Last Monday Ann and I made our well-familiar trip to Salt Lake for our appointment with my psychiatrist. We knew that one of the medications I was on was making me crazy, literally, and we were looking to get it stopped.
We accomplished that, and so much more.
It was probably within an hour of the appointment that I found myself on one side of a locked door, and Ann on the other.
What was happening? How had things deteriorated to this point?
Within the first five minutes they had taken my shoes with laces and belt, stripped me down and checked all areas of my skin for indications of self-harm, and given me a pill.
I began to pace back and forth in the sparse, harm-free room. Four steps to the plastic covered window and back to the door that doesn’t lock.
As I paced I did what I instinctively do when things seem out of control for me: I began to pray.
And I kept praying.
I will admit, that first night I really wondered how I had ended up in Hell.
The staff was kind but detached; tired and very busy. They hadn’t been prepared for my arrival, as I seemed to get there before many of the orders for my care had. I could tell that I was adding work to an already over-burdened team trying to keep control of a ward of people who didn’t seem to be able to do it for themselves.
The patients covered the spectrum of imagination: some were in street clothes and smiled; others were in hospital gowns and mumbling, while wearing blankets over their shoulders to find some sense of security.
All were scared.
At first when I was taken to the dining area for dinner, I watched closely those around me and felt like I had absolutely nothing in common with these people. They were nuts; I wasn’t. I was just a bit wound up.
Okay, I had been fighting suicidal tendencies for a while now, but I knew that I would never actually do it.
But as I listened to the others talking about their symptoms and feelings and pain, I all-too-soon realized that I understood EXACTLY what they were saying.
I realized that to someone else looking in, I was no different than the rest.
Confused. Tired. Scared.
My prayers continued.
“Dear Father, I am frightened. This is more than I can understand right now. This isn’t real. I really just want to go home. I really just NEED to go home.”
But even as I tried to panic about the situation, a calming peace came and just wouldn’t leave, no matter how hard I may have tried to chase it away through doubt and fear.
I knew this wasn’t a mistake. I knew our doctor had done the right thing. I knew this was where I needed to be right now.
I had no idea why, but I knew this was right.
And so I trusted and accepted.
Over the next three days I continued to pray constantly. Instead of pacing in my room I took to walking the halls briskly, returning to my room for pushups, planks, and curls using the chair in my room, and then back into the hall again for a quick walk.
It gave me a lot of time to think.
And a lot of time to look.
I watched the staff work so hard to help people who weren’t sure how to receive help. I realized that they had to find ways to hold on to their own sanity while working month after month in a pretty tough place. I quickly picked out the ones who seemed to understand me, and I them. I marveled that there was a complete variety there that could provide that ‘someone to connect with’ for everyone.
I watched the patients deal with both perceived and real abandonment from home and family. As the security lines from the outside seemed so thin and frail, I witnessed them grow strong and safe with each other, even though they were total strangers hours ago. I was taken aback by the incredible kindness they showed each other, and to me, when they were obviously in such a painful place in their lives.
And I wondered, “How on earth could that be?”
But it really wasn’t from an earthly or mortal source, was it.
The presence of God was very much alive and permeating each moment in that place that, on first experience, was full of pain, sadness, and even madness.
I don’t know how He is able to have all the time in the world for me, but I know that He does.
What is even more amazing and humbling is that He does it for every single one of us.
May we feel God’s love and help and strength today. I know it’s there, if we just ask and then look for it.