When the past comes calling.

The clang of the doorbell jolts me awake.  I sit up with a start, my head all fuzzy from sleep. Who the hell is it? I wonder, as I try to waken my senses.  I glance at the clock to see it’s 6.00 in the morning.  Whoever is at the door seems to have absolutely no manners. Uncouth is the word that springs to mind. Guess I am very much awake now!

I stagger towards the door on hearing the bell ring again. We don’t have visitors at this hour, ever. Who does, unless it’s the milkman, or the newspaper guy? Cursing whoever it is on the other side of the door, I unlatch it and open it wide. And, I see her standing there, suitcase in hand and a big smile on her lips.

My heart starts pounding insanely,  my throat feels parched. I open my eyes wide and stare, openmouthed.  Is it really ma-in-law?  I almost say aloud as I move aside to let her in. Oh dear God! Didn’t she pass away some  time ago?  Am I dreaming? Or is it for real? Oh god, but, it feels so real!

I feel the blood drain from  my body; my  life getting sucked out of me.  I am too stunned to speak. This so feels like a page straight out of history, when she would be going through one of her episodes. I would be in the exact same condition I find myself in now.

I hear her talking excitedly about how she needed a change of scene so she decided to leave her village and come back here. “Back home,” she says.

I mumble something I fail to comprehend.  My mind’s in a daze as I try to make sense of what’s happening.

She keeps chattering happily and I keep nodding my head like an idiot. She hardly sits to catch her breath and heads straight to the kitchen. I follow her there, mechanically. “Thoda chaha ghetey,  fresh vaatel,” she says as she  opens the kitchen drawer to bring out  the teapot.

I remember, she seldom liked someone else preparing tea for her. Even when her hands trembled from the aftereffects of the anti-psychotic drugs, she prepared her tea on her own.  She brings out the teapot and places it on the platform, all the while talking animatedly about her stay at her village, And, as she turns to fill it with water, she accidentally knocks  a cup off the platform and sends it crashing to the floor.

And I open my eyes. I am wide awake now, and still confused. My heart still thumping madly, my head whirling as I try to come to my senses. I find myself unable to breathe. I look around to find hubby sleeping peacefully, and myself in bed. That’s when I realise it was all just a dream. Rather, a nightmare.

Aai  passed away three years ago, to be precise. Good for her – the poor soul had suffered all her life. She had not a single mean bone in her body.   But, her mind had been taken over by a dreaded demon.

The demon called ‘schizophrenia’, that ravaged her entire system and  caused havoc in our home. And, left me terrorised.

Maybe because I found it difficult to accept the situation, or  digest the bitter truth of our life, I haven’t been able to completely forget, or let go of the past. Maybe that is why, even after all these years, her thoughts, her words that come to mind some times, leave me unnerved.

No. She was not the one who traumatised me. It was the demon, who did. As he does now, too.

17 years is quite a long time to live with a demon.  But, when I think about her, my heart goes out to her.

She lived with that demon for almost forty years.

I am glad she found peace at last.

I hope I do, too.

47 Replies to “When the past comes calling.”

  1. It would have been so hard for her and you as well! The demons are bad:-(
    I knew someone too who suffered something similar and it’s not pretty I know!
    Take care!

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  2. Shilpa, the opening and entire narration written so well that engaged me to the score and captured my soul thinking it’s fiction. They say, when someone close shook us off our reverie, the gentle souls visit us in real. I have made some experience but not scary at all. It was not during the sleep but in reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Having a terrorist called schizophrenia at home is worse than what you can envision. You have narrated the whole experience so beautifully. Have known someone close go through the pain. And yes it is good that they finally found peace .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is indeed a terrorist, SK. And, it saps the entire family of its energy and confidence. And, as harsh as it may sound, death is the one thing that gives them complete freedom from that terrorist, isn’t it? Their meds just manage to hold them together somehow. 😦

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  4. I was also a little bit confused that is fiction or real…?but you had written it so wonderfully, being a homeopathic therapist I had seen so many cases like this. and I know it is so hard to live with such diseases. and it not only affects the diseased person but the whole family as well.

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  5. you had expressed your emotions and whole story so well. I almost had tears in my eyes. yes! living with this kind of conditions so hard. and it not only affects the diseased person but it affects the whole family as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it is indeed very difficult, Ritu. I am glad we had a wonderful psychiatrist who made things easier to control. My heart goes out to those who don’t get the right treatment and suffer their entire lives!

      Thank you for visiting! 🙂

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  6. So very sad, Shilpa. My heart goes out to your late mil and to you guys too. It must have been very tough the schizophrenia. And dreams they seem so real sometimes. Maybe they tap the subconscious that we try to lock away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Rachna. There are so many things we go through in life that affect us in such a way, we try to hide it all in some remote corner of our mind. But, they come back to haunt us taking us unawares and leaving us disturbed.

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  7. Schizophrenia is hard to live with especially without the right medications. While the person suffering struggles a lot, so too do the loved ones. It is certainly a demon that takes over the entire family. I’m glad your MIL found peace in the end.

    Re your writing, I enjoyed the narrative style of it and how the nightmares and trauma still haunt you. I would have preferred you referring to your MIL the way you did in real life as for some reason, ‘mom-in-law’ had a jarring tone to an otherwise beautifully written piece. {p.s. that’s my personal preference, btw!}

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    1. Thank you so much, Sanch, for pointing it out to me. I made the changes as I, too, agree. I used to call her, “Aai”, but I couldn’t use that word the first time I referred to her, because I call my mother Aai, too. But, I changed it to Aai the second time I refer to MIL.

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    1. Oh my! Anagha…please don’t heap such superlatives on me, dear! I know I don’t deserve it. it was a big thing for me, no doubt. But, when I look back, I think Aai had it tougher than we all did.

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  8. This is such a hard situation and you have dealt with it well. In terms of concrit, the opening sentence was a bit harsh: The doorbell rings with a deafening screech.This is not the way doorbells usually sound (although maybe it did for you so I”m not passing judgment !).

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      1. I made the changes Stacie. I did think of leaving the sentence as it is, but the thought of having an error right in the beginning of my post made me feel all OCD-ish! 😛
        Thank you for pointing it out to me!

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  9. Caregivers really don’t get enough credit or attention for their struggle. I liked the way you chose to write about that aspect of living and loving someone (your MIL) who suffered from schizophrenia. I also like the way you separate her illness from who she really was, because so many people still cannot do that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does get difficult to separate the victim from their illness to who they really are..but, I feel doing so softens the blow on us, maybe, and help us realise that behind all that they are going through, they are just like us -a helpless human being.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I like how you have the MIL barging in unwelcome — just as the nightmare is unwelcome. And — on a personal note — what a difficult situation for all of you. I am sorry that her life was so difficult for her, and, by extension, the rest of your family.

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  11. I am so sorry that you both had to experience that. My sister also has schizophrenia, but it’s relatively mild. I applaud you for dealing with it in such an open way without veering into too much sentimentality. I like that you dealt with it as a dream, but when you mentioned (at the beginning of the dream) that it was a dream, it took me out of the flow a bit. I kept thinking, “Would she be that aware of it being a dream and still be so caught up?” That said, the overall structure worked for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to be petrified of the whole thing – MIL, and her illness – so much so, I would fear slipping into depression, or something worse. So, yes, even in my dreams, it disturbs me no end. I find it difficult to separate my dream from the reality that was.

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