Paused Life: A Short Stay in Ward 4 Alpha

It’s true.

I spent a few days in a psych ward in December 2020.

For several months leading up to me going to the ER, I was not in a healthy state of mind. I felt trapped by the things in my life. Things that I had to do that I don’t enjoy, but also things that I really enjoy began to feel like tasks that were taking from me when there wasn’t anything else to take.

I began day dreaming about being hurt bad enough that I didn’t have to go to work, that I wouldn’t have to interact much with my family, I could stop going to school, and there would be nobody to ask anything else of me.

I was so tired.

These thoughts started to creep in more often and I eventually found myself thinking through the physics of a car wreck. Those thoughts eventually grew into me letting my truck slowly leave the road and cross into the mud and dirt on the side or in the median. I never lost control. I just looked like a fool to everybody else on the road around me.

Some things happened at work that really shouldn’t have and, given the terrible state of mind I was in, I didn’t handle them well. After realizing what I had planned to do, and realizing where I was, and realizing that I was practicing what I had planned, I realized that I couldn’t keep going the way I was going.

I thought about just leaving work, but I knew I would get in a wreck.
I thought about going back to my office, but I knew I would explode on my junior Sailors.
As I continued to think through my options, I found myself in front of the check in desk at the Emergency Room.

Best. Decision. Ever.
(well… maybe not best ever, but really high up there)

I was embarrassed and ashamed when I got my paper pajamas. I was embarrassed and ashamed when they rolled me in a wheel chair up to the psych ward. There was a meal on the table for me in the middle of the ward. I didn’t want to eat it, but something in me kind of just resigned to being in that place.

“Well, here I am now. Might as well eat.”

And I did.
And it was good.

It was pretty late and I asked the staff if I could go to sleep. Bedtime was awkward.

It took a couple days, but eventually I saw people in the parking lot outside going about their normal routine. I recognized some of the cars that belonged to my Sailors. I remembered the work that they were doing, the things that had gone wrong in the previous days, and I imagined the stress and turmoil they were going through. I felt bad for them, but at the same time, I didn’t really feel anything about it.

I thought about my wife and kids and I missed them, but I knew that they were just fine. I thought about school and how, even if I wanted to do my coursework, I was not able to.

All of a sudden I came to this realization that all of the things; good, bad, and indifferent, had come to a complete stop for me.

My life was on pause.

I was still alive.

I was, in a way, dead to everything that had become my life, yet I was, in complete reality, fully alive.

Taking inventory of everything in my life I came to see that even the good, noble, encouraging things in my life came with a cost to me. That cost may have been time, or money, or physical difficulty, or loads of concentration. The cost was often totally neutral, not good, not evil, just a middle of the road non issue kind of thing. Over time, though, all of these little costs started to add up until my life was living me.

I wanted to live my life.

When my life stopped, functionally, in the real world, and I watched all of those other lives continue through the window of the psych ward, I started to understand that I really did need a break.

In my terrible short sighted natural understanding, I reasoned that the break from life that I needed was suicide.

I was wrong.

The break that I needed to take from life was actually a short pause. Some time to step back away from everything that was going on in my life and reconnect with what matters.

I returned to my Bible and found my way to the Psalms.

I returned to the source and essence of life itself and found deep encouragement in Psalm 27:13