There are tons of different kinds of mental health issues in this world, we all know that. One of them is bipolar disorder. For those who don’t know what it is:
Bipolar disorder is a mental health problem that mainly affects your mood. If you have bipolar disorder, you are likely to have times where you experience:
- manic episodes (feeling high)
- depressive episodes (feeling low)
- potentially some psychotic symptoms during manic or depressed episodes.
Just like many of you out there, eight year old Shaina also did not know what it meant; but she had been hearing this word since she was a tiny little creature of about 5 years old. The doctors always told her parents that she was suffering from a very unique and severe case of bipolar disorder. She showed her first set of symptoms when she was 5, prior to that she was a very normal and happy kid. Her parents had never experienced any kind of peculiar behavior from her. But suddenly everything changed. She would go out to play with her friends and all of a sudden, she would start tearing up, for no reason whatsoever. She would crawl to a dark corner in the house and sit there for several minutes and once she came out, she would be seen wiping off her tears and the next moment her parents would see their normal, joyful Shaina again. When asked, she would not remember what she had just been through. So, it was getting very difficult for her parents to understand what exactly was going on with her and finally they decided to consult with the doctors.
Though Shaina had such a curious mental issue, she was a bright kid – fast in learning languages, quick with simple mathematics, soft spoken, very friendly. This incident had taken a toll on everyone in the family. Shaina did not belong to a rich background. Her father used to work at a grocery store as a delivery man and her mother was a tailor, she used their veranda as her boutique. Shaina was their first child and she was very dear to them; but all they could do for her was sit beside her and pray to God to cure her from this ambiguous health issue. As she grew up, the symptoms also grew alarmingly. She would run towards their backyard, sit behind the mango tree and scream and cry. She would clutch to her hair with both her palms and grind her teeth and suddenly start shivering out of tremendous fear, as though somebody’s attacking her. Her eyes were always swollen from all the crying, the glow of her face had just vanished. Her heart wrenching cries and her spine-chilling depression was killing her parents slowly from the inside. They tried their best to hold on to the happy mood of their child; but it just seemed impossible with passing time.
After three years of suffering together, her parents finally gave up. It was too damn difficult a step to take for them; but they had to do it. Some doctors had told them if Shaina resided at a mental asylum, they could keep an eye on her easily and her treatment would be their responsibility. But there was a price to pay. By handing her over to the asylum, her parents would lose all their authority on Shaina, as they couldn’t pay for the treatment. After weeks of crying, denial, refusal, her parents finally gathered the courage to leave her at the asylum. The only thing that helped them to keep it together was the hope – the hope for a better life for Shaina.
Eight year old Shaina was all alone in the new place that her maa told her to call ‘home’ going forward. She was scared even when she was in her senses. The helpers took her in, showed her new room to her and locked her in it. The isolation was frightening and she wanted to run away as far as possible from that place. But she was helpless; she was a fragile, eight year old kid in a locked room, which had metal doors and a small vent for passing the food trays. She started analyzing the schedules for the day, apart from the times she had the panic attacks. They were allowed to roam around in the park inside the asylum, talk to others, take up a hobby as per their interest; they were even allowed to watch television at a specific time of the day, for a total of 3 hours, max and of course there were mandatory check-up hours allotted to each one of them, according to the assigned doctor’s shift.
After a few weeks, Shaina made her first friend, a ten year old boy – Pranit. He had been living in the asylum right from his birth. He was not mentally challenged in any way; but his mother was, who breathed her last while giving birth to him. He used to help the elderly people and also used to run around for simple day-to-day tasks of the asylum. He was a helping hand to both the patients as well as the doctors. Pranit used to watch Shaina from a distance, in her initial days at the asylum. He longed to figure out what was wrong with this beautiful girl. And one day, while sitting near the fountain, Shaina suddenly jumped into it and started banging her head with her small fists, and started to cry out very very loudly. Pranit rushed towards her, helped her out of the fountain; but Shaina kept pushing him away and finally ran off into her room. He just stood there, glued to the ground, baffled! Once she came to, the doctors sat her down and explained what she was going through, at her own request.
With time, Shaina started to remember bits and parts of the panic episodes and she would describe them to her doctors. Sometimes she would see weirdly structured black monsters attacking her from all the directions and other times she would see that she is falling off from a cliff, voluntarily. None of the descriptions made any sense to the doctors at first; but after significant contemplation, they arrived at a conclusion that they had to know every tiny detail of what she had experienced when she was five years old; because that’s when it had all started. Shaina tried to recall everything that had happened, the doctors tried to reach deep into her mind; all the memories were pleasant, nothing out of character; but every time the doctors discerned that there was still something repressed, which was the actual key to her distress.
In the mean time, Shaina and Pranit had become very close friends. They grew together, they played together, they read together in the library. There was not even a single moment when Shaina saw judgement or pity in his eyes and that was all she had ever wanted from anyone around her. They spent majority time of the day together, apart from the “intermissions” as they called it, when Shaina was not herself. Whenever she sensed the start of an attack, she would run far away from Pranit. She felt humiliated to be suffering from such a thing and she did not want Pranit to look at her when she was going through it. She always made him promise to stay away from her during her panic attacks.
The doctors had also observed this close friendship flourishing with the many years of their stay in the asylum. When Pranit turned 18, the doctors summoned him and asked for his help. They hoped that Shaina would may be, just may be share her left out, unspoken past with him. He did not know what to do. Would it be cheating? Would it actually be able to replenish his beloved Shaina?
[Pranit was truely, deeply, madly in love with Shaina. Sure, every time he saw her struggle to keep from crying or just sitting there fighting her fears with tightly clenched fists, he fumbled a little. He prayed every day, every second of his day for Shaina, his gorgeous sweetheart to get better. Most of their conversations involved Shaina asking him to leave the asylum, to build his future in the outer world, and Pranit hated such baseless talks, as he referred to them. He hated one single utterance of hers the most – “I would rather have you hate me than love me darling, you’re giving up on your future for something that might never be!” He fancied a beautiful future with Shaina. She was the food for his soul and without her; he had never even imagined the over-morrow of his life.]
This could be the answer to all the questions he and Shaina had ever hashed over, only if he could get her to talk about it. After thorough consultation with the doctors, Pranit began his little act, reluctantly. He started to get mad at Shaina for small things, he blamed her for silly issues, he repeatedly told her that she could get better; but she seemed to be the only one who didn’t want that. The doctors believed that reverse psychology could actually work, if done by a loved one. Shaina was forced to think if it was true, what Pranit was saying. Did she not want to be cured? Didn’t she want a happy life with Pranit? After days of arguing, verbal fighting, one day Pranit angrily said that he was going to leave, for good. Those words hit her like a catapult, took her back to her eighth birthday, when her parents had told her that they were going to leave her. She fell on to the floor with a loud thud. The fear of losing Pranit was haunting her, even when she was unconscious. Pranit carried her to her room, sprinkled water on her, made her drink water and finally she opened those pretty brown eyes and looked at him.
Shaina got up and sat on the bed with Pranit’s help. She shut her eyes tightly and her face made an unpleasant expression, she looked like a scared little puppy lost in the woods. And with her eyes still closed, she started talking. She was five years old. It was a regular day and she was out playing football with her little friends. A man, probably in his thirties, came towards her and offered her a candy. She took it and ate it without a second thought; she was so so young after all! The candy made her lose her senses, she passed out. When she woke up, she was lying behind the big trash can next to their playground. Her green dress had turned red with blood, she didn’t know or remember what had happened but she felt dizzy. She somehow managed to get up and go to her house in the evening. She felt ashamed for some reason, so she took bath, threw that dress and never spoke about it to anybody ever again. She thought may be if she could bury it deep inside her heart, it would be as if it had never happened. Pranit had bloodshot, teary eyes when Shaina finally opened up hers to look at him. He reached out and hugged her like it was the first as well as the last day of their lives.
He narrated the incident to the doctors, after Shaina gave her consent. It was now easier for the doctors to do their job. She was given constant attention and proper medication for next two years and the doctors could see her improving gradually. The treatment was finally working; because they were not shooting in a dark room anymore. Pranit had taken up a job as a clerk and he was focusing on saving money. He wanted to build a tiny house for himself and the love of his life.
It took immense love, a huge amount of time and patience for them to finally get out of the asylum and build a life for themselves. Shaina focused on finishing her studies and finally applied for a librarian’s post.
Letting go is hard; but sometimes it is “Holding on” that is harder!!