Qin Shiya’s face was cold. “Are you really a doctor?”
“Yes. Do you want to see my license?”
Qin Shiya didn’t know what to think anymore. She could only helplessly repeat what she said earlier. “You’re different from all the other doctors I’ve seen to date. Don’t you know that PTSD patients are easily provoked?”
Cheng Xi responded in a particularly earnest tone. “I’m sorry. I had no intention of provoking you. It was just that your longing for sleeping pills was too strong. I’m sure that if I told you that you couldn’t eat so many pills at once, you’d leave.” She then smiled brightly before continuing on. “As for me, I just wanted to show you that you can still fall asleep even without resorting to using any pills.”
Qin Shiya glared at her and then walked out without saying another word.
Her mother was waiting for her outside, and when she saw Qin Shiya come out, she anxiously came forward. “Shiya, are you alright?”
Qin Shiya didn’t respond, and Cheng Xi didn’t chase after her either. The next day, when Cheng Xi arrived at work, the director herself came over to discuss Qin Shiya’s case. “I thought that you would keep tricking her with those sugar pills. Why’d you end up explaining the ruse to her?”
“I was afraid that she’d truly believe that it would be okay to consume that many sleeping pills at once. What’s more, I was only checking to see if she truly needs sleeping pills to sleep, and the results show that she doesn’t need them. She simply developed a mental reliance on them, and I’m ethically obliged to inform her of that.”
“So, in the medicine that you gave her yesterday, was there really not a single sleeping pill?”
“Not a single one.”
Even the director was rendered speechless by Cheng Xi’s actions. “Your previous director mentioned that you employed unconventional methods when treating your patients, and I guess he was absolutely right.”
Cheng Xi smiled. This wasn’t really that unconventional; she had just selected the method that both best suited her patient and would win her trust. Luckily, Qin Shiya did trust doctors a fair bit, as she had never suspected that Cheng Xi would give her fake pills.
Qin Shiya came back on the third day. She was clearly weary and exhausted, and the first thing she said was, “I just want to sleep. Please help me.”
This time, her mother remained outside of her own accord, leaving only Cheng Xi and Qin Shiya in the room.
Cheng Xi asked her, “Do you trust me? If so, then please tell me the real reason why you can’t sleep.”
This time, Cheng Xi’s tone wasn’t as polite and clean as before. Instead, it felt more like the two of them were conversing as equals, as if they were just having a friendly chat.
Qin Shiya shut her eyes, her body slightly trembling as she attuned with her inner turmoil. It took her awhile before she calmed down enough to speak. “I don’t want to be a hero. I just want him to come back.”
Her medical records mentioned that she often told psychiatrists that she didn’t want to be a hero. Clearly, the term “hero” had become particularly stressful towards her after her incident.
Cheng Xi gently comforted her. “That’s alright. As long as you’re willing to work towards it, you can be a regular person, someone who is able to enjoy the vicissitudes of life, including all of the happiness, sorrow, anger and pain.”
Qin Shiya didn’t respond, only slowly shaking her head, as if it was hard for her to express her true feelings.
However, she had to say it out loud. Otherwise, her situation would just get worse and worse the more she kept it bottled up. This was why listening attentively was another method of treatment. After thinking about it for a moment, Cheng Xi said, “If you find it difficult to speak up, then can you answer the questions that I ask?”
Qin Shiya arduously squeezed out, “Alright.”
Cheng Xi started with a simple first question. “Did you have a good relationship with your husband?”
This helped Qin Shiya calm down. She easily nodded and answered, “That’s right.”
“Did he treat you well?”
“Can you tell me a bit more about him?”
“He was an art teacher, and very talented at drawing. After we met, he sent me drawings very often, all kinds of drawings of me in various poses. The cute me, the angry me, the serious me, and the careless me…… He even made me a number of small trinkets, like miniature clay dolls, a little make-up box, an umbrella. Whatever I wanted, he was able to procure just like a magician.”
As Qin Shiya talked about her departed husband, her whole face filled with light. Her countenance seemed ten years younger, as if she were still that woman who had just fallen in love.
Qin Shiya happily continued talking about her husband, and when she was at her most relaxed state, she finally revealed the secret that had been buried deep in her heart. “It was I who killed him. When the earthquake struck, it was during summer vacation. We could have avoided this whole catastrophe, as he didn’t want to teach remedial classes. He wanted to go on a honeymoon as we had just gotten married. It was I who forced him to stay behind and teach the class. Even during the actual event, he still could have escaped. He was only trapped under that building because he was trying to save me.”
“For all these past years, I can’t stop thinking of him. Whenever I close my eyes, I can hear his yells. I can see his squashed face, bruised arms, and battered and broken body. In my dreams, he always finds me and tells me that it hurt all over…… I didn’t want to be a hero, and I never wanted to save those children. I just wanted him to live.”
“But they wanted me to lie. They made me say that I was the one who wanted to host the remedial classes, to say that I was the one who saved the children, and to give me all of the rewards for his work. My family became rich, but he’s dead. He died so, so pitifully……”
Qin Shiya couldn’t stand it anymore, and burst into inconsolable tears. Cheng Xi hugged her tightly as she gently caressed her back, not saying anything.
At this time, Qin Shiya simply needed to cry and let it all out.
After the cathartic reveal, Cheng Xi formally began the therapy session by telling Qin Shiya, “You feel overly guilty. And this guilt is magnifying what the mistakes that you think you made. In truth, if not for you, not all of those twenty four children would have survived. That’s why you’re their hero. What’s more, there’s nothing wrong with your wanting him to teach remedial classes, as your motives were good and pure. It’s important to have the money to live well, and also to help those children have a happier and more meaningful summer break……”
At any rate, Cheng Xi’s main priority was reducing Qin Shiya’s guilt. Perhaps it was because Cheng Xi had learned about her biggest secret, or that Qin Shiya craved her validation; at any rate, she was very receptive towards Cheng Xi’s words.
When Qin Shiya left, she still looked very weary, but her expression was much more relaxed compared to before. The former gloomy and remorseful atmosphere surrounding her and mostly dissipated, as had her irritation and frustration.
Of course, if Qin Shiya wanted to recover fully, that couldn’t be accomplished in just one or two therapy sessions. She needed long-term psychological counselling and intervention before she could leave the traumatic experience of the earthquake behind her.
In the future, Cheng Xi would often bring Qin Shiya up as a case study in her classes. “People often say that time heals all wounds, but that’s not true. That wound always remains there. It’s just that, with the passage of time, out of our innate desire to protect ourselves, the wound will scab over and the pain lessen, but it’ll never vanish. The only thing that psychiatrists can do is to help reduce the patient’s pain, allow the blood to coagulate, and let the patient temporarily forget the pain. That way, when the patient closes their eyes, they’ll at least be able to look to the future.”