LISTENING – PIVOTAL FOR MENTAL HEALTH

Few days back I got a call from my friend. She sounded very sad and broken. Her tone was that of melancholy. When I enquired her “what’s the matter?” She broke as she discussed about her friends being mean to her and there’s lot more that I surely can’t reveal here. She confided to me as she trusted me as a strong shoulder to lean on when she felt feeble. For me (personally) the matters that she discussed seemed to be something that don’t need so much of her introspection or something that couldn’t or shouldn’t affect a person to the extent of breaking them down. But again I want to reiterate that this is my opinion and we are two different individuals. Hence, a matter which is of no to little importance to me is an issue that is demanding and holding her attention strongly.

This is just one excerpt from my life. Different individuals, different perceptions, different view points and different everything.  And this “difference” plays a crucial role in determining “Mental Health” of a person.

What is Mental Health? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health includes subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, inter-generational dependence, and self-actualization of one’s intellectual and emotional potential, among others.”

Mental Health is a very complex issue and very vaguely discussed or altogether omitted from discussion. Apparently the association of word “Mental” with “Health” got huge misconceptions (sadly 😔).  And hence it is something not spoken about often. If a calm, stable, content mind represents a good state of mental health then an impulsive, gloomy, often moody, pessimistic state of mind is a sign that it needs treatment. But again not much attention is heeded towards the warning bells, often brushed under the carpet with words like “Everything will be fine in a while“, ” it’s his/her habit, leave alone“, “ I am busy enough, don’t bother me“. And this paves way to chronic issues like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, acute stress, different addictions and so on.

What’s the problem and the solution? Ironically the problem and the solution is same in this context of mental health issues. It is Listening. Let me clarify with a petty imaginary, futuristic and hypothetical example – My daughter comes to me and starts narrating about her day at school. She tells me about a student who hits her, teases her everyday. But as I am busy with my daily chores show no particular interest in her words and laugh it off calling it play and this upsets my daughter. And over a period of time as she continuously takes a notice of disinterest from my end stops opening up herself to me. And the tension of suppressed emotions pile up in her that could possibly deteriorate her mental health and drive towards depression as she have no one to confide to. So all the way I was only “Hearing” but not “Listening”. The issue which seemed to be inconsequential or immaterial to me holds priority in her life. So without being judgemental as every individual got a different emotional quotient and perspective I should have listened to her. And only when I listen to her with all the intent, I can guide her better. So the problem which arises out of “not listening” finds a solution when one finds a “listening ear with all the heart in place“. In fact, listening is a counsellor’s first step in his or her algorithm of treatment, isn’t it? Just as a doctor needs to listen to the symptoms before prescribing a medicine, an engineer needs to listen to the needs of the client before designing something, a counsellor listens to the turmoil a person with mental disturbances undergoes before suggesting a way out. And in turn the person in question also needs to listen. It’s a two way traffic.

“Mental illness is not a personal failure. In fact, if there is failure, it is to be found in the way we have responded to people with mental and brain disorders,” said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO, on releasing the World Health Report.  

When we teach “sharing is caring”  to our kids we should mean it. It’s not just about the material or tangible things. It exceeds that. We should strive constantly to set up a two way communication process (charity begins at home) where in we don’t shy away from bearing our hearts to our near and dear ones (at least one person) as well let others reach us out . Our emotions need an outlet – be it apprehensions, our views, likes – dislikes, experiences – everything.  Sharing via speaking up and listening is what galvanises many things at one go – a person, relationships, a home and society.  When I know there’s someone to listen without judging me I won’t let the frustration pent up inside me. That could go a long way in sanitising me against mental illnesses, period!

Remember:  you want to share something,  I am listening to you 😊.

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DOWN YET NOT OUT

Struck by the Storm and a log in my eye,

I am blinded and oblivious to the world around.

My eyes are shut closely with darkness surrounding by leaps and bounds.

I am confined to a corner petrified by fear,

I fear movement lest I would stumble down.

But the Storm did die leaving behind a dreadful silence.

Screaming at me a voice from within “Till how long?”,

“Till how long you will hide from life when you don’t know when the death would arrive?”

I was stubborn enough to not to answer,

But soon sun rays did knock my eyelids urging me to listen and care enough to answer and I had to.

I was struggling to open my eyes to let the light drive away the darkness of ignorance.

Log was gone but pain still reckoning, tears still rolling down leaving behind a burning trail.

But the struggle wasn’t futile for my eyes, they are seeking comfort in the light of enlightenment.

Storm did knock me down only to let the wind of new beginning blow.

Storm did break my branches only to let me sense the strength of my roots.

Storm did turn the dullness on with its grey hue only to let me understand the beauty of colours.

Storm did struck me down only to let me stand a new chance.

Storm

NEVER BEEN IN THIS MUCH LOVE WITH ANYONE

Important Disclaimer: This is original work (not a copy, Geet I am sorry but we have some common interests 😉)

There are two places in my home where you will generally find me – Kitchen and Bedroom, depending on what day of the week and time of the day it is.  From Tuesday to Sunday I am predominantly in or around the kitchen.  Chores in the kitchen are of the visicious circle in nature especially when kids and hubby are around. I think I need not go into details of how and why. Ladies will get that easily and for gentlemen, ladies please do me a favour and explain this to your counterparts 😁. My relationship with my kitchen is ambiguous for I love to be there when a new dish or desserts are on my mind and I want the resulting dish to be savoured and relished with utmost praise (ambitious I am).  I don’t mind to be in the kitchen when I have a clear cut menu etched out in my mind, I cook with my heart and brain at the right place 😁.  But I loathe it when I am unable to decide “Khaane Mein Kya Hai” (what’s there for the meal).  Then you can hear some mild crashes coming from the kitchen (pun intended).

And now I will take you to that place where you will find me when I am not cooking and doing up other chores and of course during a major part of Mondays (Monday is my week off, self-declared and an unwritten pact in my family.  I really let my hair down and cool off my feet on Monday, I love Mondays 😂😂) – welcome to my cosy nest – my Bedroom.  There lies the biggest magnet, love of my life – my bed. I remember scribbling down in one of my friend’s slam book “Favourite pastime- 😴”, you know what I mean.  I am literally a person who can doze off at any given time of the day.  For me, it’s not only a way to physical relaxation but whenever I am emotionally down and drained, a nap helps me rejuvenate myself, get over things, get going more strongly.   It really helps me clear the clutter in my mind.  And not just nap, my bed is a lap sitting where I chat with my bestie for hours, learn new things (read surfing YouTube for videos of various genres),  I imagine and weave various stories in my mind, experiment by bedside – be it painting or hairstyles and of course my ideas to write take a flight from that corner only.  Lying on the bed with no haste gives me an opportunity to ponder over various questions, permutations and combinations in life and relationships – much-needed introspection.  Along with me in my bedroom, you will find my colours (I am damn possessive about them), my paintings, many toys here and there that made their way from adjacent room and television that usually plays cartoons 😂😂.  In short, you can find “The Creative Me“, “Thinking Me” there only.

To emphasize my love for my Cozy Corner I would put it this way: if a choice has to be made between a free makeover to be given on a cloudy gloomy day and my sleep, I would rate my slumber over makeup as the later can wait for some other day 😉. Who could say no to a makeover, isn’t it?

RESPECT HUNGER

This is one of my favourite dialogue from an old Telugu movie “I respect hunger very much“.  That was touching.  Just as sunlight shines upon everyone, water quenches the thirst of every soul, air is life to everyone, hunger knows no distinguish.  It is the same for rich, for the poor; for human beings and for animals.   And hunger is one of the driving force that could make people choose extremes. A highly qualified graduate takes up the job of an ordinary salesperson wandering from door to door in the scorching heat because he has mouths to feed at home and he simply can’t afford to let them go hungry.  A woman (not referring to the well-educated ones who want to lead a life of luxury) forays into flesh trade because hunger is hounding her and her kin.  A farmer commits suicide because he found death to be an easy way out than suffering from hunger.  Millions of infants dying across the globe every year because of hunger.  I can go on with such moving incidents and examples where hunger pushes them, corners them to the unimaginable.

Hunger moves me immensely.  I have witnessed my own father who died suffering from cancer so badly wanted to eat something as he was unable to gulp down anything from his throat.  That was sheer pain. I felt so sorry for him. In fact, everyone in the family – my brother, mother, uncle, aunt – refrained from talking or discussing food in front of him.  If cancer was an apparent reason that took him down his pain was aggravated by even more painful hunger.  We too experienced his pain.

That was a page from my life.  There are more intercepts in those pages that have not only made me respect hunger even more but hungry people makes me feel sorry for them.  I make it a point that whenever any poor – homeless-helpless seeks some help (using “begging” would be too degrading) I try to give something to eat in my capacity.  After all the money that we donate serves this purpose only, isn’t it?

Innumerable incidents, so much pain all around that I have seen and experienced makes me ponder over a few questions or rather issues:

  • How could fortunate ones waste food? Do they realise the magnitude of pain a hungry person undergoes?
  • Why do people intentionally want to remain hungry while chasing their “dream figure”.  More and more people from this generation are becoming anorexics? NOTE: Healthy eating and dieting have nothing to do with abstaining from food.
  • When would governments of agriculture prime countries have a better mechanism to store food grains for longer periods, in healthy conditions?  Just an example:  The paradox of millions going hungry in India while food goes to waste is receiving increasing amounts of attention as the FAO stresses that one-third of food produced globally for human consumption is wasted every year. (Source Google)
  • What can we actually do to help?

We have a saying in India (which is a global truth) – Roti, Kapda aur Makaan – which literally means Bread(food), cloth and shelter.  These are the basic requirements of any human being and food takes the prime spot. That is self-explanatory what it means to be hungry.  Talking about food, hunger and how sorry I feel about people going hungry every day I came across few interesting things t that good Samaritans are doing across the world: Langars (community kitchens)  in Gurudwaras (sacred place of worship for Sikh community) serve everyone without any bias of class, colour and creed. A hungry person is always welcomed there.  Food facility centres are being run who urge people to donate instead of throwing away the food so that that food can be used to pacify at least one hungry stomach.  Just like charitable hospitals, there are people who cook and serve at no to very low prices making food affordable for everyone.

Picture Credit – Google Inc.

Perfect and Inspiring example: “Narayanan Krishnan was a bright, young, award-winning chef with a five-star hotel group, short-listed for an elite job in Switzerland. But a quick family visit home before heading to Europe changed everything.

I saw a very old man eating his own human waste for food,” Krishnan said. “It really hurt me so much. I was literally shocked for a second. After that, I started feeding that man and decided this is what I should do the rest of my lifetime.”

download
Picture Credit – Google Inc.

I can go on about this but I must respect your time as well just as I respect hunger 😊.  Remember this: always thank God as our hands reach our mouth for there are many whose tears are reaching their lips to satiate the fire burgling in their stomachs.

OPEN UP ABOUT YOUR INDULGENCES

One day while loitering down the aisle of the super market and picking up requisite things for school picnic I brought a pack of biscuits for myself for tea time. I went home and opened the pack to taste few and was bowled over by the taste and rest is history! I can’t restrain myself from packing up my tummy with more and more of them, just as meals and in fact before, after and in between the meals.  My tongue took control of my heart and in turn, my hand that used to open the shelves every half an hour (a little exaggeration 😉). A pack of 40+ biscuits lasted barely for three days. And one more pack was already ordered for next week and it lasted nothing longer than the previous one.  The pace with which wrappers were going to the dust bin sent alarm bells for me.  It’s time to put a check on my intake as health was at stake (read extra pounds), it’s time to put an act of Temperance vs my act of Gluttony.

What are Temperance and Gluttony?  I will break it down to the simplest words to understand.

  • Temperance – putting / showing restraint, holding self back, to show control.
  • Gluttony – addiction/overindulgence used “usually” in reference to food and alcohol.

I have no shame to admit that I was moving in the direction of being a glutton.  I might be miles away from those who are socio-officially branded as “alcoholics“, “gluttons” but I did move a few inches, that matters and needs to ponder over. Had I not used the weighing scale, had I not examined the wrapper out of guilt I would not have been able to turn myself away from the biscuit section of that supermarket 😁.   I am the fortunate one whose sense prevails/revokes after hibernation before it’s too late.  But I know (from really close quarters) many who are head over heels in the act of gluttony because of their indulgence and addiction to food and alcohol.  So powerful is their urge to savor food or alcohol that it becomes the prime motto of their lives.  They live literally to eat and drink.  Family and responsibilities either take a back burner or the flame is completely put off. They beg, they borrow and they don’t hesitate to steal as well (especially alcoholics, drug addicts).  In short, their indulgences could easily make them indulge in SIN too.

But the question is, does Gluttony be used in relation to food and alcohol alone?  There’s nothing else we are heavily addicted to or indulge with? The answer is an absolute NO.  For example, the moment we get up in the morning we check updates on our social media accounts and it continues till the time we go to the bed again. Checking up phones every five minutes is like checking an empty fridge knowing there’s nothing yet hoping to find something exciting  😁.  This is an addiction! Nymphomaniac is overly addicted to sex. Many are overwhelmingly addicted to lead a luxurious life even if it means putting up a false prestige image with a corrosive base.  I have read about silly cases where one family member beats or even murders the other family member just because he/she didn’t get the TV remote to watch their favourite show.  It is silly for us but it’s all about serious addiction to Television.  Then there are people who have a penchant for using abusive language as their expression, they simply have no control over their tongue, this is also a kind of addiction. When they hurt/ offend people with their foul language they one excuse to chanter “I didn’t mean it, you know my heart na”.   And I can literally go on and on tipping you with more and more examples on Gluttony which of course doesn’t strictly adhere to the definition that is provided by a dictionary but fits the bill of Indulgences perfectly.

Overindulgence with or of anything reduces the analysing power of the brain.  The judgment to choose between right and wrong paths diminishes or completely gets extinct. petty example: a girl is a head over heels with the idea of being loved which is of course influenced by celluloid Romance instantly falls for the online proposal of an unknown and the result is not as beautiful as she fancied or might be ugly too.  Her hunger for fairy tales romance has ditched her with her ability to fine judge.  A drug addict won’t even budge to kill someone just to get money to buy him stuff for that day.  Every addiction, every indulgence results in the same.  We lose our senses and sensibilities.  We end up in a state of an emotional coma which involves nothing but “Me, My, Myself” and is probably the mother of all crimes. In short Gluttony Is a Sin, Period.  And this is not something that I have announced but it’s a vice, a branded sin as per every holy scripture that I  know.

What’s the solution to this corrosion? Corrosion because it eats you away slowly.  If alcohol & drugs finish you off physically other addictions doles out humanity, intellect, and wisdom from you.  And these vices have a butterfly effect on others lives too, it isn’t rocket science that needs an explanation as to “How”.  Exercising Temperance is the only solution with a very hard way to follow.  In fact, there is an inverse relationship between Temperance and Gluttony (that’s why they are antonyms).  You lack restraint you end up being an addict and vice versa.  But what should one do to bring back lives to normalcy when the person himself/herself is not able to show some self-control?  Role of Family and Friends comes to play here.  Firstly accept the problem at hand because acceptance is the key! Next comes the path to travel to the destination.

  • Discussing the issue – communication helps; 
  • Showing perseverance, persistence – holding the ground strong – a NO is a NO (in case of drug addicts and alcoholics).
  • Taking professional external help (consultations, treatments).
  • Some quality family time can work wonders.

These are the minimalistic points that I have mentioned. I am sure there’s more to it. I was waiting for your experiences and insights into this issue. Together we can find solutions to many problems we face in our lives collectively or individually. Opening up is what it takes.

BEAR WITH ME, MY DEAR PAN

“Lunch is cooked, I can relax now. When kids arrive I will feed them this” and I am lost in my thoughts and get busy with other stuff (preferably and most often I doze off in such situations, 🤫 it’s a secret).  When kids arrive the drama starts to unfold. My son who just started communicating in petty words puts across a demand.  With a potato in his hand, he starts pointing out at the flour and says “Puri, Puri” (Indian bread deep-fried) as potato curry makes a great combination with this bread and he being a foodie knows his combinations very well. I tried to dodge him, tried to appease him with other options available but he wouldn’t budge.  And that puts me off big time. I have to oblige anyway because I can’t let him go hungry.  And here starts a tussle between my laziness and patience and my motherly instincts.  And that’s the worst tussle one experiences.

Then the devil hiding behind the veil of my smile comes forth. Suddenly apple of my eyes turns sore.  Utensils come crashing, shelf doors bang real hard, blood shoots up to head as I start from scratch cursing my fate “WHY!”. “Why I have to go through this ordeal of preparing lunch again as I thought I was done for this quarter “, “Why can’t you eat rice that’s already prepared, “Why are you so stubborn”, ” Why you know so much about food and tastes at this tender age, we never contested so much at your age” and that goes on.  Meanwhile, at the back of my mind, a place equivalent to the tip of a pin, a voice meekly whispers in my ears “Hello, what are you doing, don’t you care about your image of a “Patient Good Mother”.  Breathe in breathe out, prepare it and finish it. Give your body some work and rest to the brain for God sake”.

So this is a pretty common scene at my home.  I cook with soul and heart but when I am asked to prepare something at the wrong time I suffer from verbal diarrhea (high decibel with kids, hush-hush affair with husband 😉). I have to do it anyway, no way out so the pans and floor witness my frustration more than anyone else😂😂.

And it isn’t just one particular situation.  I have put the non-living things at the receiving end innumerable times.  Hand mirrors, clothes, phones, shoes and what not.  Special mention: I am cautious enough not to damage them 😁. My face more or less looks like these emojis mentioned below during those moments:

😣😖😫😡🤬

Not nice na?

I tried to ascertain later “What’s the matter with me?”  Pat comes to an answer – Laziness, period! Unwillingness to do a job at odd times (for instance preparing breakfast at  3 AM in the morning, I have more in my kitty😂😂) simply because that was not on cards and mind really not prepared for this.

But wake up lady, you are not a computer to follow a particular coding.  A human and a woman and a mother – Oh what a combination! You can’t really have an algorithm of activities.

Coming to the point:  Such moments when you lose hold of yourself and tongue, what to do? If I say something preachy now that would be like “pot calling kettle black “. Still, I want to say something out of my experience and observation – when there is no way out but to carry out the function it’s better to do it while deviating your mind to something you like or enjoy, may be a video, a thought, call to your dear ones and so on. That would surely calm down your nerves and save you from unwanted altercations arising out of a few moments of disgust/frustration.  To get frustrated, to cuss, to err is human, nothing to be ashamed of it. But we must surely try to exercise some restraint especially when your frustration is not conveying any message to the concerned party but driving an altogether wrong point, putting you in wrong light, isn’t it? Try and try until you win. I will too 😁😁.

Remember: a pan won’t be hurt of your frustration but a human will be.

LETTER TO MY FATHER

Dear Father,

Hope You are doing well there. I am fine here. It’s been long since I opened up about my feelings. Today I want to let it flow without any interruption or inhibition.

I want to tell you how much I miss you. The lateral distance between us seems irrelevant as I find you by my side every day in my dreams. Every time I cook your signature dishes I miss your touch in them. Every moment I watch my kids grow up I can imagine your expressions and reactions if you were around them. Every year when my trips are due to my homeland I can visualize how happy you would be to receive me. Whenever I have a disagreement with mom I know you would vouch for me. To put it plain and simple you are never away from me.

But more I find you closer to me more I regret not apologising to you for my rude behaviour, for my harsh words, for my cold shoulder that I gave you when you least expected it. We had a crisis, we stood together and rose to the occasion but I did let anger dwell within me against some of your decisions. The new then-found independence handed me over a bit of arrogance which I sometimes used in my words that hurt you. That was in the spur of the moment though.  You never held any grudge against me. We fell apart but kept flowing together only to reconcile more strongly. I thank you for everything you did for me.

Now having a family of my own I understand how spearheaded words can leave you wounded for long or forever. I plead of being guilty to have done the same to you. I wish I could have apologised to you early. I wish I could have ripped open my heart to you to show how guilt is written all over it. I wish I could talk to you one more time.

I miss you and I am sorry Daddy.

Yours Lovingly,

Daughter.

P.S: please post this letter to heaven as my father resides there.

People say “better late than never” but I would say “do it before it’s too late“. As a family, we all have such moments transpiring among us where in the heat of arguments or disagreements, disappointments, disapproval we end up shooting curses, venomous words to hurt people and satisfy our ego for that moment. Later everything falls back to normalcy. We sometimes apologise, sometimes take “Sorry” for granted and never actually say it because we know our family loves us with all our follies and we move on.  And many a time there are instances that our leniency would never give us a chance to say it to the concerned person even after we realise how wrong we were because that person is gone like in my case.

Remember: Apologise now before it’s too late because later you might have all the courage and beautiful words to express your remorse but the person might not be there with you forever.  Uncertainty’s thy name is LIFE.