The Eight Days I Called the Mental Ward At All Hours…

Watering Can

At this point, I cannot even remember how I found out.  The years since have grown gray.

But, I know I knew.  Pretty quickly.

My friend, after stopping herself mid-suicide attempt, voluntarily checked into a psychiatric hospital.

The ward kept only one phone line for patients.  Hours were spent calling the line, hearing the busy signal, waiting five minutes and calling again.  Only to repeat the process.

But I called all day long.

The goal, to talk with her at least once a day.  Sometimes, the goal was accomplished.  Sometimes, not.

The events leading up to the stalled suicide attempt were things of which great novels are made.  Family shattered.  Trust demolished.  Realities turned falsehoods.

My friend.  My amazing, brave, challenging friend.  Her.  She almost lost it all.

And me, I could do almost nothing to help.

Other than call the one, solitary land line shared among an entire floor of mental patients.

In a few weeks, She and I have made plans to get together.  The first such meeting in five years.

Seeing Her on the calendar, I feel the memories of those eight days, all those years ago, swirling around me.  They pester me like a swarm of gnats.

I remember feeling incredibly helpless.  My immediate family suffers from heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and a generally addictive personality to things such as food, running, romance novels and cigarettes.  But zero mental illness.

This new thing?  This unexpected fear?  This indescribable worry?  A person I deeply loved, respected, needed checking into a psych ward?

Foreign.

Meanwhile, she thrived.  Daily therapy.  New medication.  Personal, real connections with others who understood her battles.

I heard it in her voice.

With every day, she grew stronger.

What I can say now, what I could not see then, God prepared me.  In ways only He can, my Father dropped me little and large pieces of manna to feed my soul as I stood witness to Her life-altering transformation.

In ways only He can, my Father dropped me both little and large pieces of manna to feed my soul as I stood witness to Her life-altering transformation.

In my own battle against postpartum depression.  In my marriage, as we watched our union almost slip through our fingers.  In my medicated brain, feeling the numbness and evenness of the drugs.  In my withdrawals and electric-like zaps as I tapered off the numb I could no longer stand.

Only God gracious allows a brief season of suffering so we can empathize as the Her’s in our life suffer far greater than we ever did.

Infertility and miracle babies and redeemed callings.  Those are the story of my life.

Postpartum depression, marriages held together only by stubbornness and sworn vows, navigating life through bottles of pills.  Those are not my story.

They were part of Her story.

Because God lovingly gave them to me, just for a season, so I could stand in the hallway, stand in the pain, stand in the fear, with Her.

Because He gave, I could call that phone line seventy times a day burying my fear of never hearing her answer it again.  Because He gave, we could call out the numbness of mood-controlling drugs together and fight against it.  Because He gave, we could be open about the hardness and rawness of a broken marriage and the grief of lost dreams.  Because He gave, I could face Her new reality, Her new strength, Her new life.

Her.  She is no longer the Her I once knew.  That Her disappeared during those eight days.  I witnessed it.  Even from a four-hour distance and through only a single phone line.  And in the weeks and months that followed, I continued to watch her grow and change and become both truly herself and a complete stranger.

Because He gave, I did not walk beside my friend for those eight days completely unprepared.  The truth, God provided and prepared and we walk across parted sea to the other side with a new life and a new Her.

We share a past, a connection, a battle, a victory.  And we share it only because God gives us exactly what we need at the exact right time to face the exact challenges this broken world plans for us.

Today, I anxiously await our scheduled meeting I see on my calendar.  Excited to spend some time getting to know the healed and whole and changed Her she has grown to be.

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