October 04, 2007

Trying to keep a family intact in India amidst the havoc of Mental Illness

How quickly the days have flown. The months of August and September have come and gone. It is the beginning of October. There is so much to write about but I could not find the time to sit down and type out the words that need to be written. For one it takes so much longer to do all the regular activities to keep the home going and then of course the efforts to keep life going on in even keel - which can be so exhausting.

Over the years I have found that when the home is kept functioning well with regular meals being cooked, everyone in the family is so much more content. During the periods when my daughter is well, she cooks. Feeling well is when as she puts it,'when the thoughts come in slow and silent, when the ability to focus persists for some time, when the hands are able to be steady, when the feeling of apathy disappears and energy surfaces'. She loves trying out recipes from various cookery books. When she cooks I enjoy the aromas coming from the kitchen that bring the promise of a tasty meal.

Chores are generally defined in any home in the sense that which family member does what. The lines have become blurred in our home. For with chronic schizophrenia hovering around, one of us has to do more or the everyday tasks need to be prioritised otherwise arguments break out leading to more exhaustion and depleted energy which is just not worth the while. The daily tasks in a home are varied depending on the family resources and where one stays. For us it includes filling up water for the day, switching on the pumps in the morning to pump up the water into overhead tanks, boiling water for drinking, cooking meals, shopping for milk, fresh vegetables and fruits, watering the potted plants, combing the old cat who doesn't like to be combed, cleaning her litter box and cuddling her while she purrs with contentment. A weekly task which my husband does is filling up the daily medication for our daughter, into pill- boxes which are now available in India. It takes more than an hour to segregate and cut some of the pills and put them into different compartments which make it convenient for her to take them in the morning and evening.

And then there are the visits to the hospitals every month for the three of us. The hospitals lie in different directions. The roads have become so crowded these days. On the roads I can see more and more people who have left their villages - for they stand out. Innocent bewildered faces, wearing the distinct colourful attire of their villages watching their children perform cartwheels at the traffic lights. The children thrust their hands into the windows of cars for coins before the traffic light turns green. They seem oblivious of the slush being splattered on them by the passing vehicles.

When I see them I wonder if it is failing crops and hunger that have brought them to this city. How would they cope with the changes? Especially the trauma of living homeless in this city keeping the fragments of the dignity and culture they grew up in. And what if their anguish became so unbearable triggering into a serious mental illness? How would they take care of their loved one when there was not enough money for food? It is during times like these that I fervently pray and thank God for the blessings that have been given to us to take care of our child.

For as technologically and economically advanced as we are as a country, people living with serious mental illness in India and the families they live with - have been neglected by successive governments. They are left to fend on their own with limited resources, with no awareness of treatments, not knowing how to manage the episodes of psychosis, violence and attempts at suicide, no places to recover from the relapses, no insurance to meet the expenses, no opportunities to earn some kind of livelihood and no one in the Government with courage to come forth to help them. They can only discover and learn what to do only through their own painful experiences. Sometimes they adapt, sometimes they grieve at the loneliness of it all, and those that can, try their best to keep their families intact amidst the havoc wreaked by these illnesses.

Thank you for your comments
Dear gsivakumar, HeartArt, tathagat, Chandansharma, fei mui kuai, and so many others for sharing your stories and sending your best wishes. My prayers are with you all.

Dear Sachin, Please do write to me through this blog and share your story.

Dear little indian, I am sorry to hear about your relative. I hope things are better. I agree about the lack of support, the ridicule and the stigma which exist in India which makes life so difficult.

Dear jyoti, I wish I knew the words of the prayer which you wanted. Perhaps you could find this prayer in prayer books published by the 'Gita Press, Gorakhpur' or 'Ramakrishna Mission'. I have found many such books in book shops at the railway stations.

Dear Yaya, I am so happy that you found some solace with this prayer. I can understand your concerns about Cassie. You are going through such a difficult time. I am sure that the deep love you feel for your children will help you tide this period. Please take good care of yourself and continue to be brave dear mother. As always I remember you and your family especially Cassie in all my prayers.

Posted by survivor at October 4, 2007 11:54 PM


Just stumbled upon your blog. I must admit my heart goes out for you and your family. Makes one think deeply about what might be happening with people you interact with. My prayers and good wishes are with you.

Just a thought, do you and your daughter do any kind of meditation? I understand from an old post that Yoga didn't work out too well. What about Pranayama and meditation?

Posted by: Sunil at December 2, 2007 03:13 PM

The enormous help we need in such situations can only come from within us. Meditation helps reduce obstacles in our own mind that prevent divine grace from flowering in us. You show a lot of strength ,courage and compassion. Meditation can definitely help you sustain that in dark times. God bless you.

Posted by: Sunil at December 2, 2007 04:06 PM

Post a comment

Please enter this code to enable your comment -
Remember Me?