A story of optimism, compassion.

I have written earlier about parents with challenged children, but sometimes it is the children who are the ones tested by a parent.

Here is one such story, it is one of patience and optimism, but mainly of compassion:
I shall call him Srinivasa. I like this name as my father was officially named 'Srinivasa' during his namakarana and they both have similar qualities of idealism, patience and acceptance of their lot without complaining or blaming others.

I met him at a function and later he came home during one of his visits to Bangkok. He works for an ASEAN company and is the head of Technology in a group of companies. I enjoy our talks about his work as I am able to appreciate his contribution. I find him very dedicated and sincere about his work and it shows as he spends a great amount of his time working for his company.

The family continues to stay in India while he keeps traveling in and around ASEAN. Once, I suggested that he should visit with his wife and children and stay with us. I sensed that some thing was amiss, as while he said thanks, he did not sound very enthusiastic. After a pause, he said that while he would love to bring his children over, he was not sure whether his wife could come as she was afraid of traveling and has never accompanied him anywhere abroad.

I suppose he then decided to confide in me and spoke of his wife's problems. That she is a patient of Paranoid Schizophrenia and fortunately now her condition is much improved. He spoke about her with a lot of tenderness and compassion and described her as a very good looking and a simple person. They were very happily married and the symptoms started to appear gradually.

This is his story in his own words:
"As a youngster, still not out of college, I did not appreciate that Boys who 'saw' girls for getting married acted so snobbishly and often did not give the 'nod' even if the girls were eligible and good. This practice called vadhupariksha created a lot of tension and I could understand, with 4 sisters at home, the trauma my sisters underwent whenever they had a marriage interview. This made me decide then that I would get married to the first girl I saw, if and when, I decided to get married.

This happened in the Winter of 1984, when Padma's family came home with her and I saw her. My decision of getting married to the first girl proposed to me, was too easy as she was too good in her looks for anyone to say 'No'. After the formalities were completed, we were married in the summer of 1985. I was then staying with my Brother and Sister-in-law and just before my marriage, we brothers spoke with each other and decided that I should start my new life with my new bride by living in a different apartment. So the ground rules were set between us brothers to ensure that we had enough privacy in both our families.

Life was exciting for the first few months but I could slowly start noticing a few changes in her behavior when we went out or met friends or visited my brother’s family. I found that she was giving a lot less attention to me and also did not appear very interested meeting our friends and family members.

She became a bit casual in doing household chores so much so that I started missing out on my breakfast. Considering that we were Just Married and that she was still young, I adopted a benevolent way of looking at things and moving on. A few incidents later during the first year of marriage got me worried. Her sleeping hours extended to the late afternoons and as she couldn't sleep on time in the nights. She used to keep awake and a couple of times would switch on the TV late at night and stare into the blank screen. Sometimes she used to laugh and sometimes cry without a rhyme or reason.

It is at this point of time, I invited my In-laws to stay with us as I thought she could be missing her family. A few months passed and she gave up cooking totally and left it to her mother to manage the kitchen. Any warmth for me was found wanting.

I did question my in-laws on this strange behaviour and all that I got as an answer was that she was fine before our marriage. On the pretext for her to get a change, I agreed to send her to Bangalore with her parents and suggested to them that she must be taken to a doctor, preferably a psychiatrist to address the concerns of her strange behaviour.

In Bangalore she was seen by a leading psychiatrist and it was diagnosed that she was suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia and was needed to be on medication for a life time. I was absolutely shocked on hearing this as we had not even completed one year of our marriage. I also learnt about the role of family members towards such patients and being an optimist, decided to support her hoping that she would recover soon. The birth of our son did bring a cheer to the family but my life did become tough bringing up 2 kids in the house, one my wife and the other, our darling Son.

Years passed and then I opted to move to South and took up a job closer to Bangalore. We had our second child a Daughter there and around this time my wife lost her younger brother due to a renal failure. This incident aggravated her ailment and it is then I decided to call in my in-laws to stay with me as it became very difficult to for me to cope with her and our 2 kids.

What followed was the most difficult times as I had to admit her very frequently to hospitals for Psychiatric care. A lot of events took place during this time. One such instance was when Padma was in Nimhans and we took a parole to see her cousin in wilson gardens.It was a hot summer afternoon and after seeing her cousin at her place, padma wanted to go to her house in Rajajinagar and not return to the hospital.She made me walk for quite a distance and threatened to " hit " the traffic if I forcibly take her to the hospital. After walking a few kilometers; I had to forcibly drag and jump into an auto and take her back to Nimhans. At Nimhans getting her back to the ward brought back memories of films like " Sharapanjara ". After such incidents, my resolve to fight it out became even more stronger because of the two lovely kids she gave me.
I felt, being a male it is easier for me to walk out of the marriage, but I also thought, whenever it was a difficult time that she was not doing this on purpose. She was just unfortunate to be in that
1 % of the population in the world who suffer from such ailments. The next few years were very trying as I had to concentrate on my career, build up my reserves so that I could provide a good living to my family.

This prompted me to take up a job
overseas and shift my family to Bangalore. I was initially against moving out but my wife in one of her 'good moods' forced me to take up the overseas offer and that she along with her parents would bring up the kids. It didn't really work that way. Even as I took up the overseas job her condition became from bad to worse. A couple of times I had to rush back and bring things under control. The only good thing which happened during this time was that the kids were growing up. They would come over as unaccompanied minors to the overseas destination during their school breaks.

This gave me an opportunity to talk to them about their mother’s condition and as to how they needed to take good care of her when they got back. The thought of children joining to support me as they grew up gave me a glimmer of hope that I would not be alone. The kids and I would be together in our resolve to help Padma recover and lead a normal life. Twenty three years have passed since we are married and she continues to stay at home and lead a normal life in Bangalore taking good care of her old parents, herself and our 2 lovely kids. She manages to keep the house spotless and does the daily chores of cooking. She loves to shop and has a good taste in choosing sarees in her favorite shop 'Angadi Silks'. Over the years, the drugs seem to have taken their toll and she has now become insulin dependent, too. She knows she is ailing and so is very particular that she takes her medicines on time. It is exactly for this reason that she refuses to come overseas and instead sends the kids who are now in their Teens. She does not miss out on her monthly medical check up with the same doctor she went 23 summers ago.

I keep talking to her and the kids almost every day and do visit Bangalore once every quarter.
As for me, I’m happy that God has been kind to me for answering my Prayers to bring back Padma to the main stream even though we really do not enjoy a normal husband-wife relationship. I just miss out on the pampering stuff !!! but seem to have got used to it now. As for the kids, they love their mom and as they have grown up, take very good care of her and do make all efforts to further consolidate the family so much so that its impossible for any outsider to even get even a little doubt about the ailment. Looking back, I'm happy the kids have matured to understand their mother despite a traumatic childhood and Padma now is lucky as she has the whole family toeing in line to make her lead a normal life. The best part in this is that Padma over the years understood her ailment and has seen the importance of taking the medicines at the right time without anyone telling her. This is the most difficult part of such patients as they never accept that they are suffering and hence never take their medicines. In this situation; it becomes very difficult to manage the ailment. People with such ailments need 'Empathy' and patience rather than Sympathy. It seem to have worked well in my case.
So far so good.
" Srinivasa

While the story is full of hope, if one thinks of the children our heart reaches out for them.
It is certain that with an estimate of one in hundred as with psychological problems, each one of us would have come across similar situations in some way or other, if not with the same seriousness. We all remember as children how when we came face to face with such a person, we were either confused or anxious. We called them 'ondhu thara' (one type) to explain. As kids we were even afraid of them. We had no idea how to deal with them when we found that it is sometimes impossible to reason with them. Often they sounded very cynical and sarcastic.

Obviously, It is very hard for children affected to accept that the mother they have is not same as the other mothers around them. They notice that other mothers do things together with their children, fuss over them. Soon they learn that something is missing. There is no depth in their conversations. It also dawns on them that they would need to take care of their mother in some ways. Sadly their childhood is taken away from them. They are not sure how to talk to other family members. As they grow older they learn that they cannot depend on their mother to take decisions. Their grandmother or an aunt becomes their mother. On the positive side the siblings become a very strong team and also develop deep friendships often.

It is also upsetting for the immediate family that the person acts contrary for no reason. Often they are not in the present or do they seem to be with it. It is not easy to take care of such persons without total commitment and community support as it is a daily struggle and sadly some families give up.

When I think of all this, I feel very happy share the story Srinivasa tells so well with others. This is a story where compassion and true goodness of a person, as well as tremendous family support has held the family together and children have shown ability to cope and have overcome many testing moments. I have met his children briefly and was impressed with their demeanour. I wish them all the luck.

There are many issues to talk about, how the society and the government could provide support be one of them. I found that this website covers mental health issues very well.
http://www.cmha.ca/BINS/content_page.asp?cid=3-100

Another which is a bit tougher to read. First Person Account: Paranoid Schizophrenia—A Daughter's Story

Sriram sent me the following links which is worth reading as they are very positive:

http://www.keralaglobal.com/news/readFullNews.php?ID=104498

http://www.mindbeautiful.com/home.html.
(My earlier blogs which talk about challenged children.
http://nidhiramblers.blogspot.com/2008/04/there-are-responsibilities-that-all-of.html
http://nidhiramblers.blogspot.com/2008/03/shashanks-story.html)

Comments

sriram said…
A friend of mine who lives in Oregon seems to have had a similar situation with his wife, but he has never mentioned it to me directly in all these years, and I came to know of it only by a chance reading of an article on the internet. http://www.keralaglobal.com/news/readFullNews.php?ID=104498 is a brief writeup, and she seems to have totally turned her life around - http://www.mindbeautiful.com/home.html. One of my colleagues at a previous company also had many family members with a history of mental illness, so there are definitely some hereditary aspects to it.

I guess that we really need to be thankful that we were fortunate enough to have escaped from such mental and physical afflictions, but then again, some of these types of challenges are vehicles to transform ourselves from a mundane existence to one with a higher calling.

Regards,
Sriram
Chaya said…
Very touching Nidhi and thanx for sharing it.Reminds me of my own uncle Ramu who passed away last month in his son's house in USA. When he was juast in his 30s, my aunt,Lakshmi got what they called'bananti sanni' those days. after the birth of her 4th child.Ramuchikkappa took good care of her till she died of cancer 3 tears ago.I have never heard him blame fate or complain. He took her everywhere and made she was well dressed. May God give them both a happy reunion somewhere up there. People like these remind us to thank God for what we have.
Chaya
ramadevi said…
Loved the photos of Disneyland and the article on how care, patience and persistence help deal with difficult situations. Thank you for both.
shivu said…
Hi Nidhi, if you want another case of Sharapanjara. SP etc. I have one, my sister, Srilatas childhood friend. not so lucky as your friend.
Shivu
BSIK Murthy said…
The story of 'Srinivasa' was really a touching one. The way he coped up with the problem deserves all the praise. Kittu
Chandramouli Narsipur said…
(Chandramouli gives us an instance of a mother and her incredible strength in dealing with, again, the challenges children pose. It is a generation that was special.)

Indira's mother managed a daughter with psychiatric problems for over 40 years after the death of my father-in-law.
Twenty years later, she had to manage a son aged 45 who went into some kind of paranoid schizophrenia.
When she was 85, her eldest son! She was faced with a son aged 64 in deep clinical depression ! Amazingly, she remained calm, unperturbed, concerned and cared for each one of them often all three in the same house ! She passed away age 96.
While the rest of that close family helped her out as well, her incredible strength was and will always be a source of inspiration. She sought no sympathy or empathy or pity or assistance from anyone.
Vishalakshi said…
I was fortunate to work with a couple of autistic kids in the kids school for a couple of months - though I have met people, kids with various challenges - mental and physical - this was my first encounter when I had complete responsibility of their curriculum. It was a humbling experience. Through communication with the parents, I could see that making the kids as normal as they could was all they could focus on. But then having kids play the grown up is a totally different thing. I know that these kids would be a blessing to mankind - they have seen trouble, they have seen happiness associated with their mother getting better - they know that everything is not about money. They are blessed to have such a father who didn't run at the first sign of trouble or give up on his wife all these years. That will definitely teach them family values which is lacking so much these days. God bless them and hope they see a lot of happiness.

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