Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Indu and the face book !

Indu (pseudonym) was one of the permanent patients of our unit. She had nowhere else to go other than the orphanage which sheltered her. We took over her care, whenever she troubled her care takers. Keeping her in one place was hard as she had a habit of running away from every home that sheltered her. She became one of our unit’s heaviest burdens.

When she was hospitalized, we had to keep an eye on her, as she was fond of wondering in corridors, outside hospital premises and suddenly went missing during visiting hours. She was in her twenties when she was diagnosed with her mental illness. She was good in her studies but couldn’t continue as her mental status worsened. On top of this she had no family support. Her mother who was treated for the same illness showed no interest in building a healthy relationship with her daughter. The efforts we took to create a good family support, failed as it was impossible to make the mother and daughter understand each other’s situation. They had no insight to it.

This time she was hospitalized after she ran away from the orphanage for the third time and was found hiding inside a canal by the side of the road. She had cuts and bruises all over her arms and legs and we feared of her being sexually assaulted or abused when she ran away. Bringing her back to our ward was a struggle. Her medications were on higher doses but still showed no improvement. She was hasty and showed no interest in occupational therapy. As she had no family support, her recovery was not in the right path.

She fights with anyone around her, whenever she’s irritated, mostly for no reason. Hallucinations, delusions, sleep deprivations, over eating or loss of appetite, she piles them all in front of us and complains about each and every feeling she gets. She accuses us or other patients for everything that happens to her in ward.

During these temper tantrums she is often locked away in the isolation room until she calms down as she becomes a threat to her own life sometimes. Our efforts to calm her down never work when she’s afflicted, she beats whoever comes near her. Yes I have been hit with a pile of BHT files, and with her fist too. When she’s locked in, she cries and weeps for her mother, pleading her to come and rescue her.

“Why have you left me all alone here amma, am I not your child…. Why couldn’t you kill me if you didn’t want me” she weeps. I feel awful hearing her, crying and yelling for her lost childhood and mother’s love.

Every one of us needs love, care and compassion to ease our way through life. When one becomes mentally ill they need a multi disciplinary healing system. Any mental illness carries a stigma, emotional instability and a feeling of fear with lack of insight to their disease that often results in social isolation.

The poor psycho–social support system in our country has hindered the recovery and healing. Helping Indu to heal was a challenge when there is no family care or support. Her own brother who lived in a village nearby couldn’t take care of her, and mother wasn’t aware of anything as she had no sound mind.

We were the only family she had and we cared about her wellbeing. We brought clothes for her whenever she tore her clothes into pieces during the temper tantrums. Gave her comfort in every way we could.

We spent most of our time in ward as we all were away from home and our loved ones. My laptop battery was dying and needed charging time to time, and only workable place was at nurse’s station. I was there with my laptop which was near the grilled window of the female ward.

It was one of those evenings when we were free of ward work. When we were checking a photo page of a staff member’s wedding, I heard a voice behind my head, “What’s that doctor” Indu, peeping through the grilled window asks me pointing at the laptop screen.

It was the Face Book which connected me to my community when I’m here.“That’s face book, Indu…” I explained as I was happy that she came out of her lackadaisical behavior. That was the first time she showed some interest in what was happening around her. She wanted to know what I was doing there typing. “Why do we need this” she asks with a surprised look in her face.

“Well, you see, when we are so busy in our own little worlds, it’s hard to keep in touch with friends. We need a media to connect. I’m miles away from home, working here with you guys and it’s hard to meet people or be with them in their life events. Some are even living abroad. Social networks like face book, gives me a chance to reconnect with friends; Talk to them, check their photos and share what’s happening in our day to day life.”

I tell her while flipping through photos, of birthdays, weddings and parties. She doesn’t show any concern on my explanations and wonders off humming.

After few minutes she appears again” it’s such a stupid thing to have a wedding these days. It’s a waste of money doctor” she adds.

“Indu, I agree… you are absolutely right!” hearing this her face brightened.

“Why do they post photos, like this, on a web page” she asks pointing at the laptop. Her mind rapidly changes subjects.

“To share all those special events with friends. We can respond with a like, or a comment or even share ideas” I explained.

“What’s the purpose of showing photos to others doctor? Why does one show off all that happens to them?” She asks as she shrugs her shoulders with a startling look.

“Well, that’s a good question Indu, I too have no answers yet, but I guess it makes them happy”

“Happy? Who’s happy?” She asks with a puzzled look on her face.

“Those who share and those who can see them… I guess…” I felt that I was succeeding more in confusing than explaining.

“Hee hee…that’s crazy right…” she tells me with a heavy tone and runs away giggling. For a moment, I was speechless. People love social networks and enjoy sharing their life events, even the plate of food they eat, or make up they put on. I guess it was hard for her to understand the common flow of the modern techno world. She calls it “crazy” to promulgate on our daily whereabouts and feel contented about it.

Indu, who’s on mind medications, finds it confusing that we maintain virtual profiles. She thinks we are “crazy” for wanting to post and proclaim every good thing happening in our lives. We grade her imperceptive, uncomprehending and psychotic, and we obstruct her thinking to put her mind to rest but she laughs at our mundane ego boosters.

Back in those days, I remember painting, cards for birthdays and penning notes for sharing.

We never print a photo or an album these days but we log in to check the photos in time lines instead. We console each other with likes and comments but no effort is taken to meet in a real life event. I guess, this posting and boasting, which she calls crazy makes people feel less lonely and more heroic.

I was lost in my own thoughts about social networks and couldn’t help being dismayed at our ways in finding soul superiority in these virtual platforms.
 Dr. Bodhini Samaratunga

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