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I did not post here for sometime because my energy levels have been really low. While typing out an entry a few days ago I went to sleep at the computer. This happens quite often as I tend to ponder over the events of the week which has generally a soporific effect. I woke up in darkness with the mosquitoes biting my legs. There was a power cut and I had not saved the entry. I just crawled into bed and went to sleep.
My daughter was feeling depressed last week. She seems better now. When depression rises from somewhere within I can see it and sense it. Sometimes I try and can make her smile. But sometimes when I cant and see her trying to turn her lips into the semblance of a smile and the sadness slowly seeping from within and trying to envelop her I know I must just wait but be alert. I go out and sit in the porch and watch the birds. There are plenty of them. I watch the golden-backed woodpecker making a hole in the neem tree and two resident owls stare out from its hollow. There is something so soothing hearing the rhythmic pecks and staring into the beautiful,tawny eyes of the owls. In the earlier years I used to simmer with resentment against the unfairness of it all but not any more. But however hard I try I cant stop the feeling of helplessness of not being able to share and lighten the sadness which threatens to engulf my daughter. This drains my energy. However watching the birds, the trees and contemplating in silence as nature goes about unhurriedly helps in restoring my energy levels.
Last fortnight, my father rang up to say that my mother was hospitalised after a fall. She had a fracture and was operated on. I tell them that I cannot leave my daughter alone. Last year my husband and I took turns and rushed to her side when she was hospitalised. They stay in a coastal town in the Southern tip of India...miles away. My only brother and his wife avoid visiting her when she falls ill. Since he is a test pilot my father wants to avoid putting him through any kind of stress. So my brother visits them only when my mother is able and can cook for him. He stays closer to my parents. My father has not seen my daughter for eight years after she has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. When he went on and on about the suffering and pain of a fracture I told him that my daughter was suffering too and had been battling an illness for so many years.
Sometimes I wonder if it is worthwhile fighting to remove the state of denial and the dismissive attitude towards mental illness which my father has. This state reminds me of an old, gnarled, tree with branches so rigid that they cannot be bent. These exchanges drain my energy which I need to conserve and build reserves to battle this illness. I decide to avoid exchanges which have negativity.
This time the episode of sadness which my daughter went through seems to have dissipated and did not reach the alarming levels that the p-doc had to be contacted. These days she communicates regularly with the courageous boy who also has schizophrenia, whom I met on this site.
Thank you for your comments
Yes, it was a blessing that Uncle Peter was in our lives. Yes he was kind, sincere and gave us so much of his time. I remember him so often and I still grieve because he had to suffer so much pain before he died. My prayers are always with you, Cassie and your family. Take care dear mother.
Uncle Peter was not related to me, he was my father's friend. They studied together in a school in a coastal town in Kerala. Uncle Peter passed his High School Exams and I dont know what he did while my father went to college. At some point of time they joined the Royal Air Force together and after India's independence they were commissioned as officers in the Indian Air Force. Uncle Peter used to visit us. Whenever he came home I noticed that the layers of sterness would slowly peel off from my father and the room would echo with the sounds of happy laughter. Little did I know then that many years later he would offer me and my family his support, comfort and draw out the laughter from within all of us which seemed to have disappeared for a while when schizophrenia entered our lives.
I remember Uncle Peter most in the month of May. For it is in May that the laburnum trees are in full bloom everywhere. The dazzling golden flowers reflecting the sun's rays and moving gently with the summer wind can gladden the saddest of hearts.
Due to a trigger, two days ago, I watched the smile disappear from my daughter's face and her beautiful face slowly set into the familiar mask of deep sadness which seemed to rise like a coiled serpent from somewhere within. I watched helplessly feeling her pain but not being able to lessen it? Not knowing what to do I came out of the house and saw the brilliant-yellow laburnum flowers. My fears melted away and I remembered Uncle Peter.
How he stood by us when our families went into denial about the illness. The day my daughter was diagnosed he came home with dinner and coaxed us to eat while my daughter slept on her first dose of medication. How he talked to us everyday for the first month and told us to unleash our pain and anger with him and not to ever display it in front of my daughter. He urged me to pray and be strong for my daughter and my son. From a snivelling, bewildered mother, I slowly learnt to live with this illness. The p-docs at the Military Hospital did not have time for family counselling or therapy because they were swamped with people who were ill. And our families had drifted away so we were isolated.
It must not have been easy for a seventy four year old man to drive through the crowded roads for some distance and come home to comfort us. But he did and occasionally we would go to his place where he would order my daughter's favourite dishes from the nearby restaurant. He would talk about the past and make us laugh. Two years later, all of us went for a new year party and danced. We were so happy when he was given a special prize for being the 'oldest dancer on the floor' but he was so annoyed that the prize was a rocking chair. He wanted a ticket to a holiday ..somewhere. I remember the feeling of happiness washing over me and making a resolve that I would try that this illness never control our lives - we would learn to live with it.
Today I notice that my daughter is tired, but the sadness seems to have melted away.
I could go on and on about Uncle Peter but then Uncle Peter died four years ago in the month of May after a painful battle with cancer. That was after the first four years of ... living with schizophrenia when he was with us all the way.
I feel intense grief when I remember him but then the laburnum flowers at this time of the year reminds me of the sunshine he brought into our lives.
Thank you for your comments
Dear Monica and Puzli. Thank you so much!
It has been a strange week. The weather has added to the strangeness and made it even more surreal. Instead of the blistering heat at this time of the year, rain and hail have lashed the city, washing away the grime and dust making the neem trees in front of my home a sight to behold. The ebony dark trunks and the malachite green leaves. From darkness springs hope?
I have been coming in contact with more families who have been touched by this illness. I see my pain mirrored in the other mother's eyes as we talk about our children. With schizophrenia, pain has become a friend who lingers in the fringes waiting for the weak moment to overwhelm me. A friend who has also taught me to abandon myself to moments of happiness with a searing intensity whenever I am blessed with those moments. As I hear other mothers talk to the p-doc about the difficulties confronting them, I feel a familial bond. I also feel an ache in my heart. Is it their pain?
Its the first time I have seen a p-doc answering so many queries on schizophrenia for a long period of time. The beautiful mother, I met on this site had asked me to come to this place. We sit side by side listening. Later a mother tells me that their p-doc is leaving for a different country so they have to look for another one. I suddenly think, 3500 psychiatrists for nearly six to seven million people afflicted with schizophrenia. These psychiatrists have also to treat people with other mental illnesses.
I also went this week to an organisation which provides help to the mentally ill in government hospitals. A doctor there tells me that a minute and a half is all the time that can be given to an individual in these hospitals. The prescription is written and another person takes his place. Assembly-line psychiatry? The illiterate and the poor who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia stop taking their medications because of the frightening side effects. They are terrified that another illness has taken its place. This organisation helps bring awareness about this illness to these people. I come home and thank God for the blessings he has bestowed on me.
Our temperamental, tuxedo tom-cat has jumped into my lap and is vocalising to be hugged and rocked. A rare privelege. For me. So I must stop.
Thank you for your comments.
Yes I hope you can join us too. As always my best wishes to you and your family.
Thank you for your good wishes. I remember you and Cassie in my prayers. I wish you were somewhere near my place dear mother.
Thank you for those words of praise. I wonder if I deserve them but they are a soothing balm. Wishing you contentment.
I never thought about it till you mentioned it - 'the innate sense of adventure and fun'. Schizophrenia could not and will not ever touch that. I am so sure that this spirit of adventure and fun will help us tread more happy paths together.
You are so right about how someone who has this illness must not hide the turmoil within. Expressing ones feelings, good or bad does help. My best wishes to you and your son.