Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin: In the mental institution


“Are you saying that I am deranged?” I burst out in terror.
“Yes, and you have to know that. Modern methods of treatment are such that to begin with, the patient must help the doctor in his efforts. And this can only be accomplished providing the patient fully acknowledges what his illness consists of, and do all that he can to eliminate things that can contribute to its development.”
“Doctor! I do not know how, nor for what reason I got here, but in any case, I consider it my duty to protest. I see myself as mentally disabled as you do yourself. I protest.”
“Yes, I know that you constitute yourself as healthy. I have been practicing medicine nearly twenty years and have never come across a single mental patient who was not convinced he was in good health. It is a common rule, from which an exemption only those people who are affected by brain paralysis. They are the only ones who do not protest, and certainly they don’t, only because they are unable to even formulate any sort of protest.”
“Thus I am insane! That is beyond belief, but I have to trust that. You as a therapist are certifying me of that… Splendid. Nevertheless, how am I crazy?”
“I only had one day, yesterday, for observation. You are in your first phase of insanity, therefore are very likely to recover quite soon. But unfortunately you are not a melancholic but a monomaniac. For a melancholic, this is not just a residence but a carnival, whereas maniacs we have to lock up in a separate room from time to time. In concern to the object of your insanity, it is a million, that allegedly has been stolen from you by one of your friends after your death.”
“But that is the truth, doctor, my million has been stolen!”
“Of course it is the truth, but only in the sense that you have a strong conviction of that. As a matter of fact, however, consider how can that be true? Right now we are standing here and talking, but you are convincing me that after your death, your million was stolen!”
I opened my eyes widely. Really, what did I just say? I have actually declared that I was dead! My lord! Could it really be that I am crazy?
“Doctor! What I said was absurd. But I realize that, trust me. The thing is that in the latter days I was caught in the hands of a gang of schemers, which for a whole month in the most disgraceful way have tormented me. Then followed a nervous breakdown, I had a dream, and…”
“Oh sure, sure. That’s how it always starts, and I am very happy that you fairly clearly acknowledge the source of your insanity. Every derangement has as a beginning some sort of a shocking surface impression, delivered to the brain (in a dream or in reality – it doesn’t matter) Add to that anemia, insufficiency in the digestive system – and as a result without fail will come derangement.”
“But I am telling you, doctor…”
“I believe you. I know that you are sure of the perfectly normal condition of your intellectual abilities. But I would wish, for your own sake that you would assure yourself of the opposite. Since, like I already said, only then can your recovery be successful, when you will help me with all the energy you possess.”
“But tell me, at least, how did I get here?”

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