"The Healing Game"
by Marlene Loos
I met the devil at a Long Island gas station on a sunny day in December while on patrol. Although much of the events are cloudy, certain things are forever a part of me. My mind functions like a broken record replaying a couple of minutes of the encounter over and over again. His intention was clearly articulated. "I'm going to fuckin' kill you!" He tried. He really did. He pulled the trigger. He shot me. He hit me twice. He tried fifteen times. Lucky for me, the devil is a poor shot.
Humor. That is an important rule to remember when playing the healing game. Unfortunately, the rules for this game are ambiguous at best. I struggle to figure them out as I go. It's been five months since I've began the game. I'm getting tired, but I'm still playing.
Month one. I learn the mind is a wonderful and amazing creation, sealing away memories that are too traumatic to remember. The physical wounds take up most of my time. Two gunshot wounds, one to the chest and one in the right arm. They are open wounds so I change the bandages twice a day. There is nothing I can do for the head trauma, the fractured cheekbone, or the broken rib. These injuries heal by themselves and, unfortunately, at their own slow pace. Nightsweats wake me at four in the morning. I place a second pair of pajamas near my bedside so I can change into something dry and focus on trying to calm down. My body develops an all over body rash and I am informed I am allergic to penicillin for the first time in my life. I am readmitted into the hospital for three days after being released less than a week before. Why is my body betraying me? I learn a new phrase this month "post traumatic stress disorder". The lesson for month one is patience. Healing takes time and sometimes has setbacks.
Month two of the healing game. For the first time I am alone in my apartment. I over react to everything and find myself to be irritable. I come home from the local 7-11 convenience store after getting my morning coffee and find five messages on my answering machine. Telephone calls are very stressful. It seems that every ex-boyfriend tries to get back into my life. I should find solace in the fact that they didn't want me dead, but I prefer my solitude to their company. Interaction with people is stressful. I realize everyone is trying to help. I thank them for their concern, but I don't know what they can do for me. I have the bandage thing down to a science. I watch television, avoiding anything with violent content. I notice my television viewing drops to an all time low. A couple of officers tell me they too have been shot, and forewarn me of months five and six. "What happens then?" I ask. "Don't worry about it." I'm told. The lesson for month two is be gentle to yourself.
Month three of the healing game. I have successfully created a cocoon for myself. Physically I'm getting better. The wounds have closed. Emotionally I feel weak and vulnerable. Now what do I do? Go back to work? Someone asks if I'm going to retire. Retire? The thought is foreign to me. I can't comprehend why I would retire. Wait, the game is not over yet. The lesson of month three enjoy the calm before the storm.
Month four of the healing game. I find myself going back to work. Everyone is amazed at my quick recovery. Fellow police officers joke around saying that being shot once would be enough for them to have their disability pension forwarded to a golf course on Myrtle Beach. Others suggest making little bullseye targets over the visible scars. Their light comments miss their mark. I'm getting nervous for unknown reasons. Dark shadows have found a home in my mind, entering into my dreams and creating nightmares. I'm tired. I try to focus at work and it is extremely difficult. I now have a partner. He is my security blanket. I can't focus on anything. My concentration is lost. I took pride in my mind. It was a good mind. Now it's tapioca pudding. I see my opportunity to study for the sergeant's test come and go. I am getting frustrated. I step out of the shower and see the scars. Pink and indented. Everyday I am reminded of the devil. I watch as some friendships dissolve, not understanding why. I sit at the edge of my bed, I'm in pain. Why me? Why did the devil want to be so mean to me? Why am I so unappreciative that my life was spared? Why are these days so painful? Who has the rules to this damn game?! Month four sucks. More pain and no answers. Can someone tell me when it gets better? Silence followed by more of the same. Lesson for month four is to learn to be comfortable in silence.
Month five of the healing game. Someone put this game in reverse! I'm on therapist number four and feel I'm free falling into a complete state of chaos. Anger and betrayal are the two most common emotions I have right now. It's all misdirected and I have no idea of where to channel the emotions that I am experiencing. I sit on the therapist's couch, looking down at the red and sore finger nails I've bitten to the point of pain. It was a bad habit I broke five years ago and now it's back. I ask the therapist, "What now?". I'm lonely and missing my old self. I liked her. How come the devil changed me? Every day I am reminded of him through my scars, award ceremonies, his court dates, and talk of an impending trial to begin in the fall. I want it all to go away. I throw out extra bandages and bottles of saline solution. I hide the newspapers and tuck away the video tapes of the new reports my aunt made for me. I push it away. I push everyone away, tired of dealing with it, trying to make it disappear. I'm very busy in month five. The word 'retire' has a new meaning to me. I now understand why someone would retire. I frantically search my mind for another occupation. If I quit, would the devil then win the healing game? Would I be admitting defeat? He has altered my life forever. I find a new inner strength. He can not win. Lesson for month five is to learn to accept pain and live with it.
Who wins the healing game? I will. The devil had his chance to win on that sunny December day when he viciously beat and shot me. He blew it. I have learned many lessons since that fateful day and I'm sure as I enter into month six and beyond there are many more lessons to learn. I realize I can't hide from the devil and what he has done to me. I need to confront all of the new fears he has created within me and mourn the innocence that he has stripped away. I don't know how to handle month six to the end of the game because I'm not there yet. I just hope my words will help others who, from some unfortunate roll of the dice, find themselves playing the healing game.