I have been writing, in small doses with short descriptive stories, about an experience that happened after a tumble into depression that went undiagnosed for over a year when I was in my early 40’s. After I shared with my doctor that “something just wasn’t right” and cried during my annual visit, I was patted on the hand, told that I was peri-menopausal, and told to take Remifemin and Oil of Evening Primrose. A year later I spent six days in a psychiatric hospital and had to take a short-term disability leave from work, engaged in counseling and self-care, to address the depression.
It was a relief. I desperately needed help to regain perspective on life after a series of circumstances that led me to feel hopelessly stuck in a dark hole that even my doctor dismissed as “just menopause.”
I have described going to the hospital emergency room on a Saturday afternoon and later, my first night in the suicide watch unit after being transported by ambulance to the psychiatric hospital.
The next morning, Sunday, I was moved to the general treatment wing and attended group counseling sessions and had a psychiatric interview. I, like everyone else, was asked at one point that morning to line up to receive medication from a dispensing nurse. When my turn came, I asked what I was being given. She replied, “Ativan”, an anti-anxiety medication. I laughed. In my fragile, delusional state, what I heard was “At a van, ” which was very funny to me. For several weeks I had had a recurring thought of myself as being somewhat like a large Ford 18-wheel tractor truck pulling a van trailer. I knew that the imagery was reflecting my sense that I had a full load of cargo, baggage that needed to be unloaded. When the nurse said “Ativan”, I had a vision of myself as having been downsized to a Ford 18 passenger van…..a considerable improvement compared to the 18 wheeler I had previously felt myself dragging around. But I also knew that I had a way to go to get to the little two-seater sports car that seemed to be the goal! So my first experience of receiving medication was, in itself, a bit of encouragement and therapy that helped set a vision for where this journey was headed.
That night, a male nurse named Michael, came to my room with a small paper cup and said I had another medication to take. I asked what it was and I heard him say what I thought was “Whisper it all.” I asked him to repeat it and he said, more slowly, “Risperadol.” Again, I laughed and thought to myself, “No one would ever believe what I’ve experienced, even if I whispered it all!” I told Michael that I would take the medication, but that I was confident that the real healing would come from Christ. He said, “I believe that, too.” I asked him to pray with me, and he did. I had not seen him before and I never saw him again.
My next day there, Monday, was the Memorial Day holiday. All of the unit staff participated in preparing and enjoying a hot dog and hamburger cookout with the patients on the porch facing the courtyard. I must have looked less lost and brighter eyed and engaged, as one of the male nurses doing the cooking said to me as I walked out onto the porch, “Welcome back.” I smiled, got a hotdog and sat on a bench in the courtyard. I was no longer feeling pressed on all sides by messages that seemed to be trying to make me feel I was somehow needing to take some action to do something heroic that I couldn’t quite figure out. In a session with a psychologist later in the day, I asked what my diagnosis was. He said depression and religiosity psychosis. I recognized that a lot of what I had been experiencing seemed be focused on what I believed about God, Christ, and my relationship to Christ. I did know that not all of what I was hearing was from God….but was coming from some other source…..was it my own confused mind? Evil spirits? The devil? I didn’t know. I was able to discern the Voice that I knew was present with me…..it was always gentle and encouraging and was easily confirmed by Scriptures that were in my heart. I knew that God was present, was protecting and providing for me and would get me through it.
Although the doctors had told my family I would be there for 3 weeks or longer, in six days I was released and referred to outpatient counseling. This experience of hospitalization was a relief. I needed a break from the struggle of trying to right myself and struggle through each day. I felt like a sheep that had gotten turned over on its back and couldn’t get upright. I needed a Shepherd to set me up right. He had his undershepherds in place to help and eventually I was able to feel “normal” again.