“I detest that I live far far away from the sea. I always want to feel the calm sea breeze across the contours of my face. And I live in the city, anyway. No lakes or seas whatsoever.” She was cut off the moment she took a breath between her words.
“You know where we are right now, Jane?” She peeked through her glasses to glance at her. They are back to reality.
“Yes, Doctor. I know I am in a hospital.”
“Wonderful,” Sylvia replied. “I want you to tell me the story you mentioned last time. Can you do that for me?” Her sincere voice was not that sincere with the look she keeps giving her. It has been 2 months and she feels like she has gotten nowhere with her therapy. It was on March 4 she was nudged to visit the clinic for an afternoon and her surprise visit was changed into an admission. Before she knew it she was in a hospital with the likes of her. And today is May 5th.
“So, tell me, Jane. Why do you feel like you got two options only?” Sylvia insisted. She is the senior psychiatrist and she is not friendly at all. She reminds her of her mother to some extent. But she never consciously admitted that fact. Sylvia cleared her throat to make Jane start talking.
“Yeah. I remember what I said. But you know…” she hesitated. Sylvia drops the paper on the table to give her the common guidelines on how this would work. This time Jane cleared her throat and started to spill her gut. At least she pretended to.
“I know. I know how this works. You don’t have to remind me every time. It is just … I feel like I am trapped. My ultimate choices are either to be mad or broken. I don’t want to be considered mad. That is loud and noticeable to everyone else. Nor do I want to be broken. I don’t want to feel the cracks in my life with every step I am taking. More importantly, I don’t wish to be concealed every moment of the day as if I am made of eggshells. But the other choice is not better either. Look at Sarah, my roommate here. She is mad. And I am her only friend. I am the only person she talks to. Everybody seems to be afraid of her. I don’t want to become her. I don’t want to be mad.” Jane pressed her hands on both sides of her head to make the headache stop. She knows it doesn’t work. But it never stopped her from doing it. She feels like she can catch her overflowing thoughts with that simple act. As if that would ever work. Suddenly she scoffs and looked in Sylvia’s direction. But Sylvia said nothing except push her spectacles back to their places.
Jane kept staring at the ugly grey wall for full two minutes. And she started talking again. “Look, I am not saying this is just for me. I think the whole world is trapped in some time capsule. Maybe we are living in some weird simulation. But I look at everyone and I see their brokenness written all over their faces. Some cover it with humor. Others conceal it with productivity. And the rest have some good denial stories to bury the pain. And the mad, the openly mad are either yelling on the streets or locked out in a madhouse.” She giggled after she called it a madhouse.
Sylvia explained how she must stop calling it that. But Jane wondered if Sylvia was explaining this to make herself feel better. Who would like to work in a madhouse, anyway?!
“Go on,” said Sylvia.
“I think that has covered it all. I don’t think there is another way to exist in this world. You keep telling me that I will get better,” she started pulling her sleeves down while she crosses her legs on the chair. It was getting late. The sun is setting and she wanted to get back to her bed so badly.
“So, you don’t think you will be healed? Is that it?” The doctor called back her attention again.
“What is healing, anyway? You just survive this world until you cannot. Why do I have to drive myself crazy for something hypothetical? Something which doesn’t exist? Are you healed? Are you completely fine? Am I going to be you when this is over?” She was raising her voice now.
Sylvia ceased taking her notes and looked her in the eyes. She knew she hated that. Jane hated to be recognized as an alive person. She felt more dead and unnoticed in the entire universe. But Sylvia didn’t break eye contact. She kept looking at her.
“I cannot take this anymore!” She is yelling now. “You have to let me out of here. I can’t do this. You are wasting your time and you know it. Look, you can help Sarah or that other girl. Or someone else. Just not me. You have not failed. I am just tired and I am making you waste your time over a lost case.” Her voice broke. But she did not cry. Deep down, she believed in what she just said. She knew that she was a lost cause.
“Is that why you tried to kill yourself for the 4th time?” Sylvia finally uttered the elephant in the room.
“I was hoping we would not talk about that today,” Jane said half smiling.
“Why are you smiling? That is not remotely funny.” Sylvia seemed cross now. Jane knew she had heard about the recent attempt and that was why she was attempting to fill the conversation with a jargon.
“Go on, let us talk about that. You think you’re trapped and you don’t have a choice. So, you should be punished with death? Is that it? Oh, and you’re the justifier? Let us talk about that, shall we?” Her attuned voice is weirdly irritating. She wished she was yelling at her. Or blaming her for the unspeakable deed. But she suddenly laughs and started talking.
“Wait, why do we feel like death is the unspeakable topic?” Jane continued. “As if it is sacred. I can talk about death. I am not scared of it.”
“I don’t want you to romanticize the idea as if it gives your life a purpose,” Sylvia said for the hundredth time.
“But if you think about it, it does. Truly. Do you know how many people change their lives when they know the estimated date they have left to live on? Do you know how death is a true motivation for anything we do? Do you ever wonder that we are dying more than we are living?”
“Okay. Okay. You know what I want you to talk about. I want you to tell me how it felt.” Sylvia sounded a little irritated this time. Her monotonous voice was out of sorts.
“Surviving it is not fun at all. I am dreading it. As I am dreading this conversation right now.” Jane continued to smile.
“Look, Jane. I know it has been hard to stay in this institution. But if you keep doing this, you know I can’t let you go. Most importantly, there is nothing called beyond help. You are not beyond help. Just let us help you. You know you can be helped.”
Jane swallowed a sob at that sentence. Sylvia kept muttering the usual reprimands about life. And her medications. But she was zoned out in her tiny universe. And her head was buzzing with strange voices telling her how she can masterfully escape this place. For now, she has given up on the idea of killing herself. It seemed far-fetched. 4th time was not the charm. At all.
“Jane…Jane…”Sylvia almost touched her with her pen.
“Yeah, I am listening.” She cleared her throat again.
“Even though the so-called ultimatum exists, you can always create your third option. The key is all about managing it. Don’t let either your brokenness or your madness overflow over you. Madness can be beautiful, too. Brokenness can sprout. It is all about managing it. And that is what we are trying to do, here.”
“Yes, doctor.” She quietly muttered. She just wanted it to be over.
“Good, I think we can go on from here next time. Can you promise you will take your meds in front of the nurses?”
“Yes, as long as they don’t bother me with their history taking day and night. I won’t make progress within 12 hours, we all know that!”
“I will tell them not to bother you with that. Anything else?”
“Yes, don’t do rounds on me either. I am not a prize stock to be looked at. I am just depressed. I won’t talk about it in front of ten people anyway.”
“That was just last week. We heard from the other patients, too. It won’t happen again.”
“So I shall see you next Thursday?” Sylvia marked her calendar.
“Sure, where else shall I go anyway?”
“I am kidding. I hope you will tell me about that ultimate healing state, though. Not the medical jargon. Just your thoughts. Off the record, if you want,” she covered her mouth slightly saying the last sentence as if it is a secret.
“If you promise to keep writing,” Sylvia smiled.
Jane rolled her eyes and left the exam room with her head bowed and her hoody covering half her face. She crossed the tiny bridge to her room and hid herself in the bed until the urge to yell that she prefers to be mad than broken passed. “1…” deep sigh. “2…” deeper. “and 3” It was gone and her earphone was loud enough to drown the voices in her head.