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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Triggers, Coping Skills, and Registraion, Please

I talk a real good game.

Really, I do.

That's why you're still here, you know. You haven't figured out what an immense fraud I am, in spite of the fact that I've provided you with untold amounts of factual evidence to support that contention. In spite of the fact that I just told you I'm an immense fraud. You haven't quite gotten the message yet, because you like my shenanigans. You freak.

Or, maybe you already know I'm an immense fraud, and you just don't care. I don't know which makes you a bigger freak. Either way: you're a fraud and I'm a freak. No, no-- wait. Strike that. Reverse it.

Or not.

Day in and day out, I sit across the table from people whose arms look like a freshly filleted hibachi steak, people who are labile or homicidal or disogranized or disheveled or depressed, or detoxing-- and I talk to these people about things like triggers. What is it that sets you off? What makes you descend into either a passing or a momentous sadness?

Is it a song on the radio? Is it loud noises? Is it physical or environmental? Is it pay-day, or Christmas, or a certain person? A certain street-corner? Is it getting the flu? Is it me, or is it you?

I talk to them about how anything can be a trigger, anything for anyone. I talk about the big things, like September 11th, and the little things, like February 14th, and everything in between. I talk about how triggers are going to happen because life happens around us-- we cannot control that. All we can control are our reactions to these triggers.

And, while on the subject of those reactions, I talk to these people, and believe me, they talk back, about coping skills. What do we have in our personal arsenal (actually, perhaps "toolbox" is a better word to use around people with weapons charges and some with a penchant for a little good ol' fashioned pyromania) to assist us in dealing with situations where we are triggered? Can we go to a "safe place," either a literal one or a figurative one, in our mind? Can we summon up a soothing melody, or journal, or call a supportive friend or loved one? Can we take a walk? Can we immerse ourselves in a good book? Can we use a stress ball?

Can we talk to someone?

For so many of the patients with whom I work, the answer is, sadly, "no." Either family have disowned them or distanced themselves, friends are users and shitheads, therapists are unavailable or non-existent-- many of these people are alone in their heads. And, for some of these folks, that can be as scary as being a four-year-old at bed-time who's petrified of the dark.

For all of my good-talker, talks-a-good-game talk about triggers and coping skills and the like; I lost it yesterday. I got triggered. Coping skills where like, wha wha what? And I just fell apart.

Nobody died. Nobody got sick. There was no jarring phone call at 3:00am to let you know that a loved one's pelvis had exploded or a friend had wrapped his Durango around a 7-Eleven. I just... couldn't find my registration card for my car.

Yeah. And I wasn't even stopped by the police. I needed it so Soly, my cantankerous, 67-year-old Israeli mechanic, could inspect my car.

I had brought him my insurance card, and the title to my car, which I own outright. I thought that would be enough. He was talking on the phone when I walked into his garage-- which, somehow, you're allowed to do. Take that, OSHA. As soon as he saw the title in my hand, he held out his hand to me, in the "No," format, and said to the person on the other end of the phone,

"Look, if the car has a problem here, it will have a bigger problem out on I-95, so, either you want my help, or you don't. So, think about that, and let me know. Shabbat Shalom." And he hung up. It was my turn.

"What the fuck is that?" he said to me, staring at me icily, as if I had just walked into his garage with my dick hanging out of my fly, still slimey after impregnating his daughter.

"What?" I asked innocently.

"I don't want that. I don't want the title. I need the registration card. With the barcode."

I stared at him. And then he started yelling at me.

I'm used to Israelis yelling at me. It's happened all throughout my life, at some of its finer and some of its lower points. My father has let me have it with his explosive, broken-English tirades more times than I can count. I've been getting my car fixed at Soly's since I was sixteen, and I know that walking into his garage is about as emotionally safe as walking into a snake-pit. There is always a chance that you're going to get venomized by an Israeli slitherer.

I had been operating under the impression that, when you owned your car outright, that your title was your proof of ownership, that you no longer got that registration card with the barcode. It's not true. I got the car in April of last year, and so I just didn't remember getting the registration card. I searched with maddening frustration through my wallet, and I threw some things around haphazardly in my glovebox. Nothing.

Defeated, my wife drove me home. Soly would fix my hazard light switch on Saturday, I told myself, and the inspection and emission test would just have to wait until I ordered another fucking registration card from the state.

When we got home, I searched everywhere I could think of for that fucking card. In the pile of clutter and disorder of old cellphone holsters and bumper-stickers and gloves and cards and watches (pocket and wrist) on top of my dresser. I looked in a wallet I had abandoned earlier in the year. Just expired gasoline credit cards.

"I'm going back to Soly's," I said to Mrs. Apron, "I just have to search through my glovebox again."

"You do whatever you need to do," my wife said, clicking away at the computer.

I can't even tell you what was in my glovebox. No, I can. Because it hurts, so, therefore, I must do it.

About 8 fliers from the production of "Iolanthe" that I was in in... ready? November.

Approximately 25 raffle tickets from a 50/50 from work for the patient fund that was held in, ready? October. That I lost.

6 CDs without cases.

4 CD cases.

5 audio tapes, including Beethoven, Leon Redbone, and lots of mixes I made for my wife when we were courting long distance.

Vehicle service receipts.

The original window sticker for my car (it was expensive in 2002!)

A pair of brown, tortoise shell glasses in a ziploc bag (to keep them fresh?)

A ribbon that my wife uses to tie her hair back because her hair blows around in my car.

Oh, and my registration card.

I marched into Soly's garage with it clutched in my hand and I slammed it down on his scheduling book. He looked at me.

"It was in my glovebox the whole time, and I am a fucking disgusting mess," I said, by way of further explanation, and I turned around and walked out. On my way out, I turned to the new black guy Soly brought on recently to help out.

"I hope he doesn't yell at you like he does to me." The black guy smiled.

"I yell at everybody!" Soly yelled after me as the door swung shut behind me.

When I got home, I sat on the floor of our office, and I cried.

"I'm disorganized," I told my wife, "and that's something I usually ride you for."

She held me tight.

"Oh, buddy-- do you have any idea how much I love you? You give me things I never even knew I needed. Someone to talk to. Someone who listens to me. Someone to hold my hand when things are scary. You save my life every day."

Someone to talk to. When triggered. To cope.

"You're doing the scariest thing of all with me," I said to her, as the tears welled up in my eyes again. "Life."

And she hugged me again.


  1. That was so cute I almost teared up. But instead I read some erotic webcomics because I thought it would make you happy.

  2. Rosalie--

    I am happy (and, not gonna lie, a little jacked in the pants) right now.

    --Mr. Apron


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