A fence without razors

One of my favourite stories is the man with a legion of demons. He is a man totally out of control and out of his mind. Others have tried to help him (by chaining him down) but there was nothing that could be done to restrain his madness. Until he met Jesus.

After his encounter with Jesus the man was seated, clothed and in his right mind. All he wanted from then on was to be with Jesus. I feel like that. Without Jesus, totally mad and out of control. With Jesus, calm, clothed and in a right mind. (Luke 8:26-39)

Dennis Pale tells his own story through the character Daniel Perry in a funny but very confronting novel on mental health. (Denis J. Pale. A Fence without Razors. Amazon. 2015)

He speaks highly of the ministry of the Anglican chaplain and the chaplaincy volunteer.

… it’s likely you don’t understand exactly how discouraging it is to be a mental health patient in modern Australia. Sure, we aren’t called “lunatics” nowadays and our schizophrenic brains don’t run any chance of being intimate with a surgical ice pick anymore, but our problems, rather than disappearing, have simply changed shape.

It’s taken everything I’ve got to get here. Rather than just having to deal with sever schizophrenia and depression like millions of other people out there who have mental issues, I have so much more weighing down on me. Being a high school dropout, feeling like a total failure as a Christian, having a family so broken … feeling so alone in the world … it’s all a black weight around my neck. And it gets far worse … 

As much as I’d like to disown it, to deny it, my crime was carved into my very soul. God forgives me and the legal system is close to releasing me, but I’d be long dead before I could forgive myself. … could I ever outrun the mark of Cain? … The realisation of the extent of my sins was pain beyond pain, an experience where the loss of your walls of protection means to lose everything, to be stripped down to bare skin, to have all your armour torn away and thrown down into the dirt.

It’s no surprise that many forensic patients would rather die than face who they really are.

I suffer from what they class as religious delusions, aberrant interpretations of my Christian faith … 

Chapel services in the psych hospital were 

.....pretty standard, but what you have to remember is that Reverend Rick has to perform a service that’s relevant and understandable for psych patients …

Rick has to deal with all sorts of things no pastor, rabbi, sheik or voodoo priestess in the community would ever have to tolerate for a moment. Not only did he have to write and perform a sermon and do all the other pastor-things you’d expect, but he also had to manage people rudely asking irrelevant questions in the middle of his sermon, or loudly spouting random gibberish for no reason, or even tolerate the occasional Satanist bursting through the door and demanding the we worship the devil. Honestly, if you added up all the strife Rick has to put up with each week together it would be a mountain. If the Anglican Church ever comes up with a sainthood system like the one the Catholics have, I reckon Rick should be first in line for beautification.

Like all churches worth attending, our chapel is more than just a place to follow rituals, or something that we do for no reason beyond total obligation. Although no two patients who attend the chapel are on the exact same level, our weekly gathering at 10.30 am is actually a valuable community of likeminded people.

Rick and Col (a Chapel volunteer) have both been there for me way more than my own family. These two guys have genuinely helped me in a dozen areas far beyond anyone else …

It’s been a gradual process, as I had a lot of psychotic excrement lodged in my mental pipes that needed to be unclogged: … I’ve been so ugly inside, a person who I wouldn’t even want to spit on, let alone be…but I’m getting there.