Sunday, March 16, 2008

Split minds

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.


rajk said...

Wow, thanks for this one! I'm really glad you brought up this subject. We need to talk about it more often...

Vishesh said...

hmm...split minds...true anyone can...infact all of us are split minded in one way...just see yourself eating breakfast...when you are eating dinner...and i believe in this insanity is the heart of offence meant...i have high respect for such people...infact a relative of mine suffers from grand fathers brother...

kurrodu said...

That was a really good one,

I had a friend at college who had several symptoms of schizophrenia.
She used to frequently complain that other girls and boys in the class were watching her and conspiring against her. She had great difficulty in following lectures. The other girls in the class used to ignore her as she never paid much attention to her attire. Despite my sincere efforts, I was unable to convince other girls and boys in my class to accept her as they believed that she had a wrong attitude.

I lost her contacts after I left India for higher studies..
When I think abt her now,I feel that I failed as a friend to help her. I never had guts to talk to her abt her condition ..Believe me
Most of us in India are still ignorant abt schizophrenia...

aMus said...

schizophrenia...Though i've heard about this, I've not met anyone diagnosed with it. I agree that treating the affected people with respect and care would help enormously...

Just Like That said...

Haven't met anybody suffering from schizophrenia, but from what you wrote, I think it is very sad when such succesful bright persons have to come to terms with such a debilitating disease, since they have times when they are perfectly normal. Sadder still for their families....

parijata said...

Great post. Thanks!
I was overwhelmed when I watched 'A beautiful mind'. You, with these real-life anecdotes of common people, have brought it much closer than a movie could.

Tys on Ice said...

u r rite...such people needs the support and understanding of the society they live in rather than judgement and contempt..

theres a tendency for general public to treat people with mental illness badly..i think it comes from lack of understanding which leads to fear and which leads to outcasting

Tys on Ice said...

u r rite...such people needs the support and understanding of the society they live in rather than judgement and contempt..

theres a tendency for general public to treat people with mental illness badly..i think it comes from lack of understanding which leads to fear and which leads to outcasting

Hip Grandma said...

rajk:I too think that we need to counsel people about the treatment that affected people ought to be given.

vishesh:we all show signs of insanity at some point of our lives.Schizophrenics are unable to overcome those mood swings and need medication for the same.

kurrodu:never mind about what you could not do in the past.The future is still yours.You can do your bit in whatever little way even now.

thinking aloud:very often it is the attitude of the family that makes society shun them.Counseling would perhaps help.

just like that:It is important to involve them by giving them little chores to do.i have seen parents venting their frustration on the affected person and sobbing their heart out thinking about what the future holds for them.They feel helpless.

parijatha:i have seen the movie and also read the book.Very touching indeed.

tys on ice:True but it is easier said than done.That is why people need to be made aware.

Jaya said...

HHG,I have not met such a person but I understand it can be difficult for the family and friends. Awareness is the key here. Thanks

dipali said...

Somehow mental illness is looked upon as a moral failure on the part of both the patient and the family, little realising how finely poised is the bio-chemical balance of the brain. Sanity is a great miracle. Yes, such patients do need careful monitoring and treatment throughout their lives.

Usha said...

I remembered Priya's article on the same subject and although you have refrained from mentioning it here I know at least one unsung hero who has had to battle with it in her life.
Accept my salute!

Hip Grandma said...

joy:If my piece has been able to convey the message that schizophrenia and scizophrenics do not have to be shunned and effort should be made to include rather than exclude them I'd be more than satisfied.

dipali:mental illness in most cases can be dealt with in a compassionate manner if families are properly counselled.We need to educate people about this.

usha:Thanks.But wait till you read my account of other women.You will understand that I am no unsung heroine but an insignificant extra in life's drama.

Monika said...

i enjoy reading all ur posts but this one stuck a chord, my sister is schizophrenic, she was diagonsed with that a little over 3 yrs ago, she has been a brilliant student all thru her life and had just started working in a reputed bank after finishing her PG in eco with a high paying job and she suddenly said that things are not going well there ect and changed her job within 3 months and moved to chennai, we all didnt think too much of it till, after she moved there she started behaving a little differently, we still ingnored it thinking that she is just missing home but my hubby suggested realised that something is surely wrong when she visited me in blore after about 4 months later as his father had schizophrenia too and took her to the doc immediately inspite of her resistance and i am glad we did, she is now on medication and counselling and is improving and still continuing with her analyst job in a reputed company at a very good post and salary.

I think the problem is with us as a society the moment we mention that a person has a mental disease we immediately label him/her as mad and shun the person, as a society we need to be more tolerant and accept them, we as a family also took a long time to accept the fact that she has a problem and we need to treat that like this and my mom and dad still keep hoping that very soon she would come out of medicines and we would get her married but i dont know whether there are people in this world who would know of her problem and still marry her

PS: sorry for taking up so much space but couldnt resist sharing this

Hip Grandma said...

monika:that was an inspiring piece of information and I am glad that your sister got the right treatment at the right time and more importantly she responded to it.quite often a person doesn't respond to treatment and doctors often prescribe an overdose which has counter effects.Please do continue to support her.Marriage may or may not happen but if it does please ensure that the person who marries her is a matured and understanding person.Or else sge is better off without it.

Vetirmagal said...

I salute all thsoe women and families who cope and those patients who are lucky to be part of social systems that care.

Our society is very cruel, and to shield the mentally
ill people is difficult.
Even if it is acse of simple depression , people think "theya re mentally sick"!

I can understand how it would be for schizophrenia. Hats off to those who care for them!

We need to talk , read and wirte more often on these topics.