“For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.”
Some time ago, I was hospitalized for my mental illness. (Actually seven times.) And though each time was bitter, but the Lord carried me. They would take me of shoelaces, and belts, and fingernail clippers. Basically, I was stripped of everything, anything that I might use to harm myself. But I was creative, I took a clock off the wall and rolled it in a blanket, I smashed it and used the shards of glass to cut my wrists.The nurses were exceptionally observant, and within moments they intervened.
I had already been stripped, searched, and then brought into a ward full of very sick people. Much of all of this is a terrible glazed blur. There was a real awareness of unreality. I was quite confused, and it would take several weeks before I could reconnect. Things were no longer ‘reasonable’ and I could discern nothing. But I didn’t know I was so confused (but I did suspect it). The staff were quite aware and accommodating. They let me be, so time could take care of the rest. I needed to unravel things And, besides, Jesus knew exactly where I was if I didn’t.
Days rolled by, quite slowly. The tedium of a mental hospital is the worst— much more difficult than jail or prison. You walk in a very limited corridor, back and forth. You wait for your shrink, and wait, and wait. You pace, and pace. You pray, stupidly. The other patients were equally disturbed. There was a great variety among them. One guy would urinate in any corner. Once he jumped up on the nurses station, and took a “whizz.” It was hysterical. He almost shorted out their computer.
In all of this, there was a very bleak and strange awareness, of being incredibly ‘detached,’ and only remotely aware that something was not right with me. I tried to get well, but I was mentally lost. I paced, and I remained confused. I was most definitely in an ugly place. Desperate and increasingly bewildered, I knew I had no place to go. A fine place for someone who used to pastor, and teach at a Bible college.
If you have been in this place, you will recognize the ‘lostness’ of being on a ward of a mental hospital. It is confusion mixed with despair, and without a part of very strong drugs, and there is nothing you can do to be released. And really until you come to this fact, they will never let you go. They wait for you to snap out of your confusion, unfortunately that takes time. Sometimes many weeks and whole months. Sometimes never.
It’s worse when you have a family. In my case it was my wife, and two small children. This at times, would twist my heart. I would get a very short phone call, once a week. But this was quite difficult. I gained very little from those calls, and I found myself quite disturbed after each call. Being on this ward tinged me completely. It was like being dipped into darkness. I was very much affected. Now on the outside, I admit I was quite disturbed, but at the time I honestly did not understand a way out.
Dear friend, having a mental illness is cruel and disturbing. And being committed to a mental hospital is a desperate thing. Having passed through its locked doors is something you will never forget. The way I figure these seven hospitalizations have stolen over six months of my life. Its work is irrevocable, its fingerprints will be on your life, for as long as you live. But God will bring good out of this. This I know.
“Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.”