Unravelling the mysteries of the past can be a bittersweet symphony for the masses, although, every once in a while, we encounter certain people who are lost in the labyrinth. As shocking as it may seem, it’s more common than we are aware of.
Seeta, born and raised in India in the 1950s, evolved alongside the country's rapid advances. She preferred solitude, avoiding other kids. Her parents assumed that she was an introvert, but as Seeta thrived in school and topped her class every year, they did not worry as much. She shared a close bond with both parents, but she felt a deeper connection with her father. As time passed, she was blessed with two younger sisters who looked up to her. The 20-year age gap between Seeta and her youngest sister represented her as a maternal figure to both.
She pursued an M.Sc. in Physics from IIT Madras and then went on to complete her MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. During her first relationship, she picked up the habit of smoking cigarettes. After her MBA, she had another relationship that did not end well when she expressed anger and verbal abuse towards her parents. Although her reason for doing so remains uncertain to this date.
The boyfriend then called her family, fearful for her safety and life as she had started behaving irrationally. She had left her job and was starting to lose a sense of control. Her parents were on the lookout for a compatible husband and managed to arrange her marriage with a suitable partner.
After a few months, she got married, secured an amazing job in the US, and moved away from home. She was recognised as a brilliant woman of great calibre and potential at her workplace, while her personal life took an unexpected turn. In 1981, she was carrying her first child within less than two months of the wedding, and her husband was not happy about it. He coerced her to abort the child, completely unaware of the series of events that were about to unfurl.
Seeta had married recently, moved to a new country, and lost her unborn child, which were all drastic changes for an Indian woman from the 1950s. After the pain and trauma she experienced, she has been uncomfortable talking about this part of her life. This event was the pivotal shift that affected her state of being and may have triggered the onset of her psychological symptoms.
Abortion can be a difficult and emotional experience for many people, and it is not uncommon for people to experience depression after an abortion. Additionally, during this era, society was largely patriarchal, with traditional gender roles strictly enforced. Marriage was considered to be the ultimate goal for women, while divorce was rare and stigmatized. Abortion was also illegal and frowned upon in India. Even though abortion had recently been legalised in America, the Socio-cultural impressions and stigma still persisted. These factors may have contributed to the growth of the paranoid thoughts as well. Furthermore, for a person who has excelled in all walks of life, when they encounter the slightest stressor that they are unable to overcome, it can affect them adversely.
By 1982, her deterioration had reduced and her symptoms were beginning to plateau. At the same time, her husband began to affirm to her parents that everything was alright and that she did not need any assistance. This widened the gap, resulting in a lack of social support during such difficult times. However, for two years, the symptoms prevailed and went untreated. Soon, she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and reactive depression after an abortion. Simultaneously, during this time, her father was battling depression on his own.
Her in-laws and husband visited her in 1985 in Madras to see how she was holding up. This event triggered another relapse where she expressed erratic behaviour. They rushed her to the nearest emergency hospital, where she was given serenance injections and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for a week. She was later discharged with medication and psychotherapy. The following year, her condition stabilized, and she decided to take up a job. However, in 1989, she suffered another relapse and was admitted to a hospital.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a medical procedure that involves sending electrical currents through the brain. It is one of the most effective treatments for severe depression, especially when other treatments have failed. It can be a lifesaver for people with severe depression who have not responded to other treatments. It can help to improve mood, reduce suicidal thoughts, and improve quality of life.
Despite all the adversity, her determination and ambition didn’t stop there; she decided to pursue a Ph.D. in marketing. The family realised that she was in search of a reason to travel to the US to track down her husband. The doctors at the time suggested that her parents permitted her under the condition that she was able to pull herself together, as was her internal motivating factor. She somehow managed to gather her wits and follow through with the necessary prerequisites she needed to travel abroad.
During her first semester, she managed to locate her husband, only to realize that he had already remarried. Upon witnessing this, she had another breakdown and created a situation in a public space. The student services, in turn, admitted her to a hospital, where she was treated for depression and paranoid schizophrenia. After a couple of months, she was unable to cope with her emotions and loneliness. She attempted suicide for the first time by leaving the gas on in the kitchen. Her roommates reported the incident, as her behaviour had become a threat to her safety as well as that of others. This led to her deportation by the authorities in 1989.
Depression may tend to have severe effects on some people, which can induce suicidal thoughts and tendencies. It is often influenced by feelings of hopelessness, despair, or impulsiveness. It could be due to some cognitive distortions, a lack of access to mental health care, or social stigma as well. These factors make it difficult for people to talk about their suicidal thoughts, thereby increasing the risk of suicide.
Upon her return, she stayed in Madras for some time. During this time, she fled her home and was later picked up by the police. The family was in absolute shock and was unable to figure out how to cope with the situation. She had lost her sense of control and logical thinking, making it difficult for the family to manage her needs. She resumed the treatment and medication after this episode. Four years later, she again had a similar incident where she absconded from a friend’s house. She was later found wandering the streets by a mutual friend on the same day. As time passed, the incidents became more frequent.
Paranoid schizophrenia is a mental health condition that causes people to have delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs, while hallucinations are experiences of sensory input of things that are not real. People with paranoid schizophrenia believe that others are trying to harm them or hear voices that aren’t real. This can be very frightening, making it challenging for people to trust others or to feel safe in their own homes. As a result, some people with paranoid schizophrenia may run away from home. Schizophrenia can be managed with medication but cannot be fully cured.
For the next 5–6 years, she alternated between stable and relapsing with a combination of ECT treatment, medication, and therapy. She tried to resume work and managed until the point when the symptoms would take over her ability to function with ease.
Despite these obstacles, she tried to return to work multiple times in 1997, but she was unable to cope with the constant fluctuations in her mind. Her father’s depression later developed into bipolar disorder. In 2002, as he did not undergo any treatment, he passed away, unfortunately, which deeply hurt those around him. During mourning, her family witnessed multiple incidents and breakdowns where she starved for days at a stretch, cut her father’s shirts, and engaged in other similar behaviours. Her ultimate motive was to wait for her husband’s return and get back to her life.
Hostile reactions by depressed people during mourning are not uncommon. Depression can cause people to feel a range of negative emotions, including anger, sadness, and guilt. They may be struggling to cope with the loss of their loved one. They may feel overwhelmed by their emotions, and they may not know how to deal with them in a healthy way. These negative thoughts can make it difficult for them to feel compassion for others, and they can lead to feelings of anger and resentment.
Since then, her family has played an important role in helping her manage her symptoms and difficulties. She continued medication, ECT, and other forms of therapy. Soon after, she started working as a content writer for a living. She fondly enjoyed marketing and content creation. Although it seemed like she had started adapting and coping with it, things began to get worse within a decade.
In 2012, the symptoms of the disorder resurfaced, leaving her family with no option but to admit her to a psychiatric facility. After months of contemplation and research, the family decided to admit her to Cadabams.
Initially, she was extremely hostile and unhappy. She felt that her sisters didn’t like her, so they admitted her to the centre. However, as time passed, the hostility reduced and the docility increased. She had begun interacting with a few of the other residents and expressed her passion for art. Since then, she has been deeply rooted in art therapy and has a sense of responsibility. She had been heading the art department for over 8 years at Cadabams, known as 'Alankrita’, where all in-house patients develop artistic skills or use art as a medium to express themselves.
Having a sense of responsibility can help give people a sense of purpose and meaning in life. When people feel like they have something to contribute and that their actions matter, it can help to reduce feelings of hopelessness and despair. Art can be a powerful tool for self-expression and healing. It can allow people to explore their emotions, process their experiences, and connect with others. Both responsibility and art can be helpful for people with depression, who may often feel lost and adrift.
She has her memory and data intact for even the most trivial events. She seems to be very wise and insightful. She is undergoing treatment actively. As schizophrenia is a life-long disorder, she continues to believe that she will reunite with her husband and pick up her life from where she left it 23 years ago. Regardless, Cadabams has created an efficient system to foster the necessary care every step of the way.
speechless,Present day, Seeta is quite content with herself. She spends her time reading books, watching TV, walking, and relaxing. She seems to be happy with her own company other than an occasional call or visit from her family. When I asked her, “How do you spend your day?”, she responded by saying, “I used to manage art activities here, but since my husband is coming to get me soon, I have stopped working there.” and left me speechless and I refrained from digging deeper.
Since the onset of her illness, her mind has transformed into a tangled web, ensnaring her in a ceaseless cycle of past events. The inescapable grip of her past held her prisoner, preventing her from moving forward and seeking reconciliation.
As I approached Seeta, a bewildering aura surrounded her, even as she sat quietly in her room, her eyes fixed on the floor. It seemed as though her mind was a labyrinth, a maze of memories and illusions. She found herself lost in its twists, turns, and crossroads, more often than not.
Seeta's contentment is not merely a passive state of being; it is an active pursuit of inner peace. As time gently unfolded, she transformed from a woman seeking attention to an individual radiating blissfulness in her solace. She embraced the tranquility of her surroundings, finding fulfilment in the simple pleasures of life. Her journey at Cadabams had not merely restored her well-being but had also nurtured a profound sense of self-acceptance and inner peace.
Recognizing the symptoms of depression and paranoid schizophrenia and seeking help is crucial for timely intervention and effective treatment.
Symptoms of Depression:
Symptoms of Paranoid Schizophrenia:
Cadabams' comprehensive approach to treating depression and paranoid schizophrenia emphasizes a combination of individual and group therapy, medication management, and psychoeducation. This holistic approach aims to address the underlying causes of these conditions, alleviate symptoms, and empower individuals to regain control over their lives.
Bringing out the authentic and personal stories of residents at Cadabams is a delicate challenge. Nevertheless, we hope to highlight the patients' unwavering determination as well as the team's dedication to providing holistic care, fostering resilience and nurturing individuals. To protect their privacy, all names have been altered.