The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Tag: Schizophrenia

I was a baby…

Jane ~

Seeing you It is sad to say this, but I do see my brother now, as never before, as an ageing man. His wife knows, even better than me. The change, in the past three months, since they returned from Berlin, has been so worrying. Finished the laughter, the jokes, the amiable flirtation: he’s now behaving like a much older man.

What has changed him? Sarah says that his illness has progressed rapidly, overwhelming him at times, in a hopeless daytime melancholy. Perhaps I never realised how serious this illness was for him, as I always played his game, around this absurd story of his lost sweetheart. How I now regret all that nonsense, on the island of Chi and the lady in the cloak.

In Berlin, he lived in a trance, in a fictional world of his own that followed vaguely his reality. He weaved the story of the “Coven”, even using poor Gabrielle as one of the main characters in the plot. When we visited the Bundestag, he pointed out to Sarah the special uniforms and badges the official staff wore. At the time she did not see the significance of it, and thought it was only her husband’s imagination at work, the writer in action, gathering odd facts and details, to use later in his story. Since then, he has become a character in his own novel. I find it frightening. Is he playing the part of the doomed lover?

Towards me, he is still the older, protective, loving, brother. His voice is deeper, his gestures slower. On the telephone, he sounds far away. Face to face, he is not quite present, almost fading. Sarah wants Helga, his therapist, to prescribe him a tougher treatment. Apparently Helga’s resisting this, saying that the risks of serious damage to Julian’s persona are real. She favours patience, a lot of rest, and no dramatic change.

As his sister, I tend to agree with Helga. But who knows him best? I was a baby when he left the family home, and I never caught up with that period of his life, as a young man, until, many years later, he reappeared, so completely changed, our mother thought. Then, the young girl I was, saw him as her hero. The strong brother, the one who knew about all the things I was curious about, and not a little frightened of. The one who would protect me as I took my first timid steps into this wild world. I admired him, but I did not know him, and still don’t. Only Sarah knows her husband.

Aftermath

Fanny Nushka Moreaux Julian ~ Only this morning, after sleeping twelve hours, did I realise how tired I have been. The long days, the indulgence we fell into, spurred by a sudden onrush of desires, and the week-long conference, finally overcame us. My sister flew to Moscow a week ago, after a tearful and emotional farewell. Then Sarah, Melissa and I attended the conference, a very boring and formal affair, with dignitaries’s speeches, lengthy keynote lectures, and a grandiose final. Treaties were signed, the world-press entertained with a frenzy of television interviews, flashbacks on other great planetary events, and a promise of more to come. For us it was a watershed. All work groups, they said, had delivered magnificently, and the benefits would be felt for years to come. The Peace conference was hailed as a worldwide success.

We are subdued. Melissa, a little paler than usual, and Sarah, still smiling but quieter, convinced me to go out to Tempelhof for a last morning run. The sky is blue and cloudless after the night’s rain, the air cool. One run around the whole perimeter of the old airfield is nearly six kilometres. We keep going and achieve two full runs, then take the road back home. We haven’t seen either Gabrielle or Helga other than hovering around the stage for the whole conference. At the final press meeting, they both sat at the top table, listening to the closing speech of the Great Power’s President.

Today we pack, close the little apartment for the winter, and fly home, that is to our place, in London. Sarah and Melissa are inseparable.

Sarah ~ At last, we are at home, and my dear husband is resting, after what was supposed to be a long break away, in Berlin. I know, he did enjoy himself, and he was well cared for.

My friend Gabrielle, and his own sister Jane, did say that the change could have worked, if only. But his schizophrenia is now too advanced to heal itself without a great deal of professional help. His phantasms about the mythical Melissa have got worse over there, with hallucinations that frightened me at times.

I am still puzzled at the way his imagination works, and how, in front of our eyes, he transformed that peaceful holiday, in a city he professes to love – it is my city after all – into a progressive nightmare of conspiracies, weird aliens and personal grief. At one point he said that he had enough material for at least two novels. Gabrielle says that his talent as writer is the obverse of his tendency to morbidity, his sudden depressive bouts, and his suspicion of strangers.

His sleep is peaceful enough. Since we came back, he has hardly spoken of Melissa; for now she appears to have dissipated behind some other dream. For I do not doubt that he is dreaming, even when he’s awake. As his wife, my role is to watch over him, to take care of his needs, to protect him.

Jane comes and visits when she’s in the country. And our doctor, Helga, is here at least once a week. We have known her since Julian showed his first sign of a serious illness. Gabrielle introduced us to her. At first I was a little frightened of her piercing grey eyes, her jet-black hair, and her long, beautiful hands. The hands of a witch, I then thought. Helga is Austrian, and a disciple of Jung. She’s however a cool clinician, and her approach to treating Julian is most impressive. With Gabrielle, who knows her since their medical school days, we have often spoken of the origin of Julian’s illness. Helga has a very pragmatic view: Julian is victim of some genetic quirk, but also of a vivid imagination he has carefully nurtured as a fiction writer. She has an interpretation of my husband’s obsession with the little town of his childhood, and of Melissa, his college sweetheart. For Helga, Julian missed out big time as a youngster, all messed up he was with ideas of chivalry, his delusive military ambitions, his idealism. He has now reconstructed the character of Melissa in a new incarnation, all fictional, but for him, also real.

For myself, I believe there is more to it than his school years and his platonic love for that young girl. Julian goes back, time and time again, to the period that followed his leaving the little town, what he calls his lost years. I have looked at his papers, his military record, his diary. He was seriously wounded in North Africa, nearly died from head injuries. Perhaps the Melissa of today, however fictional, is the ghost of his dreams, when he was awaiting death, on his hospital bed. Perhaps the Coven of his delirium is a compendium of all the threats that surrounded him then.

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