Author: Fatima Mehdi
(A true story with years, names of people plus places changed for privacy)
“Humankind can not bear very much reality.”
― T. S. Elliot
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. 1978 Dundee, Scotland 3
Chapter 2. “We read to know that we are not alone.” ― William Nicholson 4
Chapter 3. “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” ― Narcotics Anonymous 6
Chapter 4. “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ― Mae West 9
Chapter 5. “A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.” ― Albert Einstein 12
Dundee, Scotland- 1978
Fiona the eldest of two kids was born in Dundee to parents Marie and Robert Dunhill. She was a lone wolf sort of person, a dreamer with her nose always in books from an early age. Other than that she loved playing and would not want to stop. Her four year younger brother Paul was much bright and witty. He would often pull her hair, break her spectacles, or push her in the swimming pool; in attempts to draw her out of her reverie. To escape she would play for hours in her fairy castle in the back yard.
‘Fiona child come in have something to eat’, Maria would plead
‘I am not hungry’
‘You need to eat to grow you know’
‘OK! will i grow up to be a fairy princess mommy?’
‘ oh yes you will’
And Fiona believed her mum, that one day she would become a princess marry a prince and live happily ever after in a huge castle.
Though a sparse eater as a child, she became a voracious eater as a teenager and soon became obese. Paul would make fun of her and so would the kids at school, this made her weep often. Her mother’s pampering and her grand parent’s over protective attitudes would make her feel like a princess again. She never took her rose coloured glasses off until one day…….
“We read to know that we are not alone.” ― William Nicholson
She would spend most of her time in day dreams or her favourite story books. She had a few hundred at least and all her pocket money went into chocolates and story books. Kindle or ebooks were not available then as they would have saved her the trouble of hiding books not suitable for her early years.
Shy and uncertain she would never converse to boys, who would call her ‘fatso’, ‘chunky’, ‘blue stocking’ and ‘freckle face’.
‘ I guess she also sleeps with books’ henry the loud mouth would say, and Fiona would blink her tear filled eyes making a show of rearranging her spectacles.
One day at fifteen years of age, she was up in their partially floored loft, hiding away her romance novels. Then she was so engrossed in eating chocolate and reading a steaming novel it made her forget that she was perched on a ledge beyond which the attic wasn’t floored. Stumbling on one of her books she lurched onto the glass wool insulation and was lucky to land on her parents unoccupied double bed on the first floor.
the commotion drew everyone to the first floor from the t.v. lounge.
She lay on the bed with glass wool sticking from around her like a yellow cloud, chocolate stained her mouth and chin, romance novels surrounded her and she kept blinking like an owl brought into daylight.
‘Ha ha ha ha’ her brother guffawed Paul.
‘What in the blazes happened here?’ thundered dad Robert
‘Fiona did’ Paul interjected with malicious glee
‘O my poor baby, are you alright’ Marie was concerned.
‘Err I am ff, fine only a bit scratched and winded’ Fiona returned, the chocolate had turned to dust in her mouth.
‘What the Hell were you thinking and what are these adult books doing here?’ Robert was cross.
‘I, I huh’ Fiona just jumped and ran from the room. She hid in the garden shed for a few hours till things settled down.
Then after the hole in the roof was fixed in a few days, she followed her routine exactly the same way. Whiling away hour upon hour reading & munching like a cow in the loft when ever she could. Robert had like any caring dad floored the whole loft this time to avoid any more mishaps.
“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” ― Narcotics Anonymous
Then suddenly things began to change abruptly. Not that she knew what was coming, but she could anticipate a wave of dark black clouds invading the skies of her life. Fiona had never been a very confident child but lately since turning 17, her moods had begun to swing like a see saw. One moment she was ecstatic and the next gloomy. Then started a long stretch of arid hypersensitivity and gloom. Often, she was happy without a reason and you could hear her laughing at the wake of a relative, or crying at the graduation party of her cousin. Her mom suggested that she take a break at her grandparent’s farm in St Andrews.
Being with her grandparents didn’t help her low moods, but it sure did allow her freedom to enjoy granny’s well cooked meals and reading simultaneously.
When she would be low and unhappy, Eddie her grandpa would say to her grandma Anne:
‘She is always lost in thoughts and doesn’t eat well’
‘Yeah! I have tried cheering her up, she doesn’t have any friends. Maybe if she had a boyfriend.’Anne would reply.
‘Nay No boyfriend I don’t believe in this new age sinful cohabitation, she is old enough to get married and have bairns of her own.’ Grandpa Eddie was old fashioned and believed in sanctity of marriage.
Often, Fiona would spend a long time reading story books or with her imaginary fairy prince on the beach. She had not had the courage to go out with anyone due to her freckled face, carroty hair and obese body.
At Anne’s demise at 75 on 15th april 1998, While the neighbours and family were preparing Anne’ s body for burial; fiona was in one of her highs trying to glean as much pleasure as she could out of romantic fiction.
After the burial she was in a very rebellious mood, flying off the handle at everyone, saying blasphemous things and making rude signs or faces. Her brother Paul was fed up and said to their mother:
‘She needs her mouth to be washed with soap, and then be confined to her room without food or books.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous she is grieving.
However, months passed and Fiona had completely changed from being a terrified rabbit to a snarling wolf.
Her mother was the first to wonder at the change in her.
‘Whats happened to her? She was never this forward or vulgar?’ Her mother Marie said
‘Fiona get down here and finish your meal’, Robert shouted
‘Finish it yourself you fat old man’ replied fiona
‘Something is terribly wrong’. Robert said to Marie, ‘she has never been rude to me’.
‘Aye, i told you. You know may be its granny’s death’
‘Yeah maybe.’ said Robert but he was not so convinced & he was right.
In september 1998, fiona had to be taken to hospital in emergency as she had tried to commit suicide, believing no one loved her. While she was in the hospital the psychiatrist had a session with her and diagnosed her with “Manic depressive psychosis”, a mental disorder which affects moods and the perception of reality. This diagnosis further depressed fiona.
‘I don’t want to live, let me die!!!’. She would rant at her teary eyed mother and haggard dad.
In the coming weeks as soon the anti depressants would start to work she began to enjoy life again. things were different now, for she had counselling to attend and medicines to take regularly. Like any family hers was not believing that she had a mental disorder, and as any other patient Fiona was reluctant to accept reality. It was an effort on part of the doctors, consultants and psychologists to make her understand how important it was to keep taking the medicines regularly. One thing which hit Fiona hardest was that she should never become pregnant while on the medicines, as the mood stabilizer Lithium a teratogen– was not safe in pregnancies. And she loved kids, was a big child at heart herself who did not want to grow up; or rather face the world. She wanted the ‘prince’ of her dreams to slay the dragons while she was busy cooking cleaning and nursing.
It was perhaps her aptitude towards sciences which made her understand her sickness to some extent. Question was would she be able to keep the dream world separate from reality??
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ― Mae West
Everything seemed to go well for a few years and fiona started med school at dundee university.
Unfortunately, some friends suggested to her that she contact an online psychic, which was all the rage with new internet fever. The online Psychic gave free advice and it worked for Jenny’s mum (Fiona’s friend).
The online Psychic told her few true facts with her date of birth. She also suggested that Fiona doesn’t need those medicines as her luck was about to change for the better and she stopped taking them altogether.
That’s when all hell broke loose, in the days that followed after stopping her medicine, she started skipping lessons at university, started hanging out with shady characters, had a make over with full tan, hair restyling with highlights, but she did not just stop there. Fiona stole money from her mum’s safe to buy new revealing branded wardrobe, with several pairs of various coloured contact lenses, and of course branded high heel pumps with matching purses.
Marie, a very trusting soul was quite late in finding out about the stolen £6000. She did wonder aloud about the clothes but Fiona lied to her saying:
‘I have borrowed theses from a friend Mum’
Marie was happy that her girl was for once acting like a woman and not a child. She thought that Fiona was ready to move on, which to Marie was high time, as Fiona had already crossed prime of her age and was still stumbling at university semesters.
Marie and Robert were unaware of what was going on at University. Paul was the first one to find out as one his pals was in the same semester as Fiona. He told Paul of the rumours and gossip flowing around about Fiona.
‘Trust fiona to jump from the balcony’
‘Trust fiona to take an overdose of grandpa’ s sleeping pills’
‘Trust fiona to say such an outrageous thing’
‘Trust fiona to be blasphemous’
‘Trust fiona to go for a skinny dip in Tay River’
The final straw was shaving her head, and getting tattoos on it.
‘Trust fiona to shave her head, you know she resembles Brittany Spears!!ha ha ha!!’
That night she could not go home as she was still a bit scared of Robert, so she stayed out with the shady group. They used cocaine with drinks and one of them had an overdose– which resulted in death.
Police informed Marie and Robert about Fiona who was unconscious at A&E. Her blood levels showed depleted mood stabilizer Lithium carbonate. When she woke up she was ranting and raving about being the soul mate of the dead pal. She had to be given an anti psychotic drug called Haloperidol, to bring her back to earth. After which she developed short term drug induced Parkinsonism. Those were terrible days for her and her family. Especially her grandpa Eddie who was very fond of her. He would bring her chocolates and read funny stories to her.
At med school when she arrived after five months to a new batch but in the same semester, She was labelled as the freak. Stories about her previous escapades and current life circulated, while lecturers sympathized with her discreetly, the students ridiculed her openly.
She could not take it anymore and dropped out of med school, left Dundee and started living with Grandpa Eddie at his farm in St Andrews.
Marie was appalled at fiona’s halted progress but was still protective of her while Robert would sulk for hours and not return home from golf.
‘She is still living with you!!’
‘Hasn’t found a mate yet’??
‘Give her my nephews number’
And so on the neighbours would tattle.
The years went by, fiona’ s raving and ranting for a few days followed by complete serenity for weeks continued. She some how managed to complete with flying colours a four year long Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from St Andrews University. Her lecturers were proud of her and she achieved a lot of merits and awards. This made her parents feel very happy and they could see light at the end of the tunnel.
“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.” ― Albert Einstein
While at Saint Andrews University She jumped from one disaster discreet relationship to another ~ more like one night stands that begun as fairytales and ended like mortal combat. Her past would catch up with her present and plans would go awry. While her parents and family had accepted her sickness and forgiven her; others were not so generous nor accepting. So she became more and more reclusive.
One silver lining was the Grandpa Eddie. She would spend long times in solitude walking along the beach with Grandpa Eddie’s sheepdog ‘Simba’. Grandpa Eddie would narrate funny stories from his childhood, pamper and spoil her and she would feel safe from the world.
‘Trust me you will find your prince, your grandma found me afterall’
Grandpa Eddie’s declarations would sooth her some what and she would return to her day dreams.
Her graduation in July 2010 was a big celebration for her family and Grandpa Eddie was most happy. He gifted her the deed to the Farm, which was worth £2.5 million. Fiona was at the top of the world, it didn’t matter that she had secured a degree at the age of 33, but she was very happy that finally she had made her family proud.
The bubble soon burst when Grandpa Eddie died.
The last time she was seen sober was at grandpa Eddie’s funeral, in January 2011.
Fiona had a very much expected reaction to Grandpa Eddie’s death. Where she was shy and withdrawn from society due to her earlier escapades, she became brazen and crass. She started heavy drinking again, which was prohibited with her mood stabilizer. This sort of rebellious and reckless behaviour would have continued for who knows how long but she met Tom Cartier, young broad Hotel Manager at a pub in April of 2011. It was not love at first sight but rather acceptance at first sight.
Tom a very righteous, modest person was 5 years younger than Fiona . In the few weeks that followed they met regularly, one drink led to another but Fiona controlled excessive drinking as she was enjoying being the centre of attention. They decide to start living together after 3 weeks. Fiona had bought a posh flat in St Andrews from Grandpa Eddie’s Farm Profits where she liked to live independently from time to time. Tom brought his meager belongings and started enjoying Fiona’s generousity.
Tom and fiona lived together for over a month, and finally decided to tie the knot. It was a hurried but welcome decision for Fiona family who thought her to be on the shelf now.
Her parents and brother were happily preparing for their wedding; when a week before the wedding, she arrived at her parents house with packed bags at an hour past midnight.
For two days she would not stop crying, her mom & dad tried to ask but she wouldn’t tell them anything.
On the third day she was quiet but serene.
‘At least tell us if the wedding is still on’ Marie prodded gently.
‘No it isn’t Ma!!!’ sighed Fiona.
‘ And Why not??’ Marie asked gently although she wanted to shake Fiona who had become the bane of her existence.
‘You don’t want to know Ma!’ Fiona tried to evade the subject.
‘Why ever not, you are my first born! I have borne you for nine months in my womb, spent 34 years caring for you; at least I deserve to know what happened’. Marie’s sixty one year old eyes started filling with tears.
Fiona sighed and turned away from her mum.
‘It was going fine, until my past caught up with us as usual. You know Tom’s family is from Nottingham and he was in Dundee only because of his job.’
‘Remember Jenny my ex friend from med school?’
‘Why yes! what of her?’
‘Her brother is a friend of Tom’s and he told about my med school episodes to him and his family’ Fiona said twisting her hands in her shawl.
‘I assume you had told him you were sick and thats its all in the past now; surely he has a past too’.. Marie tried to reason desperately.
‘Yes! Fiona said bitterly, ‘but it wasn’t me he was getting married to Ma, it was Grandpa Eddie’s £2.5 million worth farm’.
‘WWhaaatttt!’ Marie screeched and Paul fell into the kitchen, who was eavesdropping at the door.
“Are you sure?’ Marie asked hastily before Fiona could continue glaring at Paul.
‘Yes! when Jenny’s brother told Tom’s family they were very upset to have a manic depressive grandchild; they rang Tom up and he walked outside with his mobile; I had woken up when the phone first rang.’ Fiona took a deep breath.
‘Well dinna be stopping now lass’ Paul encouraged softly.
This brought tears to Fiona’s eyes and she quickly swiped them away.
‘I followed him because he was shouting and I could hear him from the balcony. I hid in the shadows of the Lounge besides the balcony and heard him tell his mother clearly that he was only marrying me to get his hands on the £2.5 million worth farm. to put it in his words “the lazy sow is worth £2.5million quid, its just like lottery and i won’t be fathering any kids so you can rest easy ma, your grand kids won’t be mad”‘ Fiona finished with a sob.
‘That rascal!’ Paul said with clenched fists.
‘He also told his ma that he had only started living with me at my apartment when he found out that i was rich and was “desperate for male attention”in decent words, so I called the police and had him thrown out’. Fiona continued.
‘Served the selfish fiend right’ said Paul.
‘Well I never thought him to be a cad!’ Marie cried
‘Does not matter, you found out in time; all is well that ends well.’ Robert said quietly coming into the room and taking Fiona in his arms. Marie put her arms around them, gently kissing weeping Fiona, while Paul butt in his head whining as usual.
‘No body ever hugs me!!!’
‘Come and join us” Fiona said with open arms and Paul hugged his elder sister fiercely kissing her greying temple.
The next day, Fiona and Marie went to clean her apartment, and the first things that Fiona bagged were her Romance Novels.
‘I think I better give these away in charity’
‘You know this is the first sensible thing I have heard you say for a long time’ Marie said kissing Fiona on her cheek.
‘I have also decided to enroll for PhD in Biotechnology, my college Professor said that research is my feat’ Fiona told her mum
‘I am happy in whatever makes you happy; I have always prayed that you come to terms with your destiny and not loiter in shadow of your sickness. And I know that you will succeed because my daughter is a survivor!’ Marie said patting Fiona’s arm.
‘Thank you Mum’ Fiona said kissing Marie’s wrinkled cheek.
Fiona is currently doing her Post graduate research degree in Saint Andrews University, you can see her walking Grandpa Eddie’s sheep dog Simba on the Beach in the evenings.
Fiona has stopped drinking, is always regular in taking her medicines but she still reads children’s story books as she can not stomach romance stories anymore. Old habits die hard!! huh!!!!!
“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
― Emily Dickinson