Sorry for the Inconvenience Part II
Wednesday, March 29, 2017 132 Comments
PTSD Trigger Warning
Not my problem,
not my business?
© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Walking a Mile Series – Part II
“There, but for the grace of God, go I”
What kind of world do YOU want?
As I began in Part I of this article, our society seems to be rapidly moving to a state where it is empathy-averse. This article is my attempt at trying to change that sad reality in some small fashion by telling my personal story.
The power of true stories
Sometimes hearing the stories of people you know, even a little, makes a greater impact than any urging to speak out, step up, and make a difference ever could. So I have written a three-part article sharing two personal experiences, several years past now, the first of which I shared in Part I.
My second experience is more disturbing, yet perhaps more important to my quest to foster empathy in those who seem to be more disposed to offer sympathy. Not to post a spoiler, but the end of the story, Part III returns to a more upbeat tone that so many commented that they appreciated about Part I.
However, anyone who has never experienced needing help and not being able to get it has probably never thought about what a lack of empathy means in the life of someone they know. This part of the article gives everybody just a little taste.
Everybody wins – or loses
Science is unconflicted in their assertions that community is important to physical and mental health – both to those who give and to those who receive support — as well as about the dangers of remaining apart on either side of the equation.
I want to repeat another bit of text from Part I:
Sympathy is not the same as Empathy
Sympathy is “feeling sorry for” a person in a particular situation. It is a feeling that allows us to be grateful that we are not the ones going through the experience personally.
But it also fosters a pull to allow ourselves to sit back and do nothing to ease the burden for another.
Empathy is “putting ourselves in the shoes of another,” allowing us to imagine what we would find helpful and encouraging, and perhaps to step up to extend support – if only a little bit, and maybe more than that.
Sympathy is sitting on the sidelines;
empathy is getting in the game.
And now for the disclosure of some of the details of my more recent experience – even though it is now several years behind me.
As you read, I want you to keep in mind that, as disturbing as my experience certainly was, it pales in comparison to what many of our neighbors may shortly be facing unless enough of us step up and sing out.
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In a single moment, my life changed forever
I was gang-mugged at gunpoint on December 28th, 2013, if I recall correctly, returning from grabbing a bite to eat at Skyline Chili.
My house-guest Cindy had recently arrived, hungry and craving that particular type of uniquely-flavored chili that many love – it seems to be an acquired taste. Skyline is open several hours past midnight, and is usually crowded with college students as midnight draws near.
Leaving the packed establishment several hours before closing, we drove to the house where I maintained a first-floor apartment. After unloading some of her things from the driveway to the front stoop of the house, she returned to street to park her car immediately behind my van. Both cars were right in front of the house, which was only a few steps from the street itself.
While Cindy was retrieving a few remaining things from her car, I went to my van to replace the sunglasses I try to remember to leave in the vehicle. A group of “kids” ambled up the dimly-lit street, a couple with hands in the pockets of their hoodies, pants drooping half way to their knees.
Walking distance from Cincinnati State, that is not an unusual sight in this neighborhood. They even said, “Hey” in that taciturn fashion that teens often employ with grown-ups.
We never saw it coming until they were on us with a gun.
- The band of thugs stole my purse and my tote-bag which, between the two, contained the keys to my van, my apartment, the front door to the building, and my rented storage space.
- They also made away with my phone, wallet, checkbook and ALL proof of identity, my datebook containing back-up numbers as well as my schedule, my journal, my business cards, my ADD medication, makeup, hair brush, etc. — all of which had to be replaced at considerable cost to me and, except for my medication, NO benefit to them.
- Between the two of us, Cindy and I lost almost a hundred dollars in cash, but the biggest loss to me – by far – was my autonomy.
And that’s not ALL
Cindy was pistol-whipped as she struggled to avoid being pushed into her car and driven who knows where — right behind my van on that dimly-lit street immediately in front of the house in which I had an apartment — where I was being held by one of them, looking helplessly on.
The ring-leader seemed to be high on crack, waving his gun around so wildly that even his “henchmen” seemed afraid of him.
The electric lights from the street to the house had been broken for a while. Only two of the many lining the walkway were working — both closer to the house than our lit-by-gaslight street, so it was darker than usual in front of my abode.
I will always regret that I had not been willing to be more of a “pest” about the need to get them fixed – nightly, if that’s what it would have taken.
I’m fairly certain that was also the reason behind what happened the moment my cast was removed, but I’m getting ahead of the story.
Cindy managed to get away. Then they came for me.
“Now what do YOU have?” was all I heard before I was pushed to the ground near the middle of the street, face down next to my van, my dominant hand stepped on to make it unlikely that I would be able to provide a positive identification before they could run off into the night. The bones in my hand were crushed.
It took us almost thirty minutes of frantic banging before one neighbor reluctantly allowed us to use his phone to call the police. His wife did not approve of his decision, more concerned that we would be so bold as to disturb them at that hour.
Before Cindy returned to her home in another state — despite a black eye, a swollen face and her own challenges as the result of what happened to both of us — she helped me obtain what the kids call “a burner phone,” gave me a shampoo and haircut, dusted and vacuumed my apartment, and bought me a large box of bath-wipes.
Thank you, Cindy. I had no idea at the time
how important those kindnesses would become
as day became week became month.
Physical healing first
Since I could not prove my identity (one of the many problems inadvertently created by the HIPAA legislation) – or drive myself around to hospitals or anywhere else — it took almost two weeks to get a cast upon a badly broken hand.
Had it not been for the kindness of friend and colleague Peggy Ramundo, still reeling from her own recent tragedy, I don’t know what I would have done. I am grateful to her for other supports she was able to extend subsequently.
I STILL cannot “prove” my identity, by the way, since each of the documents I was finally able to replace are still wrong in different ways and must be replaced yet again. Again. (Take the time to read the rest of the article before your mind drifts further toward, “Well, why don’t you just . . .” )
Finally! A bit of a reprieve
Slightly over a month after the incident, I returned home with xrays that showed enough healing of the multiple compound fractures I sustained during the robbery to move to the next step. I was finally able to have what is referred to as a removable cast on my right arm, supporting further healing of my hand for the next two months. Since it was “removable,” it was no longer necessary to worry about getting it wet.
As I said in one of the updates to NO contact possible: mugged at gunpoint, the great news was that, after 33 very grungy and self-esteem decimating days, I could finally take a full bath and wash my hair.
It also meant that I could begin the process of training the fingers of my dominant hand to work in consort once again. Tendon damage over the breaks had “crippled” my two middle fingers. I still could not type very well (or quickly), but I was finally able to practice – and to use my trackball.
ONE day at a time . . .
I was too afraid that the treadless slip-on boots I relied on inside, attempting to balance with only one arm, would result in an accident that would extend the time I would be without autonomy.
It was still not safe for me to attempt to drive, so getting myself to the grocery store and back remained impossible without help — at least until the ice and snow melted so that I could walk safely to the street to catch a cab, assuming I had access to a working phone to be able to call one and cash available to pay the fare.
I still could not reliably, or without a great deal of time and frustration, use the internet, or communicate effectively by email. My virtual business needed to remain suspended until I could handle those details, replace my contact numbers and obtain a reliable phone – no income, savings depleting rapidly.
For over a month, alone and without much help, I had existed on oatmeal, peanut butter by the spoonful, and beans and rice – until I no longer had a clean pan in which to boil water to make the Minute Rice™ that was all that remained in my pantry.
FINALLY, thanks to my “removable” cast, for the first time in 33 interminable days, I was able to begin to wash the dirty dishes and utensils — rinsed but not clean, pots soaking as they awaited a scrubbing — that covered almost every surface in my kitchen.
DO try this at home
If that makes no sense to you intellectually, tie your dominant hand behind your back and attempt any of the activities I have mentioned. Try to pull your pants down quickly to go to the bathroom without “accident.” Try to do ANY of the hygiene-related tasks involved if you cannot.
Borrow a phone you are not used to using, and attempt to input a number or pay a bill by phone. Remember, you cannot make a single note, so whatever the recorded voice tells you to do you must keep active in your short-term memory.
Pretend you have no access to the new bank account you were forced to open until your new debit card arrives at the bank you can not get yourself to so that you can activate it and bring it home.
Try not to panic over the tick-tick-tick of each day that brings you closer to service shut-offs.
Try not to freak out when your “burner” phone is disconnected two days earlier than explained to you it would be, because you had no access to the funds to prepay for an additional month.
Imagine that it happened on the very day that you needed to get to the Hand Clinic that was only available ONCE a MONTH. Try not to worry about the fact that your replacement phone has still not arrived.
My experience was a harsh lesson in patience with practically total lack of autonomy. Day after day, I sat in the clothes I slept in, waiting for help I have been used to providing, not requesting.
Thank God for Hulu Plus – having no television, it helped to pass the time and take my mind away from my situation for a bit – giving me a much needed break from what rapidly became chronic anxiety, verging on blind panic.
Take a walk on the weird side
You have NO idea the number of things you suddenly will no longer be able to do unless you immobilize your dominant arm, nor will most of you be able to imagine the implications to the forward trajectory of your life. I know I did not, even as I ruminated over the impact beyond my ability to type, use a trackball, or make a living.
My driver’s license still has one version of my name and address, my bank cards have two others — and none are correct.
I am 5’8″ tall and currently weigh between 140 and 145 pounds. I have dyed my naturally dark-brown hair a shade or two lighter since the first gray hairs made their appearance.
The police report – the only identification in my possession for weeks – STILL says I am older than I am, weigh much more, am considerably shorter, and that my hair color is grey. Even my name is spelled incorrectly.
Why does that matter?
Insurance reimbursement for financial losses incurred.
- For months I had no medication and my car was still in the shop because the door locks and ignition had to be replaced. I was unable, even, to drive it home.
- My neighbor was “just getting ready to fix dinner” when he said a sympathetic “sorry” when I asked for his help. Two days later I finally found two people willing to spend the 15 minutes it took to get my car back to me.
Be careful how you communicate
Sympathetic folks everywhere were eager to extend platitudes to remind me to think positively. After a while, I wanted to slap them.
Everyone probably meant well, but I did not need “an attitude adjustment”
I needed empathy, attempts at understanding and practical help.
Given all, my “attitude” was just fine, thank you – especially for someone who could do little but wait on “the kindness of strangers” for several months — people who were, understandably, VERY busy with their own lives.
I needed help with food, transportation, assistance putting on the warmth of a heavy coat with a hand to hold to stabilize me so that I did not slip and fall on the icy steps and sidewalk that need to be shoveled and salted, causing further damage that would have taken possible surgery and even more money and recovery time.
I needed help to put my life back together using the “You can do this on the internet, you know” systems in place, and understanding of the implications of my continued assertions that I was still unable to do much at all with my dominant hand.
Nothing lasts forever
The final portion of this story is quite a bit more upbeat although similarly difficult – but it might NOT have been were it not for more than a little help from a couple of friends several states away.
I hope you will stay tuned for the conclusion, which will post next Wednesday.
(Part III available now HERE)
Again, I want you to keep in mind that, as disturbing as my experience certainly was, it was absolutely nothing in comparison to what many people must live with every single day, and what many who were not born in this country may shortly be facing — unless enough of us step up and sing out.
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**Attribution: Thanks to Teddi for the picture of her cooking with one hand tied behind her back.
Read her great tips about products that make it possible HERE.
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- Brain-based Coaching with Madelyn Griffith-Haynie
- Group Coaching Information LinkList
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Other supports for this article
A Few LinkLists by Category (to articles here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com)
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