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Is Your Mind Troubling You?
In a world where 'being stressed' is fast becoming synonymous with 'being successful', it is important that we attend, not just to our own mental health, but also to that of others around us
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It was late autumn some years ago, when I first met Vikrant*. He was a gentle boy with a fragile form and a hesitant demeanour. As I sat with him, assessing his problem, Vikrant came through as a sensitive and an intelligent eighteen year old with a philosophical bent of mind.
If anyone saw him in my clinic that morning, they would never have guessed that such a serene looking boy had made several attempts at ending his life. He had been on psychiatric medication for several months but his condition had progressively worsened. As a result, he dropped out of college and was confined to his home. His family had brought him to me as their last resort.
Our first few therapy sessions were encouraging. Other than therapeutic interventions such as clinical hypnotherapy and counselling, Vikrant was guided to practice yoga, meditation and regular journaling. He was urged to increase social interface with his family members, around whom he felt safe, and the family was requested to be gentle and supportive, ensuring that all his medicines were carefully monitored and not skipped.
Things seemed to be progressing well with Vikrant until one afternoon when I received a desperate call from his relative, requesting an urgent session for him. The Vikrant who came to see me that day, was very different from the person I had known before. He had a completely different persona. His lanky form had the physical strength of one too many men, his attitude was brash and outraged, and his behaviour was completely out of control.
There was no way I could do any therapy with him in that condition and yet his relative pleaded for help. Reluctantly, I agreed to see if any constructive work was possible, but shortly after we settled him into the recliner, Vikrant swung his legs into the air and hit me sharply across my face.
Without losing any time, we managed to get him into my car and drove him to the closest psychiatric facility. However his violent behaviour frightened even the doctors on duty there. I literally had to beg them for help and they were kind enough to sedate him, thus enabling the relative to take him home, with no further unruly incidents.
A few days later we set up another therapy session. A few therapist friends gathered to support and to watch me work with him. It was a difficult session but we had some powerful breakthroughs which paved the way for noteworthy changes that made him more amenable to therapy. The subsequent sessions brought much relief and Vikrant's condition began to improve.
He started taking his medications diligently, was disciplined about his yoga and meditation, played badminton every evening, and gave me regular feedback on his condition. Two months later he went back to college and even started playing the guitar. With the passage of time, the darkness in him ebbed. Vikrant overcame his mental health issues and completed his education. He now leads a normal and productive life.
His recovery was the collaborative result of good psychiatric care, alternative therapies including hypnosis and belief change work, regular meditation, physical exercise, loving family support and the power of prayer.
Too often people neglect the early signs and symptoms of mental distress, approaching mental health specialists only when things get out of hand. Early intervention can be very helpful in resolving problems with greater ease. Unfortunately, people shy away from approaching a mental health professional primarily because they feel the family will be stigmatized. The false belief that only mentally deranged people visit mental health specialists, is what prevents most people from embracing timely help.
Movies depicting psychiatric wards and shrinks in poor light have probably contributed to this belief. But thankfully that's changing now. The film 'Dear Zindagi' has made a good beginning at transforming this perception. By portraying that a 'Dimaag ka doctor' also helps perfectly normal people who may be experiencing heartbreak, to manage their turbulent emotions and confusions in life, the film has helped in making mental help more acceptable.
Rajeev* too was heartbroken when his girlfriend of six years broke up with him. At first he was just too shocked and spent several sleepless nights trying to figure what had happened. He blamed himself for not measuring up in the relationship. His self esteem was shattered. Even though he wanted to tell his friends how badly he was hurting, he was scared they would judge him. Instead he took to drinking and smoking.
When he finally got around to telling his friends, they heard him out for a few days and then got tired of his constant brooding. Feeling alone and isolated, he started slipping into depression. At first, seeking out a counsellor or a mental health professional didn't even cross his mind because he was conditioned to believe that only weak men visited counsellors. So he masked his anguish and pretended he was doing fine. But his work suffered. Sleep and hunger abandoned him and his alcohol consumption started to increase. One day, he just broke down and confessed the whole truth to a friend who cajoled him into seeing me.
In a world where 'being stressed' is fast becoming synonymous with 'being successful', it is important that we attend, not just to our own mental health, but also to that of others around us. The pace we live our lives at, comes at a cost. We have less time to attend to our upsets, less time to be aware of our negative thoughts, less time for the people we love and care about, less time to grieve our broken relationships, or overcome our failures and our loss.
We usually behave as robots, assuming our programmed instincts will help us climb Mount Happiness. But that is just not true. Our habit - addicted brains are wired to be fearful, to find faults, to complain, to blame, to be stuck in our sad stories and to be discontented with life. The only way to be peaceful is to live life more consciously and to change our default settings.
So whether it's persistent anxiety you are suffering from, or depression, mood swings, panic attacks, passive aggressive behaviours, or thoughts about suicide that are afflicting you, please insist on getting help. Mental health encompasses a very wide range of afflictions that include schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorders, bipolar disorders and several others that can be as debilitating as any other physiological disease or accident. It is therefore extremely important that you accord to it the same urgency and attention that you would give to any other uncomfortable symptom or disease. Do not hesitate to seek help and mitigate your suffering. Remember, all mental healthcare professionals keep your identity completely confidential.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.