Flora Summers was a psychiatrist. She worked in a facility, the biggest in the country, that treats different types of disorders.
She decided to study this field as her grandmother suffered from senile dementia and had died during her last year in high school. She loved grandma and the ineptitude of the people in understanding her condition had been essential in the decisions Flora made from then on.
Now over forty, she married a gynecologist and had a young son. She watched over her mother with great care as the probabilities that she would suffer the same illness her grandma did, were very high.
Everyday, she was in charge of watching over the patients in ward C. In the mornings, she made her rounds, checking them out, talking a bit, watching over their diets and recent behavior. She had lunch in an office with a window towards the patients dining room as she liked to see them in different kind of situations. She thought that was pivotal in understanding their diseases.
One day, she realized Thomas, a patient suffering from depression, had been moved to ward D. Ward D was reserved for those that were deemed "untreatable". She hated to go to that place as the people that attended the patients there were rude and did not treat anyone well.
A week later, Thomas's room was taken over Rudy, another young man. As psychiatrist of the ward, she had to interview the patient so they could now what kind of medication, diet and treatment he should follow.
When he entered her office, she couldn't help being sad: he looked like a ghost, very pale with big dark circles beneath his eyes. He had beautiful eyes, the color of honey. She started by telling him that. She had read he suffered anorexia and depression had already kicked in: he had attempted to kill himself twice.
The boy wasn't very talkative. Not uncommon to be honest, except in those with diseases like persecutory delusion. He looked at his hands all the time, answering only in "yes" or "no" and sometimes just shrugging. When he left, she realized it was yet another one of those cases, the kind you never knew how to solve or how it would end as they depended highly on the patient and their surroundings.
The days passed by and Flora tried harder to make Rudy come out of his shell. She had been sent information about his school and other activities and had even visited his parents. No, she didn't blame them although it was clear he had never felt like he could talk to them, as they only found out about his condition when he committed suicide the second time.
After that, she summoned him every other day to talk and she started, after having read every piece of information, with a blunt question:
- Why did you tried to hang yourself?
This time, he looked at her, nervous.
- I have seen many patients that have attempted to take their own lives but hanging is quite uncommon.
Then he talked, the words just poured out as if she had said a magical word. He told Flora that he wanted people to feel bad for him been dead, even his parents. He wanted all to see him as miserable as he was.
Over the course of many sessions, Rudy told everything the doctor already knew and more. She had learned he was a TV fan, watching all shows and watching all kinds of movies with his friend Robert. He said he loved candy and specially ice cream. Flora told him she could bring her some next time but that threw him over the edge and she had to call a nurse to calm him down and take him to his room.
Rudy was visibly upset by something and had decided not to eat. But what was it? Flora knew that he had a profile in many social networks, that he didn't liked sports and that he had just finished high school. So, what was wrong?
In the next session, Rudy told her he was sorry to have lost his temper but that he didn't like to talk about food. Flora answered they had to, as that seemed to be a part of the problem. She told him he had anorexia and depression, and that the combination was hard to live with.
Flora asked him to give her his hand and, with a bit of hesitation, he did: she pulled up his sleeve and made him look the marks the cuts had left there.
- That was the first time, yes?
He nodded. Next she asked him to take off his shirt and take a look into a mirror on one of the corners of the room.
- What do you see?
He knew what she meant: the skin covering the bones and little more. Rudy did not say a word. He pulled down his shirt and cleaned off a tear from his face.
- Do you see a healthy person or an unhealthy one?
Rudy answered he saw a fat person, a person no one wanted to be with, someone that felt ashamed. Flora told him she was going to change his diet a bit as he needed many vitamins and nutrients to be healthy. He didn't care.
On the weekend, the doctor thought of Rudy while watching her son play in the garden with her husband. She thought of how awful it would be if her son felt like Rudy, misplaced and ugly. She was brought to reality when the phone rang. From outside, her husband watched her cry and went in with their son.
Months later, she continued to work in the facility but had also started a venture of her own: at least once a week, she would visit a school or a college's auditorium and then just talk with young and older teens. Her subject: the destructive beauty standards in our times.
As it happens, the day of Rudy's burial, his parents approached Flora and thanked her for her help. They told her that Rudy wanted to get better but just couldn't. His sister, a young and beautiful twelve year old, talked to her after her parents just couldn't do it anymore. She told Flora they had found things in Rudy's laptop: apparently he had been bullied as he had uploaded pictures all round and he had been attacked for being "ugly".
Even more, he had written somewhere he felt bad because of what he saw all around, the beauty standards that were impossible to follow and that he had felt more and more guilty because he wasn't like everybody else wanted to be.
Now Flora knew why what happened, had taken place. She had decided to make something for her community and started the talks, to teach teenagers not to feel obliged to be something they weren't and to love yourself. She always said "being healthy is not the same as been skinny or muscular. It's about loving your body and doing the best for yourself".
Now, she really felt she was helping people and not only keeping them safe or sane. She thanked Rudy for this and always made sure her son knew he could talk to her.