“The Unsung Struggle”

Recently our college organized one of its most esteemed events, the Annual Day. Everyone involved duly enthused about the event. A number of meritorious students were deservingly awarded medals and certificates for their achievements in academic and extra-curricular fields. However, something felt missing.

Cut back to Jan’2018. It’s the season when new PG’s (post graduate students) are in process of joining their departments. The already junior most residents can now start breathing a sigh of relief, for a lot of their workload and agony will now have some sharing and shedding. There were a few departments though, that didn’t have a PG seat in that session. Me and my co-pg were whining about being one of them.

One such afternoon, a young reserved sort-of lad with long scary hair comes in the doctor’s duty room “Sir, ward main bheja hai mujhe. Intern main psychiatry uthayi hai elective posting”.

Okay, in a disinteresting manner I said, thinking what use will an intern be to us. I have rarely been so wrong.
Few days later, his duty hours done, he comes back to us in some urgency and distress.
“Sir, emergency hai, bahut dikkat hai” he started.
“Kya hua?” we asked.

“Arrey sir pareshan ho gaya hun main bahut. Kayi saal ho gaye hai. Mujhe baar baar vichar aate hai ki kahi AIDS to nahi ho gaya mujhe. Jaanta hun yeh bekar ke hai, par bahut force se aate hai. Phir main internet, kitaab har jageh padta hun uske baare main. Jab baat phir bhi nahi banti to HIV ka test karane jaata hun. Test negative aane pe bhi relief nahi milta. Phir sochne lagta hun ki test karne wale se toh nahi ab mujhe AIDS aa gaya, ki usne infected needle wagerah laga di hogi, asepsis nahi kiya hoga. Tang aa gaya hun in vicharo se. Jaise taise final prof ke exams clear kiye hai. Dinbhar issi main mann uljha rehta hai, kuch achcha nahi lagta ab. Kuch batayo aap main kya karu. Mujhe bus padhai karni hai aur exam clear karne hai.”

Obsessive compulsive disorder, slightly less talked about among mental illnesses, but equally devastating on its own. Some carry the argument that everyone has a bit of it. Agreed, but when at disorder level, it’s an absolute another level of distress.

What followed in the next few months was nothing less than enterprising. It was pretty clear early on that he had everything in him to crack any entrance exam in one go. But there were some deadly demons to be dealt with.

He would spend all day in the ward besides us, often late beyond mid-night, trying to focus on his study as much as possible. “ Kahi aur padhai hogi hi nahi mujhse” he would exclaim.
There was significant help from him available whenever required, often more than what a professional junior could have offered then. Some prayers seemed to have been silently answered.

Every trick available from the limited armamentorium to help him overcome his OCD was given. With some help, and ups and downs, he could study well. Life was better. The sun seemed brighter. Everything was going good and things were improving. Before, they worsened. Much more than they began with.

Couple of months prior to the exam season, the OCD resurfaced like never before. Intense help from all means was provided. It was not uncommon for him to barge into my room every other day “Sir kuch karo, ab toh mujhe padhai ki bhi chinta nahi hai, Bus isse nikalo mujhe. Theek hona hai mujhe kisi tareh. Nahi hota ab mujhse kuch.”

What role should one play here? A senior to a junior, or a therapist to a patient? Both entirely different and none less challenging than the other in their truest sense.

Jump to a couple of weeks before the exams and books were a distant sight now. All that could be seen was struggle and despair. 5 days before the exam and he tests positive for Dengue after a bout of fever and chills.

The bodyache that ensued was excruciating. It was heart wrenching to see him writhing in pain, at its peak one evening before the exam. With some painkillers, the exam was somehow given.

5 days later, I was in deep sleep when my co-pg was banging hard at my door. Annoyed, I opened “102 rank aayi hai launde ki” he said with pride. A sleep interruption had never been so sweet.

There are success stories we adore, but tales of struggle we don’t come to know off. What makes any achievement worth is often the struggle behind it. Just living with a mental illness is combat enough, overcoming it with flying colors is beyond commendable.

There seemed to be another award missing that day. But it didn’t matter. At the end of this tale, he was stronger, and I was wiser, than ever.

P.S: The above matter is written with consent from the person concerned. There is no intention to question or hurt anyone’s sentiments or actions.

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