There he was sitting on the cold floor, in a very long hallway in one of the prison’s units. In what appeared to be a weak state, he seemed not able to get up, close to a huge metal door, some deputies from both units where he sat were surrounding and watching him until we, the medical staff, came and responded to their radio call.
He claimed that he fell earlier in the day from his bunk and his unit sent him to the Infirmary to be examined. Halfway the distance, that was when he sat down and complained of being “dizzy.”
Borrowing a guerney from the nearest unit, the other nurse wheeled him down to the Clinic, as I struggled to carry the slight heavy red emergency bag, strapped to my right shoulder, my footsteps, following them.
“Do you mind taking over?” the nurse asked me if I could take care of this inmate who fell.
“Not at all,” I replied as I gathered the vital signs machine and other things I needed to evaluate and probe more.
He seemed very anxious. With his eyes going in every direction, only maintaining a short amount of time with eye contact, he kept complaining he didn’t feel good. I saw the beads of tears formed in those slightly almond shaped eyes, surrounded with a darkness that marked a lot of shallow sleeps and perhaps, nights that he didn’t sleep at all. He was honest about his history of being “bipolar.”
“Sir, there’s more to this…”
“What do you mean? I don’t feel good.”
“I know you don’t feel good that’s why we brought you here to the Clinic to try and help you out. Do you feel like hurting yourself?”
He stopped in his marathon talks of complaints. He looked down and couldn’t maintain an eye contact with me even more. With a soft whisper, he let out an audible “Yes.”
As soon as he said that, he cried. He said that he had been constantly hearing his mother crying that it was driving him “nuts” that he felt hurting himself would end it all.
I wished we had more time so I could find out where the hurt was coming from. I knew he wasn’t dizzy physically. He was dizzy because of the confusion that was clouding his mind. He wanted to be surrounded with peace. But he was surrounded with darkness and noises only himself could hear that roused more anxiety deep within his heart. It was even worse that he was surrounded by the prison walls and the darkness that was present day and night as they only had tiny windows in each cells.
I wasn’t able to find out the true relationship that he had with his mother whether it was disruptive or a caring nature. But the bottom line was….this man was hurting deep inside. I could see the veil of anxiety covering him and despite being on some medications to help him, the symptoms were not being relieved at all. I could sense the scab of painful memories layered over the years in his heart.
I handed a piece of paper to the Deputy who would take him to our Suicide Watch. I knew he would have another long night without any possible sleep. But placing him to be monitored would guarantee his safety until he could be seen by the Mental Health doctor in the morning. It was sad that he needed to be protected. Not from others…But from himself.
A lot of times in my life’s journey, I stored what hurt me the most in my heart, especially if they were caused by others. And what a big heart I have that is capable of storing countless wounds! But in doing so, I learned to build walls to protect me and alienate me from those I suspected who would hurt me again. Sometimes, I tried to bury the painful memories to make me forget but every time I saw that place where I buried them, the pain started again. In reality, I was the only one who suffered the most, not those people who hurt me. The truth was I was hurting no one but myself.
There is no wound that God’s love cannot heal. But with the veil of darkness and pain that covered me, I had learned that I must be open to have these wounds be exposed to His light and healing. This was not a fun process but once I received His offer of love, His love replaced what was in my heart and with His help, I had put down those walls I created and let His bridge be built instead… Yes, those walls needed to come down first, in order for me to allow His grace and mercy to penetrate deep within and His Spirit to aerate the dead cells in my heart.
Because God loves to comfort…God loves us first… God wants us to be healed.
“For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” – Isaiah 43:3 (NIV)