Reflections on Being Institutionalized

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m doing life correctly. Because of PTSD, I tend to live the past a lot. It’s unintentional, due to flashbacks, triggers, and panic attacks, but it happens. I have a lot of trouble with being still and clearing my mind because people, responsibilities, and distractions are all vying for my attention.

“Be still and know that I am God.” My pastor recently preached on how to keep the Gospel alive within us. Being still, mentally and physically, were definitely a part of that equation, for meditation cannot happen if we are bustling about constantly.

That is one of my greatest struggles.

Even though I spend most of my time alone, I am rarely, if ever, still mentally. My brain always seems to be racing 100 miles per minute. I think the only time in my life when my mind was calm and quiet was when I was institutionalized for an impulsive suicide attempt six weeks before I graduated college.

It is ironic that a psych ward, full of depressed, suicidal, angry, seemingly unwanted people and addicts, is both a scary place where patients are heavily medicated and physically restrained for acting out, yet simultaneously a place of rest and refuge. I will always be indebted to a particular staff member for giving me the Bible that kept me sane those four days, especially in the wee hours of the morning when I was supposed to be asleep but couldn’t drift off.

I didn’t realize until recently that UBC was the only place that offered total complete silence and a pause button on life as I knew it. While there, I didn’t have to concern myself with homework assignments (but I did have to make up some writing critiques), plans for my future, graduation, my boyfriend, or even flashbacks/panic attacks (although I did have one upon getting to the facility and another when a patient triggered me). I don’t think I’ve ever felt closer to God than when I was locked up, unable to leave until they discharged me.

I admit, being in there was traumatizing and I don’t make plans on ever returning, but that unprecedented time with God was one good thing that transpired from the madness. And for that, I’m grateful.

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