melly!

Imelda is worried about taking anti-depressants.
‘It’s frustrating, not being able to do the things I used to do,’ she says. ‘But I don’t want to take happy pills every time I feel blue.’
‘I know what you mean. But you’ve got a lot on your plate. It’s perfectly natural to feel depressed. The pills are just a means to an end. If they make your situation a little easier to bear, that mightn’t be a bad thing. At the very least they’ll give you a bit of space to think about things calmly. Make some adaptations. But you’re the boss. You don’t have to take anti-depressants if you don’t want to.’
‘I don’t want to get addicted, you see.’
‘You won’t. They’re not like that. Although – if you decide to come off them, you should do it in a controlled way and not just stop. Your doctor will explain.’
She watches me write for a while, then rearranges things on the table. Newspaper, glasses, calendar, diary, squared-away, size-order.
‘I’m just so used to being the person everyone came to,’ she says.
‘I can imagine.’
‘It was always Melly this, Melly that. What time are we supposed to be there? Where’s my shirt? How am I supposed to do this? As long as I can remember. And now I can’t remember, you see. And my balance has gone to blazes. And then I fell over and hurt my shoulder. Honestly! I’m a shadow of the woman I used to be!’
‘Well – with a little physiotherapy we can get your shoulder working again. And as far as the memory lapses go – there are techniques you can adopt to make things a little easier for yourself.’
‘Notes, you mean?’
‘Notes, yep. Notes are good. There’s nothing wrong in making notes to yourself. I do it all the time.’
‘I’m going to be one of those dotty old women who have signs everywhere. This is the front door. Don’t go out. This is a ladder. Don’t go up.
‘Whatever works!’
Imelda sighs and stares out of the window.
‘You know, the funny thing is, I used to work for a psychiatrist. As his personal secretary. After the children had grown up I was at a loose end, so I learned shorthand and typing and got the job. It was a small hospital, family-sized. Just a few streets away. Closed now, of course, but I used to love walking there every morning. It was always so fascinating. You got used to being around people with the most extraordinary view of the world.’
She turns to look at me again, her gaze level and clear.
‘I remember one particular morning. So bright, just like today. The outside of the hospital was being painted and the workmen were setting out their things. Well, just as I came across the road one of them shouted Melly! Melly! There’s an effing arm hanging out the window! And they were all looking up and pointing. And sure enough, there was an arm, draped out of the open window with blood dropping from the fingers. Making quite a splash on the lovely new paintwork below!’
‘Who was it?’
‘We had a young girl with us at that time who used to cut herself quite a bit. I hurried up and everything was fine in the end. Mr Flack, the psychiatrist I worked for, he was a lovely man. So kind and funny. The day I went in for my interview, he was sitting on the edge of his desk, his great long legs sticking straight out. And when I came in he jumped up and offered me a toffee from his pocket. And for a moment I didn’t know whether he was a patient or not. But I took it! And d’you know? I was jolly glad I did!’

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