Health

Amazing Grace in the Mental Ward

IT WAS EASTER SUNDAY, and I was in the mental ward.

I had been battling a serious depression for several years. I had struggled with inner demons who sought to foist on me the lie that I was shameful, guilty, unworthy of love. I fought back on a variety of fronts—therapy, psychiatric care, medication, support groups, intercessory prayer. There were very dark times when I hovered on the brink of not wanting to live. There were times of breakthrough, especially through prayer, when I began to feel somewhat free from the worst clutches of the depression.

The past few months had actually been a time of stability. But for reasons not altogether clear, I began to slide dangerously. It may have been a simple matter of the effectiveness of medication starting to wear out—a not uncommon phenomenon. But whatever the cause, it landed me in a situation that I had never experienced: a psychiatric hospital.

For years, I have worked with people who are homeless, a great number of whom suffer from serious mental illness. Frequently, folks I know have needed to be hospitalized, often through the traumatic experience of an involuntary commitment. Often I have visited my friends in a mental health hospital, and I almost invariably have left with a heavy and even depressed feeling at the often bleak and dismal environment of those psychiatric wards and the relentless oppression of the disease of mental illness.

Now, there I was, in that very environment myself. Now it was me who was nonfunctional, disabled, in need of drastic intervention. As the insensitive parlance of popular culture might put it, there I was, in the loony bin, one of the crazies.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2009
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