coming.  I thought about the decisions and the questions.  I remember the thing that finally broke me with my dad was the mortician asking me what I wanted to do with my father’s fillings.  Picturing someone prying out my father’s fillings, one by one, and deciding what to do with them… what were the options on a thing like that?  It just eviscerated me.

But mostly I soaked up my family tonight.  I wanted Traveler and I couldn’t ask him.  I wanted to tell Cleveland everything and he was on a bus home with his wife.  I wanted to beg Boss.  I wanted Quinky Girl to pet my hair like my mother did when I was a little girl.  I wanted to lay in her lap and just be allowed to cry.  But I had a good night overall, as good as a wooden girl can.  My face kinda hurts now.  I think I’m going to go to bed and try to fall asleep watching 30 Rock.  I am completely okay and I will be completely okay.  I just needed to pour that out.  I needed to cry while I wrote a blog.  I was feeling really alone, and I think I needed to write this to see I chose this.  Maybe I needed it to hurt a little.  I let a young soldier down.  I let his family down.  I didn’t do this, of course.  I don’t blame me and I know that I only plant seeds and that people decide for themselves to grow those seeds or not.. but I need to hurt a little for orphaned Sophia.  I don’t know that her father killed himself, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had.  Right, wrong or indifferent, I’m sorry I let down Sophia and she won’t know her dad.  I didn’t save him from whatever took him at 32.  My sadness and deep fucking loneliness are nothing really but it’s all I’ve got.

I also didn’t ask Cleveland or Traveler or Boss or Quinky Girl for any of these things because I couldn’t have them say no right now.  If Traveler told me that I couldn’t have him tonight because it’s not my night and we have a date Friday, if Cleveland said he couldn’t talk because he had to give his wife some time or something, if Quinky Girl wasn’t comfortable or Boss wasn’t in the mood, it’d be worse than it is now.  It’s like breaking up with someone so they won’t dump you.  It’s choosing the floor you can’t fall below.  Maybe it needed to hurt.


  1. Oh babe! So sorry. I am a social worker myself….you did nothing wrong, you let nobody down, you could not have done more. People make their own decisions and at the end of the day we just can lead- the decision to follow is theirs. This can be sad work we do. Mourn and then let it go. You are powerless over the actions of others.


    • This is true stuff and I say it all the time. My work changed dramatically when I started seeing it as planting seeds. I can share info and care and listen and such but the decisions and events aren’t mine. I can’t get anyone sober or make them drunk. I can’t keep people who really want to die alive and I don’t kill people with my words either. I’m just not that powerful. If I were, many things would be different. I don’t spend a lot of time beating myself up for the decisions of others. But every now and then one really smarts. I just really cared about this man and his family. I took it a little personally. He’d come so far it’s hard to let that go. I’m feeling a bit better already though. Thanks for understanding. *hug*


  2. “It’s choosing the floor you can’t fall below.” That’s some powerful self awareness right there. I know that space. I just want to swoop in and make you hot tea and feed you a cannoli. 😉


  3. I have a few family members with schizophrenia and other mental disorders. I have a few myself. I remember going through periods of time where I did want to die or wouldn’t mind if I did. I look down at my nieces and nephew, and my child, and am so grateful I kept going. I’m thankful for every day that some accident doesn’t take one of us away. I’m proud that I never quit completely. Everyone has their journey and it’s ok to feel the pain. I poured mine into my stories and learned to transform it, with or without medicine. My heart hurts for his family. It’s wonderful you do have so many wonderful people surrounding you. Even then, it’s still possible to have lonely moments. But getting through them, just feeling it, letting it be what it is and letting it go is golden. You did what you could, that man did what he could, and his family will do what they can. This post is beautifully human. Hugs and good vibes from me to you, yours, and them.


    • Thank you for sharing this. I think part of what makes mental health challenges so hard here is that they are such secrets and nobody admits that they have them. Something like 30% of people have major mental health challenges at some time and they mostly do it silently and alone and share it only with their doctors and the very closest people to them. What would it be like to have this and have it seen like anything else.. like diabetes or a gluten allergy? I’m sorry you and your family have struggled with it, and I’m so glad you are still here too. It was nice to be reminded of a hopeful story with this stuff. Thank you!


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