Sunday, November 14, 2010

Haldol shot and psychiatric ward

All four of us went to Norfolk Psychiatric. They waited with me for what seemed an eternity of intake processing. I was catatonic at that point. Half-dead and half-alive. I had never seen my mother so worried or fragile or raw.

After several hours, the nurses came to take me from my parents. My mother would not leave. They told her repeatedly that family could not go to the patients’ floor outside of visiting hours. The nurses said they would give me a shot of Haldol and I would fall asleep and everything would be much better in the morning. Mom WOULD NOT LEAVE ME. She insisted that she was not leaving my side until I fell asleep. I was not aware until later that she was so indefatigable. She would not be turned away. Mothers out there, you know how she felt. You would do the same. She would sit by my bed that night until I fell asleep.


But back to the night before I slept: I was so very weak, I could hardly walk. I made my way up to the second floor leaning on both my mother and a nurse. They kept assuring me that “all was well, that I would soon sleep for a long time, that a room was prepared for me, that I did not have to worry or struggle or fight any more.” When you think you are about to die and they tell you “your room has been prepared for you,” you get very panicky, trust me. All the language they used was meant to comfort me but instead resounded like the preamble to death, like the very same language the Bible uses to describe the end of life’s journey. I felt like I was slowly trudging toward death, and that they were assuring me it was a safe and comfortable place. I got to the threshold of my room and I looked at my mom. I could not step through the door, because I was sure I was walking to my death. I grabbed her and cried, totally terrified. She told me it was okay, to let go. The room was dark at first. I could not see anything in it. Then the nurse turned the light on and the room was suddenly very brightly lit. My eyes were so susceptible to light at that point that I could not see anything in the room, just a bright fluorescent glow. It looked and felt exactly like everyone has described crossing over death’s doorstep, or “going to the light.” I finally figured out that one way or another, I would enter the room. I clutched my mother and stepped through the door, expecting to meet God and feel death and see heaven if I was lucky.

Imagine my tortured surprise when I saw a woman asleep on the second bed in the room. Here I was entering death and someone already inhabited my space? It was frightening and I just collapsed into my mother’s arms, too spent to understand. They assured me the stranger was just my roommate. I was so confused, but the nurses and my mother helped me sit down on my bed. They lifted up my hospital gown and gave me a shot of Haldol. I don’t know how long I slept.

The next few days were marked by a lot of drugged sleep. My parents and brother Brad came to visit me on the second day. Brad was apparently floored by my catatonic state. My mouth hung open because I did not have the muscular discipline to shut it. My eyes were glazed over, which was a great improvement over the wide-eyed electric frenzy of the days leading up to my commitment.

On the third day in the hospital, a psychiatrist began interviewing me. I was desperate to understand what had ravaged me for a full week, and although I had never seen a psychiatrist before, I welcomed his expertise. I remember a host of questions, and I could not follow any thread that connected them, because I knew very little about mental illness at the time. I do remember two questions in particular that alarmed me: One was whether I had ever cut myself and the other was whether I had ever tried to commit suicide. The answer was no, of course not, to both, but it made me think I was keeping company with some pretty disturbed people if they even had to ask. I mean, those questions are for the insane right? Could I really be insane?

I recall a few things from those first few days. My roommate’s name was Diane, and she faded in and out of my Haldol daze without saying a word to me. She looked lost and lonely and heartbroken, and when my family came to visit me she asked my mom, “May I join you?” My mom politely declined, but it was clear Diane was desperate for a loving family like mine.

The other women in the ward took some interest in me. They called me “Lady.” I think this was because they viewed me as attractive and educated, a breath of fresh air in a hospital populated most often by the tired and poor and dirty. I seemed like an anomoly to those who called hospitals home. Misery does not discriminate and misery loves privileged and otherwise lucky company. I was of course flattered to be called “Lady.”

If you keep reading, you will find that even at my saddest and most hopeless, I recognize praise and respond to flattery.

There were two younger women who laughed all the time and told me stories about their children. They liked listening to the radio with me. It seemed very important to me that I call the radio station at 93.7 the Coast, because I had some very pressing requests. Some songs looped through my fractured brain and I thought they were THE songs for the moment. The staff would not let me call the Coast.

There was a very heavy black woman named Lulu, who had generous eyes and a hearty laugh. There was a large older white woman whose name I can’t recall, but I will never forget her because when I finally checked out of Norfolk Psychiatric, she offered me two pairs of her underwear as a parting gift. “You will need these out there,” she said, with what seemed like a knowing look but was more likely just an educated guess about what the outside world would require.

They let me call my parents after a few days. My mom tells me that I called them in those first few days and said “I’m better now…I’m ready to come home, NOW.” Mom tried to placate me so I hung up on her. Not typical behavior for me.

At Norfolk Psychiatric there was an East Asian nurse named Mary. She took special care of me. She helped me back to my room when I wandered around with no clothes on. She tried to explain to me that they were only putting me in the room with the padded walls for my own safety. I still do not know what they were protecting me from.

Given my “assumption of Christ” during the prior 48 hours, I found it meaningful that my nurse’s name was Mary. I told her that my mother’s name was Mary too, and I appreciated that they both were ministering especially to me.

Speaking of Christ, I had a close encounter with him when I was in the hospital. I would have this recurring dream that I was in outer space, in a Star Wars world. All I could see in the blackness was a ladder, stretching up above me. I could not see where the ladder led, but I certainly knew death waited below. I was clinging to the bottom two rungs with all my might, dangling dangerously over oblivion and certain to be swallowed by the nearest black hole if I fell off the ladder. I would try to climb up, and would gain traction for a minute, but then I would fall back to the bottom rung, feet swinging in panic. These dreams were both waking and sleeping dreams.

I remember tossing and turning one afternoon when I was by myself in my room. I turned toward the wall and tried to force dreamless sleep. As the same dream overwhelmed me, I heard someone come softly padding into the room. I knew it was Jesus. He sat down next to me as I lay facing the wall. He said nothing, but he put his hand on my back and patted me, gently rubbing my back. If he had spoken, he would have said “Do not worry, it will all be okay, you are safe.” I did not turn to look at him. There was so much more comfort and peace in knowing he was there without challenging God by making Jesus appear in the flesh to me. After a few comforting minutes, he got up and padded out of the room. To this day, if I am lying on my side and my husband pats my back, I feel subtle aftershocks from that moment.

I was not a church-goer at 24 years old. I grew up Methodist, but only reluctantly went to church. I enjoyed learning about other religions in Religion 101 at college, but I was your typical liberal arts educated cynic. After college, I tried a few different denominations, but still felt unfulfilled and unconvinced. It was strange thus to me that in my most trying hours, I had such a visceral bond with God and Jesus. I was shocked that he was sent to comfort me, a skeptic. As you read my story, you will see that Jesus came to comfort me, to instill faith, so that one day I would walk alone, without him. Strong, triumphant, joyous, peaceful, fulfilled, illuminated, and alone.

You might think this is just another born-again Christian story. On the contrary. As the underlying problems that plague Christianity and the other modern religions revealed themselves to me over the next ten years, I knew I was not a born-again Christian. I am just me, the author of my own faith.


  1. Hillary, you left a note on my blog so I thought I would return the favor. I believe in a loving compassionate God who heals, comforts and restores . We are incomplete by ourselves, because we were made for intimacy with Him for His glory, but no one comes to the Father apart from Jesus, because we all know we have sinned, we need forgiveness, AND we need God to be who we were created to be. He came to save not to condemn. My heart is to help, not to argue. The words written are true.

  2. Bonjour Hilary,

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Wish you a speedy recovery and peace of mind.

    You remind me of my wife who has her own personal god. It is a kind of mini religion: one god one worshipper. As to me, I am grown up and an atheist but as our late King Frederic II once said "everybody should be able to enter paradise in his own fashion". So be it.


  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hillary, thank you for stopping by my blog. You had left a note about the "new post-religion" & how you had/were "Graduating from God". I am not familiar with the "new post-religion" you speak about; I am a Christian and believe in God, but will not get ahead of God. God is always first in my life. I had suffered sickness in my life, but I knew God was the one who healed my body.

    Thank you again for stopping by and viewing my blog. Be blessed!

  5. Thank you Evelyn for stopping by. If you keep reading you will see what I mean about a post-religion faith. I have seen a very personal and liberating view of God. It all makes sense to me now.

  6. You're an apostate and on the road to hell. Wake up.

  7. @Willing Catholic Martyr
    Just wondering if threatening people with hell ever works? 'Cause nothing makes me walk away from people like you faster than the tired old "going to hell" speech.

    But I'm pretty sure you know you won't convert Hilary with your threats. Which means you are only making those comments to be nasty and prove your superiority. Not very Christian-like, huh?

  8. Sorry Hilary if my previous comments is a little harsh. I just can't stand that kind of religious superiority. And it's rude, seeing as you are using this as a place to explore and share your new relationship with God.

  9. Thank you all for your comments. This blog is a forum for all and passion for what you believe is what I am looking for. I'm not looking for validation or acceptance or converts....I am just hoping others may be interested in how I see things, because it's a new view of things that doesn't fall into one denominational box or another. That's why I call it post-religion, because it is not comprehended by any of our current "isms."

  10. Luke 19:1-10 (New International Version)

    Luke 19
    Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
    1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

    5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

    7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

    8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

    9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

  11. No, threatening does not encourage one to accept Jesus and become born again. It is His love that draws us to Him. Reality is there is a heaven and a hell, but Jesus came to die on our behalf, out of love, not to judge! Hell is separation from God; He doesn't want us to be separted from Him because He loves us, that's where Jesus comes in.

    Hilary, call out to Jesus, read the Bible. I promise you, if you truly desire the truth, Truth WILL reaveal Himself.

    With Much Love...

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God, to have these guys in a room together again....