I peered into Julia’s room and saw her sitting up in bed crying. When I entered the room, she quickly wiped her tears and said “Hello.”
“Hi, Julia, I’m Chaplain Pat...just doing my rounds today and thought I’d check in with you. I noticed that you are Catholic. Have you had communion today?”
The flood of tears came. She tried to squeeze them back in but they escaped down her cheeks. “Sorry,” she grimaced. I could see that somehow having communion drew her feelings to the surface like a fish on a line, perhaps welcome, perhaps not.
“Tell me about the tears,” I tried to gently pull in the fish.
“I’m so depressed. I have so many problems right now. I just can’t bear them.” I looked into her eyes, inviting her to tell me more.
“I have heart problems, and that’s what caused my stroke. See my face? It’s a lot better now, but I still have a little droop in my mouth.” I nodded. I saw this beautiful human being in front on me in desperate despair.
“Do you have family supporting you?”
“I have two children, 17 and 18. My oldest, my son, has Asperger’s syndrome.” Now I was hooked for I also have a son with Asperger’s. He was the one at home with me when I fell.”
“Did he call 9-1-1?”
“Yes, he did. I was so proud of him. At first he was angry with me for falling and making so much noise.”
“He rose to the occasion! I think you have every right to be proud of him!”
“My husband and I have not been doing well. He’s been sleeping in another room for quite a few months, and now he’s asked me for a divorce. He told me that he’s had enough. I guess my stroke put him over the edge. See my wrists? I tried to kill myself a few years ago.”
“You have a history of depression?” Hooked again. This was also part of my story.
“Yes. Actually, I’m bi-polar.” This was beginning to feel suspicious since I was diagnosed with cyclothymia a few years ago, a mild form of bi-polar disorder. “It has been tough on everyone.”
Attempting to widen the circle of support, I asked, “What do you do for a living?”
“I was trained as a special education teacher and taught for several years before I had my children. I’m having a hard time getting work now. Just taking odd jobs here and there.”
“Why haven’t you gone back into teaching?”
“I pulled a gun on someone. Not at the school, but now I have that on my record, and no one is able to hire me in a public school setting.” She bowed her head in shame. So, very little support, I noted. Son with Asperger’s, husband asking for divorce, depression present which is isolating…
“I do have a therapist that I see once a month. I really like her. She’s also an NP so she can prescribe medication for me.”
“You know, Julia, after what you’ve shared with me, you have so many stressors in your life, you would be abnormal if you weren’t depressed. I know you have complicating factors, but depression would be a normal response to what you are going through.” She looked up at me. “I want you to know something, Julia, you are not your depression. You have depression. You have a bi-polar disorder, but that is not who you are.”
Her eyes widened. She was having an “a-ha moment. “No one has ever said that to me!”
I continued. “You are a woman who loves to work with special needs children. You are a mother to a child with special needs. You have a tender heart toward God, and even though you may not feel that God is with you, you know He is because you have taken communion and you continue to pray.” There was a slight change in her posture. I could see that she was absorbing what I was saying, even beginning to believe it.
“I’m having a problem with my insurance. I really want to go to the Behavior Health floor to get the help I need, but my case manager is telling me that my last premium wasn’t paid. My husband hasn’t paid it. If I don’t get that paid, I’ll have to go to some kind of outpatient treatment. I really don’t want to do do that. I know I need more help than that.” Her shoulders began to pull in again.
“May I pray with you?”
“Yes, please.” I prayed a prayer asking God to show her how much he cares for her, to lighten her load and to bring healing into her life. He knew, more than I did, what she needed, and I entrusted her to Him.
“Before I leave, I have one more question for you: What is your favorite color? I want to bring you a love blanket made by one of our volunteers. Every time you look at it, you need to remember that you are being cared for--by us and by God.”
“I’d love that.”
I took care of a few other patients, returned to my office, had lunch and was then paged to another floor. I passed along the page, remembering that I had promised that I would bring the love blanket to Julia before she was possibly discharged from the floor. I went into the blanket closet and selected two blankets. These are both beautiful, but I’ll let her choose which one she likes the best.
Within a few moments, I re-entered her room. I held up each blanket and asked her which one she liked. She chose the one with the least amount of purple, and I was surprised. “Why this one?”
“It has so many colors...it’s like a rainbow.”
“Ahh, a sign of hope for you.”
“Exactly! By the way, I need to share a few things with you. I called my husband to tell him to pay the premium. I have NEVER spoken to him like I did--direct and firm. I told him that if he didn’t pay the premium, he would owe thousands of dollars instead of the premium. He said he would pay it! I was so proud of myself! And then, I had someone call me to tell me that there were some openings at a local center for special needs people, a job-finding position. It’s not with the government, so I might have a chance. I’ve always wanted to work with this organization!”
“Do you see, Julia? Do you see God’s work both within you and for you?”
She teared up again. “Yes, I do see, and oh, yes...I will be admitted to the Behavioral Health floor tomorrow morning.”
“Great!” I gave her a thumbs up, a hug and left the room. A good lesson...not just for her, but for me as well. Just when we think all is lost and we are confused, God comes through with hope and provision, guidance and direction. Thumbs up!