Joanna Rice was one of those teenagers who had everything going for her. Her figure, face, and hair are the envy of almost every other girl in her school, even the ones who were one and two years older. Her intelligence was way above average, making most of her classes so easy she rarely had to study. She soaks up the knowledge during class time like a sponge.
The rest of Rice family consists of her parents and one younger sister. There didn’t seem to be any strife between the siblings. If you asked her parents why this was, they’d shrug their shoulders and say, “It’s probably because they’re so different. There isn’t any competition between them.” The parents are loving, even to each other, which Joanna found embarrassing at times.
All looked good from the outside, but if you could see the conflict going on inside Joanna, you’d probably doubt her abilities to overcome it unless she found help. The problem was she doesn’t know how dire her circumstances were. Her assessment of her situation was completely off base.
It started a little over a year ago, the summer before her first year in high school. She was walking home from the neighborhood park when she felt someone behind her. She casually flipped her long dark brown hair to one side to look behind her, hopefully appearing nonchalant. No one was there. She told herself to forget it even though the feeling didn’t go away until she got inside the house. To be sure, she peeked out the front window. The street was deserted.
Five weeks after school started that fall, Joanna felt the presence while hurrying to classes. She tried to catch the culprit in the act but somehow the stalker was completely elusive. When she mentioned it to her best friend, Beth, she was told that she was crazy. No one was following her.
“Look, you’re just nervous. That’s all.”
“Yah, maybe you’re right.” Still, Joanna had serious doubts and the anxiety was building in her.
Her first report card looked exceptional to her parents and friends, A minuses and Bs. She was not happy with the grades though. She told her parents that her grades should be higher but the teachers were all against her.
“Mom, you should see the way they look at me. And they stand over my desk while I’m trying to work.”
The parents tried to reason with her, even thought they had gotten through to their firstborn. They hadn’t. She put on a brave face, keeping her suspicions to herself from then on.
A week later, she walked into her history class, heading for the second row, first seat, when someone whispered in her ear. “Don’t sit there. Take a seat at the back.”
“Why?” she asked, reeling around to see who it was. No one was there.
The boy sitting first row, second seat, peered up at her. “What? Who are you talking to, Jo?”
She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks. “No one. Mind your own business, Mike.” She hurried to the last seat in the row.
Her second year of high school has commenced. She’s held her own academically, but she’s slowly turned inward and doesn’t do much socializing, not even with her own family. She hides in her bedroom except for meals. Her sister has heard her talking to herself as if someone else is in the room with her. Yet, when Joanna answers her sister’s knock, it’s clear to see there’s no one there.
I studied Sociology/Social Work in college. I was thoroughly enthralled with the class I took exploring mental illness. I’m not an expert on this subject by any means though. Still, I do want to try writing a fictional story using this angle some time in the future. Of course, I’ll be doing more research.
“Am I a mindless fool? My life is a fragment, a disconnected dream that has no continuity. I am so tired of senselessness. I am tired of the music that my feelings sing, the dream music.” ― Ross David Burke, When the Music’s Over: My Journey into Schizophrenia