Cure This Headache
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
This young woman in early thirties complained of severe headaches. She was accompanied by a caring but frustrated husband, and two sweet kids. One withdrawn and cranky while the other one was hyperactive.
“These headaches started only after shifting to this city 5 years ago” she said. They were from a state far away.
“I am usually fine on holidays, but on almost all other days I wake up feeling sick, without energy, and even a small factor like bright light, loud noise or reading brings on the headache. It then becomes so severe that I have to sleep or take pain killers. I can’t sleep every day, so I take this painkiller daily. Even small stress at work makes me very irritable, and when I return home I have no energy left to do anything. We have started fighting a lot” she said looking at her husband with wet eyes. “I know he is tired of my headaches, but what can I do? We have seen so many doctors in so many places”.
“She used to be very happy when we married, doc” said the husband, “I feel this is a totally different girl now. I do everything I can to help her, but I have work pressure too”.
Nuclear family. Both working 6/7 days. Both on highly responsible posts. Long hours. Changing shifts too. Kids attended by maids when not in a day care. Their parents on both sides far away. They have had two kids with a very short interval between them, so their “growing up” is almost together.
“Is it possible that one of you change the job?” I ask this very cautiously, almost knowing the answer.
“No, Doc, our current jobs have excellent prospects and incomes too” said the husband.
“Can you change the timings, so you get an hour ‘s rest without having to attend any tasks?”
“I can’t change the timing. I don’t think I am stressed. My husband helps me a lot by cooking and looking after the kids. It’s a daily affair now. If these headaches are gone, I will be all right”.
The caring husband who was until now attending both the kids, especially the hyperactive one, said “I have suggested her that she can take a break, but she wants to continue as she thinks she will get bored at home”. He threatened the hyperactive one, now climbing upon my table, with his hand.
I explain that the habit of taking painkillers may itself be worsening the headaches, in addition to the “dual” stress at work and home. All said and done, a woman usually attends two jobs when she works. I also enquired if they can have their parents stay with them alternately, so things will be better arranged at home.
“They don’t get along well with us, doc. My parents irk him and I don’t get along well with his parents too. We have had a love marriage”.
“Sometimes I feel like ending my life” she started crying.
Her examination was completely normal.
As I wrote the notes, I wondered how many of these things were correctable. Nobody wants “Gyaan /Philosophy” or counselling. No amount of medicines were going to take away the basic problem: lifestyle without rest or peace, and no time for love. What happens to a relationship where there is no more “Gelling”of the husband and wife, of parents and kids because they don’t get time to be together?
One of my Yoga teachers, Mr. Mohandas (at the Kaivalyadham Center on Marine Drive Mumbai) always told me: When you mix the “sample curd” and milk, it will not all become curd immediately. It has to stand for some time before the mixture forms new curd. Any relationship that has to mature into something meaningful will require quality time spent together, both with and without the kids. This time has to be separate from merely eating or sleeping together, or travelling for work.
Fast friends who fall in love and marry end up in tangled fights after becoming too busy, sucked up in the work and family routine so much that they become strangers again. Everything for a good life is at their footstep, but life itself has taken a vacation for lack of time. Bodies change, and so do minds. Too much company becomes an irritating nag. Need for personal space is disputed if at all recognised. Meditation is not truly possible when chores keep knocking your door.
As I advised her some medicines and Yoga, I could not help but suggest her that they both need to rearrange priorities in life.
It is not my place and these are not the times that one can “politically correctly” suggest the right options: but kids growing up neglected because both parents are either working or tired when at home is certainly not a healthy option. Lifestyle choices should not take childhoods for granted.
In Canada, they have a law: that one must have one separate bedroom for each kid above three years.
In India, we desperately need this: that at least one parent / grandparent must spend few dedicated hours with kids every day, quality time without being exhausted or irritable.
I wished the mother well via my prescription, but my heart was with those two kids.
For what those two kids were unknowingly suffering is beyond our society’s conscience to deal with, and maturity to logically talk about.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande