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The Best Gift of All

Today is December 16, 2013.  365 days ago, I was still in the adult mental health unit of the hospital waiting for discharge.  I was there voluntarily, so technically could check myself out at any time, but I knew that I needed to be there.  I  had this tug-of-war inside my head-- to go home to be with my family for Christmas or stay in the warm, loving care of the hospital staff as long as I could.  At the hospital, life was simple; eat, exercise, listen, learn, read, watch tv, take meds, sleep.
Some patients came and went in my 17 day stay; held on a 24 or 48 hour hold to allow their suicidal ideation to pass, adjust their meds or give them a soft place to land for a day or two.  Some patients were regulars; one gentleman leaving a few days after I arrived, only to return on the day I left, wearing his pajamas, toting a pillowcase full of his belongings to be checked in at the nurses station.
"Hi guys.  I'm back....."
Remember, no belts, shoelaces, things with cords, or sharp objects like tweezers or nail scissors. 
Another gentleman---charming, flirty, early thirties---was about to head home after almost three months.  He seemed so "normal" but I know he had tried to hang himself in the bathroom in the Emergency Room. 
The day the Spouse picked me up from the hospital, I quietly cried in the car on the way home.  I was terrified to leave the safety of routine and the peacefulness of a place that asked me to only focus on myself, and return to a place where people had needs and questions and where decisions needed to be made that affected everyone around me.  The hospital had been my haven. The nurses like mini-magic-moms...there whenever you needed them, dispensing meds, advice, humor, lessons, soft hands, and midnight check-ins to see if you were ok. 
Maybe it is just me.  Maybe it is just my experience. 
I cannot help but think that my path in the last 365 days has been divinely guided.  From the crisis worker reluctantly paged to my ER assessment room after a 10 hour wait (she took me off the roster of the ER doc who had no idea what to do with me and wanted to take me off all meds and send me home), to the psychiatrist who was willing to assess me at the end of a long day, and then recognize that I would benefit from a hospital stay where meds could be administered and monitored, to the fact that the next morning there actually was a bed available in the adult mental health unit;  one of only a few dozen...servicing a community of half a million people. 
My psychiatrist in the unit had a soft voice and warm eyes and was advocating for exactly the type of stress burn out/mental/physical connection that I was presenting.  She councils me today and I respect her immensely.  Her recommendation for me to attend the adult day treatment program put me at the top of a 10 month waiting list and I quickly found myself in a program that provided me with the structure that I needed to continue my journey to finding myself.  When the patient is ready, the teacher arrives.
Over the past year, I have DUG DEEP and done the soul work/considered my purpose/started to blog/picked up knitting as therapy/learned to meditate/become a Reiki master and refined the art of second hand store shopping.  I have learned the benefit of community/fellowship/friends and rejoiced in the way my larger, softer, body feels when doing yoga, tai chi, Pilates, Latin dance in high heels, Zumba and sunk deeply in a soft couch snuggled by warm children and the transformative love of a good friend and an amazingly pureed fruit smoothie. 
I breathe differently.   I see differently.  I hear differently.  I taste differently.  I feel differently.  I appreciate differently.
As I look forward to 2014, close approaching, an outsider would think that I would be happy to see it go.  Off work, on my rocker. 
Instead, I look at this as a gift of time the universe handed me and said, "This is for you.  I can only give you this gift. What you do with it is your work. Your job. Your gift to yourself."
Thank you..... 


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