I’ve never thought of myself as brave person. I’m the type who ducks and covers my face when someone throws me a football (or a set of keys). I’m not fond of putting myself in dangerous situations… you’ll never find me posting a photo on Facebook of myself sky-diving and I shudder at the thought of getting surprise hot-air balloon ride tickets for my birthday.
I’m all for exploring new countries – but my idea of a fun holiday does not include bungee jumping, white-water rafting or eating snails, scorpians or other unidentified objects.
But something’s happened this week that has made me muster up all my bravery.
I’ve spoken before about the most horrific time of my life… being taken from my home in a police divvy-van eight days after the birth of my first baby and being locked up in the high-dependency unit of Maroondah Hospital’s psychiatric ward .
Many of you reading this will have endured similar things: the mistreatment at the hands of “carers”, the scariness of being in a mixed ward with mentally unstable men, the loneliness… desperately trying to get people to understand you, but being met with looks of fear or annoyance.
Which is why when the Head of Nursing at Maroondah’s psychiatric ward invited me this week to meet her in a fortnight for a tour of their new facilities, I found myself feeling the opposite of brave.
When I asked my ever-supportive husband if he’d come with me, he flatly refused. I can’t say I blame him. Instead of enjoying the first six weeks of our first baby’s life, we both endured a type of hell-on-earth which we wouldn’t wish on anyone.
While his wife was declared insane and committed to a locked ward, my husband juggled his shock of what had happened with the needs of a tiny newborn. While most new mums struggle to get out of the house at all, my husband bundled up our baby son and brought him into a psych ward so I could have 30 precious minutes cuddling him.
When I finally came home, we were both so traumatised that we couldn’t stand to hear what the other had been through. It took six months of counselling to finally accept what had happened and move on. Still, for the past 8 years, my stomach has still felt sick whenever I’ve driven past the building where the psych ward is located.
So, why would I even consider going back?
Because I’ve now realised that unforgiveness and bitterness was only hurting one person… me. I’ve made a conscious decision to forgive the staff in that ward for the way they treated me.
And to be honest, I’m also a tad curious. The head nurse told me that things have improved “out of sight” since I was a patient there. The ward now has a separate mood-disorders wing for women. And she gushed in her email about the array of activities that patients can now take part in.
Part of me is skeptical that things have improved. But I need to know that they have – because I couldn’t live with myself if others are still living in the hell-hole that I escaped. When I left that ward, I promised to be the voice for those who couldn’t speak up for themselves.
And so, in two weeks, I’ll walk alone into the building that is the place where I lived through the most horrible moments of my life. I’ll put one foot in front of the other – and I’ll smile and be courteous to the staff. But I won’t be looking at the fancy new ward or plethora of activities to see if things have improved. I’ll look into the eyes of the patients.
Have you ever had to be brave – to face something or someone in your past? Has the experience made you stronger? Any tips for how to muster up bravery in situations like this?