God Sightings


My church, Isaiah’s Table, has a board where we put Post-Its noting the moments when we have seen God.  Here are some of my Post-Its:

  • On the Observation Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital, I asked for and got a Holy Bible.
  • In Observation, I was aided by a nurse I’d known a long time ago.  Her path has taken her to a non-Big Church, and to study Reiki.  In short, she is moving forward in her career guided by something other than the American Medical Industry.  She wants to help people and knows that “medications”—pills, drugs—aren’t the only way to do it.  Blessings on her.
  • Rev. Jerry and Mrs. Carola Shave, from Isaiah’s Table, found me in Observation when I’d been in the hospital less than 24 hours.  With the nurse, we linked hands and prayed, and my soul took a deep breath and relaxed.  Turn it over to God.

Inpatient psychiatry, Unit 3-6, is not hell.  Hell is, by definition, a place where you are beyond the reach of God.  God can still reach you on 3-6 but it’s a stretch.  On my first morning—3-6’s “night”—I collapsed on the bathroom floor in a hypoglycemic crisis.  When it came time to get off the floor, I met Matt.  Matt is the size of a refrigeration but slightly taller.  He stood in front of me, ignoring all the little girl psych nurses who couldn’t figure out how to get a patient off the floor.  We grasped arms, wrist to elbow; he pulled, I pushed, and I was easily on my feet in a second.

Katy has been the primary night nurse on 3-6 for a couple of decades.  She is a terrible person, intent only on exercising her authority, and lacking all empathy for the patients.  She treats us like turds to be flushed.  I press the call bell in the middle of the night and she comes in, slamming on two banks of overhead lighting. 

The point and purpose of nights is to have the patient sleep.  Sleep is healing.  Every doctor who specializes in treating sleep disorders will tell you that the first and worst thing you can do is turn on the lights.  Keep it dark.  Once light hits the optic nerve, you have substantially reduced the possibility of going back to sleep.  All Katy had to do was enter the room, leave the door open, approach the bedside and quietly ask the patient what she needs.  Then, if necessary, turn on the light.

I needed to go to the bathroom, urgently.  Katy had to manually crank up the bed.  As she did so, she assaulted me with a battery of comments.  It’s the middle of the night.  I’m sleeping.  I live alone and am not conditioned to carry on conversations immediately upon waking.  In less time than it takes to crank the bed, Katy is saying mean things to me about my bad attitude.  And this is therapeutic how?

At other times, on other nights, Matt comes in.  He talks to me quietly, leaning over the bed to get close to me in the darkness of the unlit room.  He is a simple, gentle fellow.  One morning (night) he says softly, “Well, I just think how I would want my mother, wife or sister to be treated.”  Matt wants to treat me the way he would want extensions of himself to be treated.  “That’s the Golden Rule,” I say.  “It’s the way I was brought up,” he replies.

One morning (I usually wake around 6:00 a.m., which is the night shift in a hospital) I am in such despair that I wake up crying.  Matt comes in, leans over my bed, and talks quietly and at length about hope and help, kindness and compassion.  I don’t remember the words but I recognized the music.  And, once again, in my darkest despair God sent his message of love and comfort, using Matt as his voice.

Another morning, God spoke to me using the voice of Gary Scott, a wise 3-6 frontline worker.  Gary was an ordained Methodist minister until he found that Big Church wasn’t at all what he was called to do.  He was called to help people, not monitor the budget, so Gary moved on and ended up on 3-6.  He chooses to work there, he says, because when a person’s psyche has been so deeply crushed that they need acute care then they are most open to making real changes.  He wants to be there to foster the change.

Gary’s voice is a sprightly, kind of “hip” voice.  It was, again, a time of deep suffering for me and I was in prayer.  Usually, when I pray, I talk; God listens and nudges me along the right path.  This time God spoke.  And what he said, basically, was “It’s okay to lighten up.  I’ll do the heavy lifting; you be patient.”  Those words never left me for the rest of the horrific hospitalization.  I was weak with sickness and being held incommunicado—there was so little I could do!  There is nothing God can’t do.

I used to worry about how much was my responsibility and how much I could rely on God to do.  I have heard many—too many—people say they “leave it up to God” when clearly they mean they are not going to get off their butts and do anything.  Then somebody told me “You do 100%–and God will do 100%.”  Sounded like a plan to me.  If you work with God then he will do the heavy lifting.  If you are not working with God then he will do nothing.  That’s the way the contract is written.

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About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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4 Responses to God Sightings

  1. James H says:

    Someone I met once at a group referred me to your blog. I just recently moved back to Syracuse.

    I have been hospitalized a few time in the last several years. Once at St. Joe’s, once at Upstate, and once in Utica. It is a long story. My wife left me, my son from a previous marriage was killed in an accident and then I lost my job. I had a difficult time coping. My first hospitalization to St. Joe’s was due to a suicide attempt. The other two times I brought myself because of anxiety and depression.

    Anyway, my first hospitalization I was shocked at the lack of “therapy” offered. I later did some research (I am educated) and realized how much psychiatry has become medicalized in the last 20 years. It is dominated by insurance and regulations and laws. You really need to have an outpatient therapist for life stressors. But I was in crisis at the time.

    I did not have the same experience you did at St. Joe’s. But I am not medically compromised or disabled. Dr. Levine was my doctor. He was not super warm or fuzzy at first and I was a bit caught off guard. When I told him how I felt, he sat down and chatted with me more about my life and what brought me to the hospital. I asked him a lot of questions about psychiatry and he told me he started sometime in the late 80’s and things had changed a lot since then. We also discussed my mental aversion to medications (I try not to even take aspirin) and he respected it. Eventually, I did take a low dose anti-anxiety agent and an anti-depressant for awhile. It helped me get through. When discharged they set me up with a wonderful therapist. I was thankful to Dr. Levine and his staff.

    My two hospitalizations since then were relatively short. The one at Upstate was unique because of it being a teaching hospital.

    I am sorry you are having such a tough time.

    I get the sense from talking to the doctors while on an inpatient unit that some of them, mostly the older ones, got into the field for one reason initially, only to let laws, regs, and insurance companies dominate a lot of their job. It is really a shame. The whole system needs to be revamped.

    Best of luck to you Anne!

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Thank you for writing. I experienced my first hospitalization around 1970 at Community General with Dr. Levine. In the quarter of a century after that, I took antidepressants every day and was hospitalized at Upstate, St. Joe’s, Benjamin Rush/Four Winds, NIMH and Hutchings. I could share with you an extensive reflection on the changes over time, mostly for the worse. In the beginning there was a lower degree of knowledge in the field of acute psychiatric treatment but a higher degree of humanity. Back in the day, inpatient tended heavily to young people taking psychedelic drugs and women suffering from “empty nest” syndrome, and there was a lot of heavy smoking on inpatient while people sat around and talked. Insurance issues have seriously constricted the flexibility of good patient care, and psychiatric medications have replaced human interventions. Most “psychiatric illness,” most of the time, should be treated with competent talk therapy, not drugs. Psychiatry no longer is aimed at helping people heal; instead, it’s goal is to get people to behave in a socially “appropriate” manner.

      You note losing your wife, son and job. That would break any man. People with psychiatric diagnoses are not different from people without diagnoses. We are “sickened” by overwhelming circumstances that would be destructive to anyone’s psyche. When I hear people say “God never gives you more than you can handle,” it sets my teeth on edge. Psychiatric hospitals, prisons and cemeteries are filled with people who got more than they could handle, and it is not God who gives us these burdens. God is loving, and will support us through the struggles laid on us by other people and social institutions. (Maybe Satan; my mind still isn’t made up on that one.)

      The trigger for depression is the perception of powerlessness. Learn how to act with power, and direct your anger outward to where it is appropriate, not inward at yourself. Don’t get depressed; get mad and take action. That’s my best advice to you, James.

      Namaste.

  2. Qunanish Hicks says:

    Anne-I know this comment will never make it on this sight as you screen what gets through. So you can blab you psycho-babble that is one sided bull-shit. You call yourself a God-Loving woman? I have read all your blog entries and you are far from God-Loving. God is about: Love, kindness, and turn the other cheek. All of Syracuse is on to you. None of the hospitals or agencies want to deal with you. You are mean, vindictive, jealous, and frankly stupid. If anyone of these people really cared about your blog or even thought for one second people believed what you wrote… you’d be sued.. Liable is taken seriously here on the web. But, you see Anne we are all laughing at you. No one believes any of this shit you print. Instead of being happy for others and their success you have to try and bring everyone down to your miserable, diseased level.Well Anne, I laugh at you and your blogs and so does all of Syracuse. Even Dr. Tuker! So, maybe it’s time to move out of State. Because, the state is onto your false accusations. Anne, maybe you can sit in Jail for your final days. Since your writings are making there way to court for just the fun of it. Because, I think that is were you belong. See what kind of care you get there. Hummm..suicidal then they put you naked in a cell. There is a group of people that are not going to stop unitl you are in the state system-prison. Haaaahaaaaaaa

    • annecwoodlen says:

      696 people read my blog yesterday. It would be helpful if some of you could post comments that offset what this fellow has written.

      Qunanish, why are you reading all my blog entries? Why are you wallowing in what you call “mean, vindictive, jealous, and frankly stupid?”

      I have been investigated many times, including by the Dept. of Social Services and the NYS Office of the Medicaid Inspector General. No one has ever sustained a complaint against me. I tell the truth.

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