His breathing normalized in a matter of days but as soon as he came out of his drug-fuelled stupor, we realized he'd had a very alarming psychotic breakdown, a rather scarily common occurrence when one goes cold turkey. His personality had started a strange sort of rapid cycling. He alternated between aggression, abusiveness, even violent outbursts when he threatened us to let him go home, on the one hand and an eerie calmness, accompanied by spells of sobbing and pleading with us for a discharge, becoming moody and depressed on the other.
It was pointless to explain to him how delicate his condition was, that he needed psychiatric help. His mother, who stayed up for days without sleep, rushing to his side every time he called out for her, begged us to save his life, keep him in the ICU till he recovered completely. That he needed to be transferred to a psychiatric ward seemed unbearable to her.
He wud scream at her, abuse her, beat her even, but she was always the same with him. Talking with him affectionately, bringing him sweets whenever he asked for them, even at 2 AM. Tonight he slapped her hard across the face because he thought she was conspiring with us to keep him in the hospital and we had to call in security to help restrain him. She wept, insisted how he was a really good boy at heart, and once he was placed securely in restraints, went up to him, stroked his hair and kissed his hand.
Our registrar looked visibly disgusted at this show of affection and asked her why she simply did not leave her son, when he so obviously was the cause of her misery. The woman looked at the two of us and simply replied, "How can I? He is my son. You two will also understand when you become mothers, yourselves."
I wondered at that last statement. Will birthing a child really turn me into the sort of person who could possibly love an unreasonable, unrepentant boy simply because he was my son? I really doubt that.
I had not thought of love this way before. Love as some kind of malignant disease, which does not allow you to think or reason clearly. It makes you selfless to such an extent that you lose all understanding of self altogether.
As I was getting ready to leave at midnight, my co-intern turned up and we were talking about how a mother's love is unconditional and Darwin's disciple that he is, it turned out he had a slightly different take. "The idea is to pass on our genes, if we did not love those things, those semi-parasitic, annoying, screeching bundles of flesh unconditionally, we'd be tempted to kill them off and the human race would die out. Unconditional love is just a biological imperative disguised as an illusory ideal."
He may be a little bit further from the truth than he believes, I think. As I was walking to the main gate, I passed the Paediatrics ward where a new mother played with a child with Down's syndrome and I watched the little girl laugh and laugh as her mother tickled her. I went in and ruffled the girl's hair. The mother smiled at me as the kid giggled happily, and said, "I know she'll never be like other children, the way I wanted her to be, but the doctors say she'll be a happy child in her short life. And somehow that doesn't sound so bad. I think it could have been much worse."
I left her, realizing that I will probably never be a very maternal person, even if I managed to become a mother. That's alright. But to love so deeply and so truly is not something one should dismiss as mere biological imperative, even when that love brings nearly as much sorrow as joy.