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Dear Nurse Monica, I Don’t Forgive You and I’m OK With That

Dear Nurse Monica,

2010, Royal Columbian Hospital, fifth floor, night shift. Remember? I was the bed-confined patient with the acquired brain injury who had just come from the critical care unit (CCU) for the third time. I was the patient who you felt was demanding and ungrateful, who rang the call bell too many times, who was a pain in your ass and needed to be disciplined. You probably don’t remember me, after 10 years. That actually kinda pisses me off, because I sure remember you. In fact, I can’t forget you. I can’t forget your abuse and how small and vulnerable and frightened I felt under your “care.” You still occasionally show up in my nightmares, and flashbacks of your cruelty continue to punctuate my life.

I’m supposed to forgive you, Nurse Monica. Apparently, forgiveness is for my sake, not for yours. To heal and move on, I have been advised to forgive you. But I don’t. I can’t forgive someone who is still hurting me. Flashbacks of your actions from a decade ago feel as painfully humiliating as it did the on days they happened. The old wounds are torn open and fresh, raw emotion pours from the gashes. My mind now thrums with an anxiety that developed after being under your “care,” and my reactions to the intensity of those old memories are often shocking and unpleasant.

I bet you didn’t realize just how long the impact of your cruelty would last. When you were screaming in my face, withholding my medication, saying things designed to humiliate me, did you realize you were causing the development of a mental illness that would plague me for years to come? Did you even realize what you were doing was wrong? Or did you know it was wrong and do it anyway? You never did apologize. After my husband gathered the other patients you mistreated and reported you to the head nurse, you suddenly (blessedly) disappeared.

Months later, when you waltzed into my room, greeting me cheerfully, I reacted with such fear and anger, you were never permitted to care for me again. Even then you offered no apology, took no accountability for your behavior. Nobody did, in fact. Your behavior was never even mentioned by anyone at the hospital, and no one followed up on the impact it may have had on me. It had been quietly “addressed” behind administrative doors. There was no closure for me, no satisfactory resolution, no desire to forgive.

But I’m OK with that now. I don’t need to forgive you. I’m healing all by myself, without giving the forgiveness you don’t deserve. I have worked through my experiences, and reflected on my own behaviors and attitudes. I look back on that frightened and lonely patient with empathy and kindness, and forgive her anger. I am not hypervigilant and angry anymore. I am much more content, and satisfied with my life. The flashbacks and nightmares are few and far between now, and I have not experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rage in a long time.

You are fading from my life, Nurse Monica. Soon, you will be no more than a distant memory, a faded and forgotten scar, a mere blip on the cosmic radar of my existence. I do not forgive you, and I don’t have to. Forgiving you is not a requirement for my happiness and continued survival. You will leave my life like a forgotten guttering candle flame in the darkness, drowning in its own wax. That is my closure.

Unsplash image by Ruben Ramirez

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