I still get pangs of guilt when I go by a hospital
and I remember the 3am, 7am, 11pm or Saturday 1pm calls
beckoning me to reach into myself and pull out some sort of aid for another person.
Reaching into the mess,
the seedy underbelly of myself and
make magic and gold out of nothing for someone who needs it.
I felt lost for days after the first visit to the hospital.
Trying to make sense of the violence I had witnessed.
“Tell us everything that happened”
“You’ll have to tell your story one more time”
“The police wants to ask you some questions”
“We’re starting the examination soon.”
But soon never came.
The fluorescent hospital lights became familiar
regardless of the time of day and I began to recognize some of the nurses.
Some more competent than others.
And some more empathetic than others.
I convinced myself wholeheartedly that I loved what I did.
Told myself when it got to be too much that if i didn’t do it who would.
Told myself that taking Xanax because that was the only way
I could fall asleep after a hospital call at 5am was normal.
I learned to speak differently,
to carry myself differently in the hopes that other people would understand,
would know that I was ok.
But I didn’t know what that actually meant.
“I was at the hospital last night. I’m tired.”
Would be followed by oh my god! are you ok? Why were you at the hospital?
Would be followed by yes I was working
Would be followed by my own internal dialogue wondering am I really ok
I remember joking with my boss
that one of the hospitals we serviced was my second home,
not really joking. It was more like a cry for help.
I remember witnessing the absence of empathy in the office
and it took me all too long to realize that that is how we survive.
By cutting people down before they can grow
and making sure employees know, If you didn’t do this no one would.
And letting secondary trauma reign freely and infect like a fungus.
And willingly forget that hurt people
want to help hurt people but not know
how to support hurt people.
I walked into rape crisis hoping I could help someone
who was cast aside by their community and needed to be supported.
I walked out feeling ashamed that I had let myself believe
that a non profit would ever care about a caretaker’s well-being.
Eliana Buenrostro is a Chicana, spiritual activist and lover of all things “darks”. She is interested in uncovering, understanding and healing legacies of generational violence through the written word and community work. Her work was recently published in the anthologies Solace: Writing, Refuge & LGBTQ Women of Color and Basta 100+ Latinas Against Gender Violence.