I was in such a deep pit of pain that I felt like I would never be able to climb to the top and return to the land of the living. Carrying the heavy burden of my grief every moment of every day was exhausting. I couldn’t do it anymore. All I wanted to do was cry and sleep. Well, that’s not entirely true. All I wanted to do was fade away from everyone and everything, but that wasn’t possible. So I cried and slept. When I slept I prayed that I wouldn’t wake up, but I always did. How long will this go on? I wondered. I wanted the pain to end and it didn’t seem to be going away on its own.
I knew it was time for me to find a counselor, but I was new to the area and wasn’t sure who to see. Several people I knew had gone to see Dr. M and he helped them, so I decided to make an appointment and get started.
When Dr. M met me at the door to his office, I could see that he was a gentle soul, advanced in years. He showed me to a comfy chair opposite his own. After some preliminary chit-chat, he asked me to tell him about my life. I started right in. I told him about all the tragic twists my life had taken. I cried. I bit my lip, and I pressed on. I didn’t want to leave anything out. I wanted him to know about all the pain I had endured. Occasionally he said, “Yes” or “I see” or he grunted. As I spoke, he nodded, which was all I needed to feel affirmed, so I continued. I was telling my story, with all the sordid details, and he was listening. He cared. He was going to help me live again.
About half-way into our session, I assumed Dr. M was nodding when his chin fell down to his chest. Quickly, his head snapped up and for a moment I wondered if he was having trouble staying awake. But how could anyone possibly sleep during the riveting re-telling of my life story? Again his head fell forward and slowly his eyelids closed. Perhaps he is concentrating, I thought. His eyes are closed to block out all distractions, so he can hone in on my words. So I continued to open my woundedness to him, trusting that he would receive the secrets I shared with compassion and wisdom.
And then I heard it. Snoring. He was snoring. Snoring! My life, my pain, my drama had lulled the man to sleep!
I stopped talking for a bit to see if he would notice. But this was no cat nap; he was heavy with sleep. So I quietly gathered my purse and let myself out.
At the time I was livid. How dare that man fall asleep during the story of my life! It may have been lacking in a lot of ways, but no one could say that it hadn’t at least been interesting! I was hurt. I risked opening myself up to a complete stranger, I shared thoughts and feelings I had never shared with anyone, and he swept them into the dust bin.
Last night over dinner I told this story to a friend and I laughed to the point of tears. About 15 years have gone by since this incident with Dr. M and, remembering it now, I find the entire episode hysterical. The man fell asleep during the story of my life! Isn’t that great?
He had probably heard it all before. I wasn’t that usual after all. Every day he met with people whose lives had taken a nose-dive into the crapper. People like me, who experienced excruciating grief. People so depressed they didn’t think they were ever going to survive. It happened all the time. Here I thought that, in the entire history of the universe, there had never been any grief like mine. But to Dr. M I was just another woman telling her tale of woe. And the man fell asleep!
The real beauty of this memory is that in the retelling of it, it has become one of the funniest things that ever happened to me. He fell asleep. I think it’s just perfect. Perfect because I lived to tell the story. And my tears have been replaced with laughter. If that’s not healing, I don’t know what is.