Schizophrenia – A life in Dark Shell

“Who has spilled the garbage?” the terrified voice of my mother in law came from the kitchen. I rushed to the kitchen and to my surprise the kitchen was clean with not a speck of dirt. Her face was red with anger. Confused and frightened I stepped forward and asked her “What happened Amma?”.  My words didn’t seem to reach her. She was walking around the house yelling and screaming at everyone. What she meant to say was that somebody had deliberately messed with the kitchen to irritate her. This incident happened barely ten days after my marriage. I just could not do anything to comfort my panic stricken mother in law. I stood there trying to guess what actually had gone wrong. After half an hour she was back to normal.

My mother in law was a sweet, chirpy and a cheerful person. A voracious reader, she was always on the lookout of learning something new. She could cook an awesome meal in few minutes time. Always jovial, she could sit and chat for hours with relatives and friends.  I forgot this incident soon as she was absolutely normal after that day. Neither she nor any of the family members mentioned about it . I also didn’t feel the need to ask Amma about it. In these few days I had become very attached to Amma.

I would come back from my office and she would prepare a tasty snack every evening. We had become more like friends. She used to tell me about her siblings, my father in law and how her sons were naughty during their childhood. Then again something strange and upsetting happened.  As usual I reached home after office in the evening. Amma opened the door and started yelling at neighbor’s. She said that whole day neighbor’s were spraying poison from the bathroom window. It was a challenging task for me to convince her that everything was fine and nobody is trying to harm her, it was just an illusion. This was the first time I sensed something was wrong.

Time passed by and I could see lot of changes in Amma. She had suddenly withdrawn herself from the outside world. She refused to eat the food as she thought somebody had tried to poison it with an intention to kill her. She would walk restlessly in her room screaming and shouting, talking to herself and would stop suddenly at a certain point and smile and would be normal in few minutes. It took a lot of time for me to convince my family that she was going through some mental disorder.

We took her to numerous renowned psychiatrists and then one day she was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Frankly, it was the first time I was hearing about this disease. Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder which affects persons thought process, behaviors pattern. She refused medication as she thought nothing was wrong with her. She would suddenly wake up in the middle of night and start shouting. I would try to calm her but soon she started seeing me as her enemy. She felt I was the one who was planning and plotting against her. It was heartbreaking to see her struggle with this illness. Her harsh words would hurt me. I would sit and cry for hours. She had turned against her siblings. She didn’t like any of her relatives visiting the house.

One of the key problems was that we were not able to identify her problem in the initial stage. It took us a while to understand that she was going through a mental disorder and would need a psychiatric help. This resulted in slow recovery.

After so many years of treatment she has been showing positive signs of recovery. We are now hopeful that she would be back to her normal self soon.

Schizophrenia can happen to anyone. There is no particular reason for anyone to have this disorder. The major causes include Genetics, Imbalance in the brain or Immune Disorders.

Early symptoms of Schizophrenia are :

  1. Constant feeling of being watched.
  2. Seeing or hearing something that is not there.
  3. Screaming or yelling.
  4. Feeling indifferent to important situations.
  5. Inability to sleep.
  6. Always angry at loved ones.
  7. Change in personal hygiene. Person affected with schizophrenia may go without bath for days.

Please seek a psychiatrists help immediately if any of your loved ones experience these symptoms for more than a month. Early treatment of the disease would help the patient in speedy recovery.

Treatments mainly include anti psychotic medication and counseling. An anti psychotic medicine reduces the biochemical imbalances that cause Schizophrenia and decreases the chances of relapse of the disease.  However drowsiness, dizziness and weight gain are the major side effects of this medication. Therefore the schizophrenia patients are advised to go for walk regularly.  The patient’s weight, glucose levels and lipid profile should be monitored regularly by a doctor while on medication.

Last but not the least I know it is a tough task for the family members dealing with Schizophrenia patient as you need to deal with emotions including fear, anger, stress, frustration and hopelessness.  Most of the time, you may feel helpless. The best way to help the patient is to get them a proper treatment on time and to ensure they stick to the advised medication.

Please note that I am neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist. Whatever I have written is purely based on my experience.

Deepa Nair

deepslavi@gmail.com

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