Preeti was a fun loving, happy go lucky girl till about three years back. Her marriage to Montu changed everything. No, it was not the usual MIL/DIL clash. Her mom in law treated her at par with her own daughter and her only sister in law was happily married and being 8 years older treated her like a kid sister. Financial problems were non existent and her father in law was still working and was the sort of person who would not remain idle even after retirement. So where was the problem or was her problem an imagined one? Her husband’s mental condition was questionable despite the fact that he had a good job as an Area manager in an MNC. His parents were not at fault. They had not realized that the occasional temper tantrums and aggressive behavior shown by him were indicative of a split mind and needed medical counseling and treatment for life if his condition prevailed or deteriorated. Symptoms of schizophrenia showed up after marriage when he seriously accused his wife of having an affair and insisted that there was a third person visiting her after he went to sleep and began to keep her under lock and key.
Ganesh was a brilliant metallurgist who was accepted for a Ph. D program in England with full scholarship. His mother was planning to get him married. He had a charming personality and a soft temperament and no girl with her head on her shoulders would have any problem adjusting with him. A telegram from England shattered their hopes. He was being flown back to India because he had been diagnosed schizophrenic. He had been unable to complete his research work and all he had to show for his seven year stint in England was a thick note book with scribbling that he insisted was poetry. He was unable to tell them what went wrong.
Rajan was a bank officer in his early twenties. His uncle offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to him. He refused saying that she was like a sister to him. He had practically grown up with her. His father arranged for him to visit athe family of a girl in Secunderabad to see their daughter as the first step to further marriage negotiations. His mother accompanied him. She noticed that all was not well with him. He smiled and chuckled to himself and appeared to talk to some invisible person. She refused to get him married although he was keen and how right she was! Two years later Rajan left his job in the bank and came home for ever. He had been diagnosed as being schizophrenic.
Gayatri was a happily married woman with two children-both boys. The older son was good at his studies while the younger one was average. At a family function the younger son was seen showing a photocopy of his 10th standard board mark sheet to the guests. He had obtained 69% but kept telling people that he had obtained 96%. Everyone took it to be his idea of a joke. Two months later he was on medication for schizophrenia and hasn’t fully recovered. Gayatri insists that he was never compared with his older brother nor had they ever rebuked him for his mediocre results. They understood that all children did not possess the same level of intelligence and were glad that had never failed an exam.
Finally Raman who was a qualified engineer working in the Railways. While applying for the job he had mentioned that he had a first division in all the examinations passed. The truth was otherwise. He had obtained a high second class in Engineering. He tried to overwrite his marks in the original mark sheet and when the mark sheets were being scrutinized he pretended that he had forgotten to bring them. His performance in the interview was good so he was given provisional appointment on condition that he submitted his original mark sheets for scrutiny within 3 months. As time lapsed he began to panic and unable to stand the pressure he attempted suicide and finally resigned his job. He is also on medication for schizophrenia.
All such examples show that a perfectly normal person can be a victim of a split mind and anything yes ANYTHING could act as a trigger. I wanted to high light two things through this post of mine. First, the role played by the family and its importance to the affected person. Second, the stand taken by the women in some of these cases as my tribute to these unsung heroines as my contribution to the International Women’s day celebrations. Since both aspects need to be dealt with in some detail I’ll stick to one at a time. So I take up the first one in this post. I’ll continue with the second aspect later.
Coming to family support-
When a person is declared schizophrenic the family is shattered and takes time to accept the situation. They tend to keep their anguish and agony to themselves. And why not? Wagging tongues and prying relatives may do nothing to alleviate their agony but would be the first to offer unsolicited advice and put on a ‘know all’ air.
“All this treatment is useless I say. Waste of money. That’s all. I knew a person who was treated so badly at the asylum that he ran away from there…….” And this goes on and on.
I agree it is difficult but the sooner one comes to terms with the situation and starts therapy the better for all concerned including the affected person.
A schizophrenic person needs regular medicines. Very often the family cannot afford it and just manages with half the prescribed dose. I hear that there are health centers where such patients can be treated as outpatients at nominal cost and medicines are sold at subsidized rates. But everyone seems to be short of time. This is where the extended family can help. They can take turns to take the person to such clinics. Often it is seen that a person’s treatment is abandoned midway. We don’t see people doing so for physical ailments. Blood pressure, blood sugar etc also need to be monitored and once medication is started it continues for life. Is schizophrenia any different? I feel that the government also needs to pay more attention and offer medicines to these patients either free of cost or at subsidized rates.
Most schizophrenics aren’t eccentric all the time. They are quite capable of doing routine work. Parents need to be supportive but over protection will not help. They need to be given vocational training and made to do some work. Oh yes, I agree that the person was bank officer before he fell ill. But if he is now just capable of working in a grocery shop handing out goods to customers, so be it. Doing a little work and involving some regularity will go a long way in helping them to lead a near normal life. There is nothing to be ashamed of as long as the job is an honest one. And please don’t regard them with contempt even if you cannot help them out.
Finally, it is only pure coincidence that the examples I gave were all men. I have no idea if men are more affected than women. I have personally interacted with three of them and have heard about the other two from reliable sources. Be it as it may, my only request is that the next time you see such a person remember the person he was and try to do your bit to include him in society.