Whilst my son was in the psych unit at the hospital, I visited each day. The nurses knew I had flown from interstate and were happy to let me in outside of visiting hours. This meant that some days I was there for 10 hours or more and became a common sight around the place.
When I was visiting with my son, many of the other consumers (yes, that’s what they called them) would ask if they could join us in conversation, starved as they were for contact with people other than staff in the isolation of their ward.
We never turned anyone away and welcomed them to join in to whatever we were talking about.
Many had sad stories to tell. However one lady I never had the opportunity to meet until the night prior to my son’s discharge although I had noticed her many times.
A small Indian lady. Dressed warmly but always with a towel or blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She shuffled to and fro with her head down and was constantly weeping.
One evening as we were all sitting in the communal lounge area my son needed to get something from his room and got up to leave. As he walked off, this lady asked if she could join me. After informing me what a wonderful son I had, she told me about her own son and how much she missed him. I asked if her son had visited her and she replied that he hadn’t. Her family (an uncle and her son) were aware of where she was but they didn’t understand why she could not ‘snap out of’ her sadness. She explained that they had no concept of mental illness.
I spent time speaking with her and encouraging her to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. As I spoke with her, I was reminded of the following story:
There were two frogs living in a pond near a farm, It was spring and the grass was green with colorful flowers decorating it, There were swans swimming in the pond, butterflies flying around and fishes swimming and playing. It was a beautiful day and the big frog was very happy to sit and do nothing all day. The small frog jumped from behind the big frog “Get up! lets go and play in the pond” called to his friend.
The small frog jumped into the water with joy, the big frog followed. They swam in the pond happily, they crossed the pond into the barnyard having fun and playing on their way, leaping with joy. In their joy they were carelessly jumping around. It was the milking time at the barn and the frogs accidentally jumped into a bucket half filled with milk.
Insides of the bucket were slippery and it was hard to hold on to, they tried very hard but there was no way for them to get out. They were forced to stay inside and swim. They kept swimming for sometime, it was tiring them. The frogs shouted “Help! Help!” , unfortunately there was no help coming their way.
The big frog groaned “What is the use of swimming, we will die here anyway, I’m already tired, I can’t swim anymore“. “Don’t give up my friend, lets keep trying, or else we will die” encouraged his little friend. They swam for some more time after that. The big frog finally said “I can’t swim anymore, It is of no use, we will die anyway, I’m going to quit“. The big frog stopped and it gradually sunk into the bottom.
The little frog said to itself “I’ll keep trying as long as I can, or else I will also die“. So he kept swimming for couple more hours. His legs were moving very slowly, hardly managing to stay on top. The little frog thought of giving up and ending his life , which seemed to be the only option he had.
He remembered what happened to his big friend and kept trying with all his might. “I will keep trying until I die. As long as I keep trying there is hope” thought the little frog. He swam with all his strength, he was getting weak, splashes in the milk was the only sound he could hear. As he kept trying the milk was getting thicker and thicker with foam, making it difficult for him to swim.
The little frog kept swimming even when the milk got thicker making it difficult for him to swim. Milk got so thick that it was getting difficult even to take his legs out of the thick lump. When he was very close to last of his strengths he found a solid lump forming below him in the milk. As soon as the butter was solid enough to stand on it he jumped with all his strength and leaped outside the bucket.
His joy was immeasurable, He was filled with so much joy, from then on he decided he would keep trying no matter how difficult the situation is.
Of course there are many variations on this this story but the basis remains the same. When we feel as if we are in a position we can see no way out of, we need to keep swimming until circumstances change. I attempted to explain to her that when we are at the bottom, the only way from there is up. It comes back to baby steps and putting one foot in front of the other. One step at a time. One day at a time.
Each day that we get through is a 100% strike rate.
Since returning home, I often think of this lady and wonder if her uncle and son ever came to visit her. Or whether my words of encouragement managed to penetrate the wall of sadness that enveloped her. I hope that they did. I spoke them not from learning from text books but from learning from life and it’s experiences.
Of course, I have also had help from others – such as the frog. Or Dory (the fish in Finding Nemo).
I wish you a blessed day. 🙂