They bustled through the door; the daughter ushered into her seat, the mother fumbling with bags, neither looking especially comfortable at the prospect of being here which is generally how most people enter my office. I glance down at her record: fifteen, vaccinations up to date, no significant illnesses or concerns thus far, though prone to influenza. I look up at them mechanically with a smile that I hope doesn’t appear as rehearsed as it is.

“What seems to be the problem?”

A full silence sits between them. Mother elbows daughter, making wide-eyed encouragement and receiving very little back. I lean into my desk slightly, an attempt at closeness across the vast expanse between us.

“There’s no need to be embarrassed, I guarantee whatever you have to say I’ll have heard a thousand times before.”

Her insecure gaze catches mine a moment and darts away. I look across at the stern-faced mother and back again.

“Maybe you’d be happier if we talked privately?”

“I’m in love.” The statement hung heavy in the air and while a tension remained stretched across her shoulders I could see a fraction of relief seeping out of her; the first hurdle successfully jumped.

“OK, well, first of all, you did the right thing coming to see me,” I offer in as soothing a voice as I can muster, “It takes a great deal of courage to acknowledge it, let alone say it out loud. Now, if I may, I have a few questions, is that alright?”

She shifts in her chair, legs and arms unfurling ever so slightly, and nods for me to continue. I pick up my pen and let it hover over the paper, the questions appearing stacked in my mind.

“OK. When did you first start to feel like this?”

She thinks, her eyes darting, replaying memories, searching for the beginning, “a few months ago I guess.”

Her mother’s eyebrows are momentarily lost in her hairline. I shoot a glance at her, one that says ‘do not startle the deer’ and she looks away. I return my attention to the daughter, carefully probing further.

“Was there anything in particular that triggered it?”

She stumbles over words, trying to find the right ones, “I dunno I… I guess I first noticed this day in maths. These guys were being rude to me and he told them to shut up and I… I guess I didn’t think he even knew who I was before then.” A gentle smile crept in at the corner of her mouth, her eyes glazed with memory, while her mother feigned something in her eye to wipe away a tear.

“So this love, how would you categorise it?”

Her brow furrows, “What do you mean?”

“Love comes in many forms,” I explain patiently, “Familial love for a parent or sibling, love for a close friend or kindred spirit, romantic love, love of consumables such as foods, love of a place or object such as books…”

“Romantic,” she interjects, her cheeks turning a soft rose, “this one is romantic.”

“This one?!” The mother, who’s lips have remained pursed until now, flails dramatically as if she were aboard a sinking ship.

“I don’t mean it like that, it’s just him,” the daughter huffs, tired of a cyclical argument that I imagine has been going on a while to bring them to this point.

“What do you mean?” I pose calmly.

“This instance of love.”

The air thickens to the point of choking but I press on. “So you’ve had more than one instance?”

She looks between the two of us, furrow returned, “Well, obviously.”

“Which kind?” I press.

She falters, the momentary confidence waning, “All of them…”

I nod and scribble a note on my pad, doing my best to keep a supportive smile on my face, “And these other affectionate feelings, they started when?”

She looks between us as if waiting of a punchline. “Always.” She turns to her mother to be greeted only by a cold shoulder, “Are you…are you seriously saying you don’t love me?”

I hold the tissue box out and the mother tugs at them; one, two, three.  The daughter’s cheeks puff with stone, fighting back the salty sting at the corners of her eyes.  “Mum?”

Breathing deep she turns to her daughter, the first moment of genuine eye contact during this whole visit.  To the naive eye I can see where the girl will have gotten the idea from, many of the surface signs of love are there, but then that is what I’m trained to spot.

“Mina it’s different,” the words fighting through breath, through the harsh realization that her daughter has been battling this unnoticed for so long.

“It’s true,” I find myself chiming in, “Chemically you are flooded with an excess of oxytocin, probably increased adrenaline and norepinephrine too, we’ll do some test to determine what exactly your imbalance is so we can get you on the best treatment programme.  Your mother…”

“Treatment programme?” her words cutting, “I don’t need treatment, there’s nothing wrong with me!”

“But you just said…”

“She dragged me here this isn’t….You can’t be being serious!!”

“I’m afraid I am, Mina.  What you’re experiencing…it’s not normal.  But it’s ok, it’s just a chemical imbalance.  We’ll have you right as rain in no time.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s