Understanding our vulnerabilities toward achieving stability

I have a question for you if that’s ok. When you mean you recovered, do you mean you understood the root of your depressions and manic states, your bipolar disorder? Was there meaning, trauma in your life that led to that? And do you not suffer from that anymore? I hope these are ok questions to ask you. (E.L.)

My present blogpost is a response to this query from someone. I think it is befitting that I should answer to an earnest question in an honest manner. I am writing this post specifically so that I can share it with others and not have to make the effort again.

In response to the first question, whether I understood the roots of my depressions/mania- Yes indeed. As well as the triggers.

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This dog knows it can get attacked by its fellow dogs, and so it chooses to sit on someone’s wall and jump inside the house, if other dogs came after him. He knew he was vulnerable and kept the distance from the rest of the mongrels. Why not learn from animals?

What our triggers are – are our vulnerabilities. If one can isolate that it is a great victory and the best way to identify that would be a therapeutic dialogue with a therapist who is kind, wise and non-leading. It is not so easy to find such a person and that is the greatest challenge really.

Dear E. suffering is a part of our human destiny- but it does not have to annihilate us completely- we can live with it peacefully, we can make sense of it on a day-to- day basis and we can find better ways to make sense of things, alternative worldviews and conceptualizations.

Let me explain with an example. I currently suffer from a lot of spinal issues- which is quite painful. But I try to not let it affect me all the time in the day. yes some part of the day it certainly pins me down and when I lie down it just comes over me like a flood. I cannot even sit on the computer for any reasonable length of time that a doctoral reseracher would be expected to. And since spine is affected- so are my arms, legs and feet! I could be a ball of pain- but then I decided I cannot let it have the better of me. I cannot NOT do anything. 

SO, I am not going to compete with another phd candidate who can possibly study eight hours a day- but I will certainly try to do my two today and possibly a little more tomorrow, if tomorrow is not the same as today. This is how we build up our mental muscle- you don’t do it in a day. You do not become another person, you just learn to live with yourself a little more peacefully, more centered, greater equipoise. 

I hope you get the picture- if not please feel free to ask further.

(For those who read my blog with any regularity, pardon me I am not able to write however much I may want to thanks to the cold and my bone issues. But hopefully with summer coming soon, the months ahead would be better. Thank you for staying connected)

 

Juveniles, justice and anguish: roots of mental suffering

As October ends, two new beginnings have been made- both among populations of people in ‘prisons’. I am saying that though technically juveniles are not seen as criminals and neither is the facility where they are housed called a prison. It is called an ‘observation home’. My reading of it tells me it is nothing short of a prison

As part of laying the foundations down for the non-profit, Hansadhwani we are currently activating its mental health arm (Antardhwanee) in multiple domains- one of them of course is the counseling work done in private. But the other two ventures, viz counseling of juveniles and counseling of prison inmates is more in the public domain. In other words, we are moving forward on a social turf now.

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Both facilities are government operated and in both, sadly enough I found the same problem- a large number of innocent people, forced inside in a system which defies logic and perhaps where the head fits the noose, the head is pulled in, irrespective of whose it is!

The boys’ home

In the home for the boys, I have till now interacted with two individuals in a longer talk and with a group of nearly 20, together. Barring the first two, who I met on a separate day, I met the group and spent nearly two hours with them this past Monday (24th October 2016). All of them had a charge of attempted rape, Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. Before I met them I thought I was going to see a big group of sex starved teenagers, who had been cruel and sadistic, committing crimes against known or unknown girls and women. But life is such a learning.

I heard the stories of all of them individually, after a long interactive discussion with them, in full view of the authorities of the ‘home’. Of course nobody talked to me within earshot of another, and yet i found in all just children who wanted to be heard and given justice. There was NOT A SINGLE RAPIST over there- that became clear. I do not think they could have made up the stories. Whether or not they had wronged another, they had been wronged by a system which empowers society and families to charge anyone with a crime of rape, and then the burden of proof lies with the accused. He has to prove he is innocent. What can he prove? He does not know anything!

Most boys were school going youngsters. One (17 years) had eloped with a girl his age and lived with her for a month and upon returning home the girl had been forcibly married to someone and he condemned to the jail. There were a couple of other cases like that. But they were love tangles with few, but extortion rackets with most.In a majority of cases the accusers (girls or their families) were demanding money from the boys and their families to drop the rape charges. Money to the tune of a couple of lakhs in the least.

I kept thinking in what manner I could do anything for them, for these were not boys who were in a correctional facility for they needed correction. They are just caught on the wrong side of the law and someone has framed them. They cannot get bails, because their families are often too poor, and lawyers egg the women/accusers to extract the money, to teach them a lesson! In a few cases the girls wanted to marry the boys, by framing them first! Often

My only concern was that the system should not make them into more hardened criminals and that is the hope I go in, that by talking to them as human beings and respecting the truth of their stories, I will at least acknowledge their reality at my level. I cannot see how a person in their situation would not be mentally disturbed, and yet I can see their dreams, hopes and prayers- that someday they would be bailed out and go home free, and never look back at the prison again. I also felt very deeply that instead of psychological or emotional support, at this juncture they needed legal aid, and people who would stand up for them.

Though that does not mean that we would stop going there, but one hopes that considering these are not children facing the easiest of life’s challenges (trial for a crime not committed), the system would not end making permanent and hardened criminals out of them. Perhaps keeping their sanity and humanity alive in the abysmal conditions of their life (which are truly dehumanizing) we would jointly keep burning the flame of inspiration which all humans carry and need to remember during adversities.

The innocent are caught and the guilty go scot free- this is the reality of modern civilization where it is money, connections and lies all the way. I am sure nobody forgets that in India, especially with the likes of…

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Vijay Mallaya still in our midst and whose steam never cools, and the law or police too feeble to get his hand/head in the noose, where it deserves to be!

The Piano Teacher

Earlier this week, I called up Hem, who identifies himself as a creative film maker/ recordist (!!) After discussing my recording requirements, which are mostly classical music based stuff, I was generally talking to him about a few other things.

Hem is a south Indian, and lives near my parents’ home in Delhi, a place called Kalkaji. He is trying to set up a studio of his own, which I think finally he has found a place for. When I was here in December from Goa, he and another person, who we will call as R, came to meet me. R has been known to me for the last nearly two decades or possibly a little less than that. I have known him to be a musician of a small order, who has not learnt music thoroughly from anyone, yet by learning to play by himself and by dabbling with his keyboards.

He has often come to me for learning music, but more with the intention of ‘getting things out’ rather than really learning classical music. Surprisingly enough we have never clicked as a teacher-student. He always came, once in a couple of years, bowed at my feet (whcih I always resisted and told me not to) and talked about musical ideas and compositions. He never had it in him to learn music with anyone- he was always in a hurry to ‘encash’ things- quickly learn a raga and show if off to others. Even when I invited him to play with me, as I sang, I did not find him competent enough to, because he would be too restless to hear and start playing as I would start singing.

There are many I know like him- who keep playing tunes on the keyboards and then they figure out full melodies and they become musicians. Nothing wrong with that. They are doing things which they wanted to, by dint of sheer persistence.

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So willy nilly, moving in our conversation, Hem informed me that R is ‘out of the market’. I heard him and did not pay heed. He repeated it for me again. I thought ‘what a strange thing to say’. So I asked him what he meant. He repeated himself and said that R was in jail, for the next ten years at that. Oh! I thought, now what was that about.

And then it struck me that I had read about it in the Hindu paper, that  a piano teacher being caught abusing his student in Kalkaji. I asked Hem if he was talking of that incident. At that moment when I read about it, I thought of R- what a coincidence. I of course was not thinking of him as an abuser, but I just thought that he was the only piano teacher that I knew of in Kalkaji. But then I consoled myself thinking that hopefully there would be others, and it is not him. Now what Hem was telling me confirmed that indeed it was R!

It is sad. The world of Hindustani music is rife with teacher-student abuse, which has stifled many a career and many a relationship. ( There have been instances when teachers have married their students, but that is not an instance of abuse) But a man in his forties abusing or exploiting a child. I do not know how quickly the prosecution worked but they gave him ten years in jail. I thought for a moment, what would happen to him after those ten years and what about his family?

And then what about the child who suffered? What would be the consequences of this on her? And what if there would be more children, who could not raise their voices against him? Would there be someone to support her traumatic experience? I am sure it would have taken a lot for her to express her suffering.

The sad thing is that when people known to you do anything, your faith in humanity is shaken for a moemnt and then the whole anger which each of us has against the systemic abuse- finds a target. I feel no sympathy for R. In fact, I feel more for his wife and family. What a suffering they would have to go through socially. Like we always say, letting go of every abuser only emboldens them further- it is about time some were punished. Even if those some be people of our own associations and families. It is about time.

Here is a related post about the same incident, on another blog.

 

Why family support is NOT WORKING in mental health

This article can be downloaded from here, and is one of the resources offered by Antardhwanee. In this location, this article is titled, Families and Recovery.

In societies where social resources in health are limited, families play a crucial role in the illness and recovery of people. In mental health the case is even more so. For long periods, it is the family alone that bears the brunt of people’s illness and disabilities. Sometimes this may amount of a lifetime, and then the parents/siblings, who are the primary caregivers end up with the massive concern of who will look after their loved one[1], after their own demise.

Here is a brief list of findings, that research leads me to conclude, in the context of roles that families are playing, which ensure that people remain mentally ill, rather than recover and reintegrate back into society. This list is not exhaustive and as study is an ongoing process more thoughts will get added to this. Here are the beginning ideas.

Learning to be helpless together

Sometimes when one person is given a mental illness diagnosis, the whole family is paralyzed by a fear that mental illness has crept into their gene pool. They feel  extreme pressure due to the diagnosis and the social stigma associated with it. They all feel helpless about it and the infirmity or sense of loss that accompanies mental illness diagnosis of one person, in fact impacts everyone deeply. Secretly, they all start analyzing their own behaviours to see whether some traits of it are also lying within them!

In such a case if another member of the family faces anything of a similar nature, they are very quick to take action and take them for a ‘check up’ as well.

Protecting the loved one interminably

I have seen personally families being so defensive about their loved ones, that they keep protecting them from the world around. At times it amounts to the extreme case of hiding them from view, or not letting their loved one engage in any social milieu by themselves or without supervision. It aids in chocking both the people or set of people very severely, as no new ideas can come into the ecosystem, which does not interact with the outside world in any significant ways.

I have even seen another extreme, which surfaces in scenarios of marriage. I am not sure if this happens in India, but I have seen it here only. I have seen multiple families ‘hiding’ the mental illness diagnosis from the partners of their loved ones. As a result people are not able to remain truthful in relationships, and the trust that could be there between married partners never develops fully, because one partner knows they are not honest. This protectionism of the parents does not allow the partners to be one another’s greatest support systems, which marriage was traditionally meant to be.

Hero worshipping

Paradoxical as it may sound, I have found in many families that parents or siblings talk about their loved one, with a great fondness and regard, often attributing their mental illness to a ‘high IQ’, superior intelligence, artistic abilities or anything else like that. Though there are studies that have proved that mental illness is more positively linked to artistic creativity, the reverse is not true. Artistic creativity does not appear out of the blue, just because you are mentally ill and therefore your intelligence is also more than the average person.

By making their loved believe they are ‘smarter than the average’, families bestow them with a sense of entitlement, which means, just because they are more intelligent, they have a right to have moodiness, depressions, or any other attribute. This even inflates their ego and self belief that whatever they do or not do is well deserved, because now they are ‘mentally ill’.

I have seen in many cases that these loved ones, even when they come into counseling are so cocksure of themselves that they do not believe they will gain anything from counseling. They don’t. Their own intelligence is such a barrier, which their parents have created around them, that they are unable to use that intelligence for their own betterment by seeking help from anyone outside the circle.

Families ensure compliance to Medication

Since families have a great amount of faith in modern medicine they do not believe that psychiatry does not have a cure for mental illness. In fact, I would go to the extreme of saying that in families where parents or siblings are doctors or scientists, the possibility of anyone recovering from any serious mental illness is quite remote. Due to their unquestioning faith in modern medicine they keep medicating their loved ones, without ever probing into whether medicines are really bringing any tangible outcome.

Families may become human rights violators

Nobody ought to be coerced or forced into psychiatric treatment, especially electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Families often believe doctors so blindly and rather innocently, that whatever the medical professional recommends is to be taken as a rule. ECT  is a very controversial procedure which has long term repercussions for a person. There is no need to administer ECT to anyone, but doctors do not educate families enough, who are anyways only too willing to follow what psychiatrists say.

Often people are given psychiatric medication against their will and in spite of having no need for it, even on the sly (by mixing in food for instance). Those with mental illnesses are not allowed to choose their treatments, because their families believe they cannot decide for themselves. As a result they keep medicating them and pushing them towards the edge, for the rest of their lives, till they reach their end! Sadly, the human rights violations in mental health are the most in any category of health, and the most part of it comes from families.

Fractured Communications

In  a whole lot of families people do not talk to one another- either properly or at all. As a result whatever support could come to all of them due to interpersonal communication, does not come about. Everyone lives in an emotionally marooned state, spiritually shrunk, cold, deeply fatigued, restless and wounded.

Even if one of them finds a solution to a problem, since their inherent communications are flawed, they are not able to convey that to others. In my own work I have seen many a family member, including people with a diagnosis, have been enthused to either meet me, encounter my work or hear about the sort of work we do. However, they have not been able to convince other members in their families due to a long term loss of trust, in one another and in the fact that any other ways could appear, leading them out of mental illnesses.

Not only in my case, but often due to lack of communications, people do not seek any other social mechanism to deal with mental illness, apart from free resources that the internet offers them.

[1] Throughout this writing I have used the phrase ‘loved one’ to refer to those who have been given a mental illness diagnosis, rather than calling them someone with a mental illness.

Of ‘higher’ castes and lower minds

Imagine burning two little children alive, while they sleep at home with their parents. By what stretch of imagination can this be called the act of a sane mind, let alone the mind of a so-imagined ‘higher’ caste?

The continued myth of higher castes needs to be shunned at all levels in society and its oppression on the ‘lower’ castes needs to be dealt with utmost severity. But who will wield that firm stance? Those who themselves are pillars of this social menace and who have stood to gain in the name of caste and birth, generation after generation?

Just look at their faces here. Do they look like children who are any different from any children anywhere in the world? What is the meaning of Dalit or caste to these little children or other children of their age? But what have they lost their innocent lives to? To an imaginary social hierarchy created by adults centuries ago, that they had no role in creating or perpetuating, but simply becoming victims of it, without having any part to play, other than being born.

We are a failed human society. Sorry to say that, but there is no other truth that justifies this shocking, unthinkable, most condemnable act of mob violence. There can be no further words than that. Forget about civilization, when adults can go and burn children to death in a barbaric, brutal fashion…it does not show any progress, culture, education or development. It just shows that the lower mind is doing its brutal, barbaric, naked dance and it will crush anything now…unless crushed with equal force. And that force is has to be organized social action, not individual or another caste based solution.

These ‘higher’ caste men who really think that caste is their entitlement are so illiterate that they do not realize that the basis of caste system was a division of labour and at a philosophical level the four varnas were depicted within the human body itself, where the mind or intellect represents the brahmin, the arms that do work and labour are kshatriyas!! The feet that do the walking and carry the burden of the body are the lower castes. Can you see the lower caste in your own self? It is what you cannot survive without.

There is no lower caste outside of you- it is all within. So stop this brutal, barbaric, primitive dance of your savagery, you idiots. You are not higher in any sense of the word, those whose actions are governed by your lower minds. Conquor the Ravana within, and not burn laughable effigies outside.

Bhavna, Munni, and the alarming rise of un-supervised children

Today a young man known to me from my previous home in Chandor village called me up, in a bid to get his sister, Bhavna, a job with me, or with my mediation anywhere else. His sister, rather cousin, is under 25, and a mother of two! This surfaced after a few queries to him.

So how would she come to a new place with two children and what about her husband, I asked.

“Her husband eloped with another woman, several years ago.” he responded

I was very troubled to hear that. To be sure, I think he said the woman is 22-23. At this age she has two children and is now suddenly pushed into the role of breadwinner of the family, whatever her little family be. She is at the mercy of anyone who can offer her a job. She is willing to come to a different part of the country, leaving her home in Madhya Pradesh, in search for greener pastures. But what about her children? I ask the man.

He says, true to the spirit of a young man, “We will send the children to a hostel or somewhere else.”

How unrealistic. He is willing to send children who are both under five years of age to a residential facility like a hostel. How inhuman can humans get! Had it been his own children, perhaps this thought would not have occurred to him, but being the children of a cousin, he is least concerned. We speak a few hours later, in which he has explained to Bhavna that it is best to leave the children with her parents, as she works in a distant place. I just think of the young woman, who has no resources to fall back on, being separated from her own children and what about the children? At a young age, they would be at the mercy of anyone who would hit them, keep them hungry or well-fed, depending upon their whims and fancies. What will happen to millions of children in this country…so many faces waft in front- from Delhi, train stations, bus terminals, schools, from Goa, from villages in Uttar Pradesh, towns of Haryana- whose children are these and where will they find their anchors.

I cannot accommodate her, because Haseena is very well settled with me, in my domestic work management and we have a rather good rapport and camaraderie between us. I told him the same, and then I inquired about the woman due to whom he knows me, a certain lady who was his neighbour in Chandor, by the name Munni Khan.

“Munni has gone to Dubai,” he tells me. I knew Munni had about three or four boys. So what about them, I ask this young man, Sagar, (though for some reason I recall he had told me another name when I met him first). He tells me that Munni’s sister is looking after her children while Munni is working in a home in Dubai.

I have read and heard the most horrendous stories of people who go abroad to work, as domestic helps. I had forewarned Munni too, but she has tried to cover her tracks, by working in close proximity with her brother, who works as a driver in the same household where she works inside the home. I really hope that helps.

I wonder why Munni’s husband is not taking responsibility for his boys, and I ask Sagar the same. He tells me,

“Her husband left many years ago, do you not know Madam?”

I am confused, because Munni never told me. Why would we discuss her husband whenever we met, for there for no reason to bring it up.

“He left her at least ten or 15 years ago.” Sagar lays all doubt to rest.

So this is how children are growing up in India now- with one parent involved in parenting, either one. And that parent spending most of the time in earning the bread and butter for the children, leaving children alone with others- children or adults,  unmindful of what all can go wrong. Is it any surprise that we will increasingly become a country where the only thing everyone would understand would be the value of money and not human relationships or human values, because that is what they are growing up observing?

Wherever I look, I see a rise of un-supervised children, children who have no significant bonds with any adult- parent, relative, grandparent, teacher, guide or coach. We are raising generations of mercenaries I am afraid, and in being tuned in quiet ways to frequencies of children’s minds I am afraid this is evident to me from many, many quarters- even those of the middle classes and upper middle class children. Children are growing up alone, and I fear for what the world is going to be, when there are generations who have grown up without their mother’s love, or father’s presence.

I am noting this down as part of this blogpost, because all these conversations happened right today and I am forced to connect the dots about how many women are now pushed into the role of family ‘providers’, separated from their children- damaging both the children and the women, in the long run. We are losing the most precious resources in the world- our children. And it is nobody’s gain, no matter what you say.

On a more disturbing note, Haseena informed me about the brutal rape of a four year old by a man of 70! and she is brutalized to the extent that people in her vicinity are wondering if the child will even survive. The old man has gone and hidden inside a mosque- for he was a Mullah. What have their religions taught them if not even simple love for children, of their own kind? Society is no more the protector of civilization- it is over and decimated.

Time to start a new construction.