Tonight I visited a friend in a psychiatric ward. Nothing dramatic happened. No violence or smelly rooms or scary people. Very little “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” stuff going on there. The halls were clean and brightly lit. The staff was kind.
What I can tell you about my visit was that my friend wasn’t thinking within the context of reality. I’m not going to go into what she said or the hellish illness that ravages her mind. But I will tell you that mental illness is like nothing else in the entire world. A pain and confusion and fear like no other. My friend wept.
And there was nothing I could do for her.
I’ve known a few people who have suffered from extreme mental illness. These are people who are very dear to me. And, I’m just going to be honest here, I get so angry when I see what they have had to go through. What their families have to suffer. My rage burns from somewhere deep within me. Sometimes it’s directed at the circumstance or the people who have taken advantage of those who struggle to grasp reality. Other times I get angry at satan for attacking people’s minds in an attempt to destroy them.
Other times, I get really angry with God.
There. I said it.
Tonight, driving home, I let God know how angry I was. That my friend has suffered her whole life. That the other people visiting the psych ward were struggling with family members’ insanity. That, for some of them, the illness came on suddenly, without warning. That one day everything changed and spiraled into an abyss of disorientation.
“You could fix this,” I said to God. “You don’t have to allow it.”
There are a lot of easy answers for how I was feeling. “God is in control.” “Someday you’ll understand.” “God will never give you more than you can handle.”
Yup. Heard all that. Thank you.
But easy answers to hard questions are rarely the most helpful. And when I let my anger flood out of me, I felt peace. That my anger was okay. That God could handle it. No words. Just peace.
While I was waiting to see my friend tonight, I overheard a few of the other visitors chatting. Two sets of parents come to visit their mentally ill sons. One set lives in town. The other 2 hours away.
The parents who live 2 hours away visit twice a week.
“You drive all that way to visit?” the in-town father asked.
“We do,” the long-distance mother answered.
“It’s an awfully long way,” the in-town mother said.
The long-distance father shrugged his shoulders. Paused.
Then he said the words that have been swirling and ringing and singing in my ears all evening.
He said, “You just gotta love ’em.”