“What does this look like?”

I spent time on that one. It was my mind, I granted it no permission to grow wings and take flight on me. It did so anyways.

“They—the two people could be fighting over the puppy, like a tug-of-war with a leash?” That reminded me of my parents, who I haven’t thought about for ages. My parents divorced and they constantly fought over me and my sister.

I was placed in a provincially run reform school for deep-dyed and delinquent girls aged 11 to 19. The girls in this kind of place became wards of the province and the parents relinquished their rights as guardians. Many of us had committed trifling crimes. I myself had been caught smoking. This marked me as a girl “destined for adult criminality.” A bunch of baloney…

“You’re free to interpret the image in any way you see fit, there are no right or wrong answers here. Just give as many responses as possible…”

He recorded every answer I gave. My eyes darted back and forth on each card I was shown. Who would have guessed that a card 18 by 24 cms, and a wild imagination would bring about such a diagnosis?

This test served to assess how difficult or easy I would make life for the staff. It birthed the gnawing thoughts that somehow the psychologist possessed the power—that he could peer into my soul. This in turn forced me to look inside and wonder what it was that the psychologist could see. Did he not understand that I just was a child in need of nurturing?

He couldn’t see that. Apparently, my responses to the blots revealed answers that were highly personal, illogical, and bizarre.

This test had been a failure. The inkblot, allegedly, told a tale of a girl with schizophrenia. When really, I had been suffering from melancholia. Love was needed. Not an asylum for an unsound mind.

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Eric Radcliffe
Eric Radcliffe(@eric-radcliffe)
1 year ago

Wow! A very vivid journey into the troubled mind of a young persons soul, trying to come to terms with divorce, and other issues. This is really powerful Melissa, you can feel the anger and the loss at not being understood.

Daisy Blacklock
Daisy Blacklock(@daisy-blacklock)
1 year ago

I loved how you opened the story with a question. I really liked how you wrote ‘love was needed’. Some people indeed just need some love.

Sandra James
Sandra James(@sandra-james)
1 year ago

Such a heartfelt message in a beautifully written story, Melissa. A few years ago I taught a small class of teenagers who’d had dysfunctional upbringings through no fault of their own. Like your protagonist they needed love and caring. Fortunately, that program and organisation helped to provide it but I feel for the many who fall through the cracks. A sad story but thought-provoking and enlightening. Well done  ? 

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Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
1 year ago

A very insightful and sensitive picture of what it might have been like for a girl like your protagonist. I like the way you alternate between the psychologist’s words and the thoughts of the girl. Although he should know more, it is she who finally turns out to be the wiser and more human one, while his “educated” diagnosis is based on an artificial interpretation, forgetful of basic human needs. Congratulations to a great story, Melissa.

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
1 year ago

It is a very painful story of a teenager with a family problem that affected herself and her personality. I could feel her anger and grief. She needs more attention and love. Good job, Melissa.

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
1 year ago

You’re welcome, Melissa.

Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
1 year ago

Your story really gripped me Melissa. For some strange reason I’ve always had a fear of being accused of something serious that I was totally innocent of but unable to convince anyone of the truth! I think I might have watched too many of these type movies! My heart went out to this poor young girl being placed in an asylum when all she needed was love and understanding. A powerful story that really hits home.

Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
1 year ago

How very sad for your father’s friend Melissa, it sends shivers through me just thinking about it. Have you watched the movie ‘Changeling’? A true story of a mother in 1928 whose son goes missing only for the police to try to fob her off with another child they had found. She was sent to a mental hospital and on the verge of electric shock treatment when rescued. These stories are the stuff of nightmares.

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Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
1 year ago

It’s well worth a watch Melissa. I remember reading about Rosemary Kennedy, sister of President Kennedy, who suffered from mood swings and seizures and the family arranged for her to have a lobotomy. The poor girl was left incapacitated, unable to talk and institutionalised for the rest of her life. As you say, thank goodness times have changed.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
1 year ago

You’ve addressed this subject with great sensitivity and compassion Melissa. Psychiatry and psychology have changed so much, even since the 80’s when I was a student nurse. I had to witness ECT. It was one of the most barbaric things I’ve ever seen but, even at that time, at least diagnosis of mental illnesses had improved and there was greater understanding of the human mind. Some of the things that people, women in particular, were locked up for life in an asylum for, were simply ridiculous. Nicely done.

Last edited 1 year ago by Carrie OLeary
Julie Harris
Julie Harris(@julie-harris)
1 year ago

Melissa, have you seen the 1990 movie Beautiful Dreamers? It is based on the true story of a Canadian doctor who helped overhaul treatments for the mentally ill, and those incorrectly diagnosed. He was greatly influenced by the American poet Walt Whitman, and became his biographer. It is one of my favorite movies – I highly recommend it!

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