In October of 2022, we released our second Open Call: How might we view healing in mental health through art, letters, stories and poetry following the pandemic? The following is a story submission we received from this open call.
“My submission tells a story that explains how easy it is to neglect a person going through a mental illness. It speaks of possible causes and tho ga that can predispose one to mental illness and how easy it is to be judged by others as bring out of character. My story highlights how important having a strong support and how much love could help a person deal with mental illness while reminding people that the psychiatrists do help. It talks of a lady who had been quiet before becoming a murderer and explains that it was not sudden but a compilation of many factors.”
My parents used to be happy together or so I thought until the pandemic struck. Father had to stop work and so did my mother, I thought it would be a beautiful reunion. Everyone was on a break. The first month of the pandemic lockdown had everyone enjoying family time. We were all smiles but these smiles dwindled as the pandemic locked us up indefinitely for longer. The first sign of a downward curve was the shouts, my father and mother engaged in one of the first arguments I had ever witnessed. My mother was always calm like the ocean in the morning, still and peaceful, I had never seen her do anything but smile and pray. I wondered what the argument could have been about for her to act so out of character. A few days after, I woke up to see my mother’s eyes with dark circles. She had said it was a reaction, allowing me even touch it as she winced despite assuring me it was not painful. Another week passed by and my mother’s arm had dark patches when I woke up, my brother asked her about it and she said she fell in the bathroom. More weeks passed and mother had more skin injuries claiming one thing or the other, she mentioned being jobless at home as a reason. Then I stopped seeing the scars, my mother had begun wearing full makeup in the house. She would wear longer dresses saying they were more comfortable; she did not even have many so she wore a dress per week. I did not suspect a thing even though I knew my mother was the cleanest person I knew. We called her “OCD” jokingly when she asked us to change our outfits twice a day. My mother was changing, I thought she was relaxing better. I could see how thick the makeup layers on her face were, my mother’s face looked more like that of an albino while her neck remained the usual tone we knew. My mother did not remove her makeup until she was to go to bed. Only father could have seen her without the makeup. Then, mother stopped talking at home. She would not speak more than it was necessary. My brother and I babbled on in the kitchen and she would not even tell us to keep quiet. She remained quiet as though she was tired of the very essence of communication. As the days passed by, mother grew quieter. She would not even discuss the movies we were watching with us. She seemed to be staring at the television but not watching. Cooking had become my job only as mother forgot to cook or eat. We told father repeatedly but he told us all would be well. The lockdown restrictions got relaxed a bit and I thought things would be back to normal. Mother went back to work and so did father, mother did not seem excited still. She went to work once and never went again, she had tendered her resignation letter and refused to pick calls from the office. She did not say a word when I asked her why she refused to accept so many calls. Father recommenced his old routine, he got back home every evening, ate and went to bed. Mother started barely existing, losing weight and sitting in one place all day. Her thoughts were distracted, she did not even realise we had restarted school until I informed her of our upcoming tests. She could barely focus on our assignments. On a certain day, she received a call and I heard a scream. Running into her room, I saw her weeping loudly. I asked her what bad news she had received and all she could say was “it shall not be well with your father”. I quickly made a finger-snapping sound and waved my arm around my head to reject the words. I had started to care less about her and I just wanted her to be alright. That night however, she went to bed earlier than usual, she went in before four pm. She skipped dinner. I saw her the next day with red eyes, she looked like she had cried all night. She did not notice my movement towards her, she did not move her head or reply my greeting. I knew she had been strange but this was a new thing. As I moved to her front, I saw a knife. There was a thick red coloured stain covering the sharpest point on it, it did look like blood. I asked her if she had gotten injured while cutting anything, she did not respond. I moved her hands to check for scars but I only saw her hands were bloodied, it did not look like a scar, it looked like it splashed on her. I screamed. My brother ran out and started asking questions, “whose blood? what happened?”. Mother just shed more tears in silence. Then it hit me that my father was yet to come out. We ran into their bedroom and there it was- the unbelievable had happened. My father was in a pool of his own blood. As we screamed and cried, mother did not move. The only movement made was by her chest as she heaved. As we ran out to call our neighbours to help take my father to the hospital, my mother did not move. As everywhere became filled with noise and shouts, mother stayed still. As I shook her to come back to her sense, mother stayed put. The police came soon. That was when she moved, she followed them looking blank. She got arrested but she was cooperative, as though this was what she wanted. Our statements were taken at the police station, our neighbours’ too. Everyone asked time and time again, “what is her usual character like? How violent is she?”. We all mentioned that she was quiet. My mother was the sea, she was as calm as the sea and now, as devastating as it becomes. My mother was to be arraigned in court but before then, she got the privilege to see a psychiatrist. As she spent time on hospital admission at the psychiatric hospital, she began to speak. She explained that she had been aware of my father’s promiscuous nature but stayed back because of us. She could not ask for a divorce so she stayed quiet, she decided to die instead of leave. My father had hit her on the days she had scars and she had attempted to kill herself but could not bear to carry it out. My mother had left her job when she realised my father was sleeping with her colleagues during the pandemic. She had seen his phone calls and gallery filled with disturbing images of his escapades; she had determined to quit her job to avoid further shame. She felt worthless and wanted to take her own life as she realised that we left her to her bad moods. The pandemic had taken her friends away when she needed help. She felt uncared for by our action of being quiet, we were just kids but she needed us to take extra steps which we could not. On one night, my father had called her to explain that there was a lady that had had three kids for him and her family was being insistent on the performance of a full marriage rite. Mother refused and he had hit her again claiming she was too selfish and not understanding. Father went ahead with his plans, however. On the fateful day when she killed my father, she had received a call saying my father was currently at a marriage ceremony where he was the groom. That must have been why she screamed; she had no family to run to so she must have been scared to lose her only family. She was sent pictures of the wedding by the caller and that was the last straw that broke her camel’s back. I see mother at the hospital now, her eyes look livelier even though she was continually made drowsy from the medications. Mother smiles. Her storm has finally witnessed a calm but too much had been destroyed. Fatherless, my brother and I started living with my father’s sister. When mother gets healthier, she will be joining us there. We have been told that she would be needing our every support to keep her seas still. We will no longer watch her tides till it gets stormy, we will help still them. I miss my father, I never knew he hurt her so much.
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