by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
February 11, 2002
WHEN BEING NEGATIVE IS A POSITIVE THING
SAN DIEGO -- I have so many patients who wage a daily and desperate battle with anxiety. It literally possesses them so that there is little room left for anything else.
It is there in the morning when they wake, insisting on their attention throughout the day and stalking them unto their last waking moment when they mercifully escape into the blissful arms of unconsciousness.
Tranquilizers make life tolerable for them, but just barely.
Most people just don't understand how acute this kind of suffering is. What one, young French saint called -- an "interior trial." Such soul gripping suffering is also known in mystical literature as a "dark night of the soul."
I like that. It gives what so many would classify only as a "sickness" a redemptive quality.
One 80 year-old English woman I have the privilege of working with is in the depths of such an interior trial. Like most of the elderly, she has been through a series of losses over the years: Friends and family members have died, she's recently left her home to go into a retirement community where she feels (quite adamantly) that she does not fit in.
She's trying to conform to the dictums of polite society such as "Be positive," or, "Age gracefully," as she doesn't want to be a burden or a bother but she is positively boiling over with such outrage at the indignations of her life that she simply cannot be positive or graceful.
I assured her she needn't be either with me. I told her it was perfectly all right to be negative and angry about loosing that which was dear to her. We got her a journal and she began to let out the darkness, a little at a time.
Her pages were full of fears and desperation; bad dreams and what she called weirdness in the twilight. There were pages of failures and regrets; pages where she admitted she did not want to go on.
About that same time, a terrific wry sense of humor began to emerge. She started telling me brief little jokes, not unlike intermittent rays of sunshine on a dark, oppressive day. She commented with withering sarcasm about the "horrible shouting man" who lives down the hall. She told me what she'd really like to say to the obnoxious fellow who insists on socializing with each table in the dinning room before every meal and asks her stupid questions like if she can make it rain. Something about his demise in a flash flood.
It does seem to me that the more negative she allows herself to be the lighter she is becoming.
Now I don't mean at all to say she is anywhere near giddy with happiness or nigh unto floating. She is far too crusty and British for such nonsense but what an odd sort of homeopathy, this darkness on darkness that begets light. Not so strange I suppose, as confession is famously good for the soul.
Better yet sometimes is swearing.
She's had choice blistering words for sadistic doctors she's met in psychiatric wards who seemed to enjoy the helpless fright of old ladies. Savagely and with evident pleasure she verbally impaled the "Christian" headmistress of her boarding school who made little girls march through town with cow dung on their dresses because of some childish disobedience.
Over the last few weeks, her stories have gradually softened. I've heard stories of good memories: memories of walking through the green pastures of the English countryside. A favorite and oft repeated one is of standing on a bridge with her husband on their first date watching a beautiful white swan swimming with her black babies.
I tell her every life has its bridges and its trolls; every day its swans and its ugly ducklings.
She tells me she thinks I am a loon.
By George, I think we are making progress.
Cindy Hasz is a nurse and writer living in San Diego. She can be reached at email@example.com.