The whole truth


I am lucky. I am a survivor.

I was dismissed from jury duty this week.

That is not why I am lucky. That is not what I survived.

I was dismissed because I could not be fair and impartial regarding the case before me and the other potential jurors.

Soon after the clerk herded us sheep into the dark-paneled court room and guided us to our pen,  I felt myself relax for the first time that day. Waiting is stressful. At least now I knew my fate. Or so I thought.

As the judge, prosecutor and defense droned on about rules of law, the great American judicial system and so forth, I’ll admit my mind started to drift. Then the words: armed robbery shot cross the room like a bullet.

The words jabbed me in the ribs and I let out an embarrassing little gasp that drew the attention of those seated next to me.

It was the beginning of a string of actions that would cast the spotlight on me. Things like being asked to sit here. Then being asked to get up and sit over there. Then being asked the same question three different ways. Then being asked to leave the room and sit in another room until every last juror or potential juror was safely in their cars and headed home. Any lawyers out there who care to explain this to me?

I don’t know, telling the court you don’t think you can be objective — which is the truth and I swore to be truthful — maybe gives them pause?

Nineteen years after I was robbed at work, I still have anxiety about it. I don’t like it that I do.  But I do and I have to accept that about myself. Things like court rooms don’t help.

I survived the incident. But it took me a long while to learn there was a lesson in it: When something bad happens, you have to acknowledge that bad thing and then let it go. This is not what I did. I was the queen of suppression and denial.

So when I found myself on the business end of a gun during my stint as a bank employee, I reacted not only to the threat at hand but to another incident four years earlier, which was a deep, dark secret brushed under the rug and never worked through. Most decidedly, the felon on parole wielding a .380 pistol pushed my buttons.

Everything spun out of control after that. I ended up in therapy. I quit my job. I messed up my last year of college. I damaged beyond repair the relationship I was in at the time. What may have been a minor blip on someone else’s timeline was a big bomb going off on mine. 

So, the lesson in all this is when something bad happens: cry, scream, yell, get help, press charges, tell a friend, go jogging. Do what you need to do to release the poison and begin the healing. Pretending away a trauma does not work. Don’t worry about what others will think. Ditch the false bravado.

I’m lucky I survived both incidents with nothing more than some protracted stress issues. I’m lucky I learned from them. 

That’s the truth.