Monday, October 27, 2008

She Had me at Hello

As I waited for my husband in the hospital hallway, my eyes met hers for a brief second. A stranger with drooping shoulders and a weary face. She was probably a little younger than me but seemed twenty years older. The heavy burden she wore like a coat filled up the space between us, not more than five feet. She quickly dropped her eyes, but I felt compelled to speak. I'm not sure why. Perhaps, it's just because she seemed so alone. Maybe it's that compulsion I had to fill up silence. I hesitated when I realized she was waiting to enter the mental health floor. Behavioral Management they call it, in small lettering on a sign right next to the locked door. The voice inside me urged me on, and I quietly said, "Hello."
"Hi," she softly replied. She glanced up. Our eyes met again, and I refused to let go of her gaze.
"Rough day?," I asked.
"Yeah. Rough coupla' weeks."
"I'm sorry." I didn't want to pry, so I wasn't going to ask any more questions, but my few words were enough to open a door she was eager to walk through. She needed to talk so badly, she was willing to share with a stranger.
"It's my husband," she offered. "His depression's been really bad the last coupla' weeks, and know....".
"I'm so sorry. I know that's tough."
The tears started to leak in a slow drip from the inside of her right eye. She tried to hold them back, but couldn't.
"He's been here since Thursday, and he should get to go home tomorrow, but they told me today I need to remove the guns from the home. I..I..I just can't believe we're to this point. I can't believe we're here," her voice trailed. She didn't look away. She wanted answers. Answers that I didn't have.
"I understand. Really, I do. I know how hard it is, and I hope it gets better for him and you. You're not alone, you know. Lots of other folks are going through the same thing, so don't think you're alone."
"Thank you," she whispered. And then she wiped her eyes and reached for the opening door. It was time for visiting hours. I watched her walk through the door and stood glued to the same spot on the floor, staring at the door until my husband tapped me on the shoulder. "Let's go," he said.

I had wanted to tell her it would be better in a few days. That everything would eventually be okay. That this was just a bump in the road that they would weather together. And it may be. But it may not. You see, I really DO know what she's going through. I have someone I care very much about who has struggled with depression, and I know how debilitating it can be. How overwhelming it can be. How it can overtake a person and destroy them. I know what it's like to worry that today's the day this person will give up, that hope is out of their reach and unattainable. And I know that there are many people out there without hope.

We often try to hide our troubles, sometimes out of embarrassment, often out of pain. So many folks are walking around with problems we don't even know about. Things we don't find out about until it's too late to help. I don't have the answers, but I know they're not alone. And if you love one of those folks, you are not alone. Take comfort my friend, you are not alone.

The stranger at the hospital....I hope she's okay. She had me at hello, and now I can't let her go.


Mike Golch said...

we all have our moments and our days and eve weeks.depression is a nasty road to be on.I have been on that road way too many time.I take my meds every day and just try to make it through the day the best I can.

Amy said...

Amen. I had a similar encounter several years ago with a young newlywed girl at Walmart. We were both waiting in line to get pictures printed in the photo area, and she was holding her wedding pictures in her hands. All I did was ask her was that her husband and her in the pictures, and she broke down. We talked for quite a while, about depression, about God, and about how she is not alone.....I never got her name, but like you, the thought of her stayed with me for a long time....even today, I wonder how she is.

God Bless,

Jo Beaufoix said...

That was beautiful and I'm sure that hello means a lot to her. I struggle with depression but so far have never gotten to that stage and I plan not to. It is such a hard illness and very misunderstood and yet also so common. Hugs. You did a good thing.

Mia said...

bless you for being a light in her day even if for a moment.

Kelley with Amy's Angels said...

Working in Residence Life with students you run into this a few times each semester. There have been many students over the years who I think about all the time. Are they better now? Are they OK? What are they doing?

I'm with ya' sister.

oreneta said...

It may have helped her that you cared enough to speak to her. Small things can make a big difference.