Tangled Web – By Marina Gallegos

Nobody understood the unusual nature of her comments or behavior several years after she’d arrived in the new country. She’d been interacting with her relatives and working just fine.

Then out of the blue, she was thirsty for affection from her kids and also wanted to be affectionate, but that feeling wasn’t always reciprocated. She always carried a shy smile on her face and still joked around with her younger kids, after she’d finally managed to get them from Mexico, but we could tell she’d always regretted having left them and dad behind. I’m now sure she felt she’d abandoned them all.

And even though her kids were all now with or close to her, something in her changed drastically, and she started saying strange things and would even cry more easily than before. Sometimes she’d say she was going to run in front of a car , or throw herself in front of a train. At least I didn’t know what to say or think, and I don’t think anyone else knew either. Can’t remember if she was ever diagnosed with any illness or if she ever went to see a doctor, but she probably didn’t.

Next thing I remember is going to a place to visit her, and it turned out to be a mental hospital. I looked around and didn’t like what I saw. Everyone around her looked in really bad shape, and I felt mom didn’t belong there at all. She was having some dental issues and asked a doctor to pull out her tooth, and the darn doctor did, just like that, without even sedating her first.

We visited a couple more times then she went home. She committed suicide about two weeks later. She was discharged because she “looked fine.”

Many years later, a sister also ended up in mental hospitals several times throughout the years, and she’d fight her way through the court system to get discharged from the hospital. She even said all she had to do was to tell the judge she was fine and would be better off away from the hospital because the staff mistreated patients. She also expressed concern about how the medical practitioners treated people who had mental health issues and how nobody paid attention to them and treated them like subhuman beings or animals.

The last time we sat and talked, she was sad about how her therapists didn’t take her seriously and ignored her concerns about how she needed more help and support. I could tell she was giving up already. About two weeks later, she was gone, and I felt I’d failed her like everyone else, but I’d told her that if she wasn’t taking her medication, I wouldn’t let her be around my daughter.

While she was alive and going to support clinics, her main concern was to advocate for other clients and make sure they were happy, and she made sure to make them laugh, and she was great at making them and her siblings laugh. Her death due to mental illness was a tremendous blow to the family.

I’ve had to admit that mental health illness is in our blood, and I have to be careful and aware about what my thoughts are doing in my head. I keep thinking and telling myself I won’t do what my mom and sister did, but sometimes I think I won’t be able to control what my brain wants to do. I literally tell myself: Martina, you will not do that.

I really hope that people with mental illnesses get the help and compassionate support and care they need and deserve. Mental illness is not a choice.

Martina was born and raised in Mexico. She got a Master’s degree from GCU after a massive, near fatal hemorrhagic stroke. One of her first poems was a semi-finalist in a National Amateur Poetry Competition. Her works have appeared in the Altadena Anthology: Poetry Review, Basta! Poets Responding, Spirit Fire Review, Poetry Super Highway, Silver Birch Press, OpenDoor Magazine, The Bloom, WFWP: Poetry Festival, Canada, 3Q Anthology, Highlandpark Poetry, LA Magazine, and more recently, the award-winning anthology, When the Virus Came Calling: COVID-19 Strikes America: Published by Golden Foothills Press, edited by, Thelma T. Reyna.
INSG: @Selbor2015
TikTok: @Azeleah22

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