telling the story: humble {day 13}

13 Oct

{This post, like others to follow, relates to mental illness and suicide. If these things are a trigger for you, please read with care.}

There is something about throwing up your red Jell-O in the hospital community room that humbles you. Or maybe that’s just me.

I line up at noon behind the other patients. The nurses check the name, give you a Dixie cup with pills. Mine has just one, a blue oval. I say my name, reach out my hands, and take my medicine where the nurse and everyone can see me. It is a strange communion. Give us this day our daily meds.

I sit down, and an aide brings me my lunch tray. I pick around the chicken, eat a roll and some spoonfuls of applesauce, drink a swig of ginger ale (in a plastic bottle, no metal can). The women have segregated themselves at this table. To my left is a blonde woman in her thirties. She is quiet and smiles sadly. This morning, her husband, a business-suited man, visited, and through the wall, I could hear them talk about the babies at home. “This is my second time,” she says when someone asks. “I guess I got out too soon.”

To my right is a woman in her forties, dark brown hair going gray. There is still gauze on both her wrists. She used to be an EMT, I learn. But depression had sent her to bed. She started praying for God to take her, and after three months, she decided she would take it into her own hands. “It’s ironic,” she says in a flat tone. “They had to pick me up in an ambulance.” She lost God knows how many pints of blood before they found her at home and brought her here.

They are distressingly normal.

They ask me how I got here, and I tell them that I hadn’t tried anything. “I admire you,” says the bandaged EMT. “You’re brave, to come here before something happens.”

I eat a bite of green bean. The medicines for your brain will first make you sick. For a reason God and the good doctors only know, it’s your digestive tract that feels them first. I drink ginger ale, as many bottles as they will give me. I do not feel admirable, I do not feel brave. I feel like I might throw up my lunch all over my lap and the good people of the psych ward.

I do not feel admirable. I do not feel brave.

That morning, I followed the example of everyone around the circle. “My name is Christina, and I am a six this morning.  My goal is to stay positive.” I told them.  In therapy groups, you have to rate your mood on a scale of one to ten.  And then you have to give a goal.  “To stay positive. To take my medicine. To rest.” These are the sort of goals that people say.

Staying positive is not a goal, I think. Writing a ten-page paper is a goal. Making a five-course meal for fifteen people is a goal. Writing a novel is a goal. How are people going to love me if I am the sort of person who has staying positive as a goal? How is God going to love me if I am the sort of person who has staying positive as a goal?

We have circled from station to station, from a group circle, to a session with the social worker, to dancing in the common room, like adults that have found themselves trapped in summer camp. Now, at lunch, we pick at rolls and chicken salads. Here I am, surrounded by people with wounds that you can see or can’t, the people who are distressingly like me.

“I’m not brave,” I start to tell her. I am finishing a cup of red Jell-O when it all comes up. Jell-O, roll, ginger ale.

They leap into motion, the women at this table. They grab napkins from their trays and paper towels from the bathroom. The woman with bandaged wrists runs to her room and returns with a wet washcloth for me to wipe myself off with.

“Thank you,” I say. I go back to my room to sleep.

But before I do, I clean myself off, humbled. I take the proffered napkins, wet washcloths, paper towels. I take what they have to give me.

This post is part of a series, 31 Days of Healing. Check out Day 1 or the complete list of posts. If you want to follow along, you can also subscribe by email or subscribe in a feed reader. Or “like” the blog on Facebook. (We’re all about options here.) And thanks for reading!


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