She moved through the mental health ward of High Plains Baptist Hospital like the commander of a battleship, never stopping long enough to be fully detained, gazing over the heads of patients and staff alike, and issuing abrupt and gruff statements here and there, like rockets launching from her mouth. She was judge and jury over the sanity of all inhabitants within a seven county region. Her power was absolute, and she knew it.
She wore what must have been at least knee length gray hair in a braided bun, done up around and around on the top of her head, giving the illusion of a fuzzy pillbox hat. Her thick, black-framed bifocals prevented any illusion of direct eye contact with those select few she deigned important enough to look at directly. The glasses distorted her faded blue eyes to the extent that you felt you were trying to look at her under water. Her puffy face could have been called kind, grandmotherly, if not for the deep, mean-looking frown lines engraved into her forehead and around her mouth.
My parents had been called in to meet with the doctor and me. I had voluntarily admitted myself to her facility on Christmas Day, in the midst of what we kindly term in the south “a nervous breakdown.” The meeting took place two weeks later, after they had hit on the proper combination and dosage of the sedatives that had caused me to finally retreat into a coma-like compliance.
“I’m pleased with your daughter’s progress to this point,” she started. She leaned across her desk, hands forward, with the fingers entwined and the thumbs making a summit. Her eyes swam behind the thick glasses. “We were beginning to think she’d have to be sent for shock therapy at our Vernon facility, but she is now responding to medication. We have a diagnosis.” Her pause was dramatic, as if she were waiting for acknowledgment of her medical prowess. “Your daughter suffers from pseudo-neurotic schizophrenia.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my father shift in his chair and lean forward, his gray Stetson resting on his crossed knee. His mouth was silently trying to repeat her words.
“She will be required to remain on medication for the rest of her life,” the doctor continued. “It is unlikely that she will ever be successful at independent living. I suggest that we keep her another week or so, to be sure she has stabilized on her meds, and then, you may take her home.” She said this last bit rather grandly, like she was presenting my parents with a great gift. She dropped back into her chair with a sigh, letting go of the cathedral she’d build with her hands in the middle of the desk.
As she spoke these last words, I felt myself falling backward, into the inner worlds of what I had come to call my true reality. I found myself seated in my private consultation room, facing the loving gaze of The Tibetan.
“Precious One,” he began in the special way that we talked, “you will come to understand why you find yourself in this situation. Do not despair and do not accept this sentence of a life not lived. You will move through this experience of what they term “mental illness.” You will learn that there are things you should not share with those who are sleeping. And remember, Dear One, that you are an awakening soul, surrounded by the masses of comatose. A soul such as yours is a beacon of light and your light must be held forth. It is your commitment, your duty and your honor. You have much to do this lifetime, as you will recall. You have agreed at soul’s level to end your karmic ties with this earthly plane in this, your last lifetime here. It will not be easy, but remember that I am always with you. I will attempt to remind you of the work at hand, and assist in directing you toward the places you are to shine your golden light of soul.”
He took my small, pale hand between his large, rough brown ones. “If you don’t remember anything else, just remember that I am always with you. I am your guardian, your guide and you will become aware of me whenever you need me.”
His gaze was steady, open, and so full of unconditional love that I could not help but believe his words.
I had so many questions. “But should I take this medicine? How will I know what to do? When can I get back to my life in Austin?” I felt like I wanted to stay, in this place of comfort and certainty, and asking questions might keep me here.
His look told me this was not the time for questions. “You will be guided. Trust your inner sense of what to do and where to go. It is always right. Develop a relationship with your intuition and know that miracles will be all around you. All will be well. Go back, now, Dear One.”
With his last words echoing in my mind, I was back in the uncomfortable, green vinyl chair in the psychiatrist’s office. Mother was reaching to place her hand on my father’s arm, as he leaned forward. His Stetson fell off his knee and rolled just under the desk. “And how long will this last? We can’t support her, she’s been on her own. Is this medicine expensive?” He seemed angry, agitated, firing his questions through gritted teeth. I was being discussed as if I were not in the room, and I longed to be back with The Tibetan in our chamber. There was a flicker of blue in my inner vision and I remembered his promises and relaxed a little.
“Schizophrenia is a life-long condition. It can be managed with drugs and therapy, but it is never cured. Perhaps you can read about it to know more. My next consultation is waiting now. We can talk again after you’ve had some time to think.” She rose from her chair and gestured toward the door.
Mother, always efficient, gathered Daddy’s hat from under the desk and we all stood to leave. We had been dismissed.
Written sometime in 1996 about a day in January, 1977.© Jade Beaty