When I was working as a student midwife, one of the things that was stressed to me the most, taught to me over and over, drilled into my mind was: watch for shock.
The human body goes into shock for all kinds of reasons, but the simplest way to put it is that when it has experienced too much - whether that's too much pain, too much blood loss, too much trauma, or even too much fear - it goes into shock.
One of the most common signs of shock, the thing I always noticed first, is how the woman experiencing it no longer really felt pain.
I attended a birth once where the OB who delivered the baby accidentally pulled the mother's uterus out of her body. I was standing behind him, bringing my client some ice water, when all of a sudden there was a human organ in his hands.
I can't imagine how painful it would have been for the mother, but from the sudden trauma and blood loss and pain, she instantly went into shock.
So much so that when the nurse stepped in, gloved up to her elbow, and physically shoved the woman's uterus back inside her body, the mother didn't even yelp.
She didn't feel it.
We don't just go into shock physically.
It has a way of happening emotionally too.
When something is too awful. When someone has hurt you too much. When the pain of what is happening is so great, that feeling the full extent of it could literally take out your will to fight, we shut it all down.
We stop feeling the full extent of our injuries so that we can survive them.
We don't realize how badly we're hurt anymore, so that we can remain calm enough to fight.
To keep going.
Shock is a natural response our bodies have that was no doubt designed by our brains to protect us.
The problem though, is that it too can kill you.
Your organs no longer receive the correct amount of blood an oxygen, and without proper treatment, those organs can be permanently damaged, or die altogether.
So what do you do when the shock is emotional?
When you've stopped feeling the pain...but you've also stopped feeling anything good too, and it goes on, left untreated for so long that you eventually forget you went into shock in the first place.
Do you fix it? And how?
Or do you let it go, content in the fact that you may not be happy but at least you don't feel the knife in your back, or the fist in your chest, or the fact that you're slowly bleeding out.
It's a delicate balance, between letting it go on long enough to survive what's happened to you, but getting to it quickly enough that your heart doesn't die, deprived for too long of what it needed.
And the real bitch of it is, you can't fix it alone.