Once Upon A Time–A Short and Sad Fable

a short, sad fable on bettysbattleground.com

Once upon a time, a baby was born. She was born as perfect as any baby is born, her hope and humanity and purpose still untouched by jealousy, by undue pain, by disappointment or despair. And so, despite some hardship, she was a happy child. She loved telling stories, and acting them out for her friends. She loved animals, and kept many near her. She loved her mother and her father. She loved sunlight, and singing, and a great many things, as children do.

But this child was born with a disease, latent deep within her. It was a disease capable of robbing her senses, her sense of self, even her great many loves. But it was also a disease that could be treated. It was a bad disease, but with the love of her friends, family, and countrymen, she could be lifted from the worst of it, and continue to live in that happy way. So you understand, then, that it was a terrible tragedy that many years before this girl was born, before she was even a spark of lust in her parents’ eyes, before they were even spark of lust in their parents’ eyes, the society into which the girl was born deemed it illegal to show symptoms of her disease.

By the time the girl was beginning to become a woman, her disease was worse than illegal. It was reviled. Those who showed symptoms of it were treated with disgust by their neighbors. They were abandoned by their friends, and sent to the streets by their own parents where, when they were caught by the authorities, they were jailed, and tortured. The girl, now a woman, watched those who shared her disease become captured, thrown into cells, and forced to endure the worst agonies of the disease. Sometimes they died in those cells. Sometimes, once released, the disease–now worse than before because of the terrible neglect–overcame them and killed them in the streets. The girl, now a woman, watched in horror, but was fortunate, and never caught by the authorities, even when the disease overcame her as well. For many years, despite her best efforts, she was powerless to stop its progression.

The woman with the hated disease, who was born as perfect as any other baby, who had once been a girl of many loves, wasted away. Her cheeks hollowed. Her friends stopped speaking to her. Her family stopped calling, or called to tell her she was worthless, disgusting. To blame her for her disease, which she did not choose, and had not even known she had before it took hold of her. She became consumed by an anger so blinding that she spent it on the few friends who remained in her life, and thus lost them as well.

The woman knew that medicine existed which could help her, but she was afraid to take it. She had been told, by others wasting from the disease, that taking these medicines would be worse than having the disease. She had been told, by people who claimed to know, that taking these medicines was really no different than having the disease. She was told the medicines would enslave her. So she didn’t take them. For many years, she continue to get sicker and sicker. In that time, her disease nearly killed her. In that time, her disease killed many of the people she knew who shared the disease.

One day, the woman discovered that she was with child. She was afraid. Would her baby have the disease too? Would her disease harm the baby? She went to see a doctor. She was afraid to tell this doctor about her disease because she knew that it was a disease so hated even doctors thought those who had it were filthy. But she was even more afraid that her unborn child would be hurt by her disease. So she admitted to having the disease.

The doctor did not hate her. The doctor did not jail her, or treat her like she was filth. The doctor told her, very plainly, that she needed to take the fearsome medicine in order to save her baby, and herself. So she did. And gradually, she began to feel better. As her baby grew, her own cheeks filled out, and she began to feel joy again. She realized the medicine was not fearsome at all–that the idea that it was a poison was born from the same cruel laws that led others to loathe her and those like her.

Eventually, the woman gave birth to a daughter. She continued to take her medicine, and soon, became pregnant again with a second daughter. Her life was not magically transformed. She still had symptoms of her disease on occasion. But joy and love had returned to her life, in the form of her daughters and her health. The medicine worked.

Then, one day, years after the birth of her first daughter, a vengeful, miserable crone who resented the angry, sick wretch the woman had once been betrayed her to the authorities. Once the authorities learned the woman had the disease, they stormed her home. They kidnapped he daughters and gave them over to the crone. The more the woman protested, the more she was punished. The authorities hired doctors to perform tests, trying to prove she was still symptomatic, and in so proving, that she was a danger to her children. But the tests all returned negative.

“Still,” said the authorities, “you have the terrible disease, and that alone gives us cause to think you will harm your daughters.”

So the crone was granted care of the children. The woman was told that if she proved she didn’t have symptoms of the disease anymore she could, perhaps, see her children returned to her. But, alas, she had already proven this through tests and did not know how else she could show that she was a loving mother, a kind woman, and no longer sick. So she spent her days in mourning, afraid that she would never see her children again, simply because she was born with a disease that the world had been taught to hate.

5 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time–A Short and Sad Fable

  1. It’s really irritating you don’t say what disease!!
    It makes me feel I wasted my time and not want to read anything else.

      • My 1st idea, sent previously, was “mental health issues “, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. I know from personal experience that mental problems were whispered about, they were shameful and embarrassing and, in severe cases, they were institutionalized ( as secretly as possible, the shame, you know….). But, it occurred to me after considering your age, that mental healh issues had probably already come out of the closet.
        Which left, child abuse and/or neglect. Which, as shocking as it may sound, was actually blamed on the child. Or completely disbelieved and pretended never happened and shoved right into that closet just as soon as mental problems was shoved out.
        Quite frankly, i can understand the shame etc surrounding mental health because it scared people, it wasn’t “normal” behavior so they didn’t have a clue how to deal bc with and they were terrified of what everyone else would think if they knew, hence the closet. I did not say i agree, just that i understood.
        Child abuse, however, is completely diff ar rent. The CHILD IS THE VICTIM. The perpetrator is almost always a family member or family friend. The “accomplice” is the person who is also supposed to love and protect the child. But, instead either pretends it’s not happening as it continues to happen. Or believes the child, but puts the blame on the child, as it continues to happen.

        The only other thing i can think of is addiction. But, I think itssvery likely that addiction is a direct result of one or both of the 1st 2 conditions i mentioned. It’s called “self-medicating ” at first. And, it works – at first.
        Ill be very interested to know the rest of your “story”.

        • Hi Brenda, thank you for your thoughtful reply. I definitely had substance use disorders in mind (specifically opioid use disorder) while writing this due to not just the stigmatizing but also heavy criminalization of drug use in the United States and elsewhere, plus just generally poor treatment practices and policies. But I do agree that trauma and mental illness are major factors in the development of addiction–and I think you could totally make a case that trauma and mental illness could be the “disease” in the story. I left it intentionally vague because I think that–though it upset at least one reader–it allows for people to insert their own interpretation and experience. When it comes to people with substance use disorders, we could definitely use a lot more empathy resulting from people relating to our experience on a personal level.

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