Capricious or tight lipped?

Finding willing research informants is a concern for every doctoral researcher, thank god for it! What a contradictory sentence this may seem. But had I not known the component I have highlighted, I would have thought it is only me (and moped about ‘poor me’!). In a sense, it is great to have a mentor who can placate your fears that you are not a lone wolf facing the abyss alone; all lone wolves who do qualitative research continue doing that as part of their work- from the time research was invented 🙂

The first time I had to deal with people as ‘research participants’ and I had chosen to study mental health on my own, without guidance, without any reality check, without a real framework- I encountered this phenomenon – of capriciousness.  Back then, in 2012, people would promise to be part of the research and at the last minute- back off. Or back off mid-way, or back off after meeting me and hearing about it.

It was a great setback , for I also took a lot of it as personal rejection. Oftentimes these people would be known to me for long. Now that I am doing a phd research, a position which in fact establishes my research more seriously, there is not much difference- known people outright slamming the door in your face, or not responding to emails or backing off after saying yes once, or not responding to their phones. I am time and again toying with the reasons behind this apathy. Is it mere caprice?

caprice
kəˈpriːs/
noun
a sudden and unaccountable change of mood or behaviour.
  • “her caprices made his life impossible”
    synonyms: whimwhimsyvagaryfancynotionfadfreakhumourimpulsequirkeccentricityfoiblecrotcheturge More

    Or is it a rejection of me, or a rejection of putting themselves out there -in front of a ‘stranger’, an outsider or someone they have not known too long or too close?

    Of course research is a long winding road and experiences continue to mount- but this hesitation to talk about their mental suffering for the purpose of research has made me inquisitive about the phenomenon this silence points towards.

    Here are a few of my guesses why people do not want to talk about themselves to a researcher/me (a certain kind of researcher)

    Feeling ‘exposed’

    We Indians are incredibly secretive about our lives. Talking to someone about an area which invites great stigma is something they do not want to deal with or possibly even admit.

    Feeling ‘powerless’

    As in someone like them has recovered, while they themselves are subjects of research. Feeling powerless that they have to ‘surrender’ their stories for an outsider’s gaze and scrutiny

    Why should she? Who the hell is she?

    Why should she grow at our expense? What do we get out of this? She is getting a degree but what about me?

    Or is it plain jealousy, which is a part of our human mind?

    So how does one read this sort of a message, that I received in the wee hours of the morning today …(the spellings and grammar are copied verbatim)

    Hi P…mam, Sorry about my late responses…Please don’t take that as ignorance or arrogance but at this point I am just a little overwhelmed with Work pressure and too many tight schedules.

    If you don’t mind I would like to bowout of the research program for the moment while I can manage and fix the other things in life. I hope you will understand and we can meet sometime…I miss talking to you as its always a great enlightening experience listening and learning from your advise.

    I admire your patience and capability to understand people from much higher perspective, hope we can discuss more soon. Thanks a lot Mam.

    (I was quite heart broken to read this actually, and had tears in my eyes. I feel so tired sometimes in managing so many sides of life, research, my ill dogs, my own pains and fatigue, household chores, and of course music-new compositions, students, research and whatnot)

    I would love to write this off the above WhatsApp message as bullshit…but can i really? People suffer so deeply in their lives that their own meaning and day-to-day existence is a struggle. May be I would just forget this person and move on.

    Many years ago, when I had finished doing my data collection he had met me and told me that if ever I do research in future, he would be interested in participating. People just talk I think- to stick to your word, takes another sort perhaps.

    It is perhaps a time to reflect inwardly and acknowledge people’s suffering as something real, therefore worthy of empathy – and not just a personal affront to me.

Advertisements

Anxiety : a ‘symptom’ of the times

People do not realize how their social environment impacts them- which is often adverse. To think that one is behaving in a manner which is not ‘proper’ in day-to-day life is to believe that we are automatons, or living in cocoons unaffected by the world around, which is never the case.

anxiety1

Even if we are not directly impacted by what is going on, we are impacted by things through their percolation into our spiritual, emotional or intellectual space. Just imagine the war in Syria and millions displaced. An average person is likely to not get bothered by it in the least- but a sensitive person may be disillusioned, become fearful, feel helpless or question the sanity of civilization itself. When you see something going on in the world around and consider yourself incapable of responding to it, for it is faraway, too big for you or anything else- it fills one with a sense of loss, fear, helplessness or plain anger. If you collectively act against it, something meaningful can happen- but if you take it as personal, then it can fill you with anxiety and other such negative emotions.

On a personal note

When I was still in the phase where I considered myself ‘bipolar’ I was frequently paralyzed by spells of anxiety. I would talk hours and hours to one friend of mine, I recall, at least during one phase, of that anxiety. Talking does not help in anxiety unless you are really talking to someone knowledgeable, who can help you understand anxiety differently. But for then, it would help me tide over the difficult mornings, because my mind was absolutely frozen. But having said that, talking to another takes your mind off the anxious thoughts at least for the duration of your communication.

For the rest of the time, all the seeming failures of the past would accumulate together and stare me in the face, like some stinging vipers, and then all the uncertainties of the future looked like yawning abysses, waiting to gulp me down. I was so sick in my heart that I could not live a single day- the inner noise which was basically a huge void inside kept gnawing from within, because I would be sick to the point of inaction- frozen. I have spent years doing nothing, or doing something that I have nothing to show for today. Anxiety just freezes the mind.

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Just as the quote above says, to be not filled with anxiety in the face of the civilizational changes that are rocking the world all the time, is a measure of a supremely smug, or indifferent person. Otherwise the chaos can also fill us with despair, if we take it passively without working a way out to respond to it.

On a parting note- If your house were to be flooded…what would be your immediate response? That is the response you can take towards everything in life. Think of saving what you can, while the waters rise- there is no time to despair. Try building your bridges and support whoever you can in the process- everyone’s home is sinking.

Our homes are our bodies, the home of the soul. Our bodies and minds are constantly being bombarded from all directions- from the world, from the market, the media…the stimuli are too many of to be counted. The grounds for anxiety are aplenty- so think of working out a response to it, and not get annihilated by the surroundings. Don’t take any anxiety as a personal failure- even though it would seem so.

The reality is that we live in a historical time that is very turbulent and leaves little room for peace. The peace is all within and we have to battle even with ourselves to reach that ‘within’. Don’t worry about it- you are wise and you are fundamentally a creature of peace, no matter where you are. Trust that- trust your higher nature, and seek it out by various ways. You can overcome your anxiety with talking it out wisely rather than popping in pills to deal with the problems of the world around!

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. They can ease symptoms of moderate to severe depression, are relatively safe and typically cause fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants do.

How SSRIs work

SSRIs ease depression by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that carry signals between brain cells. SSRIs block the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin available. SSRIs are called selective because they seem to primarily affect serotonin, not other neurotransmitters.

SSRIs also may be used to treat conditions other than depression, such as anxiety disorders….(more here)

SSRIs and brain damage

Supporting loved ones- two encounters

Today a young duo came to meet me. The young girl had heard me in a college talk somewhere in a college in Delhi and the young man she brought along was her friend, going through a ‘tough’ spot. Just yesterday she had got in touch with me, by taking my number from her teacher who had facilitated my talk in their college. By chance I had time today, as I am also trying to take it a bit easy these last days of June- waiting to resolve my own back pain issues and in general having a low tempo on research in general.

She was insistent that the boy should meet me, rather than a psychologist or psychiatrist, because she knew that psychiatry cannot resolve the problems of growing up or coming of age or anything for that matter. She argued and debated with  64a7c29daa675f24921866182bd7b920

the boy’s family and pushed them into meeting me.  She was insistent that he ought not to go the psychiatric way. In the end however, she only came to meet me with him.

We spoke and I understood at least the initial roots of the suffering. I could see that he faced a certain mental blankness these days, which were not a part of his extroverted personality. They both insisted on that. And yet, the young woman was also insistent that instead of going to a psychiatrist they ought to come and meet me- for I may see something more into the scenario than a psychiatrist’s diagnosing sensibility. Which of course is not far from the truth- with patience I sit and listen to people, probing deeply sometimes and sometimes in a superficial manner, depending upon them.

Seeing her passion and commitment, I suddenly had tears in my eyes. Not because there was something extraordinary at work here only…but because I realized that how few such people would be whose loved ones, be it anyone- in the family or friends, would support them so passionately in a crisis – however big or small it be. Ordinarily the family would have taken him to a psychiatrist- as they had already been given a diagnosis of ‘clinical depression’ by a neurologist! (of all people). But this young lady’s insistence that no we will not go to a psychologist or psychiatrist- may make all the difference in her friend’s life.

Such few people would know that the ways out of depression are not medication but talking and building your lost sense of self and hope slowly. At critical moments having a supportive milieu can make all the difference- between disabling mental health conditions and recovering your self-hood.

That also brings me to the conversation I had yesterday with a young man who is going to be part of my research, hopefully. In talking about his family he said, that his parents let him go through his (psychotic) crisis, without pushing him into psychiatry’s arms entirely and he owes it to them that he could find his own bearings in the world. If only more parents and friends could understand that.

In a nutshell…

In distress there are many ways to deal with a situation. If we start looking at a psychiatric option, it usually overrides every other option and then people get into a net of medications,without any change in their situation significantly and a progressive deterioration.

The choice is with people how they want to see their loved ones- enabled or disabled and that is where the crux of the solution lies.The dominance of psychiatric discourse, which permeates society is another issue, and few can overcome that- while finding their path in a knowledge oriented way. It is difficult, arduous but worth the trouble.