You never know who you’re going to meet in a psychiatric
ward, especially in San Francisco in the early 1970s.
As it happened that night,
I met a breath of fresh air and a rock of Gibraltar - a Chinese Southern Baptist psychiatrist who told
me to stop screaming as he gave me a shot in my left arm. “What’s wrong young lady,” he asked in a kind
voice. I shouted that the stars were out of place
and the earth was wobbling out of control. But before I had a chance to start screaming
in terror again, he assured me all would be much better tomorrow. I felt the shot take affect and was out like a
The next day, after awakening with a cotton mouth, Dr. Wang
stopped by on his rounds. He talked to me, listening attentively to my expressions and confused voice, letting me know with great certainty that I needed to eat or I would die, that
my body was sacred to God and a temple of God, and that I would be staying in
the hospital to take tests and to rest. He said I had two weeks to get my wits
For the first time
in years I felt safe. He
promised no one would be coming to see me that I didn’t want as a visitor, that
he had found out who I was and had contacted my employer and family, and that he
would be spending time with me almost every day. While I must have said things
to him during this second exchange, I only recall his words and clear directions, his solid, unflappable presence, and the feeling that the stars were not so alone in the sky any more.
As I reflect back on that first experience with Dr. Wang, I
realize how blessed I’d been to be in
the kind and capable care of someone who conveyed to me that I was so much more that the symptoms
of my crazy, scary world.
To be continued ….