Autopilot
by Karla ° Monday, August 13, 2007
The other night I had a dream. It was the kind of dream that you awake from with a palpitating heart and your core stricken with anxiety from the sheer realness of it all.

I was in a hospital and was about to have another baby. Like Ava’s birth, I was whisked away for an emergency surgery where there was no time to prep me for it and another breathing tube was placed in my throat to keep me alive while my body slept through another c-section. Only this time, despite being under the spell of a gaseous blackness, I was aware.

Completely, totally aware of the horror of what was happening.

As I watched the events of the birth unfold, everything began to move in slow motion - like someone had pushed a button on the TV set of life - and I could do nothing but watch as the bustling urgency of the operating room dissolved into a heavy atmosphere of deliberately drawn out voices and lethargic movements while the awful truth slowly loaded before my eyes.

For the third time in my life, a baby was going to die. And there was not a single thing I could do but watch.

The gravity of the situation left me paralyzed and numb and I slipped into a shadowy void and never woke up.


:::


Although that was only a dream, that was often how I felt after Ava died. Like I was watching a movie of my own life unload before my eyes and none of it was real because at any time I could hit the stop button and everything would return to normal.

And when reality began to set in, I would recoil to the crushingly empty place in my mind where the walls were thick and the air was thin.

When I eventually had to resurface to catch my breath, I would leave my body again to watch the horror unfold from a distance. The movie camera of my life would pan in for the close up because real life was too excruciatingly painful to handle.

I wasn't until I had this dream that I realized I had emotionally detached myself from my physical body in order to cope after Ava died. It has got me wondering if I do this often without knowing it.

Has something like this ever happened to you before where your body did what it needed to do to help you cope and shifted into autopilot mode?

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Comments:


Definitely yes. No, you aren't the only one. When tragedy strikes, I think it's perfectly normal to distance yourself mentally from the happenings. I too have had a c-section under general anesthesia that did not have a happy ending and it felt almost GOOD to float away (however briefly) on that cloud, to get away from what was happening.
Posted by Anonymous Marilyn :  August 13, 2007
 

Yes, I think when I had my miscarriage. My mind just sort of left through the hours that it took.
Posted by Blogger Gina :  August 13, 2007
 

That's actually an excellent way to describe the feeling I had when my dad passed away suddenly at the age of 46. I can remember experiencing things almost as if I were watching them outside my body, not really a part but seeing things like a movie, just happening. I think it was the only way I could cope with making funeral arrangements and burying my dad when I was 22-years-old. Aug 30th will be 5 years since he passed away and each year some of that feeling comes back, the need to float away and not be in the now. I also had that feeling to an extent with my miscarriage but not in the same way as I did with my dad. Thank you for sharing the dream and for describing the feelings so well.
Posted by Blogger Brandy :  August 13, 2007
 

It's cruel that you and the others here had to experience those kinds of losses, and even crueler that you experience it again in your dreams. I admire your strength.
Posted by Blogger Scott :  August 13, 2007
 

oh, I am so sorry that this dream haunts you so, and even more so that you lived it. I wish you only the best, most happy dreams.
Posted by Anonymous Shannon :  August 13, 2007
 

2 of my sons were abducted and abused by a pedophile, we got through it, nightmare that it was....a year ago, I watched my 19 year old son cross a road, I called out to him and as he turned I was completely overwhelmed by how beautiful he was. It struck me then that for 17 years I had been raising him on auto pilot, that I hadn't looked at him so closely for years, so terrified that if I allowed myself to give in to how much I adored him I would die from the pain of what had happened. The feeling of lost time and wasted years was almost more than I could bear. I am so grateful that he was never aware that all that time I was going through the motions, that the love was being pushed down with the horror.
I used to wake up gasping fro air because I held my breath when I slept, that feeling of drowning was terrifying.
 

Yeah, that is exactly the way I would describe feeling for a few weeks or even months after my mom died about 2 years ago. And she still comes back to me in dreams. It is just as disturbing to dream about her death as it is to have dreams where she is still alive and to wake up confused. I know that gradully, over the years the pain lessens, as the pain over the loss of my father (15 years ago) is never acute anymore, only occassionly a dull ache. But, alas, it is the good and the bad in life that makes us truly alive. It will get better, try to focus on the wonderful things, like the your little guy. That's what I do.
Posted by Blogger Erin :  August 13, 2007
 

HI KARLA,
I KNOW I HAVE HAD DREAMS THAT ARE CRUEL AS WELL. AND I CAN CERTAINLY SAY THAT AT SOME HORRIBLE TIMES IN MY LIFE, I HAVE FELT OUT OF MY BODY OR ON AUTO PILOT AS WELL. IS THIS A PROTECTION MECHANISM?? I DONT KNOW. BUT I AM CONCERNED ABOUT YOU. HAVE YOU EVER READ UP ON POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER? THE EVENTS OF THAT DAY WERE SO HORRIBLE AND TRAUMATIC. I HATE TO THINK THAT SUCH A WONDERFUL PERSON LIKE YOURSELF HAS TO KEEP RELIVING THIS NIGHTMARE. I KNOW ON SOME OF YOUR PREVIOUS BLOGS YOU MENTIONED MAYBE SEEKING SOME OUTSIDE HELP. DID YOU EVER FOLLOW UP ON THAT? PLEASE KNOW MY THOUGHTS ARE WITH YOU AND I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING FUN WITH BABY NATE.
 

I guess I should say I'm lucky b/c I've never had anything so tragic happen to me that I have felt that way. I know I would fall to pieces if something did ever happen in my life that was so horrible. I'm still mourning the loss of a good friend almost ten years ago, and we weren't even really keeping in touch at the time. Had we been closer, I know I would have certainly died more inside than I did. Sometimes I watch the news and hear about the awful things that happen to people, and try to imagine how I would cope if it were my children. I can't think about it too long, though, b/c it's so upsetting even to imagine. I know my imagination doesn't compare at all with your real life horrors. What's worst is that there's nothing I can tell you to even begin to make it better, as much as I wish I could. I am happy, though, that you were given another chance to bring a wonderful little life into the world, and that you took that chance, knowing what odds you faced. I check my computer at least ten times a day for pics of little Nate, and talk about him as if he were my own child. I can't imagine my world w/o him, and I certainly can't imagine you missing out on such a fantastic journey with such a perfect little boy!
Posted by Blogger Christi :  August 13, 2007
 

Short answer: Yes, I have experienced that feeling. I think it's how we cope.
Posted by Blogger Julia :  August 14, 2007
 

Big hugs to you Karla. I think you are responding the only way you can. In survival mode. My way of surviving after we lost the babies, and my husband's subsequent vasectomy against my wishes/needs was to pretend like it didn't happen...only to truly go off the deep end two years later. I also spent a lot of my time what iffing. As in "What if I hadn't gotten pregnant and we just had Nicole? That would be better...? I also spent a lot of time in a rocking chair with my son's empty snowsuit...rocking for hours. We do what we can to get through the day I think. And my heart hurts for you today.
Posted by Blogger MrsGrumpy :  August 14, 2007
 

I know exactly the feeling. When two best friends died in my senior in high school I was completely detached.

I even picked up extra hours at the fast food place I was working becuase it was something I could easily do on autopilot.
Posted by Blogger Blogversary :  August 14, 2007
 


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