Letter from A Psych Ward

The following is from an email I sent out about a year ago. It’s very humbling to post – but I know I’m not the only one struggling during this dark season. WE are not alone…

“How long, O Lord?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and everyday have sorrow in my heart?
How long will [the enemy] triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes,
Or I will sleep in death.
[The enemy] will say,
“I have overcome [her],”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
for he has been good to me.
Psalm 13

This last week has been one of the most rest full and humbling weeks of my life.

I would say it started on Monday, when I was in the ER in The Hospital, certified under the Mental Health Act. But really, the journey to being a psychiatric patient started with long-ago trauma that has just decided that I’ve pushed it down with busy-ness long enough.

I love ALL the things I do. I love the recognition I get. I love going the extra mile. I love the feeling when someone tells me “You are amazing.” I live by my lists, most of them growing in my head, waiting for my next cycle of journalling or brain dumping to be put into my schedule (that is interrupted by actual physical needs, like eating and sleeping). I live for the feeling of being needed.

I don’t believe it when they tell me that and I haven’t done anything. I don’t believe they really find me worthy of friendship unless I’m in constant care of taking care of them. I honestly think, quite often, that people just put up with me, so I am constantly trying to prove that I am worthy of love.

“Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart have multiplied;
free me from my anguish.
Guard my life and rescue me;
let me not be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.”
Psalm 25:16-17, 20

While I’ve been “resting” in the psychiatric ward of The Hospital, I’ve read Ann Voskamp’s new book The Broken Way. What grace that this book came out and was in my possession before this journey of breaking down my heart-wall began. Thus far, the greatest lesson I am learning, spiritually, is that Christ WANTS to enter into my brokenness. That I don’t have to FIX or FORGIVE first. That right where the anger (disappointment, frustration, devastation) is brewing is EXACTLY where God is asking me to allow Him in. Not to fix it, but to feel it. To, in a way, enter into it and let it BE BROKEN.

Ann tells a story of her small daughter making a paper heart and taping it to her chest, so she always knows that God’s love is with her, and how this paper heart is torn. The sweet daughter wasn’t devastated by the torn symbol, instead she saw the tear, the brokenness, as a way for the love to get in more easily. I have been so busy guarding my heart, trying to prove my worthiness of love, I haven’t let myself feel. I may be open about my wounds, but not about how they make me feel – because I haven’t felt them. I’ve been too scared, too scarred, too rational, too retaliatory.

My body is raw with emotion. And I won’t feel it. It’s too scary, so I have been distracting it with busy. Lots of busy. Too much busy. I don’t cry. Well, lately I have been, but generally, even when something really moves me, wounds me, touches me, I physically cannot cry because I have built up such a wall around my heart to protect me from the feelings associated with memory. So instead I take on another task, pour another glass of wine, watch another show on Netflix.

When the breaking in of the Spirit happens, it’s IN those points of weakness. So my memory has been bringing things to the surface a lot lately. I’m not looking for them (I’m not sitting here making a list of all the wrongs done to me, and all the wrongs I’ve done others). Instead, my dreams have been perpetrating my days. Maybe it’s because of the medication, maybe it’s because it’s time again to deal with a new developmental aspect of the feelings associated with the memory. I’m being introduced to skills in order to recognize and validate the feelings, and how to care for myself when the hyperventilating begins, the racing thoughts, the racing heart, the clenched fists and the clenched jaw.

I have yet to learn how to say no or to set boundaries. I love what I do too much. But for now I’m working on figuring out how to find balance in it. To create a sanctuary in my car (since I am in the car sometimes up to 5 hours a day), to rejuvenate in nature, to cuddle my children. To eat. To drink water. To create. To smell and hear, taste and see, feel and hold the goodness in life.

Over these weeks, please pray for not only my ability to enter into the brokenness and learn skills to keep them from overtaking me, but pray for my family and community, that they would not be disheartened, but encouraged. That my “being out of the picture” for a little while is not an overwhelming burden for anyone.

And thank you for your loving care of my family while I cannot be there. Both in emotional stability and physical needs (drives to dance and meals in the refrigerator).

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:12 & 17

Your humbled Sister-In-Christ,
Jennifer

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