Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Metabolizing one's emotions?

Our oldest daughter, Amy, called last night at just past 10. Sarita and I were asleep in bed. I woke up just as the phone rang for the fourth time and our answering machine (turned up quite loud) began to click in.

I let Amy leave her message, then called her back. She had left me an email about 5:30 in the afternoon asking for an update on Jonelle.

As we spoke, I came to realize more about how truly serious Jonelle's condition Sunday afternoon really was.

For one, I acknowledged what Sarita told me yesterday afternoon: one of the nurses had noted, while Sarita was present, that the uterus is such an important organ of the body, that a woman can "bleed out" in seven minutes, if the flow is not staunched.

Then Amy commented that it is her understanding that, before modern obstetrical practices, fully 17 percent of all women would die from complications during pregnancy.

Yep. I can believe that. If she hadn't had immediate attention, I can see how Jonelle would have died. As it was, she had lost at least 1500 cc's of blood before surgery began. . . .

And then Amy and I talked about how the hospital staff were so cool, calm and collected, despite the gravity of the situation, and despite the fact that, by the time she went into surgery, there were actually two other high-risk women present in the ward--and we didn't know it--they never let on.

Indeed, I think all of us who were present were attempting to permit Dave and Jonelle time to collect their emotions, grieve a bit over the loss of their dream of the "perfect" home birth, and come down, as it were, to the reality of their situation: "If you don't have this surgery, either you or the baby will die . . . or maybe both of you."

But, truly, there was no hysteria involved, no sense of pushing or (I am truly amazed) real urgency involved . . . on the part of the doctor or the nursing staff.

By the time Jonelle signed the release form, she was next to losing consciousness. You can hardly . . . --No. It's not that "you can hardly"; you can't discern her signature.

And then, lastly, Amy and I talked about how Sarita and I (and others) process their emotions.

For some reason, I wanted to say that it seemed as if Sarita was metabolizing her emotions. --We were sitting at dinner last night and Sarita looked, to me, as if she was ready to cry: her eyes were shiny; her face was flushed--the classic look (in my experience) of someone who is about ready to have a good cry.

"You look like you want to cry," I said--hoping my observation might give her "permission," as it were, to cry.

But Sarita doesn't cry. And so, she said, "No. I'm just exhausted."

--She had already said she was exhausted about four times during the meal. "I am just exhausted. . . . I'm worn out." (She's been saying that a lot lately.)

Somehow, I put together what I was seeing and hearing Sarita say at that moment with what the doctor had told us at the hospital Sunday afternoon about how pre-eclampsia works: the capillaries constrict and, as the heart pushes harder and the blood pressure increases, the red blood cells that are being forced into these constricted spaces begin to break down, and the shards of the cells destroy the epithelial cells of the capillaries, and all of this scratching and scraping and breaking of cells releases an ever-increasing flood of fluids and cell junk into the body . . . which the body (in the form of the kidneys), then seeks to metabolize. . . . [Of course, it would be really great if the body could excrete all the gunk, but it tends, instead, in pre-eclampsia, to retain it, thus causing edema . . .]

Is it possible that some of us metabolize--or attempt to metabolize--i.e., digest, our emotions while others excrete them prior to--or without--digesting them?

Amy and I briefly discussed this possibility.

Amy and I, apparently, will find, and maybe even deliberately seek to find, the "opportunity" to cry. It's almost as if we seek to dump our emotions, excrete them. Kind of a self-induced emesis.

Sarita, meanwhile, it seems, has either been trained or has learned--or "simply" has a "natural propensity" (???)--to "hold it in." And then--I wonder--is she, somehow, able to digest (metabolize) her feelings over time? --The metabolism takes time; it takes a lot of energy, saps energy, physical energy, almost the way "normal," physical digestion requires energy and can make you sleepy.

Is it possible?

Is that why, last night, Sarita was so exhausted?

I really am curious. Has some psychiatrist (a medical doctor who specializes in the biochemical/biomedical treatment of mental illness) studied this phenomenon that Amy and I were discussing? Is there a connection--a relationship--between our bodies' need for biochemical balance and the "habit" of some of us to cry under certain emotionally stressful circumstances and/or others of us, who don't cry, nevertheless to feel exhausted and go to sleep?

Is it legitimate to speak of our two different ways of dealing with the same situation as, in some way, either a form of metabolism or excretion?


One last comment/idea and then I'll quit.

I was talking with a new friend a few weeks ago. I don't know him well enough to say I've seen this myself. But he says he cries a lot. And, semi-jokingly, he said his tears are a symptom of what he describes as "emotional incontinence."

Interesting. That phrase, too, seems related to my hypothesis, doesn't it?
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