“I’m going to the supermarket,” I called out. “To the nearest one. Won’t be long,” I called out to nobody in particular, scooped up my purse and walked towards my car. Our local supermarket was a hazardous place at the best of times as the aisles were built to accommodate one and a half trolleys at any given time. All four wheels seldom worked in unison, three pointing in one direction whilst the fourth ran in the opposite direction.
For a change, I found everything on my list easily and stood in line amongst a multitude of shoppers at the checkout counter, wondering whether my son would ever feel happy again.
Nobody, not even my friends knew what I was thinking as I’d become an expert at changing my facial expressions for various occasions – my masks were the way I referred to them when at home with the family. I had a work expression, another for social occasions, a fixed, non-committal one for psychiatrists and another when I was with my son, Doron.
My thoughts were rudely interrupted when a young woman standing at another checkout line further along, waved at me shouting in a raucous voice; “Remember me?” “I – er – remember your face but not your name,” I mumbled, not sure whether she could hear my response or not. “I’m Yaffa. Yaffa from the closed ward at Shalvatta. I was with Doron there.” I blushed as I looked about to see who had heard her. I was sure that everybody in the supermarket had heard! Most people know that Shalvatta is a psychiatric hospital in the center of the country. And, there I was, wearing the most noncommittal mask I could muster, looking about suspiciously the same way my son, Doron did. “Say hi to Doron,” she shouted. I nodded, paid and fled.
A perfectly normal moment?
This incident occurred years ago, long before I’d learned to speak out, long before I’d learned to ignore the stigma associated with mental illness. It took a very long time, but I learned to cope and taught myself to ignore the associated stigma.