I’ve not often been homesick as an adult; not homesick in a desperate, find-me-a-train-or-bus-or-airplane-out-of-here-or-else-I-will-walk sort of way.
But last week I spent six days locked-in at the local behavioral health unit due to severe panic attacks. I needed to be there, especially in the first few days, needed the space to receive care, to rest (as much as one can in a hospital), to find healing in all the ways available.
As I grew in wholeness, the stress of being in the behavioral health unit also grew in proportion so that my anxiety shifted its focus from the stressors that put me there to the chaos and occasionally fearful nature of the unit itself. I missed my children terribly, missed nature, familiar routines and privacy.
I colored a lot, filling in mandalas with the bright yellow and red of colored pencils. I slowly read and re-read lines out of Barbara Brown Taylor’s newest book Walking in the Dark, carrying it and my pencils with me like a talisman. I melted into my husband every time he visited. Sitting side-by-side on my narrow twin bed we both stared straight ahead sometimes talking, sometimes not. We were stunned by our circumstances, unable to see past the moment.
Behavioral Health Units are driven by a strange combination of rules and chaos – you cannot have shoe laces, pens, chap stick or cold medications without enduring a mountain of red tape. You will see the Dr, a therapist, a nurse, but you will not know when or even where and it’s possible, if crisis arises (and it will) you will slip to the bottom of the list of needs again and again.
By the sixth day I'd heard no mention of my own discharge and I feared that my desire to return home would be thwarted by both rules and chaos. I was ready to go home, though and ready to advocate aggressively on my own behalf.
I made my own follow-up appointments and presented them to my social worker. I quoted a staff member who said at the morning “Rise and Shine” meeting, “This is a very stressful environment.” But most of all, I told my therapist, with my hands pressed against my chest, “I just want to go home to my beautiful life.”
I was homesick in the best way. Homesick in the way that allows us, if only briefly, to see the beauty of what is by the sheer light of its absence.
“Then let’s get you out of here,” he said.
I am so blessed.
I returned home that evening to a world of lush late-summer beauty. I ate pizza on the porch with my husband, picked cucumbers and watched the light move across the golden-tipped field of corn. I waited for my friend to bring our kids home, standing near the end of the driveway as the hour grew late, ready to walk to get them if they didn’t show up soon.
It’s been five days now and, yes, the kids are back to driving me crazy. The house is a mess, the laundry never ending and I am so physically and emotionally tired and overwhelmed at times that all I want to do is cry. But I carry within me still the light of absence forged by time away. That light falls on both the sublime and mundane, illuminating it all with the beauty of home.
I want to thank everyone who's expressed support and encouragement during this difficult time. I continue to remember with compassion those at the hospital who had no home to return to, no family to visit. May God have mercy on us all.