Sunday, June 13, 2010

Temper Tantrums

I thought I would not be able to blog for a while with my daughter and g'daughters visiting us. True, I have been busy - no, not overworked since my daughter takes care of her children's need pretty well - but just enjoying their company. Little Annu wants to be carried all the time "amma, godi"........ is her request from time to time. Need I say that I am ever ready to oblige. Her mom complains that I am spoiling her but aren't grandmoms expected to do just that?

However, I just heard of a case in which a mother had been misunderstood all her life and passed away just around the time her daughter began to understand her problem giving her no chance to make amends. I felt sorry for both of them since it was not fair that one's judgemental error becomes a life long burden. I could not help sharing this story with you so that if ever we come across such cases we remember that there could be more to it than that which meets the eye.

Shuba was a close friend of mine when I was in college. We in the hostel tend to get close to a few chosen friends and often share secrets with them - secrets that we don't feel comfortable talking to our own siblings or members of the extended family. Shuba's problem was her mother. As perceived by Shuba she was foul mouthed and uncaring and gave her father a tough time. Shuba and her younger brother were sympathetic towards the father who often worked late hours in office just to avoid a confrontation with his wife. Even when he did come home early the children would meet him at the street corner and the three of them would take a stroll to a neighboring park just to be able to talk to him without the mother constantly yelling and complaining making any communication between them impossible. When alone with her father Shuba would crack jokes, mimic her teachers while her brother would discuss cricket and politics. Her dad would tell them how his day went and about his aspirations for his children.

"I wish my dad had been blessed with an understanding wife. My mother comes from a rich and influential family and nothing my dad does measures up to her standards. She is quarrelsome and often takes out her frustration on her parents as well as me." Shuba would say.

"Why you?" I'd ask.

"I resemble my dad and she hates me for it."

At the tender age of 16 I did not really understand much and pretty much agreed to Shuba's view that her mother was acting difficult on purpose. My opinion did change a bit when I met her mother in person. She seemed a warm person and made me feel comfortable. I took her side in private when Shuba tried convincing me that her mother was just putting on an act.

"She does it whenever we have visitors. She'll be so kind to me that none would believe my version. That is why I never talk about her to family members. No one would believe me when I tell them about her temper tantrums."

Like all good things life our association came to an end after we graduated. We exchanged letters for a few years and finally even the letters stopped. I often thought of her and wondered how she might be faring. My own mother was a pillar of strength in the initial years of my marriage when I faced severe financial problems and had to deal with a sick mother in law all by myself.

"This will not last for ever. Better days are waiting for you. Just be patient." she'd say.

And I'd feel better. It really helps when one gets the right kind of advise. I wondered if Shuba's mother could ever be a mature and balanced guardian to her the way my mother was.

Years rolled on. I met Shuba purely by chance at a wedding. She was a microbiologist working in a multinational company. She was her usual jovial self but I sensed that all was not well with her. I could not bring myself to ask about her mother. So I enquired about her husband and children instead.

"I have an only daughter and would you believe it when I say that she is just another version of my mother. She seemed so unhappy and dissatisfied no matter what I did for her. I got her married to a person of her choice hoping that she'd be happy with him. But no, she kept quarreling with him and hated his parents from day one. The couple moved into a separate apartment and now she accused him of hatching plans against her with his parents behind her back. She attempted suicide following a quarrel with him and I had to intervene. I took her for psychiatric counselling and her condition has been diagnosed as bipolar disorder and she has inherited it from my mother through me. With medication and counselling she is much better now. Her in laws are quite understanding as is her husband. He has decided against having a biological child and plans to adopt one in a year or two when her psychiatrist considers her condition fit enough to raise a child."

"All is well that ends well. Thank God that she had understanding people around her. Why do you seem upset? Things are improving and you should be happy." I said.

"Only when I accompanied my daughter to her counselling sessions did I understand what it was that my mother suffered from in all these years. We did not have the means or understanding to treat her condition and always believed that she did it on purpose. Unfortunately, I got so involved in my daughter's life that it took me a while to realize that with a little medication and a lot of understanding my mother too could have led a near normal life. I truly wanted to make amends and bring her over to my house on my return from my daughter's place. But God perhaps wanted to punish me for never having tried to understand her problem. Within a week after my return from my daughter's my mother passed away in her sleep with only my father by her side. She who never found peace in her life time, left us without giving us a chance to tell her that we now understand. Try as much as I might, her memories keep haunting me. If only I had a second chance........." her voice choked and she burst out crying. I let her cry to her heart's content hoping that her guilt would be eased out at least to some extent.

The entire story kind of depressed me. Very often we fail to understand that temper tantrums and the like need to be addressed with care and concern. It is easier to accuse the person of deliberately causing trouble and brushing aside his/her behaviour as a ploy to get attention. Moreover no one likes to admit that a family member needs psychiatric help. Like the heart, liver or kidney, the brain can also develop symptoms that can be rectified with proper treatment. No one need to feel embarassed about going to a psychiatrist. At least not in the 21st century.


Anonymous said...

Dear HHG,
Thank You for writing this post.

I have a relative who has a similar problem and life has become a living hell for herself and her family.

I do not wish to generalize, but Indians as such are only very slowly getting open about the psychiatric problems in the family, thanks to better awareness of the problem and in some cases, the solutions.


Tys on Ice said...

its difficult to understand and be patient all the time with someone with swaying mood can hide behind the facade of a disease but wht abt the other? To a large extent its a self indulgence...i shud know..iam bipolar...u are very much in control if u want to..

starry eyed said...

That's so true. Mental and psychological issues are so taboo, they are swept under the carpet and cause so much suffering...all it takes is therapy, counseling and/or medication and families could be leading so much happier lives. I know so many people who're in denial and I want to shake their family members into reality. Truly sad story.

apu said...

That is such a sad story indeed. Awareness of these issues was non-existent in the past and fairly poor even now.

Uma said...

Really sad. Good she took the psychiatrist route with her daughter. I know many who wouldn't have done that even today. We just don't take temper tantrums too seriously - we are more likely to label it as a character flaw.
Psychiatrist is a taboo even now... things are changing though very very slowly...
I hope she gets over her guilt.

Unknown said...

Strange , but that reluctance is the cause of so much trouble for the afflicted person and the family .

Anonymous said...

Dear HHG, touching post. Unlike diabetes and heart trouble, psychological disorder are hard to accept for most people as they tend to associate behavioural problems with matter of willpower and intent only and not with chemical imbalances in the body.

Being in my profession, i come into contact with people with psychological disorder frequently and it is the care givers who need to be worked with as they not only need to understand but also need to accept that this needs regular treatment and caring like any other disease.

WhatsInAName said...

yeah, its true that many of these tantrums and behaviours are signs of curable disease but I wonder how easy it is for a spouse to understand and accept it.
I have friend who got married to a very decent looking man and who had a wonderful job and was well settled. @Soon thereafter he started abusing her. He used to drink and beat her... She had cigarette burn marks all over her body. When she used to run away to her parents place he used to beg for forgiveness and take her back. This continued till she decided enough is enough and asked for divorce. That guy then underwent some treatment since he was detected with some disorder. But still she refuses to go back and I think she is right.
You can't just hide behind a facade of a psycho disease to justify all the wrong doings, isn't it?

srijithunni said...

Really touching incident. Never knew about this disorder. Thanks for sharing.

Have Fun, Take Care and God Bless!

With Best Regards,

Asha said...

That was a touching story. The sad thing is that a psychiatrist is still too embarassing for most of the people to go to. :(

Usha said...

It is nice to hear that you are having a great time with your grandchildren. Kids brighten a home like nothing else can.

I totally understand how your friend felt because I too shared a very turbulent relationship with my mother and even thought she hated me. It was only much later in life that I could understand why she was the way she was but by then she was already gone - she died quite young. There are times that I wish I could have just a few years with her to make her happy.
Unfortunately in India, anyone going to a psychiatrist is treated as though he/she is mad thanks to our movies in a large measure.

hillgrandmom said...

HHG, unfortunately, psychiatric counselling is still not that easily accepted. But it is good to know that your friend was able to get help for her daughter.

starry said...

A really touching story and I am glad the mother took the daughter to a psychiatrist.It is still looked down upon by many people, even the educated because they do not look at it as a disease but as an emotional problem.I am sure she will be well with the right help.some people would rather see their loved ones suffer than admit they need some help.

Hip Grandma said...

Hi all,
Thanks for your responses. Just returned after a hurried trip to New Delhi. I don't know if it was dare devilry on my part or an adventurous spirit that made me organize the trip taking along with me, my husband whose crisis management capacity is less than zero and two grand daughters aged 2 and 6. Ofcourse my daughter was more dependable. Enroute our train was stopped for security reasons with the naxals firing away to glory and my arthritis was at its worst. We had no confirmed return tickets. So when we returned in one piece at about 10 last night I did feel releived and happy.More about the trip later. I'll respond individually soon.

Tys on Ice said...

welcome back...glad to know you have made it make safely..tell us all abt it...

Thoughts forever said...


I seriously do not know how to address to your blog through renu mam's blog...and i read all the posts right from the beginning to the end...i loved your blog..some of the posts exactly meet the ends..and the way you reply to the comments is just wonderful...Loved reading it...


Hip Grandma said...

Gauri:I am sorry to hear about your relative. Yes, we Indians are ashamed to own up that we ourselves or others in our family need psychiatric help. I've seen people hiding the fact that they are diabetic even though there is no stigma attached to it.

Tys on ice:While I agree that it is difficult to be patient all the time what else can one do. i've seen scizophrenics lead a near normal life with a little help from the family and it was possible only because the symptoms were detected early and treatment was started on time. A person with bipolar disorder can be in control only if she or he is in a position to identify the problem. there are times when one gets hysterical but does not understand.

starry eyed:Very often the family members are shocked and prefer to distance themselves from the affected person. Sad but true.

apu:society as a whole is responsible for the situation.wagging tongues and prying eyes should be ignored but one has to have the courage.

uma:tes, it was good of her to opt for counselling and psychiatric help. Many in her position would not have the courage.

eve's lung:True and I should know having seen a few cases at close hand.

sharbori21:Unfortunately true. I've seen a sister abuse her brother with mental disorder screaming at him and saying that he was a burden on the family and that her own marriage would be adversely affected by his presence in the house etc. I've wondered to myself if she was also having some psychological problem. At times the brother seemed more sane.

WhatsInaName:Your friend's case I feel is only partly psychological. Sadism and sarcasm do drive one nuts and they do not want to take it beyond a point. She was perhaps right in refusing to go back to him. If a person decides to take a stand that is in her interest others should honor her opinion and let her be. After all she/he is the person affected.

Srijith:Those of us who lead near normal lives may never understand what the psychologically affected person and their family may be going through.

Asha: :((, :((.

usha:I can understand. I faced a situation in which my behaviour perplexed my colleagues and till date they swear that I was not in control of myself and my behaviour was eccentric and unreasonable. If, this eccentricity that I exhibited once in my career of 30 years had become a habit one may have accused me of deliberately taking advantage of the situation whereas I may have required some kind of counselling.On that day the Principal of our college was misleading a whole bunch of non teaching employees into believing that their services would be regularized within days and I was able to see through the farce and I opposed her. She turned tables and set them against me. My colleagues say that it was none of my business and I should have stayed quiet like the rest of them. After all if some are led to believe that they are being favored they would realize that they were being taken for a ride in due course. It was not my job to tell them that.Maybe they were right. The net result was that my BP soared and I had to start medicines.

hillgrandmom:My friend had experienced a difficult situation with her mother being eccentric. I suppose she did not want her daughter to become like her.

starry: ' sure she will be well with the right help.some people would rather see their loved ones suffer than admit they need some help.'

unfortunately true.

Tys:Thanks for your concern.

thoughts forever:Welcome here.You can call me by my first name if you want to or you may call me grandma. It really does not matter. I am glad you liked what I write. My daughter who introduced me to blogging is busy and does not read my posts anymore. may be you can replace her and be my critic.

zephyr said...

That was a very touching story narrated so well. you are so right, many a time we have family members facing such psychiatric problems and giving their loved ones hell. Even the closest member of the family is helpless as any suggestion to the effect is taken amiss. It is about time, therapy is taken in its true spirit and such otherwise loving persons helped out of their problems. Thanks for sharing!