This is the story of Niraj Chandan. A month back he wanted to share his story with Akhilvaani. Niraj is like most of us-a non-affluent Indian who is husband and father of two dotting children. I was a month late in approaching Niraj to share his story. It has not possible for him to write his story and send to me. Most of sufferers of Bipolar Disorder, go through different phases. One is of elusive “remission” in which people like me, Vijay Nallawala and Sandip Gautam are currently.
But quite often the period of “remission” is ephemeral. Acute illness both precedes and succeeds the remission in Bipolar Disorder. Even those people in whose cases with time the “High” and “Low” has become more manageable, often have bad days and very bad days and if lucky sunshine comes.
I wish Niraj was in a position to tell his full story. But like most of Bipolar sufferers when you are in acute phase and undergoing medication even if you want you cannot tell your story objectively.
So with the permission of Niraj I am en-capsuling his story as once narrated by him. I have put his story verbatim as he wrote in a blog :-http://theshrinkingcouch.com/my-life-love-children-and-my-bipolar/
“My name is Niraj Chandan. I have had mental health issues for twelve years. I am on medication. This post might help some people get a better idea about what it’s like living with mental health issues so I’m writing my experiences down.
Going through teenage experiences like thrills, highs and lows was a good, normal learning experience. But what happened in my adult life was something I couldn’t have imagined or thought of. I had never heard of or read about mental illness.
My experiences of Bipolar Disorder were unmanageable (not that I knew what it was called back then).
I was very interested in exploring the outdoors and I felt very happy when I was with nature. I trekked quite a bit and traveled. It felt great.
So to manage my health, I started staying in a small village in Maharashtra for long periods – like nine months at a time. It was exhilarating – doing housework in a very quiet place, buying groceries or painting the house.
All that was cathartic but I was lonely inside and dying for a companion – a romantic partner. After three years of this rural experience I was not feeling comfortable at all and came back to the city.
I met a psychiatrist immediately.
This was in early 2002 when mental health issues were still not widely talked about, much less than now. After taking medication I was a bit better.
The loneliness however was overwhelming.
I was without any romantic partner for a really really long while and it was disturbing me immensely. It was during this period that I suffered major depression or clinical depression where I was unable to carry on even basic the duties of everyday life.
I was having suicidal feelings and ideas. It was at that time that my psychiatrist suggested I go through a series of electro-convulsive therapies.
I read about it and took them.
After taking four ECTs I felt pretty relieved.
It was during that time that I met a girl. She was nice. We met often. I used to explain to her my condition. She was understanding and supportive. We kept meeting for a couple of years.
We met my psychiatrist several times.
He was very thoughtful and was completely non judgmental.
He did tell her about my mental health issues.
We got married. I was still having issues with my mind and used to meet the psychiatrist almost every month. Most of the times my wife accompanied me.
It was clear that my mental health issues persisted even after marriage. At that time I couldn’t do much, let alone work.
But life went on with medication and a supportive wife.
After a couple of years of marriage I started helping a blind man who made handmade candles. It is called Sunrise Candles.
I made a small website and advertised it on Google. They got steady orders. I was happy because of this and I kept doing more work, this time for our family business of used industrial equipment. I again made a website and advertised on Google. I used to get lots of inquiries by email from far off places all over India. My father was soon able to sell a significant stock of our inventory.
It was at that time that we had our first child.
Fatherhood made me think more deeply about life and my illness.
I was trying to understand my illness and what was going on in my mind.
All through these years I was on medication and met the psychiatrist almost every month.
My thought patterns were however draining me.
I used to get stressed out. I was having trouble taking a bath or going out of home for long periods.
It was at that time that I had to take several electroconvulsive therapies again.
The number of ECTs I had taken in total were eighteen up till now.
We had our second child.
I was quite unwell.
My wife was however very encouraging and understanding all the while. I was having trouble managing. I however got great happiness of taking care of both children and was quite absorbed. I wasn’t however able to go out of the house for long periods.
I am still on medication. I have been able to start physical exercise since three months. I am getting physically a bit better. I try not to get paranoid or anxious about my thoughts.
I try to help my wife with things I can do. I have been able to walk for a longer distances.
I do have bad days. I try.
Niraj is prototype of millions (3% of population) of Indians who fight daily with severe Mental Illness.
Most of the provisions of government policies, statutes and program do not reach them.
Niraj is lucky to have a considerate and understanding wife. Most mentally ill do not even have this basic “rainbow umbrella”. Niraj is not alone. Millions suffer. Most do it in ignorance. But Niraj clings on with hope. May God give him and his wife strength. But there are many questions lurking. How many Niraj have family support of a spouse. And what about the day to day difficulties. What should be the role of government to make life of Niraj’s of the country better.
I have been in the same shoe as Niraj. I suffer from Bipolar Disorder. But I turned lucky. Medicines miraculously work well with me.
Can we Indian’s think of improving the ground realities. I do not have a definitive answer but all of us if we come together, definitely Our India will be a better place for Mentally ill.