Chapter three of “Realm of Madness” is finally done! Sorry for not posting anything for the last few days. The chapter became longer than I thought it would be, but I still think it’s a good chapter. I added a lot of characteristic and backstory. I hope you enjoy it.
Chapter 3: My Diagnosis
Beyond the sliding glass door was our backyard. Large and colorful flowers decorated the ground. The grass was always neatly cut. An old willow tree that grew in the middle of the backyard shaded a polished white table with white fancy yard chairs sitting around it. On the table was a white vase with yellow orchids in it. A white picket fence separated our yard from the neighbor’s yard.
I found my great uncle sitting on the wooden bench on the back porch. “Great Uncle Arthur!” I shouted in glee. I ran up to him and wrapped my tiny arms around his waist. He chuckled in his gruffly and patted me on the head.
“I’m glad to see you too.” He said.
Arthur was the uncle of my father. He was about as tall my father, though, due to his bad back, he was hunched forward and looked shorter. He was over sixty and needed carry a wooden cane to help support him, but other than that he was perfectly healthy. His short, white hair was always combed back and tied into a ponytail. His bright blue eyes were always full of life and energy. He wore his usual black jacket over his usual white shirt, black pants, and black tie. My great uncle was the quintessential old man: wise, traditional, and a little grumpy at times. I loved him for it. For the longest time, he was my best friend and, through I could never say it aloud, I always felt better when he was with me.
I went to sit next to him on the bench. He looked me squarely in the eye and asked: “How are you feeling, Mary?” I could only shrug.
If you haven’t already figured out what was wrong with me, then I’ll just come out and say it: I was suffering from depression. It was because of my depression I was crying in the playground. I was always sad. Despair was constantly with me like a shadow. Somedays, it felt as if I was drowning in a sea of my own tears. It soon became harder and harder for me to get out of bed in the morning. Most days, I would refuse to eat anything. I isolated myself from my peers because I didn’t find the games that they would play enjoyable. I become so tired during the day that I sometimes sleep during my classes. The activities that the teachers would have us do didn’t bring me pleasure or joy. Almost nothing could make me happy.
It might seem odd considering how young I was. You usually don’t think about severe depression when you think about children. Children were, after all, symbols of innocence and joy. Children were supposed to bring happiness wherever they went; they didn’t get depression, only grow-ups did. Truth is, I was very different from other children. Though, I didn’t realize just how different I was until the day I spoke to Arthur.
It was June of last year; I was eleven-years-old. We were having a small get-together in the backyard as we did on most weekends. My mother, the hostess, as always, had invited most of the block. My father and Flint were in the den playing some kind of card game with my father’s friends from the army. I could hear their boisterous laughter, even from my spot on the back porch. Meanwhile, my mother and Marine were at the table, chatting with the other mothers while enjoying some meatloaf that my mother made. “Marine is the co-head cheerleader at her school, and Flint is the star player of his basketball team!” I heard my mother boast. From my seat, I watched the children of the other families played with our yard toys. I was the only child who wasn’t playing.
Then, Arthur came up to me. He sat next to me on the bench and we started talking. He asked me why I wasn’t playing with the other children. I just broke down. I told him everything, how angry and sad I was, how tired I was during the day, how I hadn’t been eating, how I was having trouble concentrating in school, and how I been having headaches or stomachaches; I even cried into my hands.
Arthur was a professor at a university in Jersey City, in the psychology department. Before that, he was a social worker at a middle school. Even at a young age, I knew he was well-versed in child psychology, so I immediately believed him when he told me: “I believe you are suffering from early-onset depression.”
“What’s that?” I asked in between sobs.
“It’s when a young child like you feels sadder than usual.”
“Just make it stop.” I murmured under my shaking breath.
Arthur began to rub my back in a comforting gesture. It was more than enough to quiet my sobs. I removed my face from my hands and looked up at him. “Don’t fret, Mary.” He told me. “We’ll make it stop. We’ll just need the proper treatment.” As he rubbed my back, I felt a contentment that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt as though I was being looked at for the first time. I don’t mean the regular way that someone looks at someone else, I mean the special way that someone looks at someone else. How do I describe it? Usual where someone just looks at you, they’re only looking at the superficial things like clothes or hair, but when someone really looked at you, they see more than hair or clothing. They see the aura that surrounds you, and they see inside your heart. That was what Arthur did. Somehow, saw my sadness, and then took the time to listen to my problems. There was probably over a dozen people at our house, but only he saw. I liked being looked at.
“I’ll talk to your parents about finding the right psychotherapist.” Said my great uncle. At the time, I didn’t know what a psychotherapist was, but I smiled nevertheless. Someone must had saw me cry and told my mother, because it wasn’t long before I noticed my mother making her toward us. I’ve seen mother worry about their children before, but there wasn’t a hint of worry on my mother’s face. Instead, there was only annoyance.
“What did you do?!” She said in voice loud enough to sound threatening, but silent enough so the other mothers or children couldn’t hear. It already angered me, the way she blamed Arthur. Any other person would had been offended, but Arthur didn’t let it get to him. As always, my great uncle was honest and told her that there was something seriously wrong with me. “Yeah, it’s you!” She snapped at him. She grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me inside the house. Great Uncle Arthur followed closely behind us. Once inside my mother yelled for my father. “Your good-for-nothing uncle is making our daughter cry!” She told him, eventhough it wasn’t true. Upon hearing this, my father turned to his uncle and started yelling profanities at him. Whenever I tried to use my voice, my father would yell at me to stay out of it.
Arthur never raised his voice, never swore, never fought back. He took my father’s anger like a champion. When it seemed that my father’s tirade was over, my great uncle spoke. He told them exactly what I told him, word for word. “I think Mary has depression. We must get a professional opinion to be sure.” But mother and father didn’t need a professional opinion. I could tell from the shock expressions on their faces that they believed him. For my father, shock quickly turned into anger. For my mother, shock turned into disgust. Arthur started to list the different treatments and medications we could try, but was he quickly interrupted by my father, who said that he wasn’t going to waste his money on drugs.
“We need to take every opportunity to help Mary!” My great uncle protested.
“No!” Shouted my father. “WE don’t have to do anything!” He said while gesturing in between him and my mother. He then pointed at Arthur. “YOU need to stay away from my daughter!”
“Keep your voice down!” My mother ordered. “Our guests will hear us.”
“So, you won’t take her to see a counselor?” Arthur asked.
“Absolutely not!” Exclaimed my mother. She continued, this time in a much lower voice. “What if one of my friends sees me taking her to a therapist. What if they find out that one of my children has a mental disease? What if they spread rumors about us? Do you know how long it took me create an image for us?!” As she finished saying this, she glanced toward the door that led to the backyard. I looked too and saw that the mothers were hunched together as though they were whispering among themselves.
“Now that’s just preposterous!” Said Arthur.
“Derrick, you know I’m right.” She said to my father. “These two are already ruining my party, do you want them to ruin our family name as well?”
“Susan, please.” Spoke Arthur to my mother. “Mary’s mental health is more important than-”
“Shut up, Arthur!” My father shouted, interrupting Great Uncle Arthur again. “Don’t ever talk to my wife like that, and don’t ever tell me how to take care of my child! She is my daughter, so I’ll handle it!”
“She needs proper treatment-” Arthur tried to explain before being interrupted by my father for a third time.
“She just needs to get over it and stop being so soft.” He said.
“She might try to hurt herself with treatment!” Arthur warned them. I think he was hoping to get a reaction out of them; something to get them to care.
Instead, my father, in a tone of voice that made him sound tough, said: “If she does, then it’ll be her own false.” With that, he wordlessly stomped back toward the den. Whenever he did that, it usually meant the conversation was over.
Once my father was gone, my mother stepped toward me. She kneeled so to be at eye level with me. In a stem voice, she said: “Mary, don’t tell anyone what happened here. What happens in this house, stays in this house. Understood?” Without thinking, I nodded my head. “Good girl.” She stood and faced my great uncle. She narrowed her eyes at him, then she signed. “If you want to help so much, Arthur, then you be her shrink.”
“I have a career, Susan.” Arthur protested. “I have papers to grade, students to teach. I can’t come up every week and-”
“I don’t care, Arthur!” She shouted. “Make it work!” Then she calmly walked back outside as if nothing happened.
And that how it started. Great Uncle Arthur began to see me and have “therapy sessions” with me. Sometimes, he would take me to the park and we’d play together. Other days, he would take me to see a movie and we’d talk afterward. This one time, he took me on the tour of the university where he worked. Arthur loved me like his own daughter, but he can’t always be there for me because of his career. We had no choice but to meet every other week; sometimes it was every other month.
I learned something new about my family on that day. I learned that my father not only hated his uncle, but he also hated weakness; couldn’t stand to be around weakness. He was a decorated member of the American military, he worked hard every day to provide for this family, he personally made sure that we had more then we needed, and he took pride in knowing that the family was strong. So, when he learned of my depression, he began saw to see me as the weak link of the family. I once asked Great Uncle Arthur why father was so hard-hearted. He told me that war had a way of changing people, that he didn’t mean to come across as uncaring, that my father was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that he refused to seek counselling.
My mother was a different story. For her, it was all about appearances. Since she didn’t work, she devoted her time to cleaning, gardening, shopping for new clothes, planning parties, and anything else that would make the house or the family look good. She pressured us into doing certain activities, wearing fancy clothes, and join certain clubs at us schools, all so she could boast to her friends about what wonderful children she had. She took pride in being a “trophy wife” and enjoying all the benefits of being married to a man with money. She was happiest when she was showing off a new and expensive to her friends; she would smile as her friends practically became green with envy. So, having such a wonderful life and still have a child with depression would look bad.
Oh, and if you’re wondering if my older sibling helped at all. Don’t waste your breath. Marine hated me the moment I came out of our mother’s womb. When I was first born, Marine refused to touch me. Flint, on the other hand, didn’t care about me at all. He didn’t even bother to feed me, even when I was crying. I don’t know how they found out, but when they did, they began to take turn whispering things in my ear while I was sleeping. They said things like, “Mom and Dad are going to put you up for adoption” and “You’re going to end up an orphan”. I knew it was them because, while they were doing it, I was awake. I had my eyes closed, but I was just pretending to be asleep. I heard my bedroom door open, I heard footsteps entering my room, and I recognize the hush voices of my siblings as they spoke into my ear.
Saved for Arthur, no one in my family cared or did anything about my depression. I was expected to neither act as though I was happy, or suffer in silence. Mother and father made me promise to never tell anyone outside of the family of my condition; to keep it “our little secret”. My father took it upon himself to monitor my mood. He would notice my lack of interest in things that previously gave me pleasure, and would punish me. Sometimes, when he was too busy, he would entrust Flint to “teach me a lesson”. As you can imagine, my depression only gotten worse and I soon became aloof toward others around me. I started not caring about what happened around me. It felt as though I was on autopilot and was just going through the motions. Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that my family were the cause of my depression. They were just one of many factors.