“Mera matha kharab ho gaya hain. Gaon mein bole the ki, bhai Vellore jao; pagal doctor theek kar dhenge!”
My head is not working well. They told me in the village, brother, go to Vellore; the Psychiatrist will set it right!”
– A farmer from Rural Bengal
It was a day like any other, but not for Jenny (name changed). She was brought into my chamber with her mother sobbing on her right and her husband on her left. Jenny entered slowly, rolling her big brown eyes from one corner of the room to another, continuously muttering to self and occasionally pointing out the window and whispering, “They are coming, they are coming.”
“Who is coming, Jenny?” I asked calmly. “The pastors, the pastors! Look, they are coming!” At this point, the husband broke down and trying to gather himself said, “Please stop saying that, Jenny.”
Jenny is a pious young woman and a loving mother to two until yesterday when she began to display changes in her usual behavior. Today, one look at Jenny and anybody could conclude that she is ‘out of reality’, what we Psychiatrists call Psychosis. Despite my short stint in Psychiatry, thanks to my recent seminar, Acute Polymorphic Psychosis with symptoms of Schizophrenia popped in my head. Lucky for Jenny, it happens to be one of the few conditions in Psychiatry with an extra ordinary prognosis.
“Please help her doctor, please do something!” he continued with his voice cracking. I leaned closer and said, “Would you like me to take the voices away Jenny?” She probably didn’t understand what I said but despite being out of reality she knew the voices were tearing her apart. We did our work- up and sent them back with some Anti- Psychotics, spasmolytics for possible extrapyramidal side effects, some hypnotics/ sedatives for peace and a hope that she will be herself, again.
The given 5 days had gone by in a hurry. It was a busy OPD day but I had Jenny on my mind. Who wouldn’t appreciate a miracle and it’s instant gratification. I quickly flipped through my bunch, pulled out Jenny’s file and called her name into the mike. Jenny peeped into the room, gestured her family and quickly walked into the room all by herself and took her seat.
I asked with a big smile, “So, how are you doing, Jenny?”
“What happened doctor, I was always fine.”
I promptly turned to her husband and said, “Remarkable, isn’t it?”
“Doctor, she has always been good. Just that one day, may be, some evil spirits.” “What are you treating me for? “Jenny interrupted. “What happened to me?” She continued with a blank stare.
My answer vaguely brought their belief from Black Magic to Schizophrenia. They respectfully gestured and sneaked out the mental hospital as quickly as they can. I was just glad that we pulled her away, before Schizophrenia caught her into its chronic course.
Psychiatry is often associated with a cloud of discomfort amongst many Homo sapiens sapiens. The stigma of Mental Illness among the common man is no more than the stigma among Physicians. It doesn’t come across as a surprise to me. Since time immemorial, mankind always found ways to divide and find superiority over one another. These boundaries dissipate the instance Surgeons and General Physicians give up on cases without organicity and refer to Psychiatry as the last resort, often requesting us to see what they chose not to see, which we luckily specialize in.
What’s actually strange is that Psychiatrists themselves recognize this stigma and function under a cloud of pseudonyms and nom de plumes to dispel the fear attached to mental illness and its treatment. However, as is inevitable in this farcical cloak and dagger game, the pseudonym becomes the accepted name and the whole game starts over again. Much like HIV positive and its permutations into Retro- positive, HIVe, Biohazard, AIDeS, so did Psychiatrists change their reference from Mental doctors, Tension doctors, Shrinks to Neuro- Psychiatrists with newer biological models and probably ‘Soul Surgeons’ in the near future!
To break that stigma, I must admit that we cure our Acute Psychosis; we control our Schizophrenics, sometimes reluctantly pull addicts out of their substance use like General Surgeons pull their hemorrhoids. We make life normal for many, with a better prognosis than Oncology, at the least. We do receive thanks from hearts filled with immense gratitude and teary eyes filled with love, just not in this case.