THE CHAPLAIN Series
The Scream (detail), 1893, Edvard Munch
As for Me and My House
“Hello, world. My youngest daughter, 14, is spending the night, maybe longer, in the hospital adolescent mental health unit! She broke down sobbing at school, saying she was hearing voices, seeing her deceased sister, dreaming of dying and burning in hell. I picked her up and took her to my emergency room. After interviewing her, the ER doctor admitted her. Apparently, she has not slept through the night for three or four weeks because of nightmares. The psychiatrist thinks the hallucinations are ‘biologically based’ due to sleep deprivation. They are going to monitor her and give her something to sleep. My God.” -- Lydia's Diary
The chaplain has
had a rough day. While waiting in the emergency room with her own daughter,
leaving the building, she was called to the critical care unit to be with a
family as their 18-year-old child was disconnected from the ventilator and
allowed to die. The chaplain’s child was in mental anguish, but she was alive.
Her youngest remained at the hospital in a chemically-induced sleep.
“Life goes in cycles and we are definitely in a downward spiral at the moment. My child is still at the hospital; still hearing voices (muffled now); and is diagnosed with ‘psychotic depression’ on the patient census sheets.
Me? Well, I checked on the baby. All his guts fit into his little body cavity on the first try and
he is doing
well. Hopeful sign. Thank you, Lord. --
chaplain was about to get a taste of The System and how it relates to the
parents of hospitalized children. On the third day after the onset of their
Lydia was a mental health chaplain. She understood the ramifications of bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, hallucinations, chronic depression. Anti-psychotic drugs carried their own brand of ravaging side effects.
Under no circumstances are you to give our daughter anything like that,”
“The voices may be secondary to sleep deprivation,” the doctor had charted.
sleep, fewer voices,”
Makes sense, opined the Presence. Might take a while, though.
have you been?”
I’ve been here, Lydia, came the Voice. You just haven’t looked up. I’m here.
I know, the Voice responded.
“Mom, I’ve heard voices all my life. Nightmares and visions, too,” he began. “I never wanted to tell you about it. Is she going to be all right?”
she will be okay,”
“No. Not anymore,” he answered. “It might have been the drugs,” he laughed, a little embarrassed.
“What is the difference between a schizophrenic breakdown and some saint hearing the Voice of the Lord?” she asked the Presence. She felt her face redden and emotionally sank into a nearby wall.
Screeching, security and ambulances, for one
thing, the Presence began. The
difference between a sense of calm and a sense of chaos. Good versus evil. There are some biological
Here we go, the Presence answered.
No anti-psychotic medication equals no continued hospitalization. The sleep-deprived girl was sent home under the care of her apprehensive family. It was not a successful re-entry. Screaming, blaming, tears, name-calling, and kicking the floor; both daughters vying for the title of Most Seriously Afflicted.
The German exchange student stayed low and took notes on her experience with an Average American Family.
Family systems theory is out of vogue, the psychologist explained to the mother, father, and two sisters. “We don’t believe in that anymore.” This psychologist used to teach family systems theory, so he should know about its current standing.
nothing. Fifty percent of what they say has some merit; the other fifty percent
has no merit at all. No way to tell the difference,”
Now, now, the Presence responded. Just listen for now, reflect later.
“It’s not the family’s fault the child is hearing voices,” she heard the psychologist say.
a comfort,” thought
“The problems between the two sisters are intense, and their relationship as they knew it before is gone forever,” the professional offered. “Your oldest daughter now has a sister with a handicap and she can no longer treat her as if she was ‘normal’,” he added.
“We must be sensitive to your oldest daughter’s losses. She no longer can expect a carefree senior year of high school”
girls seemed to like the session.
Time for the second family therapy session. The psychologist seemed to have slid back into his old, broken, family system theories.
“Your daughters have zero conflict resolution skills,” he explained, “because their mother was an only child. Conflict bothers an only child and the only child has no opportunity to build conflict resolution skills. Therefore, such a mother passes on her lack of skill in resolving conflict to her hapless offspring.”
Lydia’s husband immediately agreed with the analysis. The girls were too busy fighting to notice that the focus of the conversation had switched to someone other than themselves.
The solution? A piece of cake, saith the professional. “We’ll bring in a couple more females experienced in the art of conflict resolution to balance out the female energy in the room and every one will have their own therapist for the next session, no extra charge.”
of despising each other,
Lydia sagged back in her chair and sighed. The Presence shook its head. The girls were too busy fighting to realize how fun this was going to be.
Somehow, contrary to the psychologist’s initial expectations, life continued and the girls’ relationship did improve over time. Everyone finished the school year – with honors, actually. Her girls were intelligent and talented. They were kind and generous, to everyone save each other. She was proud of each of them – even the foreigner.
The word “schizophrenia” was never spoken again, at least not in relation to her child.
“We survived even this,” she whispered to the Presence. “Thank you.”
You are welcome, came the response.