Part 2 of my story

I woke up in a ward with many empty beds. I was the only one there. Looking at the chart on the nightstand, I found out I was at Crease Clinic. This place had a bad reputation. In fact, it was the object of many cruel jokes. I pulled the covers over my head and hid myself. Back to sleep.

For a nineteen-year-old, this was a most depressing place to be—a place where there would be no privacy. No quiet place I could call my own.

I was pacing the hospital hallway one day, not connecting with the world around me, as was often the case in those days. My mind was a place of confusion.

Dr. McDougall. having just come into work, drew up beside me. Putting his arm over my shoulder, he cheerfully asked, “And how’s my friend today?”

How wonderful that word, “friend,” sounded in this place where I had been feeling like such an alien. Where all the other patients were older than me. A place where nothing seemed normal.

Have you ever thought of the significance of that word?

The way I see it, a friend is a person who will accept you, even though you might not be at your best. A friend is a person who will show you they care when you’re going through a hard time. A friend will listen carefully and try to understand you. A friend is a person who will share things with you, as you do with them. To have a friend is to know you belong.

Dr. Gerald McDougall was like that. He did not tower over me like some doctors might. One day, he pulled a picture from his wallet and showed me his family, in the way a friend would. He made me feel like a real person, something not always felt by people dealing with severe mental illness.

Years later, when my baby was born in a difficult delivery, he carefully watched over me, visiting several times during my hospital stay. He made sure I was well taken care of, even arranging for someone to sit with me when I was going through a rough time.

When Dr. McDougall left to take a position in another city, he called me personally to let me know. As I fought back the tears, he asked me to send him a card at Christmas. I did that, and I did much more. I wrote him often keeping him up on how I was doing—glad when I was able to send him good reports.

Upon his retirement I received another personal call from him, asking what I would like him to do with all my correspondence. I told him he could throw it away. He gave me a phone number where I could reach him if needed. Unfortunately, I wrote it on a scrap of paper which I never found again.

Although I would not come to believe in God until some twenty years later, he knew me and my needs. And he was looking out for me–even then.

For the next few entries about how my confidence was built, let’s move forward into my story. What happened after leaving this mental hospital?. How did people come to trust me with big responsibilities? How did I come to help in the workings of a 65-member photo club, gradually working my way up to becoming president for a year?