First published in the BC Catholic on October 6, 2022. https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/what-saved-my-life-during-a-hospital-stay
Leaves crackled underfoot. Dappled trees surrounded the park where we sat. Jane and I ate ice cream before dinner on the first Sunday in fall. A dog came by to sniff our dessert. We pulled it away and petted him as he meandered by.
I ate whisky hazelnut and peanut butter ripple sitting in the golden sun beside Jane. We laughed and chatted, both of us procrastinating on going home to do the things we needed to do.
I soaked up the time with Jane knowing she’s leaving in a couple weeks for East Africa. A dad and his daughter threw a baseball back and forth. And I sat on the grass, relaxed with my back towards a community garden. Eating ice cream always makes me happy. Though this type of happiness doesn’t last. But sometimes I need quick wins when my mood is low. Happiness is something you can choose.
When I’m depressed, my memory helps me know that this state won’t last forever. I recall how much God loves me and rejoices in me. This makes me feel better deep inside. It doesn’t always bring a smile to my face in that moment. But it is a comfort felt in my heart.
I’m so grateful to not be in a hospital as I was last autumn. The connections with family and friends are what saved my life during that time.
In the height of mania, I wrote my monthly column while watching a football game with other patients. I was grateful for a sense of normalcy and the knowledge that I still had the skills to write when sick. It was a time of lockdown because of COVID restrictions, which made it harder on me.
I longed for hugs from family members. When I moved to a residential care facility, I was able to have visitors. I also danced in the parking lot for exercise and self expression.
My friend, Father Guy Zidago, asked me if there was anything I would like. He brought me Powerade and chocolate like I hoped he would. A couple of other priests I know prayed for me over the phone and it made such a difference to my recovery.
I have so much gratitude for the phone calls with my friends Anna and Jazz during my stay, as well as for the visits with my older brothers and my Aunt Guin, and the countless messages from colleagues and close friends.
There are not enough words to express my thanks to all the people who cheered me on in my recovery.
It was a tumultuous time in the hospital trying new medications and hoping to get it right.
This Thanksgiving, I was blessed to be home with my family instead of eating alone in a hospital room. God redeems all time that passes. “I will restore the years that the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25)
The experience in the hospital taught me many lessons and was a sanctuary for healing my mind and body, even if it was an uncomfortable and unwanted passage.
A lesson I learned is that I am braver than I thought I was. I went through many difficult circumstances and came out stronger. I learned to have patience with myself. Because I have no control over my neurotransmitters or the chemical reactions in my brain. I had to see the illness take its course. The mania I was experiencing calmed enough that I could go home and continue to heal there.
The doctors and mental health professionals were supportive in the two different facilities I stayed in.
I remember one night when, alone in the basement of the residential hospital, I couldn’t sleep, and the staff decided to move me to a different room upstairs to be near the nurse’s station.
I was the only one in the residential hospital for a while because everyone else left. They couldn’t take anyone new until a few days had passed because there was a patient who had COVID. Everyone else was well enough to leave except for me.
It was a dark and cold night. The nurses gave me a bathrobe and gathered my bags and belongings to swap rooms. A mental health worker sat with me as I was shivering in fear and fatigue. His presence was soothing.
I remember that he worked the night shifts. I saw him when I woke up in the middle of the night. He looked out for me, sharing music or offering a prayer.
These beautiful gestures of care and protection are gifts from God. Praises bubble up because of the goodness God bestowed on me. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Forever will I praise your name.
Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.