I’m going to change things up a wee bit today. Several things happened recently that filled me with such gratitude, love, and just an all ’round joy at being alive, living in this time, and living the life I am living. I plan to do this every once in a while from now on. It is deeper than my other posts. Some will agree with it. Some won’t. Doesn’t matter. This is me.
Except for “Hallelujah” the first few songs on the player are by Clint Brown, pastor of Judah Church in Florida. Clint has written and recorded thousands of praise and worship songs over the years. He has an unbelievably powerful voice and most of his music is very contemporary, jazzy, bluesy, fonk, whatever. Not what might be considered normal churchy music. If you want a worship CD that will fill your house with peace, order his “In His Presence 2” CD. Not 1, two (2).
Those who enjoy this type music, enjoy. The rest of you can just pause the player!
Years ago while struggling with some issues and dealing with letting go, I came across this story about Marie Balter. It struck me so powerfully that it changed my attitude and my life. This post comes from several sources.
In 1935 when Marie Balter was a 5-year-old named Pat, her unmarried alcoholic mother turned her (though not her older and younger sisters) over to a foster home unknowingly run by a sadistic couple. The couple adopted Pat and changed her name to Marie. They were physically and emotionally abusive toward her. She would be locked in a dim cellar, and often tortured.
At 14 she was removed, at her own request and on the recommendation of a social worker, to St. Therese’s Home for Girls, and she lived for much of the next couple of decades in one institution after another: a home for indigent women, the psychiatric ward of a general hospital, finally a State Hospital.
Marie developed severe anxiety (panic disorder) and psychotic depression early in her life. At the age of seventeen she was paralyzed from depression to the point it caused muscle spasms, choking, hyperventilation, and asthma attacks so intense she developed hallucinations. She was institutionalized in 1947 and was misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia.
She was placed on near lethal doses of an experimental anti-psychotic drug, which only served to exacerbate her mental and emotional condition. At one time she weighed only eighty-eight pounds. She was locked away and written off as a hopeless case.
For eight years she was shuttled from one ward to another, depending on the severity of her symptoms. She endured shock treatments. At the very depth of her psychosis, she states that “From a curled-up position of catatonic silence on her hospital bed, she could still see herself: I looked at myself and said, ‘No more. I can’t go on this way anymore if I ever want to get out of here, if I ever want to get better.'”
She relied on her deep faith in God and the positive relationships she made with some of the staff members and patients at the state hospital. There was a doctor at the hospital who saw potential in her and would not give up. Her recovery was painful and gradual, as she overcame a despair that often left her unable to eat or move. She contemplated suicide more than once.
After more than thirty-two years of hell on earth, Marie Balter was released into the world… to begin her real life.
With the support of a widening circle of friends, Balter gradually built herself a productive and satisfying life, graduating from college and marrying a man she had worked with in the rehabilitation workshop whom she called the love of her life. Even cancer of the bladder and later her husband’s early death could not overwhelm her: “This time,” she reported, “I survive.”
Did she spend her freedom holding a grudge or sue the hospital for misdiagnosing her problem? Focus on what her mother did to her? The abusive foster parents? Be mad at God? No, at the age of thirty-seven, she entered college as a freshman and earned a degree in psychology. She returned to the hospital where she had been a patient all those years and worked as a social worker.
Making good on a promise that she made to God that she would dedicate her life to working with the mentally ill, Marie then returned to school and earned a master’s degree from Harvard University. She later founded the Balter Institute where she hoped that her patient-led idea of mental healthcare would continue.
Marie Balter let go of the negative past without a retaliatory spirit. She let it go and was able to grow from being “Nobody’s Child” (title to one of her books) to becoming everybody’s helper.
In her own words, ”I wouldn’t have grown one bit if I didn’t learn to forgive. If you don’t forgive your parents or your children or those who hurt you, or even yourself you don’t ever get beyond that anger.
“Forgiving is a way of reaching out from a bad past and heading out to a more positive future.”
Are there areas in your life where you are holding a grudge? Focusing on that past can be holding you back from fulfilling your dreams. Why? Because you are looking backward instead of forward! That past will trip you up, baby. Let it go.
It really is true – holding a grudge holds a grudge on you, not the other person. Forgiveness sets you, y-o-u, free. Holding on ties you to the past. Let it go. You decide who gets to dictate your present and your future.
Let it go.
Goodby to the Mental Ward : NOBODY’S CHILD: The Marie Balter Story, By Marie Balter and Richard Katz (Addison-Wesley