How it feels to spend three days in a teen psych ward. Guest post by Luke Maxwell

Click.

I half-opened my eyes to the sound of the heavy door opening, a faint light shining through. A diminutive figure shuffled into my room, slumped onto the only other bed, and sat in silence.

Blinking myself more awake, I whispered to the small boy who I guess was my new roommate, “Don’t be afraid, I’m cool.”

He didn’t say much, but instead made a vague sound of affirmation and lay down. I did the same and wondered how this turn would affect my stay in this dismal place.

I was woken up the next morning by a middle-aged woman opening the door and yelling that it was time to wake up. Pleasant. That’s when I got my real first look at the newcomer. He was just a kid. Heck, who I was to talk? I was barely 16 myself. But he was a real kid. Maybe 13 at most. He stayed silent, as if still in shock from whatever event brought him into this place. In him, I could almost see myself just a few years prior if I hadn’t survived for so long. But like all emotion I had felt for the past four years, I locked those feelings down and tried to proceed along my day as if he wasn’t even there. Loneliness was a curse, yes, but also a comfort to my broken mind.

Nobody said much as the rest of the kids filed out of their rooms and sat to an almost inedible microwaved breakfast. It was just another day in the facility. I almost caught myself laughing at the scene of us trying to eat this mess. We’d have to be crazy to be here. Oh right. Supposedly we are.

I was told to take a pill after breakfast, and after seeing there was no option, I took it. My sci-fi enthralled mind was waiting for a sudden change to come over me, but I was left disappointed. To go along with the pill, I was sent into a room of very professional looking people. You know. The kind of people you can tell have several letters after their name, letters that don’t include jr or sr. The asked me questions which I tried to answer as best as I could, but no matter how hard I tried to be honest, they never seemed to believe me.

After some “school”, exercise, and “lunch”, we were given some quiet time. Sounds nice, right? Well, when your mind is plagued with thoughts of recent events, not such a great idea. I could still taste the powder from the airbag mixing with the dirt and dust. I could feel the panic that set in as I made the decision that would forever change my life. I could see the disgust in the paramedics’ eyes as they tied me to a gurney. I stopped myself before I went down that road again. How about a book? Yeah, that’s much better.

But for some reason I’ve never understood, good things can never last. Right as I was finally gathering some peace in this massively uncomfortable place, a nurse popped her head in and informed me and my silent roommate that it was visiting time…and that my parents were here.

Oh no.

I had no idea what was about to happen. We’ve barely spoken since…it happened. Every shred of peace I had was gone. Shaking and trying to control my breathing, I stepped out of my room to see them sitting at a table on the opposite end of the room. My body and my surroundings felt trapped in slow motion while my mind raced uncontrollably. Guilt and fear flooded my emotions, adding to the chaos of my thoughts. I somehow made my way over to them, and will never forget what they said to me. They told me that they now knew that I was suffering from a disease called Major Depressive Disorder. That they loved me and were there to help me get better. This was not at all what I was expecting. Though, to be honest, I didn’t know what I actually expected. My world was spinning in a tornado of emotion and new information, and I had no idea how to absorb it. When our time was up, they handed me some cards that my siblings had written for me and left with an awkward hug. After the brief interaction, I barely remember what just happened. I had so many emotions, yet so little feelings rushing through me. I was experiencing an overload of senses, yet was completely numb. Only a broken mind, could possible create a situation like this.

One more attempt at a meal and day one was over. Only two more days left to go. But something had now changed. I wasn’t just doing stuff to survive, I now had a goal. Somewhere to be. I now saw that I was sick, and I didn’t want to be sick anymore.

Day two passed mostly like day one had. Eat disgusting food, take a pill, answer strangers’ questions, do some stuff that I believe they thought was school, eat more “food”, exercise, quiet time, parents visit, and dinner. Just another normal day. Haha. Normal. That’s funny. But something interrupted the routine that day. It was right after lunch. One of the boys (let’s call him Mike) was super annoying. This kid obviously had issues unlike the rest of us who were trying to maintain our cool and pretend we weren’t in a psych ward. They let us watch TV after lunch, and we were sitting quietly when we heard yelling behind us. If you’ve never been in a place that’s essentially a prison for teens with severe psychiatric disorders, trust me when I say yelling and conflict do not go over very well.

We all turn around to see Mike arguing with a nurse about probably nothing, and he was not backing down. Immediately we’re forced into our rooms while they deal with this. Oh, and you should know something about me. I hate conflict. Just writing about this half-an-hour long confrontation gives me anxiety. Next thing you know, I hear a thump on the wall followed by what could only be Mike punching the wall over and over again. Alarms are ringing, people are yelling, but finally it all goes silent. I gave a small look at my shaking roommate. He was not doing well.

Finally, our door cracked open, and we were told to come out. To this day, I don’t know what set him off or how they calmed him down. But at the moment, that wasn’t my concern, I wanted to get out of there even more so now. When we finally saw Mike again sometimes later, he played it off like he was a bad boy who just got in trouble. Looking back, I can see how much pain he was in, and I wish I had the compassion that I have now.

I had made it through the second day. Finally. Dinner was over and everyone had left the table except for me and a young nurse who was sitting just a few feet from me. She looked at me is if confused, visibly thought for a few seconds, then leaned closer to me and asked me something that changed the course of my life.

“What’s a good kid like you doing in a place like this?”

I was shocked. I had thought of myself in any way positive in more than four straight years of crippling depression and definitely not attached the adjective “good” to myself or anything I did.

I mumbled some kind of answer along the lines of “I just made a bad decision”, but that question still follows me around. The fact that someone I didn’t know looked at me and told me I was good was unbelievable. I thought everyone hated me. I thought I was a burden who wouldn’t amount to anything. I wasn’t able to focus on the movie or anything else for the rest of the night. The next day was spent seemingly out of my body, not really focused on what was going on around me. I saw the sadness and pain in each of the children around me. We were just kids. Children in horrible circumstances. My roommate was 13 years old. I couldn’t stop thinking about why each of the others were in here, what they had gone through to have this extreme measure of imprisonment taken, and if something could have been done to prevent this.

I was informed that I’d be released the next morning since my three days of assessment were up. They had concluded that I was no longer a threat to myself or anyone else, but they mandated medication and regular therapy appointments.

My parents stood in the hallway that morning and without hesitation, I gave them a hug, collecting my things, and walked out with them. I said one final goodbye to my peers who had known so briefly, but had such a profound impact on me. I was taken immediately to a therapist my parents had found, and as I shook his hand and settled into the couch. I began to share my story.

“I’m Luke, and on December 3rd, 2012, after four years of suffering from undiagnosed major depression, I attempted suicide by driving a 12-seater van at 60 mph head-on into an oncoming vehicle. I want to feel better, and I want to help my peers who are suffering like I am.”

My therapist smiled understandingly and replied, “Luke, I’m so glad you’re still here.”

 

More about Luke:

Hi, I’m Luke! …and when I was little, I wanted more than anything to be an astronaut. Now, I’ve left such childish dreams behind…for much bigger ones. After suffering from undiagnosed Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) for four years as a teen, I survived a serious suicide attempt (watch my story video for more details). Once I was told I was suffering from a medical disease that I could overcome and that more than 1 in 4 of my peers were suffering like I was, I made it my mission to heal not only myself, but support others along the way. And so on September 7th, 2013, with the simple tagline of “Unashamed. (Period)”, U Can’t B Erased was born.

Check out his website here!  https://www.ucantberased.com/

A video of Luke sharing his story on You Tube: https://youtu.be/yM3ayaNaehs

 

And from the ground there blossoms red Life that shall endless be.

{this article was published in The Morning Center Chronicle, November 2017. The Morning Center provides free, full-service maternity care to underserved women in the name of Jesus. ProWoman. ProHope. ProLife.}

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:10

The Morning Center stands for life.

However, our journey in supporting The Morning Center did not begin with life. Our journey’s seed-bed was Death:  our daughter, Tirzah Catherine Knight, was born still and silent at 40 weeks, and into the arms of Jesus on August 20, 2014. It was the darkest night of our lives.

She was our every dream and prayer come true. We loved her beyond words. Holding her in my arms, and the soft touch of her cheek was a touch of heaven… for a moment. But heaven is real, and I will touch her again.

We are people of the Resurrection. This is our hope.

It is from this place that our journey with The Morning Center blossomed.

Tirzah is NOT dead; she IS alive. Her life matters. Though born still and silent she has a voice that speaks loudly and clearly a message of life.

Tirzah’s message and the Morning Center’s mission are one and the same: Life. Resurrection. Eternal Life.

This is why we choose The Morning Center to honor and celebrate Tirzah’s life each year on her birthday, and invite others to join us. On her first birthday, we hosted an online baby shower that raised over $6000. We also celebrated her 1st birthday with a party and collected baby gifts. It was a holy experience to unwrap the gifts: clothes and dresses were chosen and wrapped through the tears of those who love us.

The dresses, that would have been so beautiful for Tirzah, were meant to bless another baby. Holding these dresses was literally holding grief and joy together: hope beyond the sorrow.

This baby shower for The Morning Center was actually a battle-cry:  A fierce stand that as Evil rages on this earth, scheming to “kill, thieve and destroy”, Death does NOT have the last word. Life wins!

In the battle against Evil and against Death, The Morning Center and all who work through the ministry are warriors fighting for life!

We joined forces with the Morning Center, because Jesus has conquered sin, Evil and death!

We stand on hope in the Resurrection. I repeat: Life wins!!

We love the Morning Center and are proud to join the war on their behalf because they have dual weaponry against the Enemy that is rare in Christian ministry: Sharing the Gospel in deed AND in Word.

The Morning Center enables women to carry and delivery their babies with excellent medical care. At the same time, their mission is sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the fullness of truth with love. I have been so blessed to join with The Morning Center through prayer and see their work overflowing in Bible study ministry to fathers and refugees in the community.

As we grieve our daughter here on earth, it has given us joy and peace in believing that the purpose of Tirzah’s life was for the grace of Jesus to spread (John 9:3). We see that promise fulfilled through The Morning Center, as her life has inspired us to take part in the gift of life to babies, mothers, fathers… and truly an entire community.

https://www.morningcenter.org/

 

 

 

Story: Hope for a Hurting Marriage

Guest post: A story of true love and redemption:

Once upon a time, there was a young couple who fell in love.

They laughed. They had fun. They talked until the early hours of the morning about everything and nothing at the same time. They were different from each other in so many ways but they appreciated these differences. They basked in the beauty of new, young love and the possibility of their lives together. They both knew from the start that they had a future together. Within a year’s time got engaged and married the following year.

Within the first year of marriage reality set in and felt like a huge cloud looming. Not quite sure how this whole marriage thing worked, the young couple tried and tried at communicating and working together, yet they couldn’t quite get it right.

The foundation of their marriage wasn’t built very strong and they the felt the weight bearing on their marriage as the structure began to crack.

Pretty soon the young couple found out they were pregnant! Joy and happiness (and fear of course! ) of being parents now became the focus of this young couple.

Yet as the months ticked by, the arguments, stubbornness, harshness, bitterness and walls against each other kept building and building and the weight came crushing down a little more onto their home.

They tried getting help. They Learned new tricks and tips on how to work with each other better, leaned on friends who had been married longer and had good marriages.

Sigh. They pressed forward.

Pretty soon Baby Girl was born and she was such a beauty. Her peacefulness and joy radiated their home with warmth and laughter. She was truly a beautiful gift from God to this young family.

However, as the years went by their marriage kept sinking.  More walls were built. More arguing with no resolution. More sadness and loneliness began to fill the hearts of these parents.

The realization that the foundation of their home and marriage was crumbling was weighing on their hearts and minds. Coming to the end of their rope, they reached out to the Church, not knowing what else to do. Neither husband or wife wanted to give up, yet neither knew what else to do to fix the damage done. They started pealing back the layers of hurt and pain as they tried to move forward.

They pressed on, not sure if repair was possible.

Falling and getting back up. Falling again and picked up again by loved ones.

Finally, breakthrough came when this husband and wife started to surrender it all- hands up to Jesus.

When couples get married 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is often quoted:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

What does this really look like? How am I supposed to be patient when {fill in the blank}? How am I supposed to be kind when {fill in the blank}? How am I not supposed to keep record of wrongs when {fill in the blank}?

This couple lived apart for over a year. Through this time, the couple continued placing one foot in front of the other; looking forward and trusting that the Lord would lead them. They slowly kept climbing further up and out of the dark pit that had engulfed their marriage for so many years.

A change had begun. Head knowledge was becoming heart transformation. They were learning to trust each other, to work together, to give grace and find acceptance with each other. They were finding peace in their home. They did not always get it right but they kept pressing forward.

One day, the young wife looked up and felt the sun shining on her face.

 As tears streamed down her cheeks, she realized that they were no longer in the dark cycle of falling.

She realized with a grateful heart that the amount of peace and joy in their home was more then they had ever had in the 10 years of their marriage. God had walked with them through the hardest and darkest parts of their life and brought them to a new season.

Some say that marriage gets better with time, but for this couple, marriage got better by surrendering to the Lord and choosing to lay down their own agenda for the sake of the other.

Sometimes the thing worked hardest for is the sweetest in the end.

We are forever grateful to those who walked through the darkest time in our marriage with us. You spent time talking with us, praying for us, crying with us, counseling us and picking us up when we were down.  Our marriage was marked by your love and support. I can’t say we would have the same ending to this story without you and God working through you. We are forever grateful for you.

I am so happy to say “Happy 10th Anniversary” to you, Brian. Although this journey has had hardship and many painful moments, I have learned to love you more today then I could have known when we first said “I do.” Looking back, I would choose you again. I love you and can’t wait to see where our journey leads from here.

All my love,
Sarah

Community Story: A Letter to a Sister on her Birthday

Dear Serena,

When my dear friend Catherine invited me to write you, I was struck with a combination of happiness that someone still wanted to know about you and also feeling afraid of what it would look like to make time to sit with the knowledge that you are not here.

On most days I let every day tasks overwhelm the opportunities to remember you. Although you died almost nine years ago, there are moments that the mere statement: “my sister has died,” will bring me to tears. Perhaps I haven’t mourned fully or perhaps the impact you have left on me is so deep and lasting that it will take a lifetime to enter.

Every so often there are reminders so obvious that no amount of noise can drown out the reality.  When I listen to a friend complain about his siblings I feel envious that he has someone to complain about. When I realize that you have never met my dog Keiko (she is laying on me right now) I think about how much you would enjoy her. When I realize that I am alone teasing Mooma there is a sharp pang. There are countless moments where I look longingly at my phone and wish I could share a witty thought, seek comfort from you or just talk about nothing important, thoughts that only a sister would really understand.

Today is your birthday. You would have been 28 today.

I loved your birthdays. Mostly I loved finding the perfect gift and listening to the “wow” factor in your voice when you opened it. I loved being able to surprise you. Choosing a gift is a combination of knowing someone deeply and keeping an eye out for an opportunity. I used to pride myself in finding the “ah-ha presents”. I haven’t enjoyed giving gifts the same way since your passing.

I tell people that much of who I am is because I was your older sister. You were my favorite person and the person I trusted the most. The hardships of life were much more bearable because we were together and because I had someone to laugh with. Much of our childhood consisted of me running forward, seeing what was to come and guiding you through it. You came to me to learn how to use makeup, how to shave, how to deal with mom and dad, homework, friends. I was older, wiser and had faced the issues before you and I loved being able to teach you what I knew.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles, so we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  Throughout the past nine years, I’ve gradually allowed the Lord to enter in to the places of loneliness. I sense Him holding me as I ask Him, “Why?” Why He would take away the person that was supposed to be there for my whole life- even after our parents died and if I never get married and have children?  I have felt Him telling me: “You will need to wait. This time Serena will have more experience and will teach you.”

Here I am, Serena, waiting to join you in Eternity. While I wait on earth, my prayer is that the pain of your passing would gradually open my heart to be able to accept comfort from the Lord, so that I can in turn, comfort others in their pain and sorrow.

I love you and I miss you.

Your big sister,

Larissa

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