The audible warning alarm put Oak Field Psychiatric Hospital staff on high alert. Staffers knew the siren meant a staffer is in a life-threatening situation. The hospital immediately went into lock-in- place status.
“Paging Doctor Simms to the Recreation Area—stat!” Blares through the P.A. system.
Doctor Simms sprints through a labyrinth of halls to the recreation area. Winded, he burst into the rec area to find the security guards herding patients on the left side of the room. While Helen Davis, eyes rapidly blinking, leans against the far wall restraining Social worker Claudia Brown, in a rear stranglehold.
“I’m all better! I don’t belong here!” Helen rants.
Doctor Simms, her log-time psychiatrist, cautiously approaches her. With arms held out and palms up, he calmly talks to Helen.
“Helen, why are you doing this?”
Doctor, I keep telling you, I don’t belong here! I want to go home!”
“Okay. How does holding Ms. Brown help you achieve the goal of going home?”
Helen sighs and eases her hold on the social worker.
“Has Social worker Brown done anything to upset you, Helen?”
Helen drops her arm from around the social worker’s neck. “No. She’s always nice to me. I’m sorry, Ms. Brown.”
The counselor side steps away but watches Helen out the corner of her eye.
“Counselor Brown, please go to the infirmary to see the nurse.”
“I feel fine, doctor.”
“Nonetheless, I think you should see the nurse.”
Ms. Brown leaves the room. On a nod from Doctor Simms to the security guards, the rest of the patients resume their activities.
Helen plops down in the lounge chair, gazing out at the foliage. In the window, she watches the reflection of Doctor Simms. His intern now stands beside him. “Why am I still here, doctor?”
When the doctor didn’t respond, suddenly, Helen whips around. Startled, the intern gasps and drops her pen.
Helen glares at the intern. “What the Hell you looking at?”
The intern takes a step backward. Doctor Simms grabs her arm.
With a scowl, Helen looks the intern up and down. “Your writing bad things about me on your little clipboard, aren’t you?”
Helen eases herself to the edge of the chair. Her eyes wide and her nostrils flaring. Her face streak with sweat. Doctor Simms senses Helen is ready to attack.
Without looking at the intern, Doctor Simms whispers, “Quick, introduce yourself.”
The intern steps forward and smiles. “Good morning, Mrs. Davis? My name is Mary. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Helen sits back. For a moment, the gentle voice confuses Helen.
Helen chuckles. “Mary, you say. My baby girl’s name is Mary. She’s a sweet baby, so you must be a sweet person too.”
They exchange smiles. “I think I am a pleasant person, Mrs. Davis.. Do you mind talking with me?”
Helen glances at the doctor as if to get his approval. When the doctor nods, Helen blurts out, “Did you know my husband Jack never brings our sweet daughter Mary to visit me?” Helen pauses for a moment, trying to collect her thoughts. I guess he’s ashamed of me being in this place.”
Mary gives the doctor a brief look before answering. “I’m sorry to hear that, Mrs. Davis.”
After looking sad and confused, Helen pronounces, “You can call me Helen.”
“Okay, Helen, it is.”
“You want to know a secret?” Helen began motioning Mary closer. “ I know my name, Helen Davis. I remember my husband’s name is Jack. I know my baby girl’s name, Mary. I recognize it’s Fall outside. But, I’m struggling to remember the date past the 9th of the month.”
Before replying to Helen, the intern looks at the doctor.
“Mary, “the doctor firmly reminds her, “this is your interview. I’m just an observer.’
Mary nods. “Why do you think you can’t remember past the 9th of the month?”
In exasperation, Helen leans back and closes her eyes.
‘I don’t know. I’ve tried and tried to get past this. But I can’t.”
“Would you mind if I tried to help you?”
Helen perks up and wipes her tears away.
“Can you? Do you think you can help me?”
Mary smiles at Helen. “If you trust me, I think I can help.”
Helen nods in agreement.
“So, Helen, tell me everything you remember about the 9th day of the month.”
A peaceful expression eases over Helen’s face. She clears her throat, and in a deliberate voice, she begins.
“I remember, I was up for days because my sweet Mary wouldn’t stop crying. Around five took my Clozaril pills. I tried to get my sweet Mary back to sleep. But she kept crying, you know? I think around this time, I took more medicine. Jack came downstairs ready for work. I was sobbing. He didn’t ask me what was wrong. He just asked for his breakfast. I tried to tell him for days that I wasn’t feeling well. Jack said it was all in my head. I thought I was slipping back into postpartum depression. He laughed at me and said I just imagined it. He expressed regrets about being married to me. He yelled at me. He said I was a horrible mother, which was why my sweet Mary kept crying. I ran to the bathroom and took more pills. I sat on the edge of the tub and cried. Jack banged on the door and said he had to leave. I pleaded with him to stay home. He yelled at me and said no, he had an important sales meeting. I came out of the bathroom, and a stranger stood at the top of the stairs. Before I could call out, the stranger pushed Jack down the steps. I heard my sweet Mary crying. I ran downstairs to save her from the stranger. But, I was too late. The stranger snatched my Mary, placed her in the sink, and…”
Helen buries her face in her hands and starts mumbling to herself.
Mary leans forward and asks, “Helen, did you recognize this stranger?”
Helen lifts her head. Anger, then fear, and finally surprise, registers on Helen’s face. Her body slouches—her stare, vacant.
Doctor Simms touches his intern’s arm and shakes his head.
He speaks to the orderlies, “You can take Helen back to her room. Please, play her video.”
Compassionately, he offers. “You’ll never reach Helen now. Once she realizes that the ‘stranger’ who killed her husband, Jack, and sweet Mary is her, she drifts back into a mental state of depression and insanity.”
Mary sits contemplating what the doctor said. “Is there a cure for her?”
Doctor Simms shakes his head. “No, Mary, I’m afraid not. Everything she told you happened on the 9th of the month. Helen’s guilt and grief won’t allow her to process past the 9th of the month. Helen will always live in this vicious cycle.”