You know what I’m talking about, right? They come in a lovely, muted shade of blue. They’re large and easy to slip on over clothes. Many hospitals have them for their staff and patients.
After my suicide attempt last month (read that story here and here), I had the pleasure of donning a couple sets of these paper scrubs. The first set was in the first ER I visited that morning. I wore them until I was released and allowed to put on the clothes I had arrived in.
From there, we traveled to another ER where I would later be admitted into the hospitals mental unit. In that ER, I was so graciously given another pair of blue paper scrubs, only this time, they were ginormous (is that really a word?). I stepped out of the bathroom and kindly asked the nurse if I could have a smaller pair because these were huge. She seemed agitated. Who wouldn’t be in that situation…Overworked. Underpaid. A stressful environment. And a patient who doesn’t value her own life making what, at that point, probably seemed a silly request. Needless to say, she was not sympathetic to my request. Those giant blue scrubs were mine.
All of my belongings were taken, including the hat that was hiding my less than clean (glued to my head from 2 day old natural oil and hat head) hair. I sat in that ER, not in a room, but in the middle of a hallway, wearing my nifty (note sarcasm) blue scrubs and my greasy hair. I was there with two dear friends who helped me laugh it off and make the most of a pretty scary day. They didn’t care how I looked. They loved me anyway. (Thanks ladies!)
So, those blue scrubs were quite embarrassing. Nothing screams out of the ordinary than to be the only patient in the ER with paper scrubs on. They might as well have stamped a big label on the back that said…
“Attempted Suicide = Another Fail!”
That’s how it felt. I thought everyone that saw me could see what I’d done and I added that to my mental list of failures. I was there. I was alive. I was just as broken as before. And now, I was on my way to the mental hospital with awesome paper scrubs, greasy hair, and no dignity.
If that doesn’t encourage the depressed, then what will?!
After a five hour wait in that ER, I was finally taken to the mental hospital building down the street. I was escorted by two people who spoke very little. The only thing shy of feeling like a prisoner was the fact that I wasn’t in handcuff’s. They loaded me into what I like to call a creeper van. You know the ones you see on TV when the news is reporting a BOLO for a kidnapping. It’s always an old, creepy 15-passenger van. Well, this was one of them.
I climb up into the van in my giant scrubs and off we went.
Down the street, we pulled in at the mental hospital. This was a separate building from the main hospital. I could make some sarcastic jokes here too but I don’t want to go overboard with that so I’ll leave it be for now.
My sweet friends were able to follow us to that building. What a blessing they could ride in their own car and not in the creeper van! So I was escorted by my two quiet guards and dropped off in the waiting area where two ladies met us. They went through all the rules about what I could and couldn’t have there. Unfortunately, my awesome App State hoodie, black sweats and tennis shoes didn’t make the cut. So, off my stuff went along with my friends and I walked through the heavy, no way out of here once you enter, doors in my blue paper scrubs, bright yellow hospital no-skid socks, and my jacket that actually past the approval list (thanks Old Navy for my fleece jacket…it passed!)
Once behind bars, I mean those big locked doors, there was no getting out and things got real. I was alone. Sure, there were folks there…but it was late and all the patients were in bed. I had my vitals checked by one nurse and then was sent to a room with another nurse. In that room, any dignity I might have managed to tuck in my paper scrubs pocket went out the window when I had to remove them to have all the markings on my body viewed and documented in my chart. Because I have been a cutter for years, there were many scars marked on the chart. More shame. More embarrassment.
At that point, the nurse grabbed a hospital gown. You know the ones…wrap around, tie in the back, you’re lucky if they don’t show all your glory…yep, that’s the ones!
And in that moment, everything changed.
Perspective changes everything.
Those blue paper scrubs…had been embarrassing. Humiliating. They had screamed to all, I thought…
But in that moment, when the gown became the next option, those blue scrubs were like an outfit right off Rodeo Drive. No money would have been enough to show the value in them. After a quick glance at the hospital gown and a moment frozen in fear, I managed to spill out a very desperate and wimpy, “Can I just keep the scrubs?!”
I’m certain she saw the look of terror and heard the sheer desperation in my voice and she kindly agreed that would be okay. Thank you, God!
Those paper scrubs had just become my saving grace.
Why? Why had things changed so drastically and so quickly?
Well, let me explain a little something about perspective…
You see, before my clothes were taken, they were my clothes. They were things I had picked out. They were comfortable. They were mine. When they were taken away and I was given something I had not chosen, I was no longer comfortable. I was bitter. I was angry. They had taken away what belonged to me and there was value in my things. I saw no value in the paper scrubs they were giving me because in my anger, I felt it was punishment. I felt like I was being punished by having my own things taken away and substituted with their hideous paper scrubs.
When I went into the mental hospital, I no longer had anything except those blue paper scrubs and my jacket (which had no hood and no strings, mind you, or it too, would have failed the permitted list). Those scrubs had become all I had. They were mine. They weren’t the most comfortable (remember, they were huge…we’re talking I was walking on the legs of them with the waist pulled up to my chest huge. The shirt hung almost to my knees) but they covered me. And that was extremely important to me.
I didn’t realize until yesterday why they became so important, why my perspective changed so quickly.
Having experienced what feels like a lifetime of sexual abuse, modesty is not just important, but necessary for me to feel safe. I can’t sleep without blankets wrapped around me. I’m not comfortable unless I’m covered. The idea of wearing that hospital gown was the idea of being exposed. It sent me back to my childhood and memories of being exposed, fear, terror. Something as simple as a gown can be such a huge trigger. In that moment, standing there with that nurse, I imagine she not only saw my terror but she probably couldn’t help but see that helpless little girl begging for protection. Those blue scrubs became my protection.
Perspective changes everything.
When I had things, the blue scrubs were an embarrassment, something else to be ashamed of.
When I had nothing and was at risk of losing the blue scrubs, they meant the world to me.
That night, I was stripped of everything…
Except the blue paper scrubs.
If I had known a month ago, just how meaningful those paper scrubs would be to me now, I would have kept them. I would have held onto them as a reminder of the grace and mercy God poured onto me that night as I stood there like a frightened little girl begging to keep the scrubs that no longer screamed of shame and imprisonment but of safety, protection, and comfort.
And later, after I was escorted to my room, once again I was reminded…
Perspective changes everything.
I’m a writer. It’s my therapy. It’s like the air I breathe. Words are my lifeline.
Remember, I had been stripped of everything shy of the blue paper scrubs and my coat. I sat on my bed and tears poured from my eyes. (This in itself is huge. Before that week, it had been nearly a year since I had cried and even then, they weren’t tears for myself, but for another horrible situation.) I sat there, talking to God, begging for Him to get me out of that hell, crying out to Him in frustration and anger, believing I didn’t belong there. Yes, I cried out in anger at God! I’m pretty sure He can handle it, in fact, I am pretty sure that’s exactly what He wanted me to do.
In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. Psalm 18:6
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. Psalm 34:17
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30
God knew I was desperate, scared, lonely, and angry. He could handle it…and He did.
He gave me the courage to get up and go ask for a pen and paper. Now, remember, things are pretty different in the mental hospital because everything that you once had privilege to is now considered a dangerous weapon that you could use to harm yourself. The nurse kindly handed over a tablet of paper and the guts of pen. Most folks know I am a huge pen snob (if you ever want to give me a gift, I love all colors and super smooth, lol). She handed me this tiny three inch stick of ink. You know what the inside of a pen looks like, right? Imagine yourself writing with just the inside…not the nice, comfy, hard plastic shell…nope. At that point, that pen and paper were the most amazing gifts I could have received. It would do just fine…and it did.
God provided for my needs in that moment.
I went back to my room and wrote for most of the night. I poured out my heart. Looking back on those words, they seem silly now but in that moment, they were real. They were words of hurt, pain, fear, loss, rejection, punishment, imprisonment, shame, embarrassment, regret, anger, and so much more. Those words were everything and the fact that I was able to write them down and I have them now to look back on…that means everything.
I had nothing…but paper scrubs, a pad and the guts of a pen.
In that moment, I had everything I needed.
And later, when I desperately needed to try to sleep, I thought of Memphis. He’s this adorable, (
worn out and grungy well loved looking) stuffed hound dog that I sleep with every night. He’s brown and has long floppy ears. I snuggle him as tight as I can and while I sleep, the two of us are inseparable. I’ve had him for about 15 years and have slept with him almost every night (shy of the brief period of time when my three children fought over him). In the hospital, I didn’t have Memphis. That was one more reminder of all that had been taken from me. What I did have, was a solid white less than soft, bath towel. Not to discount Memphis in anyway, but in that moment, that towel became the comfort and safety I so desperately needed in order to allow myself a few minutes of sleep. I balled up the towel to about the size of Memphis, wrapped my arms around it and cried myself to sleep, still wearing my blue paper scrubs, my coat and resting my head next to my paper and guts of a pen.
I was safe.
I was cared for.
I wasn’t alone.
God had been with me.
He had provided for me in every way I needed. He had filled my heart and mind with His word.
I will not die but live and proclaim what the Lord has done. Psalm 118:17
Which I repeated over and over that night. I wrote it out on my paper. He reminded me of the words of a song I had listened to many times in the days leading up to my suicide attempt. (For King & Country, Shoulders)
“…My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
He gave me those blue paper scrubs.
He gave me a pad of paper and the guts of a pen.
He gave me a plain white towel.
And He gave me a new perspective. He gave me His eyes to see the gifts these things were. When I felt everything had been taken away from me, He met me right where I needed Him to. He opened my eyes…not to what I was missing, but to the gifts He had placed before me when I needed them most.
My words can’t express the emotions and gratefulness I feel from gifts I received that night. My words will never be enough to say just how amazing it was to feel His presence that night. It was my darkest moment and yet the most precious moments of realizing just what an amazing and good God was with me that night.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” John 6:12
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Thank you God, for saving me. Thank you for providing in my darkest, most desperate moments…nothing is wasted.
I pray my story reminds you…you are never alone. He is there, even when you think He isn’t or even when you turn away from Him. He loves you and is waiting for you to come to Him.
Perspective really does change everything.