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Hope in the Behavioral Unit

Is it possible to find hope in the lockdown side of a behavioral health unit? I say yes! Why? Because I have experienced it.

For four years (from 2006-2010), I struggled with severe mania and psychoses. Mania is described as a mental illness marked by periods of great excitement or euphoria, delusions, or overactivity. Psychoses is a severe mental disorder in which thoughts and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. I experienced both of these and landed in the hospital three times as a result: once in Congo, once in South Jersey, and once in Niagara Falls, New York.

I was different from everyone else in these places, and yet I was exactly the same: I was a number, a patient, a case, and a diagnosis. But I was different, and I knew it. Unlike almost everyone else, I was not there as a result of a drug or alcohol addiction, often used to mask pain. I was not depressed. I was not in danger of hurting myself. BUT I was treated the same. I was given no greater respect because I was a teacher or a missionary or because I had no addiction or self-harm issue. In group therapy, I had to introduce myself by my name and my diagnosis just like everyone else.

The easiest place to discern my different mental state was in art therapy. Most patients used black to color their soul’s thoughts through art. But not me! All my pieces expressed creativity through the use of oranges and yellows. Others were too sad. I was too happy.

But even in this place, I found hope through my relationship with Jesus. “But I will hope continually, and I will yet praise You more and more.” (Psalm 71:14) Each morning in that place, I did the same thing that I did at home. I found a comfortable chair, prepared my cup of coffee, and opened my Bible, Daily Light, and journal. I found my hope in the Living Word and the written Word. I journaled my feelings about being in this place. I journaled what I thought that I was witnessing. And I got the opportunity through this morning routine to share the hope of God in a dark place.

Is it possible to find hope in the behavioral unit of a hospital? I say yes! Is it possible to come to a place of healing and calm and rest? Yes! Can hope be found in both God and His Word in the darkest seasons of life? Yes!

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