Killing the scapegoat

Today was shit. Want to know why?

Because everyone has shit days.

Sure, I like to pin it on this one incident. But the truth is, before this happened I had shit days, and long after I sort it, I will have shit days still. I will have existential crisis’, emotional breakdowns and mini mental meltdowns. Why? Because it’s all part of the game.

It is easy to use one incident as the scapegoat for all pain and trouble. Like when you’re lonely and you think, all I need is a boyfriend and then I’d be set! This is an illusion. I am no expert on this but observe people doing it all the time. Blaming all their grief on this break up, that death, this incident.  And I see it in myself.
Everytime I cry, it’s because I killed someone. Every time I feel incompetent, it’s because I killed someone. I KILLED SOMEONE.

But experience tells me, that when you grieve, it’s rarely over isolated incidents. You just feel PAIN full stop. A heady mix of all things past, present and predicted. A big ball of scrambled rubbishness connected through a glorious network of sympathetic neurons.

Right now I am more comfortable in my sadness than ever before. I might even go so far as to say I LIKE HAVING A SCAPEGOAT. There I said it. I have a good excuse to be all-over-the-shop emotionally. A license to be a shit, unreliable, an all together fucked up person. Release.

On the flip side, when then is no obvious incident or source of pain in your life however,  the sense of melancholy can be harder to swallow. You have no validation for your pain. Why exactly do  you feel so low when nothing is the matter? That, my friend is a HARD question to answer. And I’ve been there.


At some point I want to destroy this scapegoat. I want to let it go, kill it, be rid of it. I need to stop treating my family inconsistently and blaming it on my emotional liability, I need to get out of bed like a normal person and find a job. Not yet, but eventually. One day I’ll wake up and wish to no longer be made of glass.

After the phone call

Why do I get to keep on living?
Because I’m young?
Because I’m lucky?
Why did this fall in my favour
hit the net and cross over?
Why do I get to keep on living
And someone else gets to die?
Is it because I’m young?
Is it because I try?
Is it all my efforts
deep beneath the lines
Of insanity, purpose and pain
Struggle, intensity, frames
Fragility, magic and shame
Faith and resource. Fame
To tame this tiger
They had to kill a soul
A life, a pill
a toll
To stop this city
Calm this soul
Arrive in heaven
And palpate t’all

You have no idea
You have no idea
You have no idea
You have no idea
How hard and how long
I held on
So if I fall
At a rapid pace
Know that I tried to hold it all
Just know I tried before I fell

Unedited. Well, pretty much :)
Penned within minutes of hearing the mention hearing was over.
November 2013

How to treat a man-slaughterer (or someone who made a fatal error)

This is a club I never wanted to be part of, but oh how much these videos are helping. Thank you Julie. This is a must watch. (If you have less time, just watch Julie tell her story from 7.45)

Some key points I took away (basically the bits where I had to pause the video, have a good cry and drink a glass of water)

9.49 -
“There will never be a point when you have achieved enough skill, experience, knowledge, vigilance, prudence, awareness, or  carefulness, to be able to fully control whether you commit an error or not, or overcome the human condition.”

“This error did not occur because of who I was, it happened in spite of who I was. ”  (ok, so I’m still working through this, and whether I can accept that, but a very intense statement, crying my heart out right now..)

14.43 -
Talking about the need for a response team to help the caregiver in the immediate aftermath.

15.36 -
“Others may have a delayed reaction of despair”.  This was my experience, it took me 18 months to begin to face the facts. See Spinach in my teeth.

18.50 -
Talking about the rapid focus shift to the victim and their family and their (valid) desire for staff to learn from the error, and make sure it never happens again.  Legal proceedings and a culture of blame and punitive measures  prevents transparency and apology. (So true. I’m still not sure who I’m allowed to tell or contact and whether correspondence with the family is a good idea or even permitted during legal proceedings, but more on that later. I should note, that with anthing else in life, I would have found this out by now, clarified the boundaries, but I suppose that’s avoidance for you.)
25:50 -
“Suggest ways in which you can help this person. as in, can we get together again after work, and talk more together. Don’t just say if there’s anything I can do, just let me know. This person has no idea what he or she needs.”

If there is anything I can do just let me know, was almost word for word what my supervisor told me over the phone after notifying me. Granted, my memory is somewhat patchy due to the shock, so I can’t say without a doubt this was the case. But from memory there were no practical or sequential steps offered to assist me in the days weeks or months following. Not one follow up conversation after the initial call notifying me of the error and its fatal outcome. In hindsight that is terrible. I had no idea (and still don’t) if my university even knows.

“When and if we fail, we fail together… “

Final words.

“I came here today because I can guarantee that in every organisation you represent, there are or someday will be, people who have unintentionally been involved in an adverse event. I ache to reach them. I can’t. But you can. Please take my hands with you, take my heart with you and together let’s seek them out. Reach out to them and let them know that you are open and interested in how  they are doing and feeling, support them whatever way you can. Suggest ways in which you can help this person. As in, can we get together again after work, and talk more together. Don’t just say if there’s anything I can do, just let me know. This person has no idea what he or she needs. Share with them what you have learned here. And let them know that this happened not because of who they are but in spite of who they are. Let them know that to you, this person is still all he or she was before this occurred, that you’ll always remebr them for that, not for this event and that this event does not define who they are.”


Do you Remember?

This song has nothing to do with the  incident, except the backup singers  singing, “Do you remember? do you remember? do you remember?” sound a lot like the lawyer who keeps ringing. The coroners hearing is this week and I keep dialling message bank to get slap-in-the-face messages like  “This is Jenny* from Johnny* lawyers in relation to the Smith* incident. I just need to clarify this statement, I know it was a long time ago, but do you remember…?”

The truth is I don’t. No more than I remember brushing my teeth each morning. No more than I remember scratching my nose in 2007. Nobody wakes up and thinks this is the day I’ll make a fatal error, better pay special attention.  As it is,  I have to work really hard not to make fake memories of the situation. With a healthy dose of imagination and the incident constantly playing through my head it is easy to second guess your memories or lack thereof. And with the constant questions (which bless her heart, are just Jenny’s job) I get worn down to the point of thinking I DO remember.  Maybe I WAS talking to someone, maybe I was distracted. God, I don’t know.

But truly, I don’t remember a thing.

I remember the phone call weeks later. I’ll never forget that. I’ll never forget the boys playing basketball around me as I stared at a brick wall, I haven’t forgotten telling the man down the phone I was fine and yes I’d call back if I needed to talk. I remember holing myself up in a toilet cubicle, making a call to say I wouldn’t be at a group assignment meeting and then sobbing my heart out, head against the grey cubicle door. So I do remember that. I just don’t remember making the mistake, I don’t remember what time it happened, who instructed me, if I managed a tea break,  if my hair was parted left or right. Because back then I was happily ignorant, the sun was probably shining and I was still innocent.

Anyway, the song. Don’t let me ruin it for you, it’s beautiful.

Brian Goldman: Doctors make mistakes. Can we talk about that?

Amen to everything he said.

This is not just applicable to doctors. I was going to include some quotes, but what to choose? It was pure gold.What a beautiful man to share this and therefore help others with their burden. I had tears streaming down my face the whole time.

And at the end, he receives a standing ovation for sharing his shame. What a powerful show of support.

My First Mistake


If only we had a training module like this.

The only thing I remember being taught on the topic of medical error was a single slide in a lecture that said “To err is human” followed by a slide saying, “First do no harm”.

Shocking lip service to one of the most important topics in professional practice.

Originally posted on drohanlon:


What would you do if you made a mistake? Would you move on quickly, or tackle it head on?
How would others deal with you? What if your senior made a mistake? Should you tell them about it, or ignore/hide it?

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Honesty is my core value. So I feel pretty fake right now.

What do I mean by core value?

I won’t get all fancy with definitions, but to me, honesty as a core value means I feel like a total fake unless I tell people what’s  ACTUALLY going on.

This DOESN’T mean I reject the smile and nod approach to pseudo-questions like “How are you today?”. Nor does it mean I dump all my emotional baggage on every friend, acquaintance or stranger within reach.

But it DOES mean I usually tell my friends what is up. And it DOES mean I usually explain why I do things (like be unemployed for eight months) without getting all cagey-like.


I have been feeling pretty down lately about the incident. This translates to the very public symptom of unemployment.  So the disease is very private and the symptom quite public. (I don’t have an actual disease kind reader, this is a metaphor) When questioned about what I’m doing with my life, I make watery and (not deliberately) intriguing statements like “Oh, you know, I’m just working through some personal things this year.”

Um. Aren’t we all?

Evidently the person opposite me has just broken up with her boyfriend, the guy beside me recently lost his grandma and the girl next to him is wading through a lawsuit.

And why say anything at all? Why not keep my trap shut?

Because I have been unemployed for AGEESSSSS and far from wasting away I am looking quite well fed. Therefore people (kindly) ask all the time, “How are you paying rent?”

The truth? I’m receiving government payments while I sort out my shit.  But it’s really shitty shit that I can’t talk about.

My actual response?  “Oh you know, I’ve got a few projects on the go…..”


My GP moved, I feel like I’ve lost a friend. When did I get so lame?

I just tried to book in an appointment with my GP, general practitioner, all-round-healer, general nice lady, listening post, sickness-validator.

She’s the  doctor that I would recommend to everyone. Ailment or not. She’s the most open-minded practitioner of western medicine this side of the medical board.

So as I said, recommended to everybody. That was until I received a barrage of texts informing me she was no longer taking new clients because she was too POPULAR. Yep, that’s ma lady!

You can imagine my shock therefore when I rang the clinic and heard, “Oh, she doesn’t work here anymore. She hasn’t for a year and a half.”

A year and a half. How did I let it get to this? Did I not see this coming? Now she’s up and left me.

It wasn’t panic I felt, but a sense of loss. Like a new friendship, just establishing, where you really connect, you get along brilliantly and it’s all looking peachy. Then after some online catch-up, you discover they already have One-Thousand-And-Twenty Facebook friends and EVERYBODY likes them. The special feeling melts.  You know you have no rights over their love as you just met. But still, there it is, a small sense of loss.

I caught myself wondering about my doctor’s move, what was wrong with where she was, hadn’t she liked the clientele, the conditions, the pay? What made the new area of town better? And for a very small moment, a very small part of me wondered if I could have been a better patient. If I could have made her feel more at home in her doctoring.

When did I get this lame?

And where will I find a new listening-post that bulk bills?

Forgive yourself

The most common thing I hear when I open up about the incident is:

“You have to forgive yourself”.

I have heard this so many times, but today the statement prompted a new question within me: do I actually WANT to forgive myself?

I’m not sure I do. If I was being harsh, I would call this wallowing or enjoying the pity party. But now is not the time for harshness. Instead, I believe this lack of want falls into these categories:

  • I don’t deserve to forgive myself.
  • I haven’t yet worked through the pain enough to forgive myself
  • I could forgive myself if the mistake wasn’t so basic, so stupid
  • Perhaps I like having a scapegoat for my troubles  (I’ll write a whole post on scapegoating soon)
  • (There’s probably more, but self-forgiveness is very new for me)

Until today, it never occurred to me that ANY of the people who said I had to forgive myself actually MEANT it! Sure, everyone else should forgive themselves, but not me. My internal dialogue would be something like, “Yes, but if you knew how dumb the error was, if you knew how much I shouldn’t have been doing that job with my kind of personality, if you knew how much of an accident-waiting-to-happen I was/am.”

But that’s the point. I need to forgive myself for the exact things I’m blaming myself for. It doesn’t matter how I frame it,  I need to forgive myself within that frame. They mean it, forgiveness needs to occur. I’m not ready yet, but at least for the first time today I heard the words and realised they were for me.