Monday, April 9, 2012


If you've been there before, you know. Although a decade has passed, I remember it like it was yesterday. My wife was driving. It was a few years before car seats cluttered our vehicles. It had been a long day of errands and dinner at my parents. I yawned as we pulled into the ally. The sun had set long ago and the beams of headlights bounced up and down our poorly lit neighborhood. My wife reached for the garage door opener on the visor, and then stopped and hit the breaks.

I turned my head just in time to catch the darkly dressed figure slink out of our back door. Before I knew what was happening, we had passed the house and were in hot pursuit. I pulled out my cell phone and called the police. I described the suspect as we followed him down the street.

An hour later the police had come and gone. Even though the perpetrator was eventually arrested, we never recovered the majority of our stuff. The financial and physical damage was minimal, but the episode did take an emotional toll.

Years later our kids are forced to wander into our bedroom every morning before going downstairs to play.

They have to ask us to turn off the alarm.


Sheri had lost her glow. An athletic forty year old, she completed at least one marathon a year. She ate well, she meditated, and she took care of herself both outside and in. So when she felt a small lump in her breast, she originally was fairly unconcerned. A woman with such poise and control of her life couldn't help but feel a little invincible.

Sheri called her gynecologist and scheduled an appointment. Two weeks, one mammogram, and a biopsy later she was devastated to hear that she had cancer. As with every other challenge in life, Sheri faced surgery, chemo, and radiation like an expert.

A year later she sat in my office with her head hanging down. She had just received a call from her oncologist. Her latest exam and xrays showed that she was "cured". But Sheri couldn't wrap her head around the concept. She had spent so much emotional energy on fighting, she now found herself strangely lost. She stared up at me as the tears began to well in her eyes.

What do I do now?

It was a difficult question. One with many possible answers.


What do you do when you body has been burglarized? How do you recover that which has been stolen from your soul?

The traumas we face mark us and litter our insides with scars that are slow to heal. The threat of our own vulnerability becomes more overwhelming than the Achilles heal itself.

Sheri will eventually return to her previous life, although her uneasiness will likely remain. I have counseled many people through this type of situation. I have seen a myriad of different responses: anger, depression, denial. I have held their hands and told them that it would get better.

All the while, I still awake occasionally in the middle of the night in a cold sweat wondering if I was dreaming.

Or did I actually hear the beeping of the alarm system downstairs?


Mark C said...

This is a very original way to think about this topic. Nice job.

Janine Goldstein said...

Dr. G.
Very psychologically astute. I've had patients who are infinitely more comfortable in the sick role than being cured. A return to good health can be very anxiety provoking....."waiting for the other shoe to drop! "
Or the alarm to ring.