When I was in my twenties I worked as a counselor on Four East; in the Psychiatric Department at San Pedro Peninsula Hospital. The job sort of fell into place, in a perfect, back door kind of way. It all started when I met a lady name Lucy who was attending a Ward Clerk class that I also attended, at a local Occupational Center. She had slipped into the job as a Ward Clerk at Four East, a few months earlier and needed to learn medical terminology for the position.
I was working as a waitress and since I did not want to do that forever, I decided to take the same class which I had heard about from my mother in law who worked in the billing department at the hospital, and encouraged me to see how I liked it, telling me that there were several employment opportunities there, and that they were always looking for Ward Clerks.
Lucy and I were desk mates and met the first day. We became fast friends right away. When I learned that she worked in the Psych dept. where my sister in law Karen, had been a patient a few times, due to her addiction problems. I realized we had another connection. Lucy knew of Karen and had been sweet to her during her stay there.
After the class was over and we earned our certifications, I am not sure what happened. But for some reason the job prospects did not come as easily as my mother in law had thought they would. I continued to waitress and Lucy and I lost touch. Until one day, I got a call from Karen who had been hospitalized again, and was asking me to bring her some things. I didn’t hesitate and completely forgot about Lucy working there. I brought Karen her things and stayed to visit as long as I was allowed. As I was leaving, I saw Lucy inside the glassed in Nurse’s station. We had our little reunion moment and then she told me that they needed someone to work the day shift while the girl who normally worked it was on maternity leave. I told her I was interested, but didn’t actually realize that she had been serious and promptly forgot about it.
A few days later someone called asking me to come in and apply. At first, I worked as a temporary Ward Clerk. It was a good job but I knew it was not what I wanted to do forever. I would hear the counselors complaining about charting and I remember telling them that I would love to chart since I loved to write. I remember thinking that they were so lucky to have the job that they did. Helping people and writing! When the maternity leave was over for the gal I was filling in for, I was sad and knew my days were numbered. At first I would fill in and the hospital floated me to different floors but I loved Four East the best!
One day,Yvonne who was the Director of the Unit, called me into her office and I thought she was going to let me go. Instead, she offered me an actual job as a counselor! I had taken a few of the needed classes in college and knew the medical terminology from being a Ward Clerk, and she told me that the experience of working on the unit for the last year qualified me as a candidate for the job she had opened and she told me that she was offering it to me first. The only drawback was that It was a graveyard slot.
My son was three years old at the time. My dad had just died and we had moved into my mom’s house to help pay the bills. My son’s day care had been through the hospital during the day but now my shift would be 11PM to 7AM! I could work when my son was asleep. It seemed perfect but it was going to be hard to figure out just how I would take care of him when I was supposed to be sleeping. My mom agreed to help out and so I accepted and prayed a lot. God answered my prayers because I worked one week on the graveyard shift and then Yvonne wanted me to also learn the day shifts. I can’t remember exactly what happened but I never went back. I remained on the day shift for all the years I was there. I helped run the adolescent unit and I think that I have never quite had a job that I loved as much since.
Today, my husband jokes that “They told me I had a job” implying that I actually was a patient. Very funny! But it really makes me think. Who decides who gets to be the keeper of the keys and who decides who gets locked up by those keys? I remember the first day on the job, clipping those keys to the belt loop of my pale blue cords. Unlocking and locking the door for people much older than me, that depended on my judgment and my keys to let them in and out as needed.
Years later, I never thought I would partake in counseling. After all, I was one of the keeper of the keys once upon a time, I am not sure what I thought would happen if I admitted that I needed help. But I do know that I fought the idea that I was depressed with a vengeance. My attitude was… ANYONE would be depressed in my circumstances!!! I am a victim of circumstances not depression! Why didn’t anyone see that?! I thought.
Today I see I was so wrong. I also see that it was like a light switch being turned on to admit it. In fact, the first time that I fully grasped depression as something that I had to accept was a part of me, was very recently. But with that acknowledgement I felt a freedom that I have never known. I don’t know what is ahead or what tools will be used to fix things but I feel kind of like if you don’t know you have termites… the foundation continues to crumble. But once the problem is determined, the remedy can begin to stabilize things. Without identifying the problem, the frame is weakened. But once the conclusion has been reached the rebuilding can begin and there is strength in knowledge.
Just knowing all this gives me hope. Where once I wanted to hide at home and live in my past, I know I have to force myself to take one step at a time. And not even as far as the future but being satisfied to remain in the present. And to know that Death happens. Divorce happens. Earthquakes even happen. Life happens. Being afraid does not stop any of it. But it does make you miss out on the love and joy that still happens in-between. Being depressed will only rob you from the opportunities that happen when the love and joy come your way anyway. Even when you can’t pay your bills or you have an argument with someone or you find yourself having to deal with the other life stuff that comes your way, you just have to remember that it’s not as big as you think it is and find the joy in all of it.
Even when Karen ended up in the hospital again, something good came out of it, because I was willing to deliver something to her… and was given the opportunity of a job. When I had a miscarriage, I realized the gift I had in the children I still had. Even in divorce or the loss of a business or loss of a job, we can be scared or we can take the opportunity to draw closer to God and rely on Him for our needs. Today, I understand more now than when I was younger and the keeper of the keys that strength is in finally realizing WHO the true Keeper Of The Keys really is and relying on Him to unlock our doors.