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To the Chaplain Who Visited Me in the Psychiatric Unit

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I was a freshman in college who had taken on too much at one time. Seventeen credit hours of class and three jobs had completely wiped me out mentally. I was tired. The break up with my high school boyfriend triggered a depressive episode that caused me to overeat, stay in bed, skip all of my classes and work and start thinking about suicide.

There was a point where I was laying in bed, fantasizing about suicide, when I scared myself. I was going to do it. Some part of me shot up bright, red flares, making me realize I needed help. I admitted myself to the psychiatric unit of the hospital near my college and even though I was scared, I suddenly felt safe, and felt even more so when I met you.

The room they put me in was cold and the walls were bare. I had very little human interaction with anyone, even the doctors, until you came in. You were the chaplain of my college and made a point to visit students in the mental health unit of the hospital. You were the last person I expected to see during my stay, and the last person I thought could comfort me. Though your visit was unexpected, it was exactly what I needed.

You leaned up against the bare, white wall of my cold room and listened. You heard me as I went on about my shortcomings, my failures, my exhaustion and my suicidal thoughts. You listened and heard me, and when it was your turn to talk, every word you said brought me comfort.

You didn’t push your religion on me or pressure me in any way, even though I said I was a Christian. You only reminded me that no matter how helpless I was feeling, God was always there to help. You told me He loved me, and He wanted to take away my mental anguish.

You brought me a very specific Bible, the “Life Recovery Bible”, and you read me specific passages about hope in times of struggle. It felt like every word was written just for me and my situation. As you read to me, I felt better about my life.

You offered to visit me again, and I happily accepted. During our last visit, you welcomed me to your church on campus, and when I was released from the hospital, I went. You helped me so much while I was admitted that I wanted to continue to hear what you had to say about life, struggles and recovery.

Your first visit with me got me started on the road to recovery and improving my mental health. You reading to me from the Bible gave me encouragement and hope I hadn’t been able to find anywhere else at that point. Your acceptance and willingness not to judge me helped me open up and show you my wounds and scars. Your words began the healing of those wounds and scars, and they remain in my mind and heart to this day.

You were a stranger at first, but the more we talked and listened to each other, the more familiar you and your encouragement became. Today, I’m thankful for your unexpected visit, encouraging words and genuine care for my soul and well-being.

When I’m hit with bipolar depression, I think back to when you visited me in the hospital. I remember the hope I felt in my heart and the calmness of my mind, and I channel those memories to help me cope. No depressive episode will ever be unbearable because of what you did for me: uplifted me, encouraged me and gave me hope.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
Originally published: July 8, 2016
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