I didn’t expect to cry at work today!

I didn’t expect to cry at work today!

So yeah, that happened… If you know me even a little, you know I keep everything in. My kids don’t even see me cry… I think it’s because as a single mom, you feel you have to always be strong; hold everything together, everyone is depending on you! I was caught off gaurd today. I attended a case manager retreat for work. It started off with a motivational speaker! She was peppy, zinging but what I never saw coming as she talked; was my long overdue meltdown that was about to literally smack me in the face!
She started telling a story of her own, sons experience with a medical trauma. I had never hear those words put together like that before. We. Talk about life trauma, childhood trauma, sexual trauma….. but…. *medical trauma*… Those words just sorta stung each time she said them.

She went on to share about her son’s experience as an infant and how he got sick with the H1N1 Flu and was taken to the hospital. How he almost died, how she stood by him and stayed with him. How the doctor came back to check on him the next day, thinking he would not make it through the night.

As she told this story, I had to dig my nails into my knee to keep my composure during her lecture. I silently wiped away the tears from my eye that kept trying to sneak away.

I felt stuck, trapped… In the middle of my co-workers; paralyzed unable to escape…. I was fortunate enough to be sitting beside one co-worker that actually knew me & Summer and what we had been through. She knew the moment the lady started talking about her infant son, this wasn’t going to be easy for me to hear. She turned to me a few times, checking in on me… even asking if I was ok.

Several times, I scanned the room trying to plot my escape. How could I leave without being noticed? Because I knew as soon as someone made eye contact with me, I was going to lose it.

Finally, she ended her lecture! My co-worker asked me if I was going to be ok? I said, “No, I need to leave”. She shook her head in understanding and said “which way are you going to go?” I was literally sitting in the middle of a row. I pointed to the path of least resistance, grabbing my things and headed directly to the bathroom.

I hurried grabbing some tissues as I walked into the room. Tears had started to flow freely by this time. I hurried into a stall, so noone could see me, and just stood there. I tried to compose myself, the harder I tried, the more I broke down. Other women now started coming into the bathroom, as I stood silently holding back my sobs.

The tissues I grabbed on the way in, had been used, now having to reach for toilet tissue to wipe up tears. Biting my lip, to keep from crying out loud, trying to deep breathe… Again the more I tried to suppress my emotions, the more emotional I became!

I just kept grabbing more toliet tissue, and yet more! These tears… just will not stop! I felt myself becoming angry. Angry at myself for showing emotions! And why now?! I mean, Summer is 17! We have overcome all of this; haven’t we? I take a few deep breaths, one last time wipe my tears, blow my nose. Walk out and splash water on my face and try to dig in my purse to see what makeup I have to fix the problem I have created!

I am after all at a work event, with my colleagues and it isn’t even noon yet! I gotta pull it together.

I walk out and down the hall, people are lined up for lunch. I try to avoid eye contact, feeling they can see through me. When I look up once or twice, I can tell no makeup can hide the pain and hurt in your eyes.

I walk to the front to a quiet area away from everyone, thinking I just need to pull it together. All I can hear is the speaker saying *medical trauma*… It’s like a movie reel starts going off inside your head that you can’t stop! Not the beautiful best motion picture kind, but the twisted twilight zone version. Flashes of all your most terrifying memories and moments being relived in what seems like such a vivid nanosecond.

I feel the tears start welling back up, a tightness over my chest. Its hard to breathe now. I pray noone comes around the corner. I felt frozen. I try to relax, start rubbing my neck as a co-worker walks in through the door. She notices, something is wrong, or thinking I have a headache she graciously offers me some ibuprofen. I smile and politely decline with as little verbal communication as possible because one utterance of a syllable and the flood gates are going to explode!

I breathe some more, try to clear my head. I am supposed to be helping with acudetox groups this afternoon…. seriously! I have no time for this! All I can think of is the woman from this morning saying how her son had experienced a *medical trauma* he was a 7 week old infant. All I think was all the time I had to hold Summer down on a MRI table or OR table because the surgeon’s called me back to do so; so they could get an IV in her or gas mask on her for a procedure.

As she talked about the nurse that helped her son that had just recently been trained in how to work with infants of trauma. She talked of holding him, and soothing him. I just lost it. As I felt my. Chest tightening, my breathing deepened, as another
colleague walked through the door her eyes caught mine, the look on her face went from happy to see me; quickly to concern. I just smiled nodding her on her way.

Funny thing about the human body, we never know how it will react to things. I kept thinking, how could that speaker get up there and tell that story today and not be emtional?! I almost got mad about it. Before I could really finish that thought, my colleague that was running the acudetox group that I was supposed to be helping later walked back by and stopped to check on me. She sensed I wasn’t ok earlier as she walked in and I tried to briefly explain that the speaker, (when I went to try to find my words, once again: they left me) had hit a nerve with her presentation. My colleague graciously offered me a hug, and to come back to the acudetox room for privacy if needed. I thanked her but graciously declined. Unable to be touched out of fear I would completely break down.

I knew at this point, whatever happened this morning. Whatever that speaker said that triggered this emotional chain reaction within the deepest parts of my soul. The parts I have been pushing down and pushing down for so long. Trying to just pretend they don’t exist. Well, guess what!? That lady stuck oil today! There’s an oil spill with my name all over it; it’s about to get messy today.

There’s just no coming back from that. I finally managed to reach down find my phone, text my boss.
[Hey…. I cant stay… that was too much .. her story little too close to home hit a nerve and I am a emotional mess … ]

I managed to compose myself once again. I walked down the hall seeking out my colleague and the acudetox room. I walk in she was in mid conversation, I smiled trying to hold it together. I politely wait for the conversation to end. I try searching for my words. It’s funny how something as basic as simple speech leaves you when your emotions override your brain!
I feel my eyes well up as I try to push out the words. I….. (shake my head)
I….. can’t…. (shaking my head)….. she comes over concerned. She has such a healing nature about her, offers a hug , i accept this time. I manage to blurt out the words, ‘her story was too close, Summer had a lot of medical problems”; was as far as I got before the tears poured into my eyes. It’s like I was willing them into place, forbidding them to flow freely. She offered me a acudetox treatment, thinking it would help, I declined, the idea of being touched, of being hugged, of being vulnerable around people at that moment was more than I could handle. I told her I just needed to leave . She asked if I was ok to drive. I told her, under my breath holding back tears; “I really just need to go break down in my car, then go home”. I handed her a bracelet that i had remembered to return for another colleague and left as quickly and discreetly as possible.
I smiled when I encountered coworkers, trying to avoid eye contact when possible. I focused on my breathing, trying to hold back the tears.

That lasted till I reached the, corner curb of the street. My eyes could hold back the watery fluid no more. I felt a steady flow down my cheeks, as I hurried to the car. By the time I reached the door of my car, I heard a sobbing sound; it startled me when I realized it was coming from myself.
I quickly opened the door and got into the car and just sat there.

I sat there, in my car, in the parking lot for an hour crying, sobbing, uncontrollably just feeling this sense of weeping, sense of grief, sense of flooding of emotions. I sat in my car, cut on the air conditioning, literally paralyzed… unable to move. Unable to text, drive, speak. Just stuck. There in that car with all those emotions, all those years of suppressed tears flowing like a oil well that has been struck for the very first time, stuck there in the car.

All I could do was see glimpses of moments from different events, first time I heard the words *Ms. Phelps I am sorry, your daughter has pineal cytoma, there’s nothing we can do, we made her an appointment at UVA; but with this, these cases we see , I am so sorry usually 3 to 6 months to live*

Flash forward

Ms Phelps, it’s not actually pineal cytoma, we aren’t really sure, but we think she has two separate things going on, AVM at the vein of Galen and an arachnoid cyst of the pineal gland.

Flash Forward

Ms Phelps there are just so many things about th brain we just don’t know. We need to wait for science to catch up. We will just monitor her for now and hopefully in a few years, we will have better knowledge and tools to operate.


Ms Phelps 90% of brain tumors are frontal lobe tumors. Your daughter’s is in the middle of the brain on top of the brain stem. That makes things much more difficult to operate.


Mrs Phelps we need you to come back to the OR with us please, she’s fighting us, we need you to hold her down so we can put the gas mask on her.


Ms Phelps I am sorry, the surgery didn’t go as well as I had hoped, I wasn’t able to get all the mass. It’s a sticky membrane so we couldn’t just remove it, it would pull other vital brain tissue. I was able to make a small hole in the membrane for the fluid to leak out.


Ms Phelps I don’t know why she is continuing to have headaches and seizure episodes there is so much about the brain we just don’t know

Ms Phelps there is a new procedure we can go in through the femoral artery up to the brain and inject this glue like substance to close off her AVM.


Ms Phelps there is a chance she won’t make it through the surgery. Have you considered this?


*I remember having a conversation with my mother, she asked me if I had thought about what I would do if I God forbid, I have to bury Summer. I had recently moved my church membership from my home church to Timberlake UMC where Summer was christened. It never once crossed my mind of course, I said well, My Comfort the family cemetery of course, she reminded me that I had moved my membership. What a morbid thing to have to even contemplate. The very last thing anyone should or wants to think of before having a surgery to preserve life! Is planning for death… I remember being angry with her for making me think of this!
Then I remembered…. my mother lost a child, she knew what it was to bury an infant. She was trying to prepare me. I quickly requested to have my membership changed back to Mt Comfort before the surgery. That has stuck with me to this day!

So as I sat sobbing and crying for an hour in my car. Slowly I started to feel some relief. I guess truth be told; for over 17 years I have just held it all in. Trying to pretend I was OK, strong,

I purposely threw myself into my job, focusing on clients with high needs, at risk population. I would tell myself see, yeah I know I am dealing with a lot… but see, it’s not that. OR I often felt God was testing me, and if I help others, just do his work, see the good in others. He would heal Summer.

I always prayed…. that if things had turned out differently…. I prayed that I hoped I would be grateful for the time given! Never bitter or angry.

That has stayed with me. Time is such a valuable gift! Most people value money, but time is the true gift of value. How you spend that time with the ones you love….. that is what matters in the world!

Everything else….. is just…. well less…

So today… at work, I cried! But, maybe….. I also healed a little too.

I should add that my story ends with a happy ending for those that don’t know it. My daughter has overcome every obstacle thrown in her path. She is 17 and beautiful and has some on going medical problems we manage however she is the definition of RESILIENCE!

She is my miracle! Our true gift from God Summer Grace… *Grace + love & mercy Gift from God*

This is her back to school selfie 1st day of 11th grade! We are very blessed.

#overcoming #emotions #tears #pain #love #hope #faith #lovehurtssometimes #phototherapy #jenzphelps #jenz #feedmysoul #emptyyourmind #findingmyjoy #selfcare #mindfulness #healthycopingskills #healing #mentalhealthawarenes ##mentalhealth #sfami #horizonbh #momentsintime #momentslikethese #lettinggo #yeahsothishappened #medicaltrauma #ptsd #childhoodtrauma


  1. wow…Jen,…I had no idea about your precious Summer. If I could be at HBH tomorrow, I would give you a big hug …I also have had a medical trauma and have suffered from it for 21 years…I would like to tell you one day…but for now, I
    pray for you and Summer and her recovery that I hope continues…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad to hear the dam has broken. You were always so busy helping and being strong for others (me included) that I wondered if you were keeping so busy to keep your own feelings from drowning you. These are tears of healing, let them flow and give yourself time to heal As you’ve told others, we need to care for ourselves so we can help others. The shoe is now on your foot. That Summer is doing so well is wonderful! But her mom needs to heal too! Time to say a grateful thank you again Jen for being there for us. My prayers are for you both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Beth! It’s hard to take a dose of your own medicine, sometimes. I am always telling you and others; it’s ok to break down, it’s ok to cry to have those moments. I just never allowed myself to have that moment. I keep busy, distracted with clients or work or groups or … — fill in the blank! Truth be told, I think I was afraid. Scared if I allowed myself to break down, I might not pull it back together!
      So many balls in the air, it’s a fine line…


  3. Jen, I just finished reading this for the second time. Still brought tears. You are SO special and I admire you for all you have done and continue to do. You need to write a book on your life experiences. It will be a BEST SELLER. (As if you have the time).


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