Ramblings from the Psych Ward

I’m finishing up my second week working on a psych ward. Before I began I had spoken with my therapist and asked him if he had any recommendations. He asked me only to do one thing, “look at them as if they are real people with real issues. Remember that how they act makes sense, at least to them..” I’ve tried to do just that and in the process I’ve learned a few things about myself.

I’ve learned that it’s a very thin line between ‘normal’ and ‘crazy’. I’ve met people who still have dreams but life has thrown a bunch of garbage at them.

I’ve met a young man who, for no fault of his own, cannot stop moving his mouth. He has tardive dyskenesia along with some catelepsy. It’s not fair that he can’t use one of the drugs we’d like him to have because he’d have no way to pay for it out of the hospital.

There’s a lady who rather than embracing her upcoming retirement has decided that life just isn’t worth living, or at least bothering with. She barely eats, barely sleeps, and just lies in bed all day, despite being on several medicines that should be helping her by now. We keep hoping she’ll try ECT but so far she refuses. She doesn’t believe she is depressed, just that she’s a realist.

Another lady, who is so similar to myself that it scares me, is manic. She doesn’t remember the difficulty the police had bringing her in, nor the way she behaved in the ED. She doesn’t understand why she’s still being held ‘hostage’. When asked about it she has changed the story so much that it makes me wonder why she’s still there. The reality, though, is quite a bit different when you talk to those who met her that first day. Still, some of her story is true. She really has lived several places, really has suffered tragedy, really has had life turn upside down on her. I look at her and I see just how close I came to being there as a patient with her. Instead, though, I discovered ways to handle my stress, ways to grow my way out, and continue to grow. I have to remind myself that she is not me and does not have the skills I’ve learned, despite our similar circumstances.

The truth is all of these people could be you, or me, or someone we walk by. They are no different than we are, not special, not broken. They have just become overwhelmed and need someone to help guide them out of their own caves. Today, I nearly broke down in tears listening to a man who had to move back in with his mother because of an unexplained seizure that then turned his life upside down. He’s my age. I think how my parents would be if I lost my ability to take care of myself, and I think of how I would be if my own children found themselves in a similar place. I feel for them all.

And then, there is a man, who if he could only control his anger could provide such beauty to the world. He’s an artist who has covered his walls with drawings he’s done while waiting. He is also a gifted musician and can provide so much more to this world. Smart, well-kept, handsome, young, and strong… all the qualities a man his age would love to have. He’s there trying to explain to us that his problem is that he can’t sleep, that is the reason, he says, that he sees so many strange things. Visions when he closes his eyes, radio waves in the air, dots on our bodies… He believes there are aliens and he is worried there will be war because of them. He may be right, he might not; it’s not my place to say. There’s a lot of perfectly ‘normal’ people walking around who believe in aliens so that isn’t something worth arguing about.

So what do I say to myself? What do I think? I think it’d be best if when we talk to those who are in the ward that despite how crazy they sound, despite how far-fetched their stories may be, that we should give them the benefit of the doubt. So, yes, I choose to believe my patient when she says she swallowed a bunch of flexeril as well as oxycodone, mobic, and citalopram with vodka. I believe her when she says she doesn’t know why she started feeling suicidal, that it doesn’t make sense to her. I believe her when she says she really wants to live, despite being alive only because someone else found her. I believe her. And? If my patient says he believes in telepathy, why not? Who are we to say what another has experienced? We aren’t them. If they say they lived in Europe, or DC, or wherever, then who are we to say they didn’t?

These are good people, not liars, nor embellishers. They are telling us exactly what they think to be true. They are only being honest with no filters…. if everyone was as honest as these, we’d all be in the psych ward…

thank you for reading,

me

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My Cry for Help

I wrote the following long before I ever knew the depth of my pain, long before I ever spoke to a soul. I had had a hint of freedom that lead me to write this… I hope that my life can be a light to another’s.  Enjoy?

 

I search, I scream, I try to find a way out.  My dreams are haunted, I’m lost, terrified.

“Please someone, please help me.”  I can’t see, I can barely breathe.  Where is the air?  How did I get here?

“Someone please, please help me out!” I’m so lost, I don’t know my way.  Where am I?  I wish I could see the sky, but I’m blind. The birds? Do they sing? I can’t hear their song.

“My dreams? Please don’t ask me about my dreams.  My dreams don’t come true.  They can’t, my chains are too strong, dreaming just makes things worse.  What do I dream?  I can’t, it hurts too much.  Please, please don’t ask me that.  Don’t make me dream…the chains they hurt so bad.”

Air? Is that air? Sky? No!  I can’t look.  Oh, but the air is so sweet, and the sky is so bright.

“No! It only makes it worse!” Don’t give me air and sky, I can’t keep them.

“Go away, please go away.  Please, please.”

“What do you want?  Why do you hurt me so much?  I belong here, in my cage.  I belong here, with my chains.  Don’t help me, please, please don’t.”

It hurts too much. I didn’t know. I didn’t know I couldn’t breathe.  I didn’t know I had chains on.  I couldn’t see the cage.  I didn’t want to know.  Why did you show me?  It hurts so much more than it did before.  I was almost dead, why did you wake me?  Why did you set me free?  You are so cruel.  I didn’t know what it was like to be free.  I didn’t know what I was missing.  You cursed me!  I can’t stay free!  Why did you show me!  I didn’t want to know what it was like to be loved.

I screamed, I yelled, I begged to be free and you came, you showed me how.

“I hate you.  I hate you for showing me.  How dare you show me what I can’t have!  I hate you!”

My chains are heavier than they ever were before you.  My cage is smaller, my air is sour.  I at least thought I could breathe.  I didn’t know I was in hell. I just didn’t know.

You say I can.  Really? How?  You say it is my right to breathe?  To be free?  How?  By going through hell first?  I don’t want it.  If this isn’t hell yet, then I’ll just stay here.  I don’t want worse.  You still believe in me?  You say I can be free?  I don’t believe you.  You are wrong.  You all are wrong and I am right.  How can you all be wrong?  Is there really enough air out there?  Will I be able to see the sky? Hear the birds? Breathe?

“Help me!  I’m so alone! I can’t find my way.  Please, please help me.  I can’t do this alone.  I’m so scared.  I don’t know how.  I don’t know what to do.  Please, someone, please help me!”

thank you for reading,

me

ps.. the sun, the stars, the birds, the fields, the sky… they are all very, very real

The Beginning of Peace

I’ve been writing almost constantly.  I’ve been confronted with my past and I am finally in a position to look at it more closely.  My life is an amazing life.  I have had opportunities given me that most have never seen.    I have lived in different countries, known different cultures.  As a child I was given the room to explore and to learn.  Nothing was denied me.  Sure, I wasn’t given things, but I was encouraged to think and to never give up. I was encouraged that if I wanted something bad enough that there wasn’t any reason I couldn’t work my way there.  Everything was possible.  I was allowed to believe that I could be anyone I wanted to be.  I could be the president or the carpenter, all I had to do was believe in myself and to never ever give up.  My parents let me learn what I needed to learn.  They always gave me encouragement to try new things.  Yet they always encouraged honesty above all us.  If I was to do or be something I was to do it with integrity.  They gave me all that they could give me.  But in the process they gave me freedom.  The freedom to make mistakes too.  Unfortunately the freedom they gave was to a child.  A child who didn’t have the ability to always make the right decisions.  And so I made a bunch of bad ones.  Now, three decades later, some of these things have decided that their time has come….

Our bodies have a way of getting what they want, either that, or they just quit.  If we don’t feed ourselves they yell, if we don’t drink enough they slow down.  If we constantly ignore them they finally begin to scream, it may take years before you hear it but they do.  They scream.  My body’s screaming finally became loud enough that I couldn’t hear anything else.  So, given the support structure I have already designed for other reasons, I decided to take the time to listen.  I decided to speak my secrets quietly and authentically.  I decided to face my demons head on.  I really thought that I could handle it.  I was right, but not like I expected.

Demons.  What exactly are demons?  The Frank Perretti books show demons as physical beings that cannot be seen.  Physical beings that if you could see them look just like the pictures in story books with their ugly faces, wings, and talons.  These demons would attack someone who was a threat to their king.  They would literally hook their talons into the skin of the backs and shoulders of those who needed to be stopped.  These demons would fight over the souls of the saved and would whisper in their ears discouragement and lies.  They would whisper things like, “you aren’t good enough”, “murderer”, “you have no right”, “you are stupid”, “they don’t love you”, “you are worthless”…. on and on until their prey would fail and quit and so no longer be a threat any longer.  These demons only have power because they are unnamed and unrecognized for what they are.  Their names are Fear, Blame, Guilt, Hate, Murder.  They have no real power because of their lies.  The person they are attached to is a threat because they know they have no real power.  The only power a demon has is in its secrecy.  Once a demon has been known it can no longer keep hold of its victim.  The victim, though, is weak and must heal or the demons will come back.

Some of my demons are Blame, Hate, Anger and Fear.  These and I have had so much time together they seem like old friends.  I know them better than I know myself.  Their talons have been in my flesh for so long that the wounds that they made are festering.  As such, my body has been screaming and now I can finally hear it.  For every bad there is a good.  If this weren’t true I would be doomed.  The angels fight and when recognition comes they gain power and so their fight has finally turned in their favor.

For all of these years the demons have been whispering into my ears and the angels have been yelling to be heard.  They have been yelling so that I would hear the truth instead of the lies.  These little thoughts that run across my mind, things like. “I can do this,” “Be gentle with yourself”, “trust your gut”, “believe in yourself”, “you have permission to cry”, “permission to be still”, “permission to love”, “permission to say no”… each of these was countered by my demons.  I could hear them both.  For so long, though, the whispers of the demons were so much louder than the shouts of the angels.  The demons’ whispers would use my life’s evidence against me.  The demons would scare away those who I wanted to lean on.  Or they would convince me that I was not worth the effort.  The only choice I could make was to quit.  I quit listening to my heart, quit listening to my soul, quit feeling, quit thinking and tried to forget.  In self-defense, I quit.  I may have quit but the angels never did, and somehow I heard again.  Somehow I felt the possibilities of peace and of hope like a whisper, like a breath of fresh air.  This whisper was different, this one was not scary.  These whispers started to grow in my stomach and have, little by little, gained strength.  They gained just enough strength to let me believe that I could be authentically me, that I could actually face my demons.

Ah, demons don’t like to be shrugged off.  In my naivety I thought I could handle what I started.  In my naivety I thought it would be easy.  I spoke truth and my body shook like a dry leaf in the wind.  The fires of hell found me and began to sear at my body.  My entire being has been put in the coals and as I try to continue, I find that I still have the strength to write.  And so I write.  Facing my demons on paper is only slightly better than facing them in person.  My demons are furious and hungry.  They fly around me and stab me with their talons, scratching me and scarring me.  They are the ones yelling now and they will not win.

me