Every few weeks I have a variation of this same dream. Work calls and asks me back; to please come in and help out in the ICU. And my response is always the same, I'm giddy with happiness. I find myself back in the swing of things, taking care of medically complex patients. I can feel myself moving effortlessly between problems and solutions. And for a while there everything feels great again. But without fail, a voice in the back of my mind reminds me, “This isn’t right”. And every single time I argue with myself, "I'm fine! Look how well I'm doing? I can do this!" Then I remember the one thing that is guaranteed to remind me that I am no longer my old "ok" self who can do the work that I used to love doing…the thing that sends me into a panic. "Remember, after years of brain injury rehab, you accepted your limits and gave up your RN license. You shouldn't be practicing". What follows is always the same thing. Suddenly I’m no longer moving effortlessly between problems and solutions, I start struggling with my balance like I always down. The panic wells up, the grief spills over, .and I can feel the old me slipping through my fingers. And I wake up gasping; so I slow down my breath and remember “it’s just a dream”. I sit there slowly trying to catch myself from spinning out of control. Fast forward to earlier this week. I scramble awake but miss a phone call at 0530am. Thinking it may be a family emergency I quickly retrieved the message. It is a recording from work calling to offer me a shift. For a second, I was confused; this didn’t seem like my usual dream. I remember thinking…this isn’t right…what is going on. It took a moment to make it make sense. It was actually real…not a dream. And the pain and grief showed up like a tsunami washing over me. And there I was shaking my head, laughing mirthlessly at the absurdity of my dream come true. It turns out work is rolling out a new staff call out system and my name being included is probably just some sort of clerical error. Such a silly and small thing, but for me it is a very personal and painful reminder of a life I loved but is now lost to me.
“Falling Sands” – photographed 2011