A Mother in India: February 2004 Archives

February 26, 2004

Happiness is a blessing

Thank you Nick ! (for your comment). So good to hear that you are taking care of your wife. Yes it is a struggle. But then helping eases and heals the pain. It did for me. Pain and sorrow or happiness, these are just two faces of the same coin which the controller of our destinies keeps tossing into the air and whichever face that falls on the road which we travel on, decides the moment.

When Schizophrenia afflicted my daughter, I discovered that happiness was no longer a right but a blessing. I still remember the moment of happiness when I saw my daughter smile, twelve days after she was put on Haloperidol. She was sitting on a mattress on the floor and she looked at us and smiled.
She was responding to Haloperidol, prescibed by the psychiatrist of the Military Hospital. He gave us time, he responded to our questions and he could establish a rapport with my daughter. All this, while there were long lines of men waiting for their turn in the corridor. He told us that there could be stiffness. On the second day of treatment she became so rigid, her face contorted, frothing from the mouth, that we had to carry her to the car and rush her to the hospital. After a couple of injections we had to bring her back home as Military hospitals do not admit women in the Psychiatric ward Women are treated only as 'out patients'. Initially she was on 20 mg of Haloperidol and slowly it was brought down to 5 mg.

Vacations were always spent every year with our families who stayed in the same town. We would visit relatives and they would visit us. But when the illness struck, a chasm opened between us and our families and we were alone. The families felt that my husband and I were depriving my daughter of marital bliss and that had caused the illness. Angry and bitter words were spoken. Exhausted I used to weep in the bathroom. I had to decide as to who needed me more. I had to take care of my daughter, so I stopped speaking to my parents.

We are all alone, I thought in moments of despair. But then there came someone, my father's old friend. He stood by us through the days of recovery risking a fifty year old friendship with my father. He gave my husband, my son and I so much of strength and urged us not to give up. When I told him my fears of my daughter's future, he would sing an old song,' Que sa ra..whatever will be will be, the future is not ours to see...'
My husband got books on Psychiatry from the library and we started learning about the illness. We asked the doctor if he could tell us if there were any support groups and halfway homes in Delhi. He said there were none.

Since it was a Military Hospital, after a year and a half, the good doctor was transferred to another Military Hospital in another town and a new doctor took his place. By then my daughter had started working. Most of the symptoms that had troubled her had disappeared but she was unhappy and anxious about the weight that she had gained.

When we met the new p-doc, he decided that Haloperidol was 'too strong' for her and prescribed Chloropramazine. When we asked him about it lowering the seizure threshhold he said 'nothing can happen.' I still remember the return of the old feeling of uneasiness and fear. The next day, she had a seizure and started to relapse. It took us five days to convince the doctor to put her back on Haloperidol. I still dont know why he switched medications when all was well. Most of his patients were men from the armed forces who had served in the high altitudes of the Himalayas. They were simple men from the far flung villages who looked even more befuddled when they came out of his room. Sometimes we could hear him shouting at his patients. When my daughter recovered, she said that one day she would write a book on psychiatrists in which more than a chapter would be devoted to him!
At each visit he would ask her if she felt like shuffling cards. When she would reply that she did not play cards, he would thunder at her,'Are you sure?'

Perhaps the change of medication, when all was almost well - changed the course of the illness to a chronic nature.
We didn't have to endure this p-doc for long because my husband being in the Air Force was transferred to another town.
Its 3 in the morning...shall continue..

Posted by survivor at 10:02 PM | Comments (5)

February 23, 2004

Eight Years Ago

Thank you Puzli. Thank you so much! (for your comment)

Eight years ago, it was so difficult to get information about mental illnesses. Unless one went through the process of a loved one suffering one continued to be oblivious that such things existed. And even if they did one did not talk about it.

We took our daughter to the second p-doc who was working in a Government hospital. My cousin went in and talked with him for sometime. Then my daughter was called in and was there for about ten minutes . Then we were called in and the doctor told us,' I am giving her some tonic for the nerves. She will be allright. As you can see she is in a state of conflict. She either wants to be married which her grandmother wishes or take up a career which her mother wishes. There is a big fight between the two personalities and one will emerge. Nothing to worry.'

There were so many questions I wanted to ask but he waved them off and called out for the next patient. Frustrated and uneasy we left meekly.
When we came home my daughter said,' The doctor said that if I continued to behave in the same way I would be a terrorist. I wonder why he said that, Mamma.'

The doctor had prescribed Fludac, akin to Prozac - one tablet a day. Her condition worsened.

Meanwhile my parents, in a distant town had matched horoscopes with eligible men, found one suitable and arranged the engagement ceremony. 'All you have to do is bring her here. Once she is engaged she will be fine', they urged. I was aghast when their letter arrived. Here she could barely walk.

I tried to broach the topic of 'breakdowns' with several friends. I got no response. Then one morning I rang up my father's old friend who stayed in the same town. I told him everything. He said he knew the p-doc at the Military hospital very well. The p-doc was his friend's son but he was out of town.
My daughter by then had stopped eating. We would get different flavours of icecream which she loved. When I asked her which flavour she wanted, she would say,'I no longer know what I want.'

We again contacted the government p-doc who told us to consult a neurologist. So we took her to the neurologist . There my daughter started talking and arguing with him. The neurologist screamed at all of us and said,'This is a psychiatrist case. How dare such patients come here Take her back to the psychiatrist.' We took her back to the government p-doc who wrote that ECT be administered the next day. He told us brusquely to take an appointment for it.

We are supposed to protect the ones we love especially the vulnerable.
Why was I frightened then to ask the p-doc questions about my daughter's welfare? Why didn't I confront him then about his earlier statement that my daughter would be well? Why didn't I ask him about the medication and its side effects?

Was it because of the conditioning imposed by society not to question something which is enveloped by stigma? Or was it because mental illnesses were the abyss of the unknown? I still feel sorrow and guilt for being silent.
We did not go back to the p-doc at the Government hospital but rushed to the p-doc at the Military Hospital where treatment with Haloperidol began.

Its almost 2-30 in the morning. Shall continue later...

Posted by survivor at 08:54 PM | Comments (3)

February 22, 2004

The first p-doc

February is one of the pleasant months of the year in Delhi. February is also when I relive the pain, turmoil and helplessness I had to go through eight years ago. My daughter was going through hell too, far worse than mine - her mind wracked by the demons of the past and losing control of her mind. Thats what she told me when I asked her why was she looking so sad. 'Mamma I am losing control of my mind', she said in a calm voice. I could not understand.

By then I no longer insisted that she go to college. A lot of rest would make her better my husband and I thought. I rushed and enrolled for Yoga classes for both of us. It didn't help. She couldn't do even a simple exercise like lifting both her feet together before an 'asana'. I remember feeling very uneasy as I watched the instructor telling her gently how to go about the movements and she couldn't do it. I urged her repeatedly not to give up and she said ,' I cant.'

After three sessions we didn't go. By then she was awake most nights and talking about incidents from the past which had hurt her deeply. She was lapsing into silences. She wasn't listening. She wasn't taking care of her appearance, something which she was normally so fastidious about. Her movements seemed to be regressing - the way she walked, not swinging her arms but hanging lifelessly by her side. When she ate her meals, crumbs fell on her dress and she was unaware of it.

Sometimes she wanted us to drive to some place and eat out, sometimes go sight-seeing where she would click photographs of us. Sometimes I felt she was in a desperate hurry to do what she liked to do before something catastrophic happened. Most of the time I felt the cold hand of fear over my heart. My husband and I took her wherever she wanted to go.

I went and got cloth, and embroidery threads so that she could embroider and sew. A cousin of mine who had a 'nervous breakdown' used to sew. I did not know there were medications for mental illnesses. I sensed my daughter was having a breakdown but I was terrified to take her to a psychiatrist because of the stigma. Who would marry her, I thought then. Desperately I read books on Naturopathy which said a diet rich in almonds, saffron and cardamoms were good for the brain. I gave her large amounts with milk. She got worse.

So my husband and I took her to a psychiatrist. He was a man in his seventies(private practice). My husband and I went and spoke to him. Then he called my daughter in, asked us to wait out. She was with him for sometime. Then we were called in while she waited out. He told us that she was a deep introvert and she has had a breakdown. When I asked him what was a breakdown, he said it was the disintegration of the Nervous System. I remember the fear enveloping me. He prescribed some medications and he said ,'Take this and if you see any side effect take the other one .' We were too terrified to ask him anything.

I went to the drug store and showed the prescription while my husband waited in the car with my daughter. I asked the chemist for the book on medications which are normally kept there. I read under the medication beginning with F.. ( I cant remember)...is generally used for the treatment of Schizophrenia.. I closed the book, paid for it and ran out sobbing loudly. I walked , I dont remember where but thinking with terror that my daughter was turning into a split personality. I didnt tell my husband then but when we got home I told him and wept with the doors closed so that the children would not hear.

I rang up a distant cousin who was a doctor working in a government hospital and asked her to ask their psychiatrist about the medication. There was no access to any information. I looked up the dictionary for the meaning of Schizophrenia which stated 'that the person suffering from the illness was split from reality'. I gave my daughter the medication and she slept for a few hours that night.

The next day I rang up the p-doc and asked him whether I should buy a dog because my daughter wanted us to buy one. He told me not to as she could be manic. I couldnot understand so I asked him what would be the best thing for me to do. He told me to make sure things were calm, pretend that everything was normal and carry on with the day-to-day routine of a household. He said the medication could cause convulsions and to give her the other tablet when it happened. He also said not to buy a dog.

Later my cousin rang up to say that the she had checked up with the government p-doc who said that the medications were too strong so she would fix an appointment to meet him. She told us that he had said to stop all the strong medications as they would have long lasting side-effects. So we did. I cant recall the medication. Was it Fluoxetine? Well, does it matter now? Terror ruled our lives then because we felt so helpless.

Sometimes we wish that we hadn't stopped the medication then. But then we console ourselves that what we did was because of our ignorance and we would never have done so if we had known the consequences.

Its late in the night here now.. I shall continue later.

Posted by survivor at 08:01 PM | Comments (3)