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Many years ago when I lived in Dublin and Yash lived in India, we used to correspond.  One naturally befriends people in the same boat in which one is travelling and I got to know a young woman from the west of Ireland named Cliona, who had married a man from an Arab country.  After they married he went home to inform his family and persuade them to welcome his wife.  Cliona, living alone in Dublin, was jobless and time hung heavy on her hands.  She used to come to me a lot to talk about her worries, figuring that as I was having a relationship with an absent Indian, I would understand her situation.

Eventually she flew out to join her Arab prince in the Emirates.  Six months later I was shocked to learn that she was back in Dublin.  Soon after joining her man, she had become pregnant.  Then she became seriously ill.  She had apparently been suffering from a hideous form of depression, usually kept under control with medicines which could not be taken owing to her pregnancy.  Her husband and in-laws were shocked and put her straight on a flight home.  She was now in a psychiatric hospital.

She had always been a loner and had left home early in life.  Most of her relatives lived on the west coast of Ireland.  Therefore, I and a few other friends decided to support her. We took turns to visit her regularly, making sure she had a visitor every second day.

The hospital where Cliona was being treated was absolutely beautiful.  It was designed not to look like a hospital at all.  Unfortunately, I had a very wrong idea of what psychiatric hospitals were like owing to films I'd seen.  I figured there'd be lunatics in chains everywhere and cells and the like.  No such thing.  Visiting Cliona was a complete pleasure.  The coffee there was wonderful.  The only problem was that the hospital was on the other side of the city from where I lived.  Also, it wasn't easy to listen to Cliona's sad stories, fears and worries, but I did my best.

One evening, Cliona had a lot to talk about.  She was worried that her child would be a girl and was afraid her husband would prefer a son.  I stayed late listening to her and realised to my surprise that it was well after visiting time.  I hurriedly said goodbye and rushed downstairs to the front door.  It was locked.  Darkness had descended outside.  There wasn't a staff member in sight.

I looked up and down the corridor.  No guard, no nurse, no receptionist.  There were people around and God knows they all looked responsible enough, but I felt so foolish.  I didn't know where to begin.  Who could I tell that I was a visitor and that I'd overstayed talking to my very disturbed friend?

I saw an  extremely responsible looking young man talking on the telephone and immediately felt I'd found the help I needed.  I went over and attracted his attention.  I know he was on the phone but I was in a bit of a state.  I told him as quickly as possible that I was locked in and needed to get out and go home.

"I'd better go," I heard him telling his caller, in an attractive midlands Irish accent.  "There's a girl here needs help.  Claims she was visiting someone  and got delayed and now she's locked in.  Oh, she's probably terrified being locked up with all us mad people."  Then he gave a loud laugh.

That did it.  I walked quickly over to the door and stood there, terrified.  Eventually, a nun came along with a bunch of keys and let me out.  I was ever so relieved.

This incident really made me think.  Just because these people had the courage to come forward for help with their mental illness, it didn't mean that they were 'mad'.  If you ask me, they were the sensible ones.  There are plenty of mad people going around who think they are fine.  Not one of the people I was locked in with looked 'mad' in any way.

Incidentally, Cliona's husband arrived in Dublin shortly afterwards.  She delivered a baby girl and as far as I was aware, he had no complaints.  I have now lost touch with that family.  I only hope and pray that they are okay.

This is my weekly post for the Loose Blogger Consortium. We are a group of bloggers from different parts of the world with diverse views and styles of writing, and we post simultaneously (well, we try to) on a weekly basis on a given topic.  We have been recently joined by two new members, Delirious and Padmini. Other currently active members are, in alphabetical order AshokConrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, and Rummuser. This topic 'Sanity' was chosen by Conrad.

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