The Voices of Those Remaining - Christian Discher - ebook

The Voices of Those Remaining ebook

Christian Discher

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Fateful circumstances brought Christian to the infamous psychiatric ward in Ueckermünde, East Germany. Locked first in the dark red brick House 12 and later in the dilapidated socialist building 40, coercive treatment, derogatory remarks by staff and questionable therapies were on the agenda. After returning to freedom, psychologists denied his abilities and pressured him. He fought against their plans for him and a system that forgets its most vulnerable people. But he heeded only his confidant's advice. Many years later, using his diary notes, he vividly describes his meetings with people who were treated in Ueckermünde in different times and political systems. One thing united them: they had never found a way back into society. 18 years later, Christian returned to Ueckermünde for further research and learned that the same doctors were still practicing.

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The Voices of Those Remaining

Christian Discher

Christian Discher

TheVoices ofThoseRemaining

When political authorities silence people, we employ our linguistic means to defend human rights. Using language against censorship functions as a political instrument. What has been documented from the past operates just like memories, warning us of our terrible potential and reminding us of our ability to reflect on ourselves.

Maren, without you by my side, I would have lost the fight against the overpowering forces in the psychiatric system and would have followed my companions into death.

Summary

Fateful circumstances brought Christian to the infamous psychiatric ward in Ueckermünde, East Germany. Locked first in the dark red brick House 12 and later in the dilapidated socialist building 40, coercive treatment, derogatory remarks by staff and questionable therapies were on the agenda. After returning to freedom, psychologists denied his abilities and pressured him. He fought against their plans for him and a system that forgets its most vulnerable people. But he heeded only his confidant’s advice. Many years later, using his diary notes, he vividly describes his meetings with people who were treated in Ueckermünde in different times and political systems. One thing united them: they had never found a way back into society. 18 years later, Christian returned to Ueckermünde for further research and learned that the same doctors were still practicing.

 

About the Author

During his hospitalization in Ueckermünde, doctors certified Christian had an intelligence level below average. This stigma closed him off to society. For one and a half years, coercive treatment robbed him of his ability to communicate, and left him at the mercy of the staff. Having survived the traumatizing ordeal, he turned his back on his hometown and underwent treatment in a specialized clinic for traumatised individuals in the West. Later, he studied French and English and received a PhD in linguistics, where his research took him to Paris and Dublin. At present, he is actively involved in helping supporting marginalized people and critically studying the concept of inclusion.

Foreword

Acknowledgements

Mila

How it all began

Faith

Sabine

The church

The pastor

Neubrandenburg Psychiatry

Ueckermünde - the acute ward

Gerd and Peter: Life in GDR

Therapy

Martha and Robert

The Complex Therapeutic Program

Betti

After Ueckermünde

The Factory Workers

Renate and Elisa

Mrs. Hässel

The 12th grade

Steg: The self-help group

Those Remaining

The Külzstreet Clinic

Lübeck

After 18 Years: Back in Ueckermünde

Epilogue: Failed Inclusion as an Example of the Stigmatized: Why theory doesn’t have all the answers.

Open Letter

Obituary for Elisa

Bibliography

The German version of The Voices of Those Remaining was published in August 2015.

Dr. Christian Discher: The Voices of Those Remaining© 2016: underDogPublishing company underDog www.underdog-verlag.de© 2016 Dr. Christian DischerAll rights reservedCopy editing: Constance Holman:

Rebeccah Dean http://linguafrancaberlin.de/about-me/ ISBN: 978-3-946289-03-6

Foreword

In Germany, politicians and social research institutes claim to believe we live in a society where all people are and should be included: Universities receive millions of euros in funding to both begin and continue research projects focused on “inclusion” related issues. However, because of the great divide between theory and reality, results in research rarely become established practical behaviors or values. A closer look at the concept of inclusion makes it clear: Germany has a long way to go before it can be considered a truly inclusive society.1 In the debate over discrimination and exclusion, the public has hardly received any information about the fate of those who, due to a particular psychological disturbance, are forced to live in psychiatric wards.

Mainstream media does occasionally report on certain cases, for example, a particularly dramatic institutionalization. Nonetheless, the difference between the “criminally insane” and mentally ill people is, in general, not made clear. At the same time, depression and eating disorders are widely recognized.2 Such is also the case with schizophrenia and yet, after being released from treatment, a patient with schizophrenia is still rarely able to find a place in our society. It is clear that the diagnosis of schizophrenia or psychosis – now known to be rooted in a dysfunction of the nervous system – leads to paranoid thoughts and socially inacceptable behaviors, and turns the lives of those involved upside down. 3 Fateful circumstances had brought Christian Discher to the infamous psychiatric ward in Ueckermünde at the age of 17 in 1997. When the ARD4 distributed the damning report Die Hölle von Ueckermünde - Psychiatrie im Osten (The Hell of Ueckermünde- Psychiatry in the East) by Ernst Klee, there was immediately media furor. The inhumane, involuntary commitment to psychiatric hospitals that took place during that time caused worldwide shock and dismay. But what they didn’t mention was that, years after the report was broadcasted, involuntary commitment and drug treatment were both still taking place at the same location.5

The discussion about Ueckermünde has since fallen silent. In his diary notes, Christian Discher records his memories of the inhumane treatment he experienced in Ueckermünde’s psychiatric hospital. The book offers a deep look inside in the emotional life of patients confined and also describes their later experiences in aftercare. 6 This book is written in honor of those individuals Ernst Klee reported on in 1993. It serves as a reminder of people with severe mental disorders who could never find a way back into our society.

 

Acknowledgements

For loving support during the process of research and writing, I would like to thank my husband, Thomas Paulick. I also offer thanks to my godson Alexander for all the wonderful times spent together. And thanks to my friends- I am truly grateful for having found you. I want to thank Ioana Grün for both our longtime friendship as well as supporting and assisting me with this translation.

 

Mila

The social worker entered the holding room. “Mr. Discher, your health insurance will take care of the bill for transportation.” I smiled and thought: What’s that supposed to mean? Looked after by Dr. Robin, the nurses loosened my straps. The paramedics put them on again as I was lying on the gurney. We took the elevator downstairs. In the smoking area in front of the door, a crowd of patients milling around stared at me. I took a last look at the blue sky before the back door of the ambulance opened. They slid me in and started the siren. We took off towards Ueckermünde.

Of course, everyone had heard of it. From an early age, we children learned about who was brought into that sort of place. While having lunch, we could even watch the people from my grandparents’ kitchen table. Nothing remained hidden behind the curtain. Anyone heading to the new housing development walked directly past our window.

“Look who’s out there, walking around!”, was Grandfather’s standard conversation starter.

“Isn’t he the one they locked up recently?“ Granny said, curiously peering out the window while setting the table.

“Yes, in the village they say he has done bad things. Mrs. Mueller always says he has links to those from the other side, the West, you know!” My mother also couldn’t hold back a comment.

“He’d better watch out. He’ll be going back to Kükenmühl7 if he keeps on like that,” said my grandfather.

This was all an open secret that I hadn’t yet understood. But that day, I just could not help asking. I took the opportunity and butted into the conversation. Not used to my grandparents speaking to my mother in their dialect, I usually asked in High German. “Where are they all going, and what do you mean by those from the other side?” I asked.

“The children will be taken to the juvenile detention if they do not obey their elders. The adults go to Kükenmühl. But you’re too young to understand that,” she answered.

Though I could understand my grandparent’s dialect, I wasn’t able to translate Kükenmühl, but I eventually found out what it meant. For the people in the village, the Kükenmühl was nothing more than the mental hospital in Ueckermünde.

As a child I often visited my grandparents in Leppin. The trip along the B96, southeast of Neubrandenburg, not far from the dreaded place, was a relaxing highlight on weekends.

My grandparents told me exciting stories about the castle grounds where children should never go alone. Since the beginning of the war, treasure was hidden there, buried inside of a hill underneath the fir trees. It was the perfect setting for a wild game of cops and robbers.

I remembered Grandfather’s words of warning as I left the house. "Never go with your friends to the old forest. It’s a very dangerous place."

We, the children, were magically drawn to that spot and often visited in secret. It was there I met Mila for the first time, a fearless girl who knew her way around Leppin.

She had long red hair, bright green eyes and must have been the daughter of the castle owner. Even though I was surprised an eleven-year-old girl was wandering around the forest by herself in the dark, I was still thrilled to meet her. Once, when I had lost track of my friends, Mila helped me find my way out of the thicket. Grateful and proud to have found a new friend, I let her walk me to the front door where she whispered, “Don’t tell anybody about our encounter.” Before she disappeared into the darkness, Mila turned around and said, “Let’s meet again tomorrow.”

I knew that trouble was waiting for me at home.

After all, I hadn’t stuck to my parents’ rules. But I didn’t keep the secret of our meeting to myself. Full of excitement, I entered the living room looking for my grandparents. Before I could open my mouth to tell my mother about Mila, she interrupted me, “Where have you been? Don’t you see what time it is?”

“He is not listening to us. He has always been a stubborn boy,” my grandfather barged in.

“I met a girl, we played together and then it got dark,” I told them.

“This is not the right time to meet and play with girls. Where are the other boys?” my mother barked.

I looked at the floor. “They’re at home.”

“You’d better get home on the dot next time! Otherwise, I’ll forbid you to go outside again!” she warned. I understood her worries. I was usually on time and obedient to all other grown-ups.

Mila and I were inseparable from that day on. As the years passed, playing in the forest stopped being important. Meeting places and topics of conversation with Mila changed.

 

How it all began

“Time brings people closer to each other, and everything in life has a particular meaning. You have to understand life and define it for yourself,” said Mila as we were musing about our existence. Sabine, a friend of mine, once carefully mentioned, “You seem to be on a different level when you talk about Mila.” I hadn’t noticed that. I was just lucky to have found a friend like her. Her presence made me feel completely free and understood. This made our friendship a special one, a connection that couldn’t be broken and was viewed with suspicion by our peers. Nobody understood that I wanted this friendship purely for myself. Mila also didn’t try to get to know anybody else from my neighborhood. My family didn’t understand. I was forbidden from talking about her at home; our relationship was too intimate. Although I was always careful, everybody was very worried. Fortunately, I never had to study much for school. I had an excellent memory: if necessary, I could memorize facts with ease. That is why I had a lot of spare time to play sports and plan my future. I wanted to spend it with Mila by my side.

Although I had a small group of social acquaintances, I was mostly a loner at school. I had no reason to make deep friendships. Mila was my closest confidant. Still, I was never alone in the schoolyard. Most of us hung out in the smoking area. I quickly jumped into conversation with the others when they met during breaks. In the infamous corner, the usual suspects were always smoking. Anna, who I had known since childhood, was one of the crew.

Anna and I lit a cigarette.

“Hey Anna!” With a mischievous grin, I blew the smoke in her face.

“Look who’s coming!” she said, indicating a girl on the other side of the yard.

“Fatso Viki’s headed to the bakery,” I shouted across the schoolyard. The gang cracked up and I cackled the loudest.

Humiliated, with her head bowed down, she ran past us at top speed. Viktoria didn’t have an easy life. She was well known at school but by no means popular, and I let her know it every time she crossed my path. She was the outsider of the upper grades, and an easy target because she never defended herself against our taunting. “Leave Viktoria alone!” Bea said, for the umpteenth time. We had teased Viktoria in the past far too often. But although Bea often didn’t like my behavior, we still spent time together occasionally.

During the school breaks we had enough time to spread the latest gossip. Physical appearances and new clothes were among our favorite topics. We also never missed discussing plans for after high school. Everyone knew that I wanted to move to Frankfurt in order to escape our small town and begin a new life in the big city. We even briskly exchanged views on Dr. Sommer’s8 wise advice. I preferred to stay out of such conversations. But when it came to making fun of others, I was loudly present again.

We had already quieted down when I saw Sandra behind me. She had just carefully poked her straw into an orange juice carton and begun to drink. Still in a heady state from the gossip about Viki, I impulsively squeezed the carton. The complete contents squirted out in a high arc over Sandra’s face. “Christian, you asshole!” she said in a shrill scream. I almost collapsed with laughter. Anna tried to hold back her nasty grin and turned to the side. Everybody joined in.

When I saw Sandra’s crushed expression, the laughter stuck in my throat. Suddenly, I was sorry. I had made her life miserable many times, even though I actually really liked her.

Sandra, a pretty and intelligent girl who lived in the boarding school and was living practically on her own, was very popular with the boys. Her long black hair fluttered through the air when she walked across the schoolyard. I always knew that I could rely on Sandra. She had a friendly disposition, and quickly made friends with everybody. Although everybody wanted her, she was always around me for some inexplicable reason. I had already noticed that my athletic looks were appreciated by the blushing girls, who used to whisper behind my back when I walked past. My self-confident appearance often masked my insecurity, which I fought against day by day. Sandra and I spent plenty of time together. We were a pretty good team. We loved going to the movies, chatting about everything or just listening to music. I was never quite sure how I felt about her. This also explained why I usually skillfully dodged her timid attempts to get physically close to me, keeping her at a safe distance. I knew that, unfortunately, she wasn’t the one for true love. But I didn’t want to give up the time we spent together.

Guilt-ridden, I quickly took out tissues to wipe the orange juice from her neck. We went to the restroom.

“What the hell was that, Christian? Are you nuts? What did you think you were doing?” she asked. She was absolutely right. Why did I let myself get like this? “Sandra, I’m sorry. You know me. Why did you wave around your orange juice in my direction? I just couldn’t help myself.” I smiled sheepishly.

A loving glance was enough to bring a smile to her face. “Oh man, I am so thirsty. Do you have some orange juice?” she said. We roared with laughter. Sandra was simply too good for me. Bea was waiting for us in the classroom, angrily tapping her foot.

She wanted to confront me.

“What was that? You have shit for brains!”

“Okay! I already feel guilty and stupid enough. Besides, I already apologized to Sandra,” I protested.

“I’m not only talking about Sandra, I’m also talking about how you treated Viki. Did you even know she’s diabetic? No one cares about her. It’s not her fault she’s so big and fat. Maybe you should try putting yourself in the shoes of people you constantly feel superior to.”

“Take it easy and relax!” The school bell rang. I didn’t like getting criticism from others. I was still thinking of Bea, when class began. I didn’t know why I was like this, or why I could lose control so easily. Bea had got to the heart of it. I felt my growing guilt. I had to talk to Mila about this. After class, I rushed past Bea and went on my way to meet her.

When I got home I quickly put my school bag down, sprayed cologne on my neck and set off for Tollensesee9. Mila was impatiently waiting for me by the water. We sat at the lakeshore and I told her in detail about what had happened at school.

“Christian, I know that you really don’t care about what happens at school. After all, we have each other. But you really shouldn’t be so rude, and need to stop making fun of others,” she said.

“I don’t know why I always do it. It just happens. Afterwards I feel really bad. I’m a really bad person, but I promise you, from now on I will try really hard not to be so mean to others.”

I had a hard time because of my behavior, and was dogged by remorse every day. Besides my intense friendship with Mila, many changes slowly appeared in my life. Although Mila gave me support and I was also striving to better myself, I got more quiet every day and withdrew into my room. By now, I was fed up with the constant teenager topics. Everything revolved around appearance and sex. Added to this, I was also constantly bickering with my nagging parents, and still treated the people around me badly.

The fact that I was constantly looking in the mirror was tightly connected to my inner insecurities. My desire for physical perfection was excruciating. I started to eat less and trained daily to shape my body into the form of a picture-perfect model. I wanted my Slavic roots and high cheekbones to be noticed by everyone. I used to get on the scale to check my weight several times a day, and also drank dehydrating teas, hoping to further my weight loss. All I wanted was to live by my own rules and begin a new life. Four weeks before the summer holidays began, my good humor and lightness disappeared, along with my progress in weight loss, traits which Mila had always admired in me.

“I feel so fat and ugly,” I complained.

“Oh bullshit Christian. You are an athlete and look amazing,” Mila tried to reassure me.

Meanwhile, at a little over 6 feet, I only weighed around 158 pounds. Almost 30 pounds less than two months before didn’t pass unnoticed. But I felt like I was always just one diet away from perfection.

“But all models have high cheekbones, right Mila? Do you think I’m too fat?” I pressed her.

“No, definitely not. Stop starving yourself! You’re getting thinner and thinner! This is not healthy. Who wants to become a model nowadays anyway? You have so much potential for other things.”

My old pants didn’t fit me any longer. My mother became aware of my obsession the day my pants slid down when I was standing in front of the mirror – from the kitchen she had a direct view in the hallway, where the mirror was mounted on a wall. I was still unhappy with my body.

“Christian, come and sit down! You don’t look normal anymore,” she called to me. She was clearly worried and put some semolina pudding with strawberries on the table. To please her, I began to eat. When she left the kitchen I poured the leftovers down the toilet. I felt horrible that I had eaten something. Despite numerous attempts to reach out to me, my condition didn’t improve. Quite on the contrary, my mood was hitting rock bottom. I felt weak and empty. I was longing for love and security. Still unconditionally listening to me, Mila kept her own concerns to herself in order to fully support me. But she could not replace a romantic partner.

Stefan had caught my eye. He was three years older than me, trained on the same sports field and I was in love with him. His short hair, his stature and muscular body made my heart pound. Nervously, I ran past him, trying to hide my gaze, hoping in vain for a signal. But he wasn’t gay. I could have never told him how I felt, otherwise I would have been the laughing stock of the school.

I hated my body. I couldn’t understand my feelings and had serious worries about having to expose myself to the merciless teasing of the others. My token girlfriend Sandra made my life considerably easier. She wasn’t at all suspicious of my secret desires, but she did realize something was wrong with me. I didn’t feel like being close to her and certainly wasn’t at all excited about tender kisses. As I lay in bed at night, I kept thinking about my love for Stefan and mulled over my past. I felt increasingly lonely. After one of my daily walks and talks with Mila near the water, I turned to head home. “Christian, you are not better or worse than all the others out there,” Mila told me as we said goodbye. She was so wise. When I couldn’t sleep at night I used to repeat her words like a prayer.

“I am not better or worse than all the others out there. I am no better or worse.”

 

Faith

Detailed questions about guilt and atonement were taking up my thoughts. I was gay, and had to admit that I had judged people by their appearance. Trusting that I would find a way to purify myself, I reached out and talked to God.

“Dear God, why am I so ugly and have no boyfriend? I’ve been so mean, judging other people and also laughing at them. I feel so lonely, I would almost prefer to die. But I couldn’t do that to Mila. Could I? Why don’t you help me? What should I do? Grandma told me I should talk to you whenever I can’t find a way out!“

I didn’t get an answer. So I made a decision: being baptized would purify me. Afterwards, I hoped to start a new life and to become a better human being. After the nightly talks with God, my decision stood firm.

I sought out elderly people who lived nearby and asked them about their experiences with God. They described feelings of both wonderment and joy. I called my grandma.

“Grandma, how are you?” I asked her.

“Well, my boy. What’s new?“ she answered.

“I want to get baptized.” There was short moment of silence at the other end of the phone. “What makes you say that?” she finally asked. “My boy, your belief in God will make you feel better.”

Did God, by any chance, tell her about my concerns? After a pause, she went on. I was surprised, and hung on to her words. Why should it make me feel better? It seemed like a sign.

“I’ve always had to fend for myself, but I made it to 96 years old. How else could I possibly accomplish that, other than with God’s help?“

Grandma had a strong personality; she bound the family together and mediated any arguments. She was also the most respected village elder. No one ever had a bad word to say about her. She pointed the finger when it was needed, and warned me if something was in the air.

“Think about that baptism, my boy. Say hi to your mother.” Having said that, she hung up the phone. Possessed by a newfound drive, and completely euphoric at having found something that gave me strength, I fetched the Bible out of the bookcase. The words of my grandmother still sounded in my ears. Full of reverence, I opened the mysterious book and read the Ten Commandments:

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

After this first reading I was already seized with doubt. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. What had I done? He would surely punish me. I needed to apologize to the people I had made fun of. Sandra, for instance, regularly made me laugh. I should add she recently had started seeing another man. She acted as if I knew nothing about it. Did she really think I was that clueless? From that day on, I just wanted to be honest and be surrounded by people who were honest with me. The time had come. I wasn’t allowed to be the Christian of the past any more. The next day I put my plan into practice, and talked to Sandra in the schoolyard.

“How would you like to telepathically understand what people are thinking?” Knowing

I often asked such odd questions, she smiled at me.

“And what makes you ask that?” she asked.

“I can do it,” I answered firmly.

“Yeah, yeah…whatever, Christian.” We both laughed, although I was feeling pretty bad. After all, I had confessed something private to her, and wanted her to tell me about her secret affair.

“Since when have you been able to do that?” she asked.

“For quite some time. That’s why I know whether somebody is telling the truth or not,” I told her.

“Does it work only if you know the person quite well, or can you use it on mere acquaintances?” she went on.

“It works with everybody. Of course, there are some exceptions,” I added.

“And what do you gain from knowing about the inner world of other people?” she said, raising an eyebrow.

“I know then whether I can trust them or not,” I said, half sadly.

Uncertain, but determined, I grabbed her hand, but before I could go further she demanded, “Are you talking about me? If so, I just want to tell you you can trust me, even if I'm crazy sometimes, or say that I have no time for you. I'm sorry and I'm so glad that you exist and I appreciate you very much.” Stunned by her deceitful words, I looked at her and said, “I’m sorry I laughed at you, and called you only when everybody else was busy.”

“Are you not feeling well, or are you just joking around?” she asked, growing worried. “What's the matter with you today? You're acting weird – like you’re not all there.”

Visibly upset by my frankness, she left. And I could only think about Stefan. I was even less honest than she was. Did she really like me as she had just claimed? I felt guiltier than ever. I just couldn’t reveal my true feelings to her.

The baptism was the only way to save my life. I contacted the local church and shared my wish to become God's son. But I didn’t go to the proposed baptismal classes. Forgiveness by that route would take far too long.

I kept trying to get rid of my grief through prayers and discussions. During the day I attended school. Afterwards, I would go to church, light candles and pray. Even on weekends nothing kept me from talking to God. The church was the only place where I could somehow get some peace. Every day I was preoccupied with the same questions. On the way to church, I walked along Stargarder street, paying no attention to the people around me. I only had one goal in mind. Even the passing cars faded into the background. I sank deeper and deeper into myself, lost in thought.

Only after the heavy church doors closed behind me, did I finally feel a deep sense of peace. In this place everyone was concerned with their own problems, so I could meditate undisturbed, and not worry about anyone else. I went to the altar and lit a candle. I starred at the flame, took a deep breath and sank exhausted on a pew. The light of the stained glass windows filled the room and was relaxing. It was a feeling I deeply missed – Bea’s words circled in my head.

“Why are you always so mean? You've got no reason. Not everyone can be as good looking as you. Put yourself in Viki’s place!” Was I really such a bad person? If Bea just knew that my self-confidence was only pretend. This constant pressure to keep up with others! The daily questioning of my image in the mirror, the desire for true love. Only Mila and Sabine knew I was in love with Stefan. An unattainable love. I would have gladly shared with Stefan what I could not experience with Sandra. I lit two more candles, including one for Viktoria, and prayed. Quietly, I asked her for forgiveness.

This obsessive thought was haunting my sleep at night. Not even my skin, with its tanning salon glow, could hide this. My concentration was decreasing and life at school became difficult. Even Mila could not comfort me in my despair any more. “You have to get some help. It would be best if you went to a counseling center and talked about your feelings,” she said.

“No, absolutely not. I'm not crazy. What am I supposed to tell them?” I protested.

“Christian, I'm worried about you,” she sighed.

“You don’t have to be. I'm going to get help myself,” I said firmly.

Unstable and wobbly on my feet, without telling Mila, I made an appointment with my family doctor who I had learned to trust over the years.

“Christian, aren’t you feeling well?” he asked me.

“I’m fine, just tired. School is pretty stressful at the moment. As you might know, the high school graduation exams are soon,” I said, avoiding his gaze.

“Let me quickly measure your blood pressure…120/80. It’s good to be young!” he smiled. Despite my condition, he was visibly pleased with my physical fitness.

“What kind of thoughts are weighing you down?” I didn’t know how to begin. Feeling embarrassed, I couldn’t look at him.

“Could you prescribe me Ativan10?” I blurted out.

His looked at me closely. “How do you know about this medicine?”

“I got it as an anxiolytic before my last flight,” I explained.

He sighed with relief. “Where are you traveling to this time?”

“I’m flying to the Canary Islands,” I said.

“Interesting what the youth can afford nowadays. Are you still afraid of flying?” he asked.

“Sort of,” I mumbled.

“Well, as a one-time thing I will prescribe you a small pack. Don’t take too many tablets, or you might get addicted!” With an encouraging, friendly smile he said goodbye. Even in this situation I had managed to keep my feelings brilliantly under control.

Of course, I didn’t tell him that my fear of flying was merely an excuse. I also kept to myself the fact that I knew about this drug from numerous talks with Anna, Sabine’s daughter.

Despite the dampening effect of the tablets, sleeping was still not possible. I could hardly get out of bed in the morning, I didn’t feel like taking a shower or talking to anyone. Everyday life was trying. At school, I began to observe classmates from afar, and withdrew more and more from any everyday interaction. As an outsider, I could notice how superficial they were. All they wanted was to look pretty, make comments about clothes and gossip about geeks. I just refused to be like that. Everything that used to be so important to me in the past no longer mattered. I felt increasingly uncomfortable at school.

My ability to concentrate went down significantly and the desire for inner change was more demanding than ever. I had difficulties following my teacher’s explanations. I often looked out the window, eagerly waiting for the redeeming bell. As always, ten minutes before the end of the class, there was a general restlessness around. For the past quarter hour, the boys in the back row started to use all their energy for making spitballs. What had happened unnoticed so far caused a bit of chaos when they started to fly around the room. Visibly angry, Viki took her pencil case and aimed it skillfully at the back row, where she hit the culprit. Uproarious shouting filled the room and, in the thick of it, Dr. Schmidt was desperately trying to keep discipline. Viki noticed that I stayed calm and uninvolved in the corner without making my usual comments. Finally, the redeeming bell came.

While everybody was rushing out of the room, my class teacher, Dr. Schmidt, waited for a quiet moment. She gave me my workbook back and said, worried, “Christian, you should stay away from weak-minded people!” Puzzled, I looked at her, gave an irritated nod and abruptly left.

I usually had a good rapport with adults, but Dr. Schmidt was holding something back from me. I could not understand her advice and was skeptical that she truly meant well. Since my childhood, my inner voice had helped me recognize threats and dishonest people. But I regularly felt that no one took my skills seriously. Few people ever picked up on my talent to second-guess dishonest people. After the long break, I returned to my seat, still confused by her words.

What, and above all, whom did she mean by that? Who were these weak people? I had no time to ask.

My hand cramped when I attempted to note the day’s topics in my study book. I found it difficult to remember what I was writing. The loud voices of my schoolmates talking about the upcoming holidays, some TV program or their girlfriends brought me into even deeper despair. I just could not concentrate.

I left the room for a little while and continued thinking about weak people. As a matter of fact, I was surrounded exclusively by weak people. Up to this time, I could only talk about them with Mila.

After school, I walked home and went to bed. Dr. Schmidt was a manipulative woman, and I didn’t take her advice seriously. Or did I? I was lying there, staring at the ceiling. “God, please forgive me for being a bad person. I sincerely promise to change.”

“You have neither committed sins, nor are you a bad person,” I repeated Mila’s words, but they were already fading away. Nobody really understood what had happened to me in the course of the last two weeks. Even I had trouble understanding my emotions.

 

Sabine

After school, I visited Anna’s mother, Sabine. Sabine worked at the pharmacy and guessed earlier than the others around me that I was different. One day, she handed me a book with a small wink.

“Here you go, Christian. Maybe this book might answer some of your questions.” The title Homosexuality made me realize Sabine had known my secret for a long time. She encouraged me to talk openly about my emotions and, as one of my confidantes, was among the few who knew my worries and secrets. But she had no idea that I had in-depth knowledge of her secrets, too.