Can you keep a Secret?

I envy those who have a physical deformity. Though they may not have legs, hands or eyes, people look at them with sympathy. I have all well-functioning body parts yet they look at me as if I am a cockroach like the one crawling outside my window on the drainage pipes. They hate me or even worse; they are scared of me.
I wonder if my daughter would be scared too if she saw me right now. Hair uncombed for months, tattered clothes, barefoot- I look absolutely wild. I left her when she was barely three years old. I was declared a threat to her. My own child! Maybe, I was. It’s all foggy now. I try to forget my life before I was started being called “insane”. Sometime after I was declared “mentally fit”, I wished that she come visit me. Now, I hope that she no longer remembers me, just like everybody else.
I know I sound morbid, even depressed ( Ah, the irony) but the fact is; I am happy here.
The four walls in which I thrive is my home and my neighbors are patients like me. “Mentally fit” but too scared to go out. It has been fifteen years. I don’t know what the world looks like anymore. It will swallow me up. I know it.
Like our lives, the food here is bland. I have asked for salt so many times. But they never listen to us. That’s the story of our lives, I guess. They never listen! There’s a care-taker whom we all hate. He comes only at night to lock “insane” women in so that they don’t go out. But sometimes, he comes inside and touches them in places we don’t like to be touched by a strange man. They scream so much but it falls on deaf ears.  If I ever find a knife, I will kill him and eat his flesh and bones till none of it is left. They already call me mad, don’t they?
Some of the care-takers are really nice though. There’s one with whom I seldom play puzzles and even Ludo. It’s great fun! I smile the most when I am with her. She tells me stories too. Stories which I must have told my child.
I must have. As I said, it’s all hazy now. My caretaker brings me books. I like to read. It helps me remain sane. So, this is my world and no matter what my friends would say, I am happy here. Don’t send me away. I don’t want to live anywhere else. I don’t know how.

This World Health Day, let’s fight the stigma associated with mental illness. Let’s make people realize that mental illness is like any other illness.The people fighting such an illness are people like you and me and they need our support and love. We are equally responsible for their mental health.

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