Sitting in the Psychiatry ward of a government hospital in Lahore is an experience which is very important for every practicing psychologist. People walk in all scared as psychiatric issue, and visiting a psychologist is a taboo and they fought a battle with themselves before taking this decision to visit. What I see every week is women, children and men all moving very slowly. They have to look, wait and rethink without uttering a single word. It seems as if life has paused for them. I look closer at their hand movements and their walk, they have lost the pace of life and are clueless how to get it back or to fix it. I look at those eyes asking me so many questions that they themselves don’t have the energy to ask. Every human to me is a piece of art and what I feel while looking at them is that this piece has lost its colors. The picture is still there, but it has lost charm and beauty, and it makes me wonder where do we all go wrong to face this or at first place why we face this.
I see couples holding hands, women crying in a room full of people where everyone is staring at them but they cannot help it. I see strong (outwardly) men saying “It’s just that I am not myself anymore”. I see old women holding hands of their young daughters fixing their dupattas because the daughter is not right there at that moment. What I see the most is that Psychological sufferings make us the most helpless because I hear this very often, “He/ she was perfecting fine and then he/she stopped talking”, they don’t understand that it doesn’t happen overnight it was just that we only realize the presence of psychological issues in our loved ones when they are no more themselves and it hits us strongly.
I find those eyes asking me again and again why me. In a society like Pakistan, where we have learned to fix everything with a pill, talking to a psychologist is still a far fetched idea, but how badly we all need it can be seen when you visit any Psychiatry OPD. I see young couples, the husband complaining about her fits of unconsciousness that started right after they got married. He is unable to comprehend what went wrong because apparently they are very happy together. I walk through several wards and OPD’s to reach the Psychiatry OPD and what I see is a different picture from rest of the hospital. The eyes are lost, wandering and clueless, the body language is almost missing, I see smiles that have lost life and spark, I have to repeat my questions to get the right answers, what I see is the life in slow motion.
What I see is someone who has been trying his/ her best to be so called “NORMAL” but has finally collapsed and thinks himself as a failure because ending up in a Psychiatry OPD is considered a weakness. I come across parents who feel extremely embarrassed while sharing the symptoms of their young son or daughter who has been delusional, sexually overactive, abusive, paranoid, lethargic, addicted or just irresponsive. I can feel the resistance to share in their tone and ambiguity in their answers followed by the very commonly used phrase “he/she was not like this before it just happened and we don’t know why”. Let’s just accept our vulnerabilities and stop being ashamed of them. The pressure to stay normal is driving us insane.
By Naeema Sarfraz (Clinical Psychologist)