August 30, 2012

Thankful for my sanity

"I hear two people conspiring against me - it's cost me my job, and I'm losing my family".
 "My mother is trying to separate me and my husband and she's told the entire village of her intentions - I can sense it"

These are just two snippets of conversations I've made with patients at the National Institute of Mental Health, Sri Lanka.
I've spent a little over 10 days there with patients from different walks of life. Each one has a different story to tell, each one has a bucketful of problems, each one leads a different life. 

From schizophrenics to depressed patients to ones with bi-polar disorder to heroin/alcohol addicted patients - we saw them all.We got an insight into their lives. And trust me, you wouldn't want to know how it is. 

Can you imagine a person who always hears people conspiring to kill him; but when he looks around - there's no one.

Can you imagine a person who hates her mother because she thinks she's going to kill her new born baby; but the mother is in tears - seeing her daughter become a totally different person.

Can you imagine a person who hates his wife because he suspects her of having an extra marital affair - the wife who loves him to bits and is praying daily for his recovery.

Can you imagine a person who is so depressed that he wants to jump into a moving train and take his life. 

Are you thankful that you have a sound mind? That you are not locked up behind bars in a mental institute?
 I am.
I took my sanity for granted until I visited the institute. Until now, I've lived thinking that sanity is part of life, it's there and will be there. However, it's not. Sanity is as fickle as fickle can be. You can lose it as easily as you lose your handkerchief. 

Coincidentally, I happen to be reading Paulo Coelho's Veronika Decides to Die - a story about a young girl who has everything in life - she's young, pretty, has a stable job, good friends, loving family & boyfriends. But she's not happy & she decides to kill herself by swallowing sleeping pills. Death doesn't come easy - she wakes up to find herself in a mental hospital - she's alive but her heart is severely damaged and she only has a few days to live. During her stay in the hospital, waiting for death (which is so beautifully described by Paulo Coelho that you can actually visualize it) she realizes that every second of existence is precious. She sees life in a different light. 

The book has enhanced whatever I've felt and learnt from what I observed at the mental institute here in Sri Lanka. It has made me feel grateful for the fact that I am alive.
I recommend everybody to give the book a try - it'll be worth it!

I'm glad that this course is teaching me not just Medicine but also morals, various feelings and values of life. 
That's just one reason why I love what I'm pursuing! :) 


  1. Wonderful post, Sweta! Thanks for sharing. As you pointed out, we never realize how precious what we have is until we come across someone without it or in lesser form. You seem to be learning lot more than just medicine. Keep going. Looking forward to more updates...

  2. How true! Life is not always about living but it is about understanding how to live in this mundane world.