I had written about my psychotropic drug struggle way back in Dec 2016. Well, the effects of that have not worn off, in fact , worsened now, and more so because I went back to them in April 2017 . I know, it sounds wacko, stupid and dangerous going back on drugs after all the fury and all the contrarian evidence! But unfortunately I did so, based on well-intended professional advice (which turned out wrong) and my own misplaced compliance and confusion, and I suffered badly. Let me spare the details, but I finally threw them off, permanently, in Dec 2017 after tapering and a lot of agonizing. Of course, I took them on and off throughout the year, always with a pinch of salt. Anyways, the persistent effects have been terrible, and I am just about keeping myself alive.
As I write this, suffice to say that just maintaining my daily life (if not walking/ working/ driving/ travelling, which I do regularly- was just back from Calcutta yesterday) is a superhuman effort. Even writing is a pain at times.My physical pain ,weakness and stiffness increase every day as the little- recognized and little- acknowledged psychotropic drug- induced Persistent Withdrawal Syndrome or PWS ( that causes a fair amount of mortality and morbidity, I read), sets in . And it may last for years. But this time around, I don’t care. And there’s simply no going back to the poisons. I don’t hate psychiatrists ( after all, its their business and bread and butter) , I just find most of them to be orthodox, opinionated and absolutely unscientific ( being blunt here, but I have enough experiences of myself and others and loads of data to prove it. Seen them all, including the iconic NIMHANS Bangalore ).Put a gun to my head, roast me over hellfire, torture me to death( which might be physically more bearable than this current physical pain) but there’s no way I am going to walk into a shrink’s chamber ever again.
The way I see it, it’s only the physical aspect that’s troubling me. Mental strength has never been an issue for me. Weakness/ Stiffness/ Back pain /Insomnia blah blah blah ( probably 15-20 symptoms in all which I don’t mention to people but which often shows and hampers my work and life , so I keep finding ways to circumvent it and give alternative pathologies. People ask me about my health, not the other way around-so if you meet me or talk to me , kindly don’t ask me about my health, I beg of you- I am sick of telling lies about back pain and headache and stuff, because most people simply won’t believe that psychotropic drugs cause devastating damage).
But there is redemption. Amidst all the national hullabaloo on MBBS vs BAMS vs BHMS vs BUMS , I am on Ayurvedic medicines given by a MBBS, MD Physician who has also formally studied Ayurveda and Unani ( and a fellowship in mgmt from IIM, besides having a company of his own) . A standing ovation to Dr.Ujwal Das, who is the most unbiased physician I have met till date.The medicines will take time to work , he says ( at least six months) due to the damage made over the last four years.
I took a strip of sleeping pills in last year to see how life would seem without the continuous sensation of pain , physical and mental ( no, it wasn’t a suicide attempt, just an attempt at self-oblivion and sleep for a few days- this was at the height of Dad’s battle with lung cancer in May 2017). It didn’t have much effect, except that I went to a dingy nursing home a few days later, with persistent insomnia and weakness.
Four hospital/ clinic admissions throughout the year, two allopathic and two ayurvedic.No more hospitals for me , I told myself firmly in August. And I have stuck to it.
This obstinence has caused me to lose a lot of things, but I am none the less glad for it. As a result of my physical limitations, I have been unemployed for some time, been able to meet my Mom and daughter less frequently than I would like to, become less of a social person.
It hasn’t, though, taken me away from my daughter’s financial responsibilities and pursuing my father’s pension which has been denied till now. It hasn’t stopped me from carrying out necessary overdue paperwork in December. And neither from studying voraciously on my subject and other things. Nor from blogging, which has been a lifeline.
But the positive spin-off of the social isolation? I have been spending time more with myself and a few selected people in the physical/ online world.Nice , reasonable, grounded people. And I have learnt a few things by reflection, reading and interacting with others:
1. Pain isn’t bad, it’s actually essential for growth.
2. Positive attitude is a wonderful thing, but don’t paint everything rosy.
3. Learn to say “ NO”. Be undiplomatic when required, and especially so in your personal life. Don’t be sugary sweet, be firm, have a say, and don’t be apologetic about it.
4. All the same ( and paradoxically at times), forgive when required, be grateful, help others, create things, love, laugh, and hell, enjoy life !
5. Act, don’t agonize bloody much. Goddamn it, you failed? We all do, 90% of the time. Get up, brush off the dust from your clothes and a*se, and go for it again.
6. You have suffered? So what’s new? Don’t whine. Everyone has.
7. Be kind, be reasonable, be warm. You were born a human.
8. Believe than God has a living and a terminal plan for all of us. HE is correct all the time. TRUST him.
9. Stay connected to the people , activities and events you love the most.
10. Don’t place your value on superficial / unimportant people , activities, events and things,like a kid who loves his toys. Place importance on the things that matter.
11. Help others, but don’t pamper them. Take help when you need to, to the extent required. You can’t wipe off others’ shit- they have to do it themselves. And they can’t wipe off yours, either.
12. Exercise, do yoga, do pranayama, dance, do whatever, but keep moving. Take care of your body,mind and spirit, buddy- it’s your biggest and your best resource.
13. Do the things you love to do. Love streaking on a haystack? Hell, go ahead and do it ( cover your a*se though in winter- things can get a bit tough). And be careful not to get arrested for it.
14. You were born naked and will die naked. Why this vain glory about being superficially attractive and unsurpassable?
15. Its not bad to be a bit crazy. As I read long back , only the children and the crazy are truly emanicipated and happy!
16. Don’t be afraid of committing to the people, events and causes that matter. But choose your battles VERY carefully.
17. Don’t be afraid of dying-it will happen someday- it happens to everyone some day.
The aim is to live well while we can, and then pass away blissfully. One who lives well can also die well.
And much more, on which I will hopefully write in the times to come.
Want to know more about it? Read a book called “The subtle art of not giving a f*ck” by Mark Manson. It’s not about f*cks, despite the absolutely irreverent title. Rather, it’s a practical self-help book about living life nonchalantly but productively and sublimely, despite all its inherent problems. It roughly echoed what I was doing throughout the year , and am doing now, in my quest for survival. Mark, thanks, ol’ chap. After this, I might be tempted into writing a book sometime, and it may just read, “How to make friends and finger people” or “The seven habits of highly seductive people” ( puns totally intended) . I would name you in the credits for sure, Mark.
Life has not been fair to me, but no complaints. There’s been my friends ( real life and online). My Mom. My Aunty.My daughter. My neighbours . Bhagat uncle. My doctors ( no , not the shrinks). My co-workers. And there has been Sri Sri Ravishankar, whom I consider as my Guru. I can’t practically follow all the practices he suggests, but I find him to be my guide. Saw Sri Sri in person for the first time at the Bangalore ashram last year, and was thrilled. He is a quiet man with a volcano of energy inside him.
I am deeply grateful and thankful to all of them, with folded hands and bowed head.
And above all, there is Lord Shiva, Vishwanatha who keeps a close watch over the universe and over me. I have no hesitations in admitting that I have his picture everywhere. He is there in my room on the puja alter,on the walls , in my car, in my purse, on my FB page, on my Whats App DP ( no, not in my loo- that would be a bit too radical !)
To know why, read the Shiva Sutra (available online by various authors, including Sri Sri ). You will know all about how to integrate spirituality into your life. And once you understand that Shiva’s philosophy extends beyond mere worship of the Shivalingam and ritual observing of Shivratri, you will see him in a different way. I won’t do it for you- you have to do it yourself.
Try it.It might change your life. It changed mine, and has helped me to continue without giving up. It’s not about rituals, it’s about scientific spirituality.
In addition to Lord Shiva and the wonderful people I mentioned above, there’s my work. Going back to seeing patients was tough after more than a decade of managerial jobs but it was fully rewarding. I won’t attempt to romanticize the doctor- patient relationship in a halo of glory, especially when society is bent on proving that we make loads of money by cutting people open or drugging them unnecessarily, but I plead NOT GUILTY. Admitted, there are black sheep in my profession, like in any other profession, but I would say a very large number of my co-professionals are ethical, if a bit egoistic and sensitive. I enjoy seeing my patients. Period. And so I suspect, do they, since 40 of them turned up at an unpublicized camp a week back within a span of three hours. I am anguished at certain aspects of the profession, but hell, its my job ! Someone has to do the tough work, right? And yes, I prescribe Allopathic AND Ayurvedic drugs ( at time no drugs at all), but minus the dogma of MBBS vs BAMS vs BHMS. I have plans of starting an Integrated Medicine practice someday, health ,circumstances and funds permitting.
At times, I am tempted to throw in the towel due to my physical problems and just take it easy, but that won’t solve things. Struggling will, which is what I do when I pull up my numb and stiff body, bruised by psychotropic drugs, on bitterly cold winter mornings to go for walking and Yoga. And then come back and leave for work .
I can’t run/ lift weights anymore thanks to the Persistent Withdrawal Syndrome, but I compensate by Yoga, Pranayama and walking.I have integrated yoga/ pranayama/ physical activity into my life, to the extent possible, am still learning, will continue to do so. I will admit it’s a struggle for me which I don’t care to romanticize. I would much rather focus on getting things done.
Prayer is a daily thing for me , even if for ten minutes ( I really don’t believe in rituals, which is why despite being an ardent Shaivite, I don’t fast on Mondays).
And there’s singing (online/ offline), dancing, blogging/ photography and whatever comes along the way. I enjoy all of these, whenever I get the time.
Friends, family and colleagues who have been supportive, and to whose lives I contribute. Mom, who is battling in her own way, hats off to her. My Aunty who is no less than my mother. My daughter, who has grown into the most lovely lady one can see, and I am extremely proud of her. I asked her to be my Girlfriend fully in jest for Valentine’s Day, and she quipped, “ Papa, don’t be silly!” It is a pleasure meeting her everytime. We are abrupt on the phone, but absolutely mad when we meet in person.
What else could I ask for?
Anyways, back to the brass tacks. My aim is to live, and live well despite all problems, and not just to survive. And when death comes some day, to die well. Death comes for all of us ( I saw Dad’s death close on), and these psych meds have considerably shortened my life-span (a lot of credible literature says that psych drugs are a leading cause of mortality and morbidity) , but then, who cares? I live each day for itself. My work going on, my friends and family ( I consider them to be one) connected to me, my inheritance document (will) in progress, responsibilities done or in progress, an eventful life, a long successful career spread evenly out across the nation since 2001 , countless people befriended in my personal and professional life, good family life achieved, love given and taken over decades , and Lord Shiva and Sri Sri ( Guruji’s actual name is Ravishankar, therefore even his name comes from Lord Shiva) benignly smiling in my room, would I really fret if I passed away tomorrow? Zilch, perish the thought ! I would simply wink at the Lord ,say “Om Namah Shivaya “, and whoosh away.
But till then, I promise to work, walk, exercise, sing, love, write, blog, click, be crazy and do whatever is needed to keep me going.
Forgive me if I sound a little mad. After all, I am supposed to be (and medicated for being ) Bipolar. As I had explained in one of my articles long back, Lord Shiva himself is Bipolar.I have the honour of following in his footsteps, without the toxic medications this time.
As Robin Williams said, “We only have a little spark of madness within us. We must be careful not to lose it.”
And Frank Sinatra crooned long back, “I’ve lived a life that’s full, I’ve traveled each and every highway,
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”
I don’t know if I have managed to do it totally do it my way, but what the hell, I have tried ! I am happy about my life overall. Life is too precious to be wasted in bitterness, hatred or repentance.
Charles Dickens wrote in “A tale of two cities”- “ It was the best of times, and the worst of times.” 2017 was such a time for me. Probably this year will be better, but even if it isn’t, I will find things to keep me going.
Om Namah Shivaya. I bow to the LORD who protects, nourishes and sustains. I know he will take care of me and my loved ones, in this life and beyond.