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Singing "Happy Birthday" a Bit Off Key
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Today, I visited a friend in the psychiatric hospital downtown. Sarah has been there for about three months now, and will be there for at least two more.
Sarah is completely "with it" -- at least she always is when I see her. But she also has severe depression. Sarah also has episodes in which she "dissociates" and one of her alternate personalities decides to hurt Sarah -- with any sharp objects the alter has at hand.
In Jesus' time, this would have been called "demonic possession." In these enlightened times, however, we are enlightened by our scientific a priori knowledge, and know much better--and are certain that there is no such thing as demons or the demonic. Casting out the unknown obviously cannot work; therapies involving hypnosis, to discover yet more alternate personalities and then attempt to integrate them, are clearly superior to the exorcism of "demons." (Excuse me while I dislodge the tongue from my cheek.)
It's heartbreaking, this visit. I still don't understand why such a lovely, gentle person has to suffer so much, and was grappling with that question as I went to visit her on her 30th birthday.
Birthdays are hard for Sarah -- they always depress her. That could be why she had another episode yesterday, and was wearing a neck bandage today.
Sarah's ward, by the way, is a decent place -- with plenty of light and an enviable view of downtown Toronto. And from all accounts the staff do a great job. (God bless workers in the mental healthcare field.)
When I signed in, I realized that Sarah had other visitors. She welcomed me into her room, and there were 3 other people in the room. Her friend Mary had been to see her earlier, and 15 minutes after my arrival, another friend, Tanya, came by with a cake she had made.
Sarah had a good day today. In her own words, so many people have touched her today (metaphorically, that is, but also literally since she hugged each of us).
What struck me the most, however, was that all of these friends of hers were also people who had been touched (in some way) by mental illness. And you wouldn't know that to see them.
Tanya, for example, is attractive, well-dressed, holds a full-time job and does volunteer work with children on the side. She also has manic-depression, which her medication keeps under control.
Still, it occurred to me that these people that are reaching out -- to help, to heal, to support -- are THEMSELVES broken. "Broken people," I thought, "make the best healers."
Perhaps that's why we, as Christians, all have as our starting point an awareness of our own broken-ness. We are broken vessels. Thank God that we know it. And that in His grace, He has touched us in Jesus. And that by His Spirit, we can carry that grace to others.
May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ, who Himself was broken to redeem us, be with you all.
P.S. John Paul II was buried today. Perhaps his effectiveness came in part because he was a broken man -- broken as a child by the death of his parents and his older brother, with whom he was close, then suffering under the oppressive rule of totalitarian government. And while I'm no fan of the papacy, God used him to touch the broken in others.