Doctors Without Borders

By: Dawn DeBraal

Bridey McQueen excused her session. Today had been a good one; everyone took part. It never ceased to amaze her the fabric of humanity, how each of us was a tapestry of fine threads and colors. Where one person had overcome adversity and become stronger due to life trauma, another was stuck in the overwhelming wallow of it.

Bridey felt she had overcome hers and was in the first group, the one that overcame. It's why she became a counselor and did this type of work—helping people through their traumas. She had the education and the credentials and enjoyed directing the class.

Mental health is a delicate balance between protecting oneself and asserting oneself. Bridey was the kind that protected herself. She came from strong Irish stock and did not let anyone get in her way.

After the attack, she had become fearful of life. Talking herself out of the house and into the world again had been one of the hardest things she had ever done. After all, how many days in her thirty-eight years had she left the house where nothing happened to her? She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The days where nothing happened far outweighed the one bad day, thousands to one. It still had been hard to move on. Bridey had a rude awakening that most of us don't get.

There is evil in this world. No, not mean people. There are those too, but evil, pure and simple. It can't be bargained nor reasoned with. It just is. That is a scary thought to most people. Bridey felt having seen it firsthand. She would recognize evil if it ever came to her door again.

She worked with victims of crime. That was her job at the health center. Helping victims, she liked to call them survivors, overcome their feelings of inadequacy, injustice. Why did this happen to me kind of attitude?

Was evil random, calculated, or a little of both? Was it so fluid that it couldn't be calculated?

Sometimes when the group got into a discussion and became too intense, Bridey had to pull back and let her people talk. She couldn't interject and tell them, "When I was attacked…" They needed to feel free to share their experiences. She was there to facilitate discussions, not to dominate them.

"Today, we have a new person, Roger. She introduced Roger to the people sitting in the circle. Usually, it strained the group for a few sessions until mutual trust was established among them.

Roger was tall and gangly. His wrists stuck out of the trench coat he had taken off and thrown over the back of the chair.

"Roger, we will start talking today, and when you have something you'd like to say, or when you are ready to tell your story, please feel free to do so."

"Good evening, everyone. My name is Sally, welcome Roger. I have been in this group for about six weeks. It has helped me a great deal. After I was mugged, I was afraid to go out again. Now I realize that I am not alone in this fear. I can get on the subway and come to this class at night. So, I appreciate Bridey and her help." Sally sat back in her chair.

"Hi Roger, my name is Kurt. I have been coming here for about a year. I was a victim of a crime that left me for dead on the street. It was from a gang I hung out with, and they turned on me. I have a lot of trust issues and memory problems from my head injury." He pulled back the hair on his forehead sporting a jagged scar that wandered from his eyebrow into his hairline.

Around the room, each person told their story. Roger remained silent, only saying hello to them as they addressed him.

Bridey started the exercise for the day. Word association. She had Roger pick out the chip in a bag.

"Trust. Good word Roger. Ok. Who can we trust?"

"Family," Sally suggested.

"Friends," said another. The answers came around the circle.

"My Lord," Roger said after a bit. Oh, Bridey thought, so he was a religious man. That was good. A man of faith didn't have to lean on himself. He would do nicely in the group and would probably be out and back on his own in no time.

"Roger, are you ready to tell us what happened to you?" Roger stared at his wing-tipped shoes, telling his story void of emotion.

"Danielle was my girlfriend, well, my fiancé. I came home early. I wasn't expected for another two hours. She was in bed with my best friend. Two gunshots fired. Danielle left us both. The shooter went to jail, he's out on probation, he's a doctor. I doubt he'll do time. I'm sure some humanitarian work like Doctors Without Borders will let him serve his time doing community service. I am angry all the time. I want to hurt someone. I just exist right now. Not sure how to move on with my life. I thought I would be getting married this month. Instead, I am fighting this anger."

The room remained silent.

"Thank you, Roger. I think you have expressed yourself very appropriately. Can anyone tell us how to move on from our anger, betrayal, and fear?" Bridey loved that Roger gave a perfect example to open today's discussion. She hoped the talking that proceeded from her question would work toward helping Roger.

"Forgiveness," Sally piped up. Everyone around the circle nodded yes. Sally was right.

"Accepting bad is part of life," said another. No one went for that one, so Bridey came to the rescue.

"Yes, that is right. Not every day in our lives are good days, right?" The group murmured yes and nodded in agreement. At the end of the hour, Roger had participated a few times, which was a good sign. He felt comfortable with the group. Everyone wished each other well, and they left for the evening. Bridey tidied up, shutting the lights off, locking the door behind her.

She walked to her car, parked in front of the community center, hearing footsteps echo behind her. At first, she was unnerved and realized it was nothing more than an echo. She recited her affirmation saying. Everyone in the group had one. Something that helped to calm them down and refocus their fear. She was reciting hers when the hand reached from behind her and closed around her mouth.

Bridey found herself pulled backward. She fell on her butt. She tried to roll over and get up to run, but the man dragged her down the sidewalk on her knees. She spied his shoes, burnished wingtips, the same shoes Roger wore.

"Roger?" she said, not believing she could identify her attacker. The man pushed her face into the sidewalk and ran off, leaving her there on the ground. Bridey caught sight of his trench coat as he rounded the corner. Roger had also been wearing a trench coat. Bridey ran for her car, locking the doors. She folded her head on the steering wheel and started to cry. All those feelings of anger and fear flooded through her again. All the counseling in the world would never keep her from crossing that fragile line of panic-induced fear. She drove herself to the emergency room.

She sat in front of the nurses' station for an hour while trying to fill out her paperwork. They called her name. Her knees were badly scraped and bleeding, so too was her forehead. Bridey was escorted into the examination room. The nurse suggested she could clean up her wounds.

"No, I just need some sedatives. I'm having a panic attack. I can't breathe. I was accosted tonight outside the community center. I need to have something to help me calm down, please." Bridey pleaded. The nurse reassured her that the doctor would be in very soon to help her. She closed the door leaving Bridey to try and contain her panic.

Bridey pulled some tissues from her purse and had a good cry. There was a swift knock at the door.

"Miss McQueen, I understand someone attacked you this evening. I have a syringe here with a sedative for you. This should help you calm down." Bridey did not look up; all she could do was stare at the burnished wing-tipped shoes the doctor was wearing.

The End


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