Southwest Flight 812: In the groove, tensely

Photo from GigaIsland. Follow the link to see what pupus are. 🙂

Eight years had passed since I last clapped eyes on her, and yet there we were, sharing pupus at Uncle Bo’s and polishing off brightly colored tropical drinks. Leave it to Hawaii to bring together long lost friends.

As it happens, my friend Ryan is completing a psychiatry residency on Oahu, so along with current life events, job stuff and romance, we got to talking about diagnoses, drugs and mental illness. We also chatted briefly about my Southwest “experience,” and I fessed up about some underlying feelings.

Although back at school and in the throes of work, I feel off. “Fine” officially, but different. On campus my friends and professors almost universally express pleasure at seeing me in one piece. (Me too, by the way!) They inquire how I’m doing, though some seem hesitant to ask my story either out of fear that I’m too fragile or concern that I just might be talked to death. (Neither is true, for the record.) And then life goes on. Only I’m not sure it does for me. Although back in my reality of end-of-semester madness, I can’t seem to connect with my duties. I feel off. Different.

I liken it to the experience of having a close friend or relative die. People express their sympathy and condolences, but it’s easy to forget that there is a process of emotion. Although you wear no visible marker of grief/trauma, it still resides with you and changes the way the world looks for a time. For me, I feel conflicted. It’s been 19 days. The initial shock is gone and I feel like I should be “over it” by now. Shouldn’t the prevailing feeling be joy at surviving? Shouldn’t I be back to papers and projects like a good grad student? Shouldn’t I be able to concentrate like normal?

I’m trying.

I told Ryan that I’m hanging in, but I suspect I haven’t sufficiently processed the experience. I haven’t had the big cry or met with a therapist or really connected with the things that scared* me about the event. I’m just trying to get through the next three weeks of school. And I wonder if I’m doing a disservice to myself and others who go through traumatic events… By jumping back into the swing of things and trying to pretend like nothing happened, am I reifying the notion that emotions aren’t important? That they are things to “get over” and “deal with”? I wonder.

What do you think?


* People ask if I’m afraid to fly and after three successful flights recently, the answer appears to be no. I still maintain fear about what *could* have happened though.

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