It has been almost a month since my injury and I’m making strides on a daily basis. My hand therapist built this contraption to ensure the back of my hand gets a good stretch – I still can’t make a fist and I especially cannot bend my ring finger, which is all sorts of swollen and crooked. But clearly my typing abilities remain uninhibited, huh. One of the upsides of this injury is observing people’s empathetic (or lack thereof) responses to it. As horrible as it might be to say, crises do a great job of testing the strengths of your relationships.
Now, I didn’t go and get injured just so I can test how worthy my friends are, but I can’t help but analyze all the responses I’ve gotten in retrospect. I’ve been criticized of viewing goodwill in a very transactional way, but being analytical doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the gestures of kindness I have received. I appreciate all of the sympathy and gestures of goodwill that people have expressed; I just evaluate them after the fact 😉
In the past year, I’ve been working on being a certified crisis intervention volunteer for IMAlive. Crisis intervention is emergency psychological care meant to minimize distress and provide support where no other outlets seem available. Think of it as first aid for the wounded psyche – you provide immediate help, but you ultimately have to redirect the victim to a more stable source of support.
From what I have gathered from those trainings, being a crisis intervention volunteer is surprisingly formulaic. The process follows two steps:
- Empathetically mirror the person-in-crisis’ emotions
- Point towards sources of support (since as a volunteer, you’re meant to be an auxiliary source of support only)
Ironically, I’ve gotten rather judgey about what an appropriate empathetic response should be. The post-crisis responses I’ve appreciated the most were those who offered to do nice things for me, and then actually doing them. Some of the most appreciated gestures have been action-oriented – visiting me in the hospital, performing basic domestic activities like laundry or clipping my nails, dressing my wound, picking me up at the airport, and so on. (Thank you all! Kisses.)
Then you have middle of the road goodwill – people who have listened intently to my story, people who have offered assistance which either was offered as a generic closing statement (“let me know if there’s anything I can do for you”), or whose assistance I cannot as yet claim (“feel free to stay with me when you’re in Singapore next!”). I appreciate your kind words too, and frankly I am simply heartened by your reaching out than whatever polite promise you’re making since we probably barely communicate.
But there have been some disappointing responses, and some downright repugnant reactions. As a caveat, there were some other more egregious responses from people who matter more to me (and egregious precisely because they matter more) but they make me feel more sad and rejected than angry and I’m a lot more comfortable with anger. Anyhoo. Here’s what really ticked me off, from least to most offensive.
- Overly pitying
- The “too soon” joke
- Blaming me (!!!!!!)
I had been dating someone for a couple of weeks, and we had communicated here and there while I was on vacation, anticipating seeing each other again when I return. I texted him about my injury a couple of hours after it happened (about 5 am EST), and it took him something like 30 hours to acknowledge the fact. Even after he realized the magnitude of what happened, his responses were spotty. Although I had positive feelings about the trajectory of our dating, it was very much quelled by the lack of reliability. NEXT.
2. The “too soon” joke
Someone had saw the news on social media, but only brought it up when we met in person. He asked me how I was doing. I said, “Yeah, it sucks, and I feel a little scared of dogs now.” He said, “Think of how it must be for the dog!” I had thought he was asking about whether the dog was going to be put down or not, then I was quickly corrected by a third party that it was meant to be a joke about the dog’s apparent fear of me. I guess I was not expecting my injury to be mocked so soon after the fact, one week post-discharge.
3. Overly pitying
The doctors I saw in Singapore were pokerfaced, and their lack of a strong reaction almost made me feel like my injury wasn’t terrible and that my prognosis was good. The healthcare practitioners I saw in New York, though, were exuberantly empathetic. My orthopedist exclaimed, upon unwrapping the bandages, “Oh dear, it looks quite bad. Quite a lot of damage there.” As he was cutting my sutures, he also told me that it’s going to be “quite a lot to handle because there are so many of them” – if I needed a break, I’ll just say the word. While he was cutting the sutures (this was painful – he tugged at my flesh rather roughly, I thought), he told me about how he had second thoughts about getting a family dog by his wife’s wishes because “something just like this could happen to the kids.”
Note that by the end of the suture-cutting, I was sobbing – it started off a little uncomfortable, then the feeling of my raw flesh being poked into felt really unpleasant, and I was brought back more and more to the visceral sensation of getting bitten and my face was wet with tears by the end of it. The more I think about my doctor’s responses, the more it didn’t sit right with me. I wished he hadn’t made a big fuss about how bad the wound looked or reminded me of the poor decision to keep the dog; I probably wouldn’t have expended all these tears feeling sorry for myself.
4. Blaming me
This takes the cake for being the worst possible response to my injury. So this person, let’s call her Fucktard, provoked my wrath by posting a photo of the perpetrator dog licking her face, with the caption, “Thank you Rocky for trusting me.” I was incensed. I then sent her four images of my injury – front and back open wounds, front and back stitches. This is how she responded to those images.
Can I just caveat that a) I had grown up with this dog for the first two years of its life (it’s now 7 years old or so), and b) I had petted it THE DAY BEFORE I GOT MAULED? The nerve of this goddamn bitch.
Thinking about her pisses me off to no end. Ughhhhhhhhhhh. I am mad on so many levels (which at this point is much better than feeling sad or haunted by goddamn dogs mauling me in my dreams or feeling unsafe in the place I grew up in) and I have to go.