For the first time ever, in a long lifetime of conversations, today my Aunt, my Godmother, my dear, dear misunderstood, aging Aunt talked about her shock treatment.
I was listening to her chatter, listening closely over the phone, as she jumped from telling me how she was watching “Judge Judy” on TV, to her worry about her son’s nose cancer scare, to telling me she was convinced the shock treatment caused her to lose her kidney.
She spoke as if we had discussed her shocking treatment many times before.
We had never spoken of it.
It had been locked away in the cupboard of family secrets, only ever recalled in compassionate, quiet, concerned tones. I think I’ve only ever remembered the barbaric procedure my poor Aunt had to endure when trying to piece together our family’s past with my Mother.
Whenever I think of it my stomach fills with anger, my heart gets heavy and I have to swallow the welling tears away. So I don’t dwell there for too long.
I wonder why it came into the light today? Was my Aunt holding or releasing deep resentment? I don’t think she remembers the actual torture. She said she knew she’d had it because when she got home, and was lying in bed she had a seizure. “I knew they’d done it,” she confirmed, in the same matter-of-fact tone as she would agree the roast chicken was cooked.
Then her chatter moved on to something else.
Was this injustice part of our family bond bound in the eons of time? How will the wrong be made right?
My Auntie paid the dear price of the misunderstanding of mental illness then, and has been shamed and shunned ever since.
It’s hard to believe this psychiatric practice took place in my lifetime. That scholary, respected and trusted men of medical science in white coats strapped a confused woman in her mid-thirties to a white bed and sent volts of electricity through her body, and thought that would cure her. I wonder if they would do that to their mothers?
Still, what has past is in the past. There are so many injustices that will not be made right. So many trusts broken. Egos that can’t admit there could be a better way.
Strengthen your heart by turning to the sunlight. Take a lesson from the leaves burnt by the wind’s blasts yesterday. They don’t complain. They are getting on with growing again.
Amazed at today’s revelation, may it be a sign of healing.