I know the story of a woman who once ran over a dog with her car. She was haunted by the dog's ghost and could not sleep for days. The dog could not go to heaven because it had died an improper death. One day, a shaman told the woman that she needed to do three things before the dog's soul could ascend to the skies.
First, she must cut a branch from a tree.
Second, she must find a rope.
Third, she must take a blank sheet of paper.
When she has all these items, she must go back to the place of the accident. She will stand in the same spot where the dog had died, and she will lay on the ground just as the dog had laid. She will close her eyes and squeeze the blank sheet of paper. She will tie the rope around her neck, making a knot that will not lose. Then she will hold the tree branch and point it to the sky.
Pointing the tree branch to the sky, the woman will scream. She will scream as loud as she can and she won't stop. Even as her voice box threatens to explode, she will scream. Even as the tears roll down her eyes, she will scream. She will scream, and the gods will hear her. She will scream, until the gods open the heavens and the dog's soul can finally go home.
It wasn't the first time I'd been advised to consult a psychologist, nor was it the first time I had taken it into consideration. But the thought never lasted long, and before I knew it, I'd completely forgotten about the fact that I'd even considered seeing a psychologist. Needless to say, there had been many factors that had prevented me from visiting one — many factors I subconsciously didn't want to address.
First of all, I thought that to visit a psychologist meant to acknowledge that something was wrong with you, that you were broken somewhere up there and needed fixing.
Secondly, considering the way I was raised, a case like mine was seen as weakness, laziness. Nothing was wrong with you. You just need a decent flogging to get you back in order.
Thirdly, the "thing" that bothered me was something only I could see. I have been living with it for four years now. If I survived that long, surely I could survive even longer, right?
However, as I grew older, this "thing" grew along with me. We were joined together. It was an invisible vine that entwined itself around my body with its roots embedded on my skin through which they sucked out my life energy. And the funny thing is I didn't notice it, not clearly at first. I thought it was a part of me and I'd grown accustomed to being restricted by the clutches of the vine.
However, during the fateful summer of 2018, I dealt with an unforeseen takeover. It lasted for weeks. I couldn't leave the house. Any attempt I made further instigated the vine to wrap itself around me to the point that I became stiff. Those weeks served as sort of an eye-opener. I feared that it would go on longer than I could handle, and the vine would continue to sap out my life force until it became the end of me. So, I decided to consult a psychologist.
We sat in a living room whose walls were adorned with paintings and mini-sculptures that once belonged to a native Nigerian tribe, probably the Benin. It was quiet, very quiet, except for the sound coming from the air conditioner. I focused on that sound. From the way I sat, fiddling my fingers and my legs pressed close to each other so that there wasn't any possibility of air passing through, it was obvious I was anxious. My psychologist addressed this first before moving on to the introductions. And then she asked me what was the problem.
"There's a vine growing on my back and I don't know how to get rid of it."
"A vine?" she asked with a queer look on her face.
"Yes, a vine." I answered.
"Can you describe this 'vine' for me in detail?"
And I told her about how I began to notice its tendrils at the age of 18, but I thought it was just a phase — part of growing up. But from one tendril began to sprout another, and another, and before I knew it, I could see the stems entwining around my arms, onto my neck, then my whole body. The thing about these vines is that they had roots which embedded itself onto my body. These roots served as its means of draining my life energy. It was harmless, I didn't feel any pain whatsoever, but as time went on I would start to feel weak.
I noticed that as I told her the details she had a rather strange facial expression. When I was done explaining, she asked if this vine was a metaphor for depression.
I was taken aback by her silly question. Depression? How absurd. I told her it wasn't depression, it was the real thing. A vine really was growing from my back. I pointed to the exact spot where it sprouted from, and she said, "That's impossible."
I couldn't help but feel betrayed. I had come hoping to share my dilemma with someone I thought could help, but even she did not believe the profundity of my situation. As I got up and made to leave, my psychologist called back to me, but I couldn't hear her.
Before exiting the room, I looked at a mirror that was nearby. I noticed that the vine had sprouted from both my ears. I left the room, and I never saw my psychologist again.
Jessica started writing fiction at the age of 13 but took a three-year hiatus after going abroad to pursue a higher education in medicine. She dropped out of medical school and turned to writing as a means of fighting depression. Eventually, this landed her a full-time job as a narrative writer. When she's not writing for work, she's writing for herself. When she's not writing for herself, she's probably dancing.