3C – VA Mental Health Facility
It has been some time since I have been on here, posting. The last 5 months as you know have been filled with battles upon battles. The loss of my father and brother in January and February really got to me and affected me both mentally and physically. I was constantly up at night with anxiety attacks, panic attacks, and so forth. It has been a rather rough season as one can imagine. I was prescribed an antidepressant that was supposedly sure to help my anxiety, but that was not the case. I am sensitive to medications and this drug that was prescribed me induced my anxiety, rather than quell it. So, on May 13th, at 0700 hours, I found myself leaving my wife and driving myself to the West Palm beach VA Hospital. It was there that I was admitted to the Mental Health Section, or 3C as we call it (It is on the 3rd floor, C-Section). It is locked off for obvious reasons and is a secure section of the hospital.
This was something new for me as I have never admitted myself for any metal health reason. So, as you can imagine, my stress was doubled, even tripled as you can imagine. Your clothes are taken away from you, along with you cell phone, keys and wallet. You are given scrubs and socks to wear. Once you have accomplished the paper work and the nurses educate you on your stay, you are given a room, to share or alone. I was thankfully given a room to myself. The room itself was sterile white, with a bed and a nightstand. The bed itself is nailed to the floor, as the mattress (Not exactly Hampton Inn Suites) is a cheap rubber thing with a blanket that is stitched to the bed. One pillow was allotted, that was flatter than a coke after being left out all night. So, thus, my staycation as we call it began.
It is a 25 bed facility and it is a diverse make up of men from all ages (20-70 years old) and a few women. The common bond between us was that we are all veterans. Some men that were there were homeless and this was a place to come and get a bed and a meal three times a day. Others were there due to Suicide attempts and some were there due to other reasons. As one can imagine, I was stressed and nervous here but that soon changed as I became friends with a handful of men there. Everything was segmented like it was in the military. We awoke at 0600 for showers, breakfast was at 0700 and then you had he day to do what ever. Well, there was not much to do there to be honest but sit in the day room and watch the television, walk on a fenced in deck, or sleep in your room. I was thankfully able to keep my Steadfast New Testament, although they had to cut the ribbon out due to “security reasons”, weird but okay.
They do have a phone where you are able to call out and reach your loved ones. I was able by the grace of God to speak with my wife and update her on things as she was alone and also stressed out about me being there. I stayed for 4 days, but as I was there, God was active with me. I had a lot of time alone in that room and I found myself in constant prayer and reading through the New Testament. Most important of all, I had the opportunity to share the Gospel with a few of the men that were there. They could not exactly run from me as they had no where to go, but the conversations were deep and most well received. Of the four men that I spoke with, one in particular, who has the same name as me took to reading the New Testament. We were able to get him a copy of a ESV Bible. He was there because he was having sundial thoughts and his doctor “Baker Acted”, or involuntary admitted him to the VA.
Nightly, I would walk by his room and see him on his bed reading intently through the New Testament. Made me happy to see. Another gentleman by the name of Randy was an older gentleman, in his 60’s, maybe more was there as his family abandoned him. He was a slow talker and I am not sure the full story, but he kept asking me to see a “priest” so he could have communion. He was from Long Island and most older New Yorkers are Roman Catholic by default. Yet, I was able to say to him, “Randy, you don’t need a priest, you need the great High Priest, who can forgive you now and you will not have to wait. Our conversations were short as he was no doubt on some meds that prohibited him from really have a long conversation.
The facility is hopeless. It is an island of misfits that people turn away from. nor do they want to acknowledge the existence of such men and women. The doctors would come and just prescribe meds to help cope and nothing more. These men and women needed more than just meds to help them. They needed the Great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I know that some people do need meds to help with chemical imbalances and so forth. I am not one of them as the antidepressant’s they gave me did more harm than good. I got along with the nurses and the tech’s that worked there. I also noticed how numb the medical professional people have become. I suppose that is common, but a problem for the most part. Here were men and women who needed real help. They were lost in a sea of depression, anxiety and captive thoughts. There was no doubt in mind that many were afflicted by Satan as was the case with one young woman who I was able to speak to. There was a darkness there I must confess. It is a place where men and women are forgotten and are seen as nothing more than a mere number on a piece of paper.
For 4 days I stayed there and I was released that Monday to come home to my wife. As I departed, my heart remained with all the men and women there. There was one such young woman who had been there for 30 days and even may still be there as she is dealing with the government and the State of Florida. I could not imagine being there that long and thankful for the short stay, though it felt like an eternity. Yet, God was active through me and I am thankful for the time there as I was able to share the Gospel with a few men and show them true Hope, the Lord Jesus Christ. I do pray daily that the seed planted will be watered by the Lord in the hearts of these men.
As for me, it was a unique experience and one that I will not forget. Losing my Father and Brother were a big for me. Daily to this day, I deal with some anxiety and depression, but I have turned my gaze to Christ. He alone must be my focal point, not me. I’m working day by day through the mental battles that come up against me, but I am reminded that Christ is the Solid Rock and He can not be moved.
It also brought to my attention of the subject of Mental Health and the Christian. There is a stigma attached to Mental Health in the world of the church, not all, but some. It is a subject that needs to be handled with more care and understanding. I’m thankful for my pastor for counseling me weekly and for a good brother that I also can talk too.
If you are a veteran, or someone that is dealing with Mental Health problems and are Christian. Do not be ashamed. We live in broken bodies and still have to deal with our fallen selves. Talk to someone. Someone is always there to listen. Do not pin it up or conceal the pain, there are people who care about you. There is a Lord who loves you and knows exactly what you are going through.
Don’t forget that.
SOlI DEO GLORIA
Stephen J. M