© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
My mom once badly thrashed me up for jumping into a river for swimming (and for many other things I cannot mention here). The sadness of not getting my dream PG seat of surgery nearly killed me. A very brilliant, extremely mischievous and beautiful girlfriend of mine had to marry someone else. Years later, I went through a divorce. During each of these phases, thoughts of suicide crossed my mind like every normal person, several times. During all exams, thoughts of suicide, poetry and a rebellious dropout haunt many. After every suicide, disturbing thoughts of ‘exactly what, how and when’ haunt any sensitive mind.
During my student days, I spent an hour daily in a small space behind our boys hostel to use the double bar, the only facility for exercise. One senior, Sunil, was also a regular visitor, and we became friends. He was repeating a term. He was always smiling, calm and an introvert. Many students made sarcastic fun about his being aloof. Somehow he was nice to me, we usually spoke about stamina building.
One morning I woke up to the shocking news of his suicide. He had hung himself in his hostel room. I had met him only two days prior, and he was as smiling and quiet as ever, had exercised well, spoken in a normal tone, and while leaving had said his customary words of parting “chal bhetu parat” (okay, we’ll meet again)”.
Many theories came forward, and a professor who was always rude to many including Sunil was gossiped a lot about. It was also revealed that Sunil was under treatment for depression since a few years. Some said he was frustrated with his failure and poverty. For a good few months, I did not dare go to that double bar again. I wondered about his parents. How could he have done this? I asked one Dr. Madhu, a psychiatrist who often visited our college from UK. He replied “Well, there is no point in presumptions and allegations. How can one not think about near and dear ones, especially while doing something so drastic with themselves? Suicide is way beyond the grasp of a normal mindset. We must never forget that although immediate causes may act like triggers, usually suicidal thoughts build up over a long period”.
I started reading more about it.
Since then I know of many medicos (and others) who committed suicide for various reasons: failures, stress and negativity, depression, disturbed relationships, blackmail, boredom, harassment etc. I’ve also managed many suicide-attempt cases like burns, hanging, poisoning, drowning or self inflicted wounds. I have followed up with some of these patients for medical issues. It is indeed difficult to deal with some of those cases. To add to the problem, some (not all) anti depressants and other medicines may worsen suicidal tendencies or cause them in a patient who did not have them earlier.
The mental suffering of a genius is beyond the realms of a normal and mediocre mindset. The more extraordinary your mind is, the more it suffers, and only a better brain is able to understand that suffering. One who can feel for others suffers most. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
Two other common triggers for suicide- failure and loss- are more manageable. We are so engrossed in marrying our dreams with the rude reality around us, that we create a perpetual high-friction, tense atmosphere in our own mind. Instead, we must learn to unchain our dreams and expectations from the current reality. One can always attempt to change the situation around, but that needs a healthy mind. Unfortunately we do not have gyms made for the mind.
Human brain compels to repeat. We can develop an addiction for anything: negative or positive. The thoughts of futility, ‘having no other options’ can also make home in one’s mind. To be able to catch and prevent this can help some, but not all. Suicidal thought or intention is NOT a mental weakness. No one is any braver for not killing oneself. Suicidal thinking is a state of mind not in control of the owner of that mind, and can be reversed if the right steps (seeing a psychologist) are taken in time. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
The importance we all give to complete acceptance and best success is cruel. Parents today want to grow up only gold-medal champions, who can then never be graceful in their failures, or satisfied with being the second best. Lesser success is no success today. No one achieves all that they want. To be able to accept failure must be taught from school. A different, failure-accepting attitude by parents and society during development of a child’s mindset is desperately required. Tying failure to the feeling of being inadequate and worthless is a common crime we all commit.
That brings us to the last thought of this article: we must learn to never let the behaviour of others affect our joys. The wise will get this immediately: one deliberate hurt is too many, never allow another. Exit the situation, it is not called running away, it is protecting yourself. A Mahatma Gandhi cannot feel comfortable amongst a gang of mafias. That said, if all suicides are investigated well, many others in future can be prevented: white collared and financial criminals, trust-breakers who instigate others for suicide are quite common in our society.
Sometimes it is an internal phenomenon to have suicidal thoughts, some other times a sudden emotional shock or breakdown can provoke such an action. We must take every mention of a suicide seriously, even if the person is smiling or casual while saying it. A change in behavior pattern of a beloved introvert can also be an alarm, one must spend more time with them without being intrusive. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
Glamorisation of suicide is an open abuse perpetrated upon our social conscience, worst in India, and should be declared criminal, as this may fatally affect some potential young minds. The mindless repetition of suicidal news has a devastating effect on many stressed minds, and who is not stressed today?
Medicine is a difficult career: long, hard and emotionally fatiguing, with late rewards (rarely financial), and legendarily thankless. Many doctor work on the verge of thoughts about quitting. The concept for vacation, rest or good sleep is not allowed to most doctors. This drives some across the edge. The only way to stop this is that each and every doctor looks after their own stress levels, that they take adequate rest and sleep, find leisure and entertainment, every few days. Socio-federal expectations never end, while our life withers away.
A change in career is a good idea, if you feel frustrated for long. One can always excel in a PG branch once not wanted, one can reappear and pass exams, one will meet better people. Most importantly for medicos, education is not a forever state, and after passing, medicine enables us to practice anywhere we like. Let us not make drastic decisions affected by transient scenarios like bad seniors, frustrating workloads or those recurring breakup’s! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
If given a chance again, I will choose nothing but to be the Neurologist that I am today. The memories of that thrashing by mom strengthen my resolve to stand up to the unpleasant and stern parenting duties so crucial for the safety of my own children. That divorce liberated me (and her) from many more years of painful discomfort. Life, even without anything that I possess now, is still beautiful. Still, every single thing that I possess today is a dream for many, and adds to the inherent beauty of my life. That deeply roots my faith in the wisdom “Whatever happens is for good“. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
There are many glaring examples of those who turned tables to win over fate, overcame failures, deception, breakups, crises- financial and emotional, defamation, bullying and humiliation. Almost all of them have dealt with suicidal thoughts, some sought right help, and now are living proofs that this is possible only if one lives on.
I feel like whispering to every silently suffering soul out there: Dream, fight, chill, win or lose, but never give anyone the right to take away your charm. That little muscle-machine ticking in your chest right now, the insane neurochemical chatter of your neurons which makes you say ‘I think’, are miracles specifically made for you. That little hand you hold, someone’s moist eyes upon seeing you, and the enormous capacity of your coconut to imagine a beautiful future – are all precious blessings. Let’s not belittle them by asking for something more just to smile once again.
Smile NOW for what you are, smile NOW for what you have!
About that b. em.& b.. girlfriend… well I fondly miss her still, but every time I think of her, I cannot help smiling!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande