Today is a big day. Two years ago today I woke up and a part of me didn’t want to be here anymore. I was lost, in despair, and felt hopeless to recover from PTSD and the effects it was causing on all layers of my being and in my life.
I called a friend. She called another friend. Together they came over and sat me down. They helped me to see that I needed further help. I was reluctant and felt ashamed that I couldn’t get through this with all the tools and support that I had.
Two days prior I had been in the ER after an allergic reaction to a psych med and was terrified at the thought of having to go on another one. My doctor at the time did not know what more to do for me, as she said. I felt abandoned by my medical team. My therapist was an angel and supported my decision to get further help. My friends had to make the tough call to tell me that I needed to go into in-patient care. I was not okay.
My husband came home from work. All 4 of us figured out where I was going to go. Once we did, I showered, my friend packed my bag, and they watched me get in the car with my husband, as he drove me to the mental/behavioral ward at a local hospital. I recall being very shaky, scared, and unsure, yet something in me knew it was what I needed if I was going to get through this.
When I got there and was taken back, I had to admit I was having suicidal ideations – later the psych doctor said they actually call what I was experiencing anxiety-based OCD intrusive thoughts due to PTSD.
I had to sit in-between being fully admitted and waiting for over 24 hours. Other patients were taking priority. Once I was called back for evaluation, I thought I would be put on a new med and sent home.
When I got back in the evaluation room, the nurse’s name was Angel. I smiled, silently thanking God. Angel shared with me that I would be admitted for a minimum of five days. I lost it. Tears. Lots of tears. I recall asking why I can’t just get meds and go home. He said that they have to admit me and since I am so sensitive to meds, I need to be overseen for a few days after starting the new medication.
I looked at my husband and apologized. I felt so broken. So ashamed. This woman he once knew that was strong, determined, powerful, had been drowned in despair and couldn’t find her way out.
I remember saying to him, “This is what I have to do.” He stayed with me while I waited for a room. We had to sleep in the “waiting in limbo area” as I call it, overnight because there were no beds for me yet.
The next nurse shift came on and my new nurse’s name was Kent. I laughed. Kent was the name of my family’s shaman healer and dear friend and mentor to me. He died in 2009. Again, I new God was with me. I did not have to be afraid.
I was checked in and my husband had to leave. Angel had promised me that he would ensure my roommate was someone similar to me, and he did. Her name was Julie. I smiled again. Julie is the name my older sister and I used to call each other as a strange inside joke. I knew I would be okay.
Fairly soon I met my first psychiatrist ever in my life. He was my age. He looked at me, saw my records and said, “I see women like you in here all the time. It’s ok. We will get you started on a pediatric dose of meds, and make sure you do okay. The doctor you see when you leave here will probably raise the dosage.”
I asked him how long I had to be there. It was a Thursday at this point. He said at least until Monday. 5 days. Monday was Halloween. I decided in my heart that I would go home Monday to be able to go trick or treating with my family.
On Friday morning I was sitting outside on the small patio journaling. It was the only outside area available to sit. It had bars like a jail cell blocking the concrete from the grass. All I could see were cement walls, some grass and bushes, and small area of blue sky through the bars.
As I was journaling I kept asking God, “How did I get here? How did this happen? With all the tools that I know, really?!” I was sad, angry, scared, and so confused. I was hunched over writing when I heard the patio doors open.
“Are you Kate?”
“I was told you want to see me.”
“Who are you?”
“I am Pastor Preston.”
“Of course you are.”
I really did laugh out loud. That was fast, God. Thank you for listening. I sat in amazement. We really are never alone.
I asked him who sent him and he said one of the nurses. I did not ask to see a pastor, although I so welcomed the visit.
We sat down together at one of those metal patio tables with the holes all across the top that you can drop things through. He began to talk with me about Jesus, as I shared by belief in Christ.
I will never forget these words. He said, “Kate. Even Christ had to come down from the mountain and be human to fulfill his purpose here. You have been trained in so many ways of healing and yet have not been trained in how to manage being human. It is time to process your experiences of human suffering and learn that your humanness is a gift, too. It is God’s way of having you do his work in this world. You will teach people Christ teachings and ways to manage being human. You will help many.”
I was floored. Totally speechless. Who was this man? I already knew who really sent him.
We continued to talk for almost an hour. He shared many teachings with me and me with him. It was a Divine appointment.
As the days went on I had to attend group therapy and chose to work my way through the workbook they give you on how to build emotional resiliency.
What I discovered still brings tears to my eyes. There were about 20 of us on my side of the wing, ranging in age from 17 to 74. Everyone there for different reasons, and yet by listening to each person’s story, it was all the same and my heart was blown open in empathy for the common theme.
All of us, every single one, had a root story of “I am not good enough.”
Whether there for drug detox, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts or attempts, severe panic, whatever the reason. Each person’s story was built on the life of shame.
I remember my Yoga Nidra teachings and my teacher talking about how not good enough was a root cause of so much suffering in this life. It becomes the bedrock that so many of us build the false-story of our lives. Until we learn better.
It was then that I decided that perhaps PTSD really stands for “Post Traumatic Shame Disorder”. A thought I still believe to this day.
I was doing well on the medication, and talking with other patients about yoga, mindfulness and meditation. I realized that there are some people not ready or willing to heal and that is their choice.
On the third day I was assigned a new nurse due to rotations. As I went to meet with him, I wondered if he would think I was crazy for my discussions on yoga, and the like. He introduced himself.
His name was Michael and he wore a necklace with Jesus’ face on it. I smiled, again thanking God for placing the perfect people on my path.
I was having a hard time accepting that I would have to be on meds. He said to me, “Kate. We are trying to get other patients here to learn a quarter of what you know about yoga, breathing, and meditation and help them get off some of the meds. You are resistant to taking one pill that could help you heal from this. If someone were to need insulin to help with diabetes would you tell them not to take it? Would you tell a heart patient not to take their heart meds because their heart doesn’t function correctly without it?”
“Listen. Your nervous system and brain are not working right at this time. Let the medicine help you.”
“Kate, I’m a marathon runner. I have to take blood pressure regulating meds. I don’t like to and yet I’ve tried other means and I need the meds.”
“So what are you saying? I will need meds forever?”
“No. What I’m saying is, let the medicine help for now while you see if there are other ways to help yourself. There is no shame in taking meds except the shame you tell yourself.”
Whew! That hit my heart like a dagger. There is that shame word again.
He told me to set a goal. He said if someone wants to be a marathon runner they set their goal at 26.2 miles. Then they start working their way forward to get there by training the body and even moreso, the mind, to hit that goal. They don’t start by running 15 miles. They start with one.
I gave myself a goal to be off the meds within a year if I could. A part of me knew it may not have been realistic, and I needed that goal. I did not know what that path looked like and I knew that by faith as God was clearly with me, I would find my way.
I was called in to check-in with my doctor on the afternoon of day 3, Saturday. He was happy with my progress. I asked if I could go home on Monday. He said he was off on Monday, but would write my release papers and the other psych doctor could approve if all went well Sunday.
I continued to attend group therapy, and talking with other patients. I learned how important it is to be seen and heard in our healing journey. I learned that often a response is not needed to advise yet a gentle, “I understand and I get it.” could change someone’s life path instantly.
I learned that we all yearn for connection, love, and belonging – just as Brene Brown shares.
I learned that God is gracious and puts us in situations way outside our comfort zone to break us open a little more to the fragility of being human.
Sunday flew by and I was eagerly awaiting my appointment with the other doctor to be released to go home. Admittedly, I was extremely nervous to go home because in the hospital I was only responsible for myself.
At home I had two young kids, 2 dogs, a cat, a husband, I owned my own business and all of that felt so overwhelming.
I opened the door to meet with the doctor who would decide if I was stabile enough to go home. He introduced himself. He was maybe ten years my senior and looked at me in a knowing way.
He asked me, “Where do you live?”
“Where do you live? I would like you to be my patient when you leave here. I think I understand you.”
I told him where I lived. Then I asked for what he meant by he understands me.
Turns out he is a Ph.D in Neuroscience, MD in psychiatry, a kundalini yoga teacher and Tai Chi Master.
Again, I laughed out loud. Really, God? You are good, and this may be your best yet.
He proceeded to tell me that he thinks what I am experiencing is a Spiritual Awakening caused by all the years of training and accepting Christ in my life. My body is processing all the trauma out as it does not align with the new way of being. My humanness is having a hard time integrating the changes. He promised he could help me and not have me on meds long-term. He shared he understood my journey.
I looked dazed. Did a medical doctor really just say those things?
He signed off on my release papers. I was going home to be with my family on Halloween and begin to live life in a very new way.
I look back on this day with so much appreciation and love to all those who have walked with me on this journey, whether they are still in my life now, or whether our season together in this life ended.
My story is far from over and I will continue to remove the lens of shame on mental health awareness and speak for those who may be in fear of being heard or seen. I pray that God will continue to use me to serve and help those in need.
You are never alone. You are always loved. You are whole and complete as you are, even when you don’t feel it. You are good enough.