“For how long you are being treated here?”- I asked Jharna Di, one of ANTARA’s former clients, aged 45 (approx).
“I stayed at ANTARA for long 14 years”-she replied.
With great surprise I asked her-“So you were admitted here for 14 years??”
“I was not admitted here!! I stayed here for 14 years! This is a long story. If you have time then only I can tell you, because in one or two words I cannot describe my story”-she raised her eyebrows and replied to my question.
So we sat together and here is what she described.
“I was only 13 years old when I was brought to ANTARA and I was too young to understand the environment of a mental hospital but what I heard from others about a hospital that created a rough sketch in my mind. Doctors, nurses, injections, medicines, electric shock, shackle, a small bed, a particular room/ward, and boiled food-these were the components of a hospital in my mind.
But as my days were passing at ANTARA, my concept of a hospital started changing.
My origin is Bangladesh but I was staying at India with my maternal uncle at that time. When I was in Bangladesh, on an unfortunate day I had a quarrel with my elder brother, just like brother and sisters generally does in childhood. But he became so angry that day that he beat me in head with a piece of wood. From then onwards I was having headache and I was unable to remember my studies, incapable of attending classes, so I had to quit studies and was sent to India to my maternal uncle. I was staying and being treated there for few months. After that my uncle brought me to ANTARA with the help of Khidirpur Missionaries of Charity Brothers. I still remember the day they left me at ANTARA and I was crying and feeling broken inside. I thought am I that worthless that they are leaving me here?
No one used to come from my family to see me since then. I had nothing to pay to ANTARA. But I never felt unwanted here.
These were the starting days of ANTARA when there were only four nurses, a few doctors & staff with a few rooms only. Dr. K. L. Narayanan was my treating Psychiatrist. Why Doctors are called God, I understood that after meeting him. P.M John Uncle and Dr. Narayanan were nothing but angels to me and many others who were struggling with mental illness.
For me, Dr. Narayanan was like my father and gradually I started believing that ANTARA is my home.” She paused for a while.
Suddenly I encountered a smile on her face. She pointed her finger towards a mango tree and started telling again. “No one could eat the first ripe mango of that tree except me. I used to pluck mangoes from that tree as if it’s my own house”-she asserted. We both smiled together and she started telling again-“Gradually I was recovering and I started helping the ward staffs to manage other violent patients and to take care of them. Sometimes my illness relapsed but ANTARA people handled me with great love. It was my mid-20’s when I felt I should not be a burden to anyone and I should make my own identity. I expressed my wish to ANTARA people. Taking my wish seriously Antara sent me to a well-known Shoe Production House for six month training. The shoe production house liked my work and offered me a job over there. So with the help of Antara I lived my dream. I was staying at Antara till I got married. Even after marriage Antara helped me in many ways.
After marriage I had to quit my job due to some personal issues. But after few years I had to start working again as an Aaya/helper and art & craft freelancer to financially support my husband as his physical condition suddenly deteriorates. There too the skills I learned at Antara helped me a lot. So I am really thankful to ANTARA for everything they had done for me.
It is not like that my mental illness never relapses afterwards, but whenever I or my family members realize that my mental illness is relapsing, we come and talk to the medical professionals of ANTARA and they do the needful. I never miss medicines and come for follow-up visits.”
Any message you want to give to those who are living with mental illness? – I asked.
She replied-“I want to tell them that they should seek help and should continue medication and therapies as per doctor’s advice. I never compromised with my medication; wherever I used to go I carried my medicines. Inspite of being mentally challenged I never thought I am less than anyone and I did whatever I wanted to do. There were ups and downs in my life and I behave in a different way when my illness relapses but once I recover I start fighting my battle again with same spirit. I might have to continue medicines for lifelong but that is ok for me.
I want to tell that if you or anyone around you is struggling with mental illness, do not be afraid or ashamed .Seek professional help and never stop taking psychiatric drugs unless and until your doctor’s advice.”I was lucky to have ANTARA beside me; you will also find someone who can help you when you are not in your best”.
So this is the story of Jharna Di who is a Mental Health Survivor and an inspiration for many. She not only managed herself but also helped her family to overcome crisis situations and helped her daughter in her studies too.
She is an all-rounder lady in spite of having mental illness. She is a perfect example that if we do not become afraid of our mental illness and take it as any other physical problem, visit doctors and medical professionals whenever it is required and continue medicines, we can lead a normal life just like others.
Admitting that you need Psychiatric assistance never makes you less of a person.
This blog has been Written by – Ms. Shatabdi Datta
*Disclaimer:- The opinion expressed in the blog is the opinion of the writer & not necessarily the opinion of ANTARA Organization.