2013 STORGY SSC SHORTLISTDAY 10 – HER DEPENDENCY BY OLIVIA MULLIGAN

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2013 STORGY SHORT STORY COMPETITION SHORTLIST

DAY 10

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HER DEPENDENCY

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by

Olivia Mulligan

The curtains are closed and so are her eyes. A dainty, but not beautiful girl lies on the sheets with the duvet covering her from her toes to her chin. After several nights the bed sheets still seemed well ironed. There are no creases, no playful wrinkles. She rarely sleeps and when she does she doesn’t fidget. She no longer has dreams and her thoughts are slow. She lies on her back with her arms by her side.  She isn’t dead, she’s breathing; but the corpse like figure mirrors the new artificial structure of her mind. The recent prescriptions of antipsychotic drugs seem to be having an effect.

I am the voice inside her head. As a result of the daily dose of clozapine, I’m quieter now.

She tickles the tomato ketchup with her tongue. She scoffs her bagel. She remembers how to chew. As she gulps, her Mother pretends not to watch. There’s an interaction of gesture between the two female Farrens as Rosanna gives her the almost finished breakfast plate. Her mother smiles a smile more than a smile. However an embrace would be too much.

As Rosanna bathes and cleanses herself in the feeling of ease, I struggle to catch a breath. Before the combination of medication and therapy, I would be greedily feasting on Rosanna’s remaining sanity. But recently she has stolen my piggish appetite. I’m not hungry.

Art class begins at 9.30am. The Farren household floods with normality as her Mother holds the front door slightly open with one hand – keys, handbag and sunglasses collide in her other hand. Then, by glancing to see that the time is approaching 9, and encouraged by the chilly breeze sneaking through the gap, she calls to see if Rosanna is almost ready to go. The underweight, ill, smiling girl hurries down the stairs and they leave the house.

At 9.30am Rosanna’s therapy begins. It’s a square room. Perfectly square. It’s on the third floor of what used to be the old Grammar school. The laminate flooring detracts from the beauty of the high ceiling and rusty beams. I don’t like this room. But if Rosanna had the choice, she would never leave. The bodies in the room are scratching canvases and flicking through sketchbooks. Human hands are violently or delicately drawing; yet the room has the power to feel still and quiet. Penny controls this power as she paces, white wall to white wall in a close to silent fashion. Her ballet-style pumps kiss the cheap flooring as she monitors each character’s work. She doesn’t stand too close. However Rosanna secretly wishes she would lean in closer and her dopamine levels seem to regulate when Penny is near. ‘Look at my painting. Tell me it’s good’ Rosanna thought to herself.

In this room there are nine people (ten including Penny). Boys and girls, men and women. They range from a sixteen year old girl to a sixty-one year old man. The room shelters these nine people, Penny, sketchbooks and paintings, and the voices inside their heads.

Therapy, for Rosanna, means clearer cognitions. However for me it means casting fewer persecutory delusions. I fear that today, during therapy, I won’t cast any at all. Her growing strength means I exist glumly in her hippocampus. Perhaps I shall glide through her frontal and temporal lobes. But for what?  Her recent artificial brain structure means I have no purpose. Now, all that is apparent to me is the desire to withdraw and insert thoughts into Rosanna’s conscious mind but uncomfortably know that this want and need cannot be fulfilled. The 300mg daily dose of clozapine and the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy strive together to control her misfiring dopaminergic neurons. A teamwork, a bond between herself and the clozapine is formed as they sooth the misfiring dopamine, and teach the receptors to pretend to be normal. The therapy alone won’t completely eliminate the hallucinations and paranoid delusions. It is a combination of both therapy and drugs that is necessary. Her sense of normality depends on it.

White, red and blue – Rosanna particularly enjoys mixing the colours. The lilac acrylic dribbles onto her blank background. Her scrawny, blotchy hand strokes the canvas and the delicate movement from her shoulder blade to the tip of the bristles creates yoga like breaths. Her flaky skin absorbs some of the acrylic blood and she’s made a bit of a mess on her light pink blouse. The seventeen year old inspects the rapidly crusting paint that has flicked onto the cotton. She tries to scratch it off but that only creates a purple that is more intense. Soon her eyes move away from her invisible breasts as she dreamily stares at her painting once more. She’s in a trance of bliss. Penny hums a whisper to announce that there are only ten minutes of the class remaining.

Rosanna’s Mother is leant on the car at the gates of the Grammar school as lurking outside the art room would be rather patronising for her daughter, especially when she is doing so well. Her Mother smiles. “Did you have a good morning?” Only silence responds and they both climb into the Nissan and drive into Tuesday afternoon. Until 11.22am the only voice that could be heard was a lunchtime Radio 2 presenter. At 11.23am Rosanna says, “I painted Bobby.”                                                                                                                                             “That’s lovely Rosanna. Were you in the picture too?”

It was a long drive. Too long a drive for a normal family to drive their daughter to horse riding lessons. But the advice from Dr Burton’s Practice leads them to Greenthorpe Stables which is beyond the outskirts of town. Rosanna is quiet but her two faced dopamine receptors will not rest as they continue to indulge and feast on false normality. I sink into her suffocating frontal lobe as she and her Mother greet Jo. Jo is a could-be-pretty lady, perhaps turning forty. She has a familiar smile and a loud voice but always looks rather tired. Her son suffers from Bipolar disorder, which is why, I believe, she dismounted from her predictable livery business and took on Greenthorpe Stables with the financial and educational help of Dr Burton. The influence of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is apparent in her teaching and seems to have a great success rate with patients such as Rosanna.

Bobby is waiting. A 14.2 dappled grey chomps on his bit and rests his right hind leg. His stable smells of haylage and saddle soap. Treated like a prince, he’s not like a horse at a normal Riding School, but he gives the impression that he is owned by a little girl who takes great pride in his appearance. A silky dappled pattern, combed mane, a freshly washed tail, bright eyes and a velvety muzzle so velvety, you have to touch it again. This is all because of Jo. Fourteen horses and ponies that are stabled at Greenthorpe are treated with true compassion and beauty. This compassion triggers Rosanna’s unconscious mind: The feeling of closeness with Bobby and the feeling of understanding with Penny and Jo.

Rosanna fastens her hat strap and adjusts the stirrup length whilst her Mother sits in the car with the heating on full, reading Woman’s Weekly – horse hair gives her a runny nose.

Rosanna has ridden Bobby for twelve consecutive weeks now, and although there are other horses she could ride, part of Jo’s structure of learning (influenced by Dr Burton) is heavily focused on creating a bond. This bond strikes once more as Rosanna greets the beautiful, trustworthy creature in the stable and then leads him out into the outdoor arena. Jo walks close by.  The lesson begins with groundwork as they wander the arena with great purpose on foot. Here they focus on body language – the unthreatening kind that will create this special bond. Breathing techniques are used too. As she breaths I don’t disturb her.

Mrs Farren inks her savings onto a piece of paper as she writes the weekly cheque of fifty pounds, made out to Josephine MacCallum. The car stinks of horse and damp straw; her Mother reaches for a Kleenex. Rosanna sits quietly and she is content. How tiring this is. Her what seems to be never-ending normality is still apparent, making her painfully caress me in her foreign hippocampus.

She’s naked in the bath. Rosanna soaks her ugly skin as her Mum puts the horsey clothes in the wash and makes a start on the evening meal. The lavender bath salts mimic the work of the clozapine – hiding the embarrassing, the unwanted, and creating something more pleasurable. Disguising the stench. Rosanna is deaf to my shrieks and completely unaware of my current cognitions. As she has forgotten me, I bathe in her low levels of glutamate receptors and cuddle her vessels, trying to distract myself from the discomfort of the healthy dopamine that haunts me. Rosanna is now clean; she gets out of the bath. She is still deaf and ugly.

Recent improvements in behaviour have urged her Consultant, Doctor Jarvis to lower her clozapine dosage in order to give her the minimum whilst still keeping behaviour under control.  The room smells of hand sanitizer and the light is yellow. The room has barely changed since she first started seeing Doctor Jarvis seven years ago. The desk that separates them is the same. The navy, bristly carpet is the same. The indoor plant, presumably new, is in the same place and the soil, like she always remembers, is dry. Jarvis isn’t surprised that there are noticeable improvements in Rosanna’s behaviour and wellbeing. By monitoring Rosanna’s condition it is found that she suffers more from positive symptoms such as: hallucinations and hearing voices. She doesn’t seem to suffer from negative symptoms such as: an ability to experience pleasure, because in previous consultations she has expressed a strong liking for art and horse riding. Positive symptoms generally respond well to medication and over the last few months, Rosanna supports this theory by demonstrating an improvement and portraying a sense of normality.

The conversation between Jarvis and Rosanna is factual. Symptoms are discussed and an agreement on a lower dosage is made. Its six weeks until the next appointment where they will review the behaviour and emotion at 240mg.

She follows the Doctor’s orders and over the weeks the lower dose makes Rosanna more uncomfortable but gives me strength.  This dose has less control over misfiring dopaminergic neurons and her speech and thinking once again becomes disorganised. She is either very lethargic or suddenly in a fret of panic. Sometimes I create auditory hallucinations at night.

Last night she didn’t sleep, nor did she come down for breakfast. At 11.40am she enters the kitchen and her Mother quickly shuts the cupboard door then immediately acts nonchalant.

“Want any toast?”

Rosanna ignores her and pours herself a glass of water. She knows that her Mother had been looking at something in the cereal/pills cupboard. The fact that her Mother has a gluten intolerance lead Rosanna to believe that she was looking at the clozapine medication. She hoped that was the case. She hoped that she was reading the list of side effects and she hoped that she was worried. Rosanna pours herself another glass of water. Her mother adds cornflakes to the shopping list.

By week five of the lowered dose experiment I was speaking to Rosanna more frequently. She fears that her thoughts are being broadcast and she believes that harm is going to occur. The hair that is unhygienic and dull – neither blonde nor brown is spread over her pillow. There are knots and clumps of god knows what. The hair grows from a flaky scalp. That flaky scalp stretches over Rosanna’s skull. That skull protects an active schizophrenic mind.

My harsh, energetic storm through her frontal lobes makes her become fidgety. Her skin is clammy. Her cold, damp back sticks to the sheets underneath her making her physically more uncomfortable. My shrieks become louder, more deafening; but some of the whispers are clearer and louder than the screams. I spread voices throughout her mind and the sound viciously travels through disturbed pathways. She kicks off her duvet and sheets and she wriggles in her bed and she clenches the mattress. She starts to cry. Her crying is loud and tears rush over her sweaty face.

Doctor Jarvis increases the dose. He increases it to more than what caused previous success. At the dispensary Rosanna collects a prescription of 360mg and it will return to 340, 320, 300mg once the severe symptoms have settled.  Rosanna queues at the dispensary and collects her normality that’s in a white paper bag. Her Mother is waiting outside in the car.

There are fast improvements and slow brain processes.

Her hair is thin and dull but not dirty. I’m talking to her less frequently and this morning I find I can’t say anything at all. All that Rosanna can hear is the sound of the kettle boiling and her pencil scratching as she does further work in her sketchbook for therapy today.

“Want any toast?”

“Yes.”

Rosanna waited at the table as her Mother rummaged in the bread bin and operated the toaster.  “I’m looking forward to showing Penny this drawing of Bobby in the field.”

“Aww good. Do you want jam or just butter?”

“I really hope she likes it.”

Two sessions of therapy, both the art lesson and the horse riding always make Rosanna tired on a Tuesday evening. She yawns on the sofa downstairs.

“Why don’t you go up to bed, hun?”

“Ok.”

The curtains are closed and so are her eyes. A dainty, but not beautiful girl lies on the sheets with the duvet covering her from her toes to her chin. After several nights the bed sheets still seemed well ironed. There are no creases, no playful wrinkles. She rarely sleeps and when she does she doesn’t fidget. She no longer has dreams and her thoughts are slow. She lies on her back with her arms by her side.  She isn’t dead, she’s breathing; but the corpse like figure mirrors the new artificial structure of her mind. The recent prescriptions of antipsychotic drugs seem to be having an effect.

I let her sleep.

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