Nursing Voices

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Jesus Three

Psychiatric nurses get to meet many famous people throughout our careers, well sort of. Sometimes we care for patients suffering from delusions of grandeur. When I was a student at a Veterans Administration hospital, I cared for many “A List” celebrities. I met President Harry S. Truman, the Virgin Mary, and Albert Einstein. I also had the honor of meeting three gentlemen on a unit, all claiming to be Jesus Christ. The unit nurses dubbed the trio “The Jesus Three.”

The Jesus Three were a happy trio that spent a lot of time together in the unit’s sunroom, reading the Bible and debating religion. They also walked through the unit baptizing other patients and the staff. I felt a gentle mist of water landing on the back of my neck one day as I was talking to one of my patients in the dayroom. I turned around and found one of the men with a plastic spray bottle. He smiled as he baptized me and said he was saving my soul. I thanked him, and went on with my conversation.

I couldn’t understand how these gentle souls ended up in the hospital. They never yelled or cursed, and they helped out the nursing staff by feeding patients who couldn’t feed themselves. I also saw them writing letters for those who couldn’t read or write, and chatting with patients who never received any visitors. I found out later that their family members didn’t want to deal with “peculiarities,” so they had them committed into the hospital. That sort of thing was commonplace back then, and unfortunately they got swept up in an unfair system.

Nurses are taught never to feed into a patient’s delusions, but on the last day of my psychiatric clinical rotation, I just had to ask them how they could all be Jesus Christ. After all, didn’t the Bible say that there was only one true Messiah? They all looked at me and smiled. One of the men said, “I guess that just proves that the spirit is among us.”

Maybe angels really do walk among us on psychiatric units.


Blogger Runs With Scissors said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Runs With Scissors said...


This is an interesting phenomena you post about that makes me recall my "BN" (Before Nursing) days. A hundred years ago and before I was a nurse, I was a social worker for about 10 years, which included a 4 year stint on an emergency psych ward at the local county trauma center ... on weekend nights. Believe me, we certainly saw our share of florid psychosis.

The degree of hyper-religiosity always seemed directly proportionate to the degree of psychosis, and that always really amazed me. I, too, have met many Jesus, Adam, Eve, and Satan personalities to name but a few. One particularly interesting fellow was Jesus on the right half of his body and the Devil on his left half. Talk about one masterful internal struggle!

That was one job where there was absolutely NEVER a dull moment! It was fascinating, but extremely frustrating as a social worker due to the "repeat customers", primarily related to lack of community resources. It was definitely sometimes dangerous, but I do occasionally miss those intriguing patients! My nursing cap is off to you!

5:51 PM  
Blogger jaz said...

"Two men say they're Jesus
One of them must be wrong"

- Dire Straits

6:25 PM  
Blogger Health Watch Center said...

Hi Mother Jones,

Interesting post...thank you for sharing...

Maybe angels really do walk among us on psychiatric units...they among angels... keep the good working going...I am new here wanted to say hi...

Self Help Zone

7:19 AM  
Blogger Margaret Amoss, LPC said...

I think this may be my favorite blog. I have been reading for a few months and your consistency wins points! As do the period pictures. You are a multi-talented woman! Keep it up!

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

they do. and you are blessed to meet them at work :)


10:17 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

To take some of the load off of the other residents and to be so memorable in helping others is what it is all about. Whether they were "Jesus" or not they showed his love in tangible ways and thats pretty cool.

12:42 PM  
Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

What a great answer that was -- and him supposed to be the crazy one, too.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

runs with scissors,

There was an episode of the original Star Trek series that involved a couple of characters who were black on one side and white on the other. The episode was really about racism, but one could easily read much more into the plot.

1:25 PM  
Blogger SQT said...

It is hard to imagine that such sweet souls could be put away like that. It just seems to harmless. In fact, they seem more interested in helping than anything else.

I don't think I could do your job; it would just break my heart.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Spelunker said...

This post made me smile. I needed that. Thanks!

7:57 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

I've never met Jesus, but I know several doctors who think they're God.....

10:09 PM  
Blogger Gerbil said...

The real question is whether this tale involves three patients or nine.

The secret to inflating your census: Triune patients!

11:05 PM  
Blogger Doc's Girl said...

I think there are angels all around us. :) The patients that made my day in the ER were the cute, well behaved kids who were sick but didn't let it bother them...

As for the Jesus patients, mental illness is something that has a lot of fine lines with it. In the trios case, it was harmless and probably helpful to the staff. But...what happens when they "get a message from G-d?" That's when some of the horrific news stories show up...

These guys sound like they have a clue what things Jesus would have done (feeding patients, being pleasant). :)

5:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a lovely story.
The trio dont seem crazy at all to me with that kind of reply.
Makes us think about what the human soul is capable of.


5:48 AM  
Blogger Sinsaint said...

Religion lends itself well to nuttiness. I appreciate that you treated that human quirk with gentle good humor rather than using it to bash religion and all who embrace it.

7:13 AM  
Blogger MM said...

After a draining night at work, I found your post uplifting and enjoyable :)

9:15 AM  
Blogger RNFaye said...

"I couldn’t understand how these gentle souls ended up in the hospital."

After reading your post neither do I!!

How is it that these individuals are committed and others who have an obvious mental illness and potential homicidal ideations are left untreated, without help, to destroy the lives of many,many people including themselves?{Virgina Tech}

You may not have an answer for this, but I wonder what role the mental health system could have played to to help this kid and prevent this tragedy. According to the media it was apparent to his teachers and other students that he was disturbed.

I would love to read your insight into the mental health system and the policies associated with it.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Bo... said...

I remember one psych patient who was committed to our institution after being found running up and down a Jewish Temple claiming he was a rabbi. Every morning, when the psych doc would make rounds, we could hear this patient in his room, awaiting his exam, whistling cheerily: "If I Were a Rich Man". (It always made me giggle and the psych doc would look at me sternly.....)

12:21 PM  
Blogger Spirit of 1976 said...

I thought the obvious answer is that the reason there's three of them is because one's the Father, one's the Son and one's the Holy Spirit?

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I think I met 2 of them before. We called them "dualing jesuses." That was an interesting few months. I worked at the state psych hospital in Northern Virginia. I don't know what I would have done if there had been 2 of them!

9:54 AM  
Blogger Forgotten Blue Line said...

So you and I are on the same page. I recently on my blog out out a bolo (be on the look out) for god. He just keeps popping up.
When I was back in southern California I had a women convinced she was Mrs. Ronald Regan and she would scream our National Anthem. Then she kept trying to hug me because I looked fat and hugable. Then she would go back to reciting famous speaches from Regan.

12:37 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

Faye RN made me think. I'm a psychiatric social worker, although I do outpatient services. Even people with very gentle and helpful delusions can need hospitalization if they can't care for themselves. They might depend on manna and not eat unless it really does fall from heaven, for example.

But I get the impression that this occurred in the past, when people were institutionalized. Now we have gone in the other direction, where people who really need care can't get it unless they are an immediate threat to others. The V Tech shooter would have to have shown up voluntarily in an ED stating that he had a gun and was planning to kill people now to even be admitted to a psych unit.

Where do individual civil rights end and community rights begin? I think there must be a happy medium between permanent institutionalization and inability to get care except at the instant of violence.

6:26 PM  

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