My mother suffers from depression and OCD because of which she obsessively cleans and washes things repeatedly. Apart from her undeterred will, the biggest support system in her battle with mental health issues is my father. He has been with her since the beginning, battling her disease, its side effects, not only in her health but also on their relationship, and the stereotypes around mental illness. I wonder how many men take care of and support their partners, especially when it comes to mental health issues. My parents have indeed given me goals on how to support people with mental health illness and helped me break my silence about it. I hope their story will inspire you too.
When my parents got married, my father wasn't aware of what it meant to deal with mental illness. He still conformed to the stereotypes that it is synonymous with being "lunatic", something that cannot be cured. After a few years of marriage, my mother started developing symptoms of OCD and depression. It was triggered by the criticism she had to face for not being an "ideal" daughter-in-law. She was accused of dividing the family, being a gold-digger, and even for plotting the murder of her in-laws. She was cornered for being a progressive woman from the city who was trying to disturb the “peace” of a sanskari family in a village.
My mother didn’t deserve all those struggles just because she is defiant and outspoken. But unfortunately, there was no one to tell her that she wasn’t wrong. The guilt overpowered her will and she went into depression.
Recently, my parents opened up on how they fought with the stereotypes and how my father always had my mother's back. He said, “It was completely new to me. I never thought mental illness could be that serious.” He recalled how he saw her washing her hands continuously and not being able to stop. “On some nights, she needed medical help, and I had no idea whom to approach and what to say.” But my mother, fully aware that she was struggling with a mental health issue, insisted that she needed treatment. All alone she went to the city to see a psychiatrist. It was only later that my father came around to accept that she needed help.
I remember my mother gloomily sitting on the stairs that lead to the terrace. I was too small to understand what was going on. There were nights when we couldn’t enjoy a proper family dinner, it often annoyed me and made me feel like I was an unlucky child. In fact, the OCD controlled her thoughts and actions so much that she took a bath for hours, and still couldn't be satisfied. She made us take bath twice and thrice a day without any reason. Sometimes, late at night or very early in the morning.
But my father didn’t lose his patience and supported her throughout, and treated her with love. He even approached the only psychiatrist in my town despite all the rumours that followed. In fact, he talked to us about our mother's mental illness and how it affected the way my mother behaved. He told us that we need to be cooperative and supportive of her because she was helpless.
It is their awareness about mental health issues that help me deal with my bouts of anxiety and anger issues. When I was in tenth grade, I started developing symptoms of anxiety and having panic attacks. Without any hesitation, my parents took me to see a psychiatrist. My parents always ensure that no one's mental health in our family is affected and are ready to do anything for that. Even today they tell their children that we should openly tell them if we feel low and need help. I wonder how many parents are that supportive, especially those from my parent's generation.
My mother is truly a warrior and my father is the strength of our family. I am thankful to them for making me realise the importance of mental health at a very early age.
Picture Credit: Gus Moretta on Unsplash
The views expressed are the author's own.