(May 26, 2007)

Yesterday’s Living Room group was good and left me feeling happy, as all those meetings do. I spent the rest of the day savoring it. After having twenty out to our previous meeting, I decided to make a huge table, pushing five long tables together. That made room for twenty-two chairs to fit around. But only thirteen showed up. Still a good turn-out though.

We discussed how gratitude can affect how we feel about life and God and how it affects our mood. Even situations that seem bad at first can eventually give us something to be thankful for if we’re in the thanking habit.

In Romans 8:28 Paul said, “…we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.”

I told the story about how I’d recently accessed my medical records from when I was in a mental hospital forty years ago. I’d suspected I had been over-medicated but wanted to be assured of all the facts, since I was writing about it in my latest book. And sure enough, the records show that I had been given excessive amounts of chlorpromazine. My mouth hung open most of the time and I could not communicate with others. There was just nothing happening in my brain. It was as though it had stalled.

The part that truly made me bitter was uncovering a letter written by my private psychiatrist’s partner, a person who had interviewed me shortly after I was admitted. He recommended that I be discharged. My previous employer had offered to let me try and work in spite of my psychotic condition. This doctor suggested that I would do better in such a normal environment, rather that a mental institution.

But apparently, this letter was either ignored or not agreed with. I stayed in the hospital for another six interminable months – miserable months. I was only nineteen years old, the youngest on my ward. It was only when I read these records that I realized this letter existed and that an opportunity had been lost.

I felt stunned and bitter.

But, after a few days my thinking changed. More than ever before I began to appreciate how far I had come. I had even more to be thankful for than I realized. God has truly done a lot for me. My records showed that the staff did not hold out much hope for me. My diagnosis was schizophrenia (an incorrect one) and in those days, medications were not as effective as they are today. But I showed them!!

I’m a very fortunate person. And I’m sure that living in the institution in the way I did has benefited me by helping me have compassion and respect for others. I believe what Paul said. If we’re in line with God’s plan, “…everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.” I believe my hospital experiences help me find joy in the work I do with Living Room. I like being a supporter. I’m no longer a victim.