Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The good doctor

A few years ago, one of my closest friends here, V, suddenly cut himself off from the rest of us for no apparent reason. I knew he was stressed, and assumed that he cut off communication because he needed some space. But things went from strange to bizarre, and the last straw was a very disturbing email he sent me and another common friend in response to our emails, filled with swear words very uncharacteristic of him, asking us to back off and accusing us of conspiring against him. Much as we racked our brains, it made no sense. I tried confronting him at his home only to be yelled at and have the door thrown in my face. Unable to make any sense of his behaviour, I was at a loss for what to do next, and very scared. I went and told my advisor, who insisted that I call the counseling services on campus and talk to them. I decided to talk to a doctor on the condition of remaining anonymous, since I was afraid of making a mountain out of a molehill. The good doctor J heard me out, and asked for copies of the disturbing emails. I sent them to him after concealing my friend's name, but soon enough, the doctor insisted on knowing who it was, saying that it was a clear sign that my friend was disturbed and needed immediate help.

The events that unfolded since that are almost out of a movie. Dr. J went out of his way to reach out to my friend, perhaps risking his professional position in many ways. After denying help, V was taken against his will and forced into counseling services. Eventually, V took a break from school , went and stayed with his family for a semester, got medical care and attention, and came back to school to finish his degree. He was indeed suffering from a temporary stress induced condition wherein he was undergoing delusions and a break from reality. The right medical intervention and a break helped him recover and resume a normal life. Throughout the entire episode, there were several occasions I felt guilty, confused, worried that we had all over-reacted and many other things about what was going on. All these feelings were put to rest when my friend returned and was the same old person I knew. He had made a very good recovery, could openly acknowledge his condition, and made appropriate lifestyle changes to live a more stress-free life.

V lived alone, and was dealing with his fears (not knowing that he was ill) in his own way, having lost trust in all his close friends.I cannot imagine what might've happened if Dr. J hadn't intervened, and hadn't pressed to get involved. Dr. J's prompt actions and persuasion is something we have all come to be thankful for after this episode. Of course the magnitude of his problem is in no way comparable to the virginia incident, and I am not trying to play the blame game here, but the point I'm trying to make is that often the cry for help is made, and a lot can be done if this is heard and responded to in the right fashion.

18 comments:

Neihal said...

exactly the kinda post needed after the last one.
:)
good doctor indeed.

Shek said...

Thats very caring of you, Ipenema girl. We had a meeting of the freshers at UFL, hosted by the university, where the international center had people talking to us about looking out for such signs of withdrawal and reporting it, so special psychological care could be taken care of.

I can tell of a friend that got real depressed regarding funding etc and thankfully, it was not too severe. We took care of her, she had a good room mate. Now, she has a good job in a nice city living the life.

Sayesha said...

Amazing work yaar... I'd have probably left V alone saying he needed time to himself or something...

shub said...

wow....good job girl...timely intervention...

Tachyoson said...

some people might construe this as Big-Brotherism ... but then , it all turned out well in V's case .... guess there wasnt anyone in the other case , thats the biggest problem nowadays ... very few people look out for a weird kid.

'Not My Problem' ism ?

fafridi said...

You know somehow the Virginia incident and this one about your friend, it's scared me,,,quite a bit. V is really blessed that he has a friend who would look out for him. I agree with tachyson, it's the 'not my problem'ism that's taking over. Probably the 'give him some space' needs to be shunned some times.

Rahul said...

Amazing post. V is lucky to have known you. Today's news is that Cho Seung-Hui has previously volunteered himself to the police and been evaluated at an off-campus psychiatric hospital, but they determined that he wasn't an imminent danger and it's not clear whether any further counselling happened.

A further problem in America is that students are treated as adults as soon as they're 18 and there's a reluctance to talk to the family without the students' permission -- or indeed to interfere in any way at all. There have been many students who committed suicide who should very likely have been treated long before -- but their cries for attention were ignored. (eg this one). Indeed, they don't get all that much attention even after they kill themselves. But a few become homicidal instead -- and do attract attention, after the fact. Something is very wrong with the system.

Sakshi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sakshi said...

A damn good deed, you did. Most of us would assume that V needed space and leave him alone. All of us know how stressful grad life really is - the course load, the quals, research, publications and graduating.. Sometimes, it becomes too much. During such times, we need friends who look out for us.

Rebellion said...

Give due credit to yourself too girl. You were the one to reach to the good doc :)
In most occasions, anyone in your place wud have just left V on his own, after being yelled at, with swear words n stuff for no fault of yours! Great work Lajjo :)

Rebellion said...

Forgot to add.. I'm proud of you :D

Rebellion said...

Andddd, when are you getting back? We're missing you :'(

Keshi said...

thats right. never ignore the warning signs and never give up until they r cured.

Good post!
Keshi.

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

Neihal,
:)

Shek,
I'm glad we caught it. I am glad your friend is doing well now.
It's smart of your international center to spread awareness like that. thats good.

Sash,
yeah...I did try that in the beginning- ..it is the first thing to come to anyone's mind.

shub,
yeah..

tachyoson,
so true. we are all becoming increasingly self-centered as a species.

Fafridi,
yeah. I guess it's always hard to tell where to draw the line too- things get blurry...but everyone needs to have a healthy social life i guess- it's scary how one can be suffering from such things and nobody need ever find out!

rahul,
yes, a lot is wrong with the system. i think the healthcare system in the u.s is too worried about legalities to actually do what they are supposed to do.
in my friend's case too, he was taken to a hospital where they gave him a clean chit. by which point all of us involved knew that he was ill, but he masked it very well in the hospital so that he could leave. the hospital couldn't force him to stay. they really messed it up, to be honest- only Dr. J put my friend's life before his right to privacy and all that crap. thankfully, my friend went to live with his family who took charge and got him medical treatment.

sakshi,
yes, we all need friends- i'm glad i was there for my friend.

aarti,
yeah- the swearing was most uncharacteristic- and to be honest, i reached out then because i was scared. i had no clue what was coming. but i'm happy, really happy that we caught it and i got a lot of help from several people to deal with it well. most imp. of all, my friend is all-right now. :)

and i'll be bach! hopefully soon. :)

keshi,
yeah...

The Smiling Girl said...

Oh man... Does stress really get to someone like this??? Unbelievable!
Great yaar, Ur brain sometimes really works! :)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

sg,
well- in most cases it is actually an underlying somatic issue- i.e neurotransmitters going haywire - but comes to the surface under stressful conditions.. so stress may not be the cause, just the catalyst.

qsg said...

Good job, lajjo!

The predicament most of us face is walking the line between giving someone space and helping out! Very tricky!

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

qsg,
:-) how you doing babe?

yeah- i agree- the lines are very blurred- in retrospect, i have no regrets, then- i was going through a lot of uncertainty. but i was lucky to have got a lot of informed and well-meaning advice and a very helpful network of people to see V through it.