In a behavioral health unit group can refer to any scheduled meeting with doctors, therapists, chaplains, and even dogs. We patients can’t be bothered with more descriptive titles, so group suffices. I was in my third inpatient stay so it was safe to say I was a unit veteran. And in my experience, I felt certain that I could get an earlier discharge if I spoke in group, but not too much. I knew that saying nothing would give my doctor little to go on when considering my progress. I also feared that my saying too much could potentially lengthen my stay. Best to play it close to the breast when in group, but not play it too close. In this instance, I was in group therapy busying myself with not speaking too little or too much as the doctor went on about coping methods we might use upon discharge. I was lucky in this stay, on that day, and in that group to have a fellow patient who had a compulsive impulse to speak. It was far easier for me to not say too little or too much when someone else was consuming the group’s time. However, this doctor was also a unit veteran and did not entertain any patient’s attempt to monopolize our time. The doctor asked, “What are some healthy coping methods?” And though the doctor hadn’t asked us to go around the room in-order, we did just that. Each patient answered followed by a brief pause that was interrupted by the next patient’s suggestion. “Friends and family…you know…building your support network.” “Calm down and count to ten.” “Take your meds.” “Go to your appointments.” “Exercise.” “Find a hobby.” “Eat a healthy diet.” “Get a full-night’s sleep.” The answers were expected. Hell, the answers were practiced as many of us had had this group last week. In no time everyone in the room had offered a coping method that is everyone but me. The doctor never looked at me. However, the eyes of the rest of the room were trained on me. And owing to what I can only describe as vocational muscle memory I whispered, “prayer.” The doctor completed our circle by saying, “Oh? So you leave all your problems at G-d’s feet? How’s that working for you?” I said nothing. I wanted to be offended, but prayer wasn’t working. And it wasn’t from a lack of effort. There were the prayers of my wife and my daughter. There were the prayers of my mother and sister. I had a long list of friends and colleagues who were praying. I thought, “How many people have to pray before G-d does something?” In my sickness I imagined prayer to be a petition and I was gathering signatures. And I did my part. I prayed for hours daily and nightly. I prayed to G-d. I prayed in the name of Jesus. I prayed in the Spirit. I prayed to Mother Mary even though I’m a Methodist. It is surprising who you’ll pray to when your pain is that bad. I prayed to a number of saints. Hell, I reached out to a number of dead relatives hoping just one could be bothered to rouse G-d. Anyway, by the end of that group session I had decided effectively to quit praying. How was prayer working for me? I answered the doctor, “It isn’t.”
Pain is a terrible thing, I can’t imagine what you’ve been through. There is not one day He has taken his eyes off of you. You don’t have to whisper another prayer He is working on your behalf. Its our turn as your support to pray when you can’t.