“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.”
Psalm 116:1-9 (NIV)
Six months ago, I got out of the hospital after my first (and hopefully only) hospitalization because of mental illness. This marks six months I can hold on to, no matter what, that show me the hope of what recovery looks like. In some ways, looking back, the whole experience and the weeks surrounding it seem surreal. Yet, in many ways, that period forms an inextricable part of who I am now.
In both positive and negative ways, the experience of hospitalization lingers with me. Visiting a geriatric rehab center and waiting for the receptionist to press a button to allow me out through the secured doors leaves me vaguely anxious, wondering illogically for a split second whether or not I am still confined to the psychiatric wing. Pens hold a special significance now, since they were banned from the wing. I don’t like pencils as much as I once did. I take a unique delight in wearing drawstrings. Puzzles soothe my mind. I like being able to shut people out, not having to respond to knocks on the shower door or a flashlight shown in my face every half hour at night. On the other hand, I’m so much healthier now, with a medication that works and which isn’t causing adverse reactions, and dismissal from counseling. I learned who my true friends were, and experienced unconditional love and support. Without that week, it would have taken much longer to stabilize me and find the solutions I needed, if I even made it that long.
Sometimes I find the phrase, “When I was in the hospital…” springing to my mind and being halted by my lips, unsure where or how to go from there. How much of my story, the parts that shaped me and defined me and kept me alive, can I allow to flow freely? So much of it seems dammed up by the people around me, their expectations, and their unspoken rules for me in the weeks and months following my hospitalization. No one needs to say it directly for me to hear as long as you pretend this never happened, we can all continue as normal. I don’t think the people around me recognize how formative this experience has been, that it is part of who I am now.
So I am celebrating here. For me, this six month anniversary feels like a victory. Even if I have done nothing else commemorative and no one else knows, I know that this date has significance for me.