Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tell me why? "...disarming all hostility"

Linea and I are reading our book again, preparing to work with our editor in September. As I read I often need to stop and walk around for a bit, drying my eyes, and centering myself back into this safe place in which I currently reside. Reading it pulls me back into all the fear and uncertainty yet I know there is a hopeful ending. I read a few passages that remind me again why we chose to share our most private lives, agonies and all. The following excerpt was written during Linea's first hospitalization. We are in the psychiatric ER in the largest trauma hospital in Seattle:

"We are finally called into the lock down unit of the psychiatric ER to stay with her. There is no information from anyone. There are no windows. The doors are locked. The nurses are harried. The three of us sit in a tiny room with a gurney and one chair. We don’t know what to expect or what we should expect so we wait. A nurse comes in briefly and answers our questions by telling us she has no information.

As we wait in the ER we listen to the nurses as they determine that two of the patients will need to spend the night on gurneys in the hallway because there are no mental health beds available in the city or anywhere nearby. These patients are homeless and there is no place for them to go. They have no mother or father or aunt or son or friend with them to campaign for their treatment or figure out the “ropes”. Alone, they face a dense maze of very dangerous ropes.

Even as sick as Linea is, she is aware of the inequity of the mental health system and her own strong sense of humanity pushes through her illness. Linea questions why she, an upper middle-class white girl with no obvious problems in comparison to these patients, should be the lucky one and get a bed. She questions whether she should have told her doctor how sick she was.

“I shouldn’t get the bed. Tell them that I can stay in the ER tonight. Let someone else have my bed. I can go home with you,” she cries. She becomes more upset as decisions are made on who will stay and who will go.

As we wait, we listen to a man at the end of the hallway sob and cry and weep off and on for hours until his sedation kicks in and finally all is eerily quiet from his room. At this point in our journey I am not yet used to grown men crying like children who are hurt and want their parents, believing their pain will never stop. It is only the beginning of my education in this kind of pain."

Linea was in the psychiatric unit of the hospital for much longer than a "night or two" as we initially had hoped. Over the next month she became an intimate member of a group of people whom most turn away from on the streets and elsewhere. I, too, begin to know these patients as people. People who deserve much more than they receive. People who deserve care and understanding, support and....love.

Would someone suffering from a heart attack in the U.S. not be able to find a bed or treatment? Would a mother be too embarrassed to bring her daughter clean clothes if she were in the hospital for a kidney stone rather than a depression?

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Happy Summer!

It is summer and I don't want to miss a single sunny day, warm night under the stars, fresh raspberries and peaches, salmon on the grill, or chocolate ice cream. I am still reeling (can you BELIEVE it!!??) when I remember that we just sold a book to a national publisher. I have finished summer quarter and am now writing grants and preparing for presentations this summer and early fall. But this darling boy reminds me to live in the moment. I don't want these precious warm months to slip away. It is time to replenish. Soon enough it will be rainy and dark at 6:00. Fall quarter will begin, students will return, and editing of the book will be on-going. Find a moment to enjoy these beloved summer months. Look into these eyes. Is this not the secret to happiness?