Trenton Psychiatric- Wellness Story #1
I have been providing wellness services to various facilities for the last four years or so (since 2015), and I am always reminded of one of my first experiences at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey. For confidentiality reasons, I can’t share names or any patient details that could reveal their identity, but I can share some experiential stories.
I was at my session for the day, providing various music and alternative wellness services, and towards the end of the work day I had one last person approach me to ask if I could help with any of my tools. As he approached me, I could see him visibly shaking with tremors, as a result of all the meds he was on. His hands were barely able to stay still, his face showed signs of uncontrollable spasm, and his overall body comfort seemed non-existent. I then took out some of my body tuning forks and began to address various parts of his body; his joints, his forehead, his palms, and various other locations, and upon finishing the treatment, the man STOPPED shaking!! A nurse had witnessed the entire treatment, and when she saw him stop vibrating with tremors she came over and said, “Wow.. That is incredible, I’ve never seen him so still!!”
It was truly amazing. Granted, the tremors eventually returned, as he continued his medication regimens, but for just a moment, he was at ease and within a sense of peace. That was one of the first times I really, REALLY knew that alternative treatments WORK. Such treatments do not replace other more regulated and tested methods of “medicine”, but they most definitely do help contribute additional healing elements. Treatments like this are often classified as CAM (complementary alternative medicine or methods), and they add subtle benefits to existing regiments. Reiki is often classified as CAM, as are essential oil programs, and other holistic methods. The validation I got from the nurse’s reaction was one of the most reassuring moments I’ve had to date with my work in this field.
When I reflect on this experience, I wonder how much of the result was from the tuning fork, and how much could have been a result of my own approach as a healer. Often, I see people in these facilities, and they are often suffering not only from their medical, or mental illness, but from social isolation or alienation. A lot of these folks are outcast by friends, family, and society in general, and a lot of that comes from reactionary responses to the symptoms they present. A person with Borderline Personality Disorder, for example, can be erratic, verbally abusive, or very inconsistent, and a large majority of people won’t be able to be compassionate or understanding of what it means to be kind and loving to them anyway. It IS hard. Often a lot of families will find it easier to institutionalize a member of the family rather than take the time to learn how to work with the ailment. It gets personal really quick, and that’s when empathy goes out the window.
I feel that the most important part of my job is to hold space for these people to be heard, and to allow them to tell their story to someone who will not judge them or try to cram medication into their body. This is not to say that hospital staff or other medical professionals lack empathy, compassion, or the ability to listen, I just think that coming in as a contractor to work, that I have certain flexabilities that an in-hospital staff may not, like the ability to show up dressed outlandish, with tattoos covering my body, as I carry didgeridoos, and wild looking journals and other tools. I don’t look like a doctor; often the people I meet ask me if I’m a shaman or a witch priest, and to them, this is a bit exciting because, well.. I am. I am a witch, and I am a spiritualist (I do not claim to be a shaman), and this allows me to get them to open up in special ways that a standard appearance medical professional may not be granted. Knowing this, and being my authentic self makes my job a little easier. I get to be real with these folks, and I think that this translates into comfort, and really, comfort is what a lot of these people are seeking.
I gain a great sense of gratitude from doing this kind of work, in this particular environment, with this particular population, and I am lucky to have the opportunity to continue the development of my offerings and skills as a result. Some of the most profound learning experiences have come directly from this work, and it influences and enriches all of the other aspects of my life. I am deeply honored to be able to serve this community.