Yet another Taboo


My eldest maternal uncle was a simple lean-built, fair looking man. He earned Rs.1100 a month (about 9 years ago), working as a labor in a glass shop in Guwahati (a small town tucked in the north-east India). He was an uneducated man (a sixth-class pass), but a fine artist – drew beautiful sketches and portraits. Interestingly, it was a built-in talent – he never learnt the art from anyone. 

He slogged at the shop all through the week, lifting cartons of heavy glasses, cleaning the shop floor, bringing water for his seniors at work. On Sundays, he’d spend time buying grocery for home; eating his meals; chit-chatting with my granny (his mother). He would laugh heartily, and get angry like a bull. He was a happy-go-lucky man.

When the night came, he often said: I don’t wanna sleep; If I sleep, the dawn will break and I will have to get back to the same monotonous chores. 

He often complained that he was bullied at work by his seniors; He’d fill his plastic water bottle and they’d puncture it again and again. My other uncles (his younger brothers) fumed in anger. They also issued a gentle warning to his fellow workers and seniors – also complained to his boss. But, nothing helped.

Soon he looked changed. He talked very less. Remained quiet even if someone instigated him to fight. Totally non-defensive – as if he was not within himself.

One night when he came home, he was scared, terrified to the extremes. When asked what happened? He pointed toward the wall and said: He will kill me. He wants to kill me. He is calling me. 

Nobody could grasp the nerve of the matter. All were clueless. A number of visits to the psychiatrists brought a shocking fact before us – he was in a chronic depression, and now a Schizophrenic. It was an earth-shattering revelation for us.

In the year 2008, he left for his heavenly abode.

How could he be in depression and we never got to know? This question rang in our minds. 

Somewhere in this whole process, we realized our contribution in making him a schizophrenic. Wish we realized in time that he was in depression. Wish we could help in time. This sense of guilt is killer.

In India, mental ailment/disorder is not taken seriously. It is a taboo. People hush up the discovery that someone in their family is suffering from mental ailment. They go to a doctor only when the matter goes out of hand, or else, repent and feel guilty when that family member either commits suicide or dies.

Why is this so? Why do people not realize that a human mind “can” feel depressed and needs on-time help? Reason? Lack of awareness.

It is important for all of us to know that depression is that state of mind when:

  • One feels sad, lost, worthless, hopeless, empty, irritable, hurt, and angry
  • One loses interest in daily activities
  • One loses appetite or have constant urge to over-eat
  • One cries frequently
  • One encounters sleeping disorder – too much sleep or less sleep
  • One faces difficulty in concentrating
  • One has suicidal thoughts or thoughts of death

Whenever you notice a couple of these signs in any friend or family member, rush for clinical help – Go to a doctor. Don’t sit and reason out things and facts with him/her.

Encourage your friend or family member by saying that all will be well soon. Support him/her   by being patient and supportive. Be watchful of whatever he/she says. 

Above everything, please don’t think: OK! This is no ailment. If he/she tries his best, he/she can come out of it. It’s a myth! Depression cannot be tackled alone. Medical help is a must.

Just as you treat a flu, a stomach infection, or a simple lethargy by visiting a doctor, please treat depression as an ailment, which can be cured with medical help. 

If treated well, a depression patient can be treated to lead a normal life. If left untreated, it can lead to serious problems. 

Spread the word around – let’s make sure that we identify signs of depression on time and treat it with courage and support. 

And, if you are reading this post and feel you are depressed, just don’t wait: Say Loudly: I am depressed and I need help! 

Note: All the signs mentioned above are based on my personal observation. If you doubt you are depressed, see a doctor to confirm and get treated.

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8 thoughts on “Yet another Taboo

  1. Being a Bi-polar survivor, I know what a person goes through during depression. I agree with you Monika that it is to be taken like any other illness.

  2. Very insightful.One reason why society suppresses mental ailment is because when people hear mental ailment – the image of “Paagal Khana” with all its rickety chains and electric shocks comes to mind. There is a very strong stigma associated with the word “Paagal”. Mental health and neurosciences – they are burdened under superstitions. Essential to break the stereotypes in the society !!

  3. I agree!

    God knows why people fail to understand that a mind can be sick like any other part of the body – it is not separate! It also needs clinical help!

    People think psychiatrists are for so-called “paagal” or “insane” people. Ridiculous!

  4. Many people tend to forget that the brain is a physical organ and just like any other organ of the body can suffer injury, harm or even disease. I am going on 61 years young and I have suffered for depression for many years, mainly in part due to a disease called fibromyalgia which attacks the nerves in the body. I can cause wide-spread pain and as many people know, constant pain can cause a person to be depressed and when it is effecting the brain as a physical organ, depression CAN be very strong.
    Sadly there is such a stigma ALL over the world about depression; yes sometimes it can be a mental disease, but many, many times it is a physical disease that causes a person to withdraw. There are things, medications, relaxation, meditation, and much more that by themselves or together can help those who suffer depression lead a fulfilling life. I have had from time to time to step back from some project and “re-group” so to speak, get help and get back on track, but it hasn’t STOPPED me completely. I can’t work outside the home due to physical disabilities now, but I still keep my mind busy and since I am new to blogging, finding inspirational and encouraging sites like yours has allowed me to continue ministering, learning, growing and giving!
    Thanks for YOUR sharing as it IS an inspiration and such an awesome perspective into your life from a complete stranger! God bless as you continue in your “serving” others like me by expanding our minds and thoughts AND education! (you’re never to old to learn!)

    1. Thank you so much for reading this post. Your best wishes and blessings mean a lot to me.
      I wish you good health. May this spirit of living life, without surrendering to the odds, keeps you sailing. Sending loads of prayers.

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