|Life, Death, Madness - Page 10|
My wife, Trina, listened to my despair through long, troubled nights. A close friend, Robin, told me of his bouts with psychotic depression during an especially difficult job transition. Several coworkers revealed vulnerabilities, and even breakdowns, that they'd endured and survived. I was astonished and comforted by the willingness of so many people to be with me in my pain, and to share their own. As winter yielded to spring, the days lengthened; I got my hands in the dirt and gardened. I began to feel better. The air and sun helped, but I knew I couldn't have survived that dark season without the presence and caring of others.
Afterward, I thought seriously about leaving the job. If there'd ever been a time to switch gears and seek easier, calmer work, this was it. But once I'd regained my balance, I found myself feeling new compassion for the patients sitting across from me. How thin is the membrane between adept functioning and crippling dysfunction! The psych unit is widely seen as an alien place, the butt of degrading jokes about odd and unknowable "others." Yet, some years back, one of my closest friends had been hospitalized here. Several acquaintances were admitted during my two-plus years on the unit. Hospital staff and their relatives, university professors and students, community leaders—all took up residence on this hall while I was on staff. How tenuous the line we draw between our patients and us! Today I sit here in a tie and badge. Tomorrow I may wear a gown and a bracelet.