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An anecdote of a doctor fighting with Depression

An anecdote of a 29 year old doctor fighting with Depression
Dr Saba S. Makhdoomi
“Though this be madness,yet there is method in ‘t.”— Hamlet
Thus Polonius tells Hamlet in his moments of frenzied insanity when the thin line that separated madness from sanity was blurred for him and he crossed over. What strikes me as odd or perhaps not, in this
shakespearean drama was Polonius’ attempts at bringing into the realm of reality and understanding that which was inherently abstruse, dark, intangible and ungraspable------- “Madness.” Worse still in ascribing a
method to it even! Madness. Madness. Hard to accept in oneself as anything more than banal eccentricity (an unavoidable flip side of scintillating, blinding genius, mind you!) and even more repugnant and abhorrent in the other. Depressive. Attention seeker. Malingerer. Self centered. Bipolar. Spoilt and pampered silly. Unrecognizable. Lacking strong Faith in the Divine (Tawwaqul no less!). Lost. Weak. Such are the adjectives that reached my ears and mind (gone haywire) through thick layers of fog that enveloped me. Shrouded me. Clogging my heart and mind. First things first. I must take out time from this missive to set down the
premise of this mental engagement. I must put down my card. Lay out my coordinates. I am 29. Woman. Doctor (by accident if not merit… by qualification, if not calling! The silly ol conformist me!). In my less
than thirty years on this planet, I have probably taken a trajectory that is at striking variance with the usual, all important, unfailing orbit of “ normal” people. I am subversive. Diagonally parked in a parallel
universe. Perpetually bombarding it. Increasing disorder. Chaos. Entropy. In a universe that loves order. I am dysplastic. Malignant even. And not merely once. I stand up and hang my head in shame. Guilty as accused. Twice over already! My august company you ask? I am surrounded in my daily life, both at work and amongst family and friends by fierce professionals. Doctors mostly. The “noble, venerated guild
of healers” brandishing their prized MDs and DMs as shiny scimitars. Yet in the definition of health, the word “mental” arouses the same perverse pleasure or displeasure as the word “ sex” if used outside of the bedroom. It’s a hush-hush. A strict no-no. Say it out loud and Lo and behold! The eyebrows defy gravity magically and the facial muscles are thrown into a wild tribal dance trying to get the right smirk at the most opportune time! Depression? What an offensive nonsense for the well sorted, all figured out contented kinds! In what capacity can I have the audacity to call out sick with “depression!” Common cold? Ok. Fractured limb? Fine. But depression?! Why the hell! Could I not have been the sweeper in my hospital building instead of where I am? Do I not have enough to thank God for! Am I disputing that? Certainly not! Not even in my
vainest would I dream to do that! Sacrilegious! Blasphemous! But is my affluence (“real or perceived” this phrase brings back daggers of memory!) or God’s benevolence upon me a talisman that shields me from
falling? Oh but there are those cynics that have a rejoinder for this as well! “If she had ‘real’ problems in life, if she had to worry about the bread on her table, she would not have the luxury to sink!” True that. But does that make my pain (real or perceived) any less painful? Let’s check the dolorous scale now. Self loathing, self pity, self deprecation is so hubristic (what with so many selfs!) How narcissistic! Then comes a flurry of speculations, scuttling for space, bombinating and tripping over each other. “Relationship woes for sure!” “A simple open and close case of lost love and heartbreak translating into a mental breakdown!” “But Ah! Jobless for months!” “Peer-e-gardoon ne kaha sun ke, kahin he koi! Bole Sayyaare, sar-e-arsh-e-bareen he koi! Chand kehta tha, nahin, ahl-e-zameen he koi! Kehkashaan kehti thi, poshida yahin he koi!” Take a bow. Everyone. You nailed this Agatha Christie suspense! I marvel at the inherent, innate, human desire (a necessity even!) to put labels on the ineffable. The unseen. The abstracts. The intangibles. The ethereal. I wonder, however, how such a mind can put such unwavering tawwaqul on a God that cannot be seen. Cannot be even begun to be understood by the frailties and limitations of the human mind! “Maanta phir koi undekhe Khuda ko kyun kar?” Do I wish to harp on upon the “assaults” (“real or perceived “, mind you!) that a self feels inflicted upon it at some remote long, long time ago? A resounding no! For some falls have reserved in it the sweetest risings. For it is in this very dark tunnel that one sees light. And though the path is strewn with the most arduous, burning, all consuming, meanderings of the mind, it is only there that one finds answers. One of the most immense, staggering, exacting boulder of a question anyone can face is this. “Am I insane? If yes, then to what degree? And what is the possibility of achieving a steady state
of normal functionality? Of reducing the vegetative, scalp scratching, blood oozing, moaning, insomniac spells to a level that is controllable?” The answer presents itself when the question is pressing. God throws
you onto a rocky path, an endless, bottomless gorge (and memory comes in the way again) and with it become manifest the means. The waseelas. (Forgive my Sufi lineage, dear friends, dear readers, apologies
must spring forth where due!) The vessels. The instruments. So my most deeply loved aunt feels my wounds on her mind and soul and plunges herself to help me “heal” myself. Almost by some magical, miraculous
trick by The Magician rises from the dust my Magic Monastery. Abracadabra! Healing Kashmir (the words almost ephiphanic). A non profit organization started by one of the kindest, discerning women have met—Justine Hardy. A place where young Kashmiris (those that understand the pain deeply and that have that rare quality which is lacking in most these days---empathy.A kind touch, an understanding smile and a patient ear that listens- --the armamentarium that has the immense power to heal) provide world class help to their brethrenin-pain. A modest place, centered in the residential lanes of Barzalla, punctuated by busy bazaars and a tall, lone mosque. A place where Kashmiri men, women and children (as young as six or seven!) unburden their hearts, souls and minds. Where people try to understand what ails them and attempt to work their way around the inner turmoil that has almost imprinted itself in their hearts in stoic resonance with the turbulence outside. I may not have a terribly tragic and poignant personal tale to tell and I may not be the best recounter of stories. But the pain of my “existential crisis” was real, nonetheless. I am reminded of a beautiful metaphor, so full of wisdom, that escaped the lips of a Kashmiri middle aged housewife. She put it simply. Innocently almost. Unaware of the power, warmth and depth her words carried. “When you have a wound on your hand, it is for the world to see and understand the pain. But how does one tell the hurt and pain that a wounded mind carries?” Food for thought. PS: Not that I am totally antipathetic to allopathy at all! I have been taking my Mirtazipine (15mg) and Escitalopram (10mg) religously. Gotten off Clonazepam
(and Oh! What a miserable drug that hammers down the senses and knocks it off) thankfully. All under the supervision of Dr Wahid (hats off to my shrink for he never shrank away from treating such an obstinate, recalcitrant patient as I! Always resisting medications! A parting anecdote I share. To my perpetually agonizing, languishing question “Doctor Saab, do you think I am schizophrenic? No, you are just too brainy! came his kind, avuncular reply. “And even if you were, we could heal that as well. Inshallah. God willing.”

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