I wanted to talk about something very close to my heart. It’s one of the issues that have just really left a mark on me. It was a patient, lets call her S, about 45 years of age, came in complaining of a persistent headache since the past 3 months. She was accompanied by her husband; he seemed like a typical husband, always right and dominating. He didn’t say much while I interviewed her. But his silence was discomforting…controlling. I eventually asked him to leave so as to have a more confidential and open conversation with my patient. There was something about her eyes…like they had lived many lives. They looked tired, like her light was fading. But there was also a kind resilience. Anyway, I spoke to her at length about her life, her dreams, her thoughts. I’m not going to get into those details as they don’t really matter. The point is she was depressed. Her depression was manifesting as a headache (textbook case of conversion disorder). A conversion disorder is basically somatic (physical) symptoms that occur to express underlying psychological disturbances (DSM-5).
Her depression had been a slow building one. Her marriage was a happy one, well at least from the outside and on paper. They had two children, both excelling in their studies, and were financially sound. There appeared to be no extraneous stressors in her life. She was a home maker, her priority was to make sure her children and her husband were happy. It’s not that she didn’t live for herself…it just wasn’t priority.
Now this isn’t a strange concept. Culturally speaking, a women is taught from a very young age to be caring, sacrificing, to put others needs above hers. Men are taught to make decisions, to control and acquire things they need, want, whatever. It’s a patriarchal society and I cannot change that. Coming back to S, the more I spoke to her, the more I saw emptiness in her eyes. Her husband took care of her and gave her everything she wanted, financially. But finance doesn’t make a marriage. He would come back from work all tired, knock back a drink or two, watch some sports and go to sleep (Soo cliched, right?). Okay, this didn’t happen all the time…but she did feel very neglected and worthless at times. I guess hearing taunts about how stupid she was, or how she wasn’t doing much for the home weren’t sitting well with her. Apparently managing a household, ensuring everyone’s needs were met constituted as sitting at home and doing nothing. Sounds familiar? Relationships eventually boil down to power, and whose finances are stronger. You see the man will have the final say because he holds the right to withdraw and give money as he pleases (I’m not generalizing here, but this does seem to be a trend).
Us young folk, may have “left” this ideology behind, but I cannot tell you the number of times I have women coming in…the silent tears and emotional conflict within them…how I see their fire burning out…slowly fading under the burden of their silenced words, opinions, desires. It always starts with small things. The husband having the right to make the final decision, be it right or wrong. Men are always taught that they are right. It’s always about their rights. From the clothes the wife is ALLOWED to wear, to the people she can meet, to every little desire she may have. How did marriage, the union of two people who decide to be companions for life, suddenly make the man have ownership rights over the women. Who by the way is an equal half of the relationship. Coming back to S, I asked her why she didn’t put her foot down, stand up for herself and…just sometimes, live for herself. She looked at me with a sad smile, and said, “If we both stand tall, this marriage would fall apart.” You see, years of marriage had taught her that eventually it would have to be her doing the compromising. So she kept quiet. Suppressed the tears and the slowly strengthening loss of self worth, with a smile. Until, well that headache developed and after a series of neurological tests, she was referred to a psychologist.
I’m not even talking about relationships with “actual” physical abuse here, because that’s a completely different ball game. See that’s the whole point. Emotional abuse (repeated taunts, insults constitute as abuse), because of it’s intangibility is often ignored or not given enough credibility. And given our culture, the women usually just silently live through it. More often than not, blaming themselves. For not being good enough, smart enough, pretty enough…eating away at their self worth. And with time…losing their spark.
Okay not every case is extreme. But however, little or more…suffering is suffering.
Now this isn’t about feminism…indirectly, maybe… I’m talking more about our culture, which gradually may be changing; depending on where you’re looking. Out of all the women who come seeking help, there are hundreds of women who don’t have the strength to talk about their problems. It’s also a matter of pride. Sharing her emotions…her inner conflicts with people, however dear, would make her husband look bad. And that wasn’t okay with S, as it isn’t with most women.
This post is not just a rant. The point is to spread some awareness. Look for signs. Signs of that fading light.
- Increased Irritability
- Lower Tolerance/ Patience
- Loss/Increased Appetite
- Disruptions in Sleep Cycle
- Signs of Crying
- Emotional Lability (Basically increased displays of emotion, over reactions, uncontrollable and/or excessive crying)
- Subdued Emotions
Sometimes, just knowing a person is not alone. A comforting shoulder. A voice that says “I understand”… “You’re important”…”You’re irreplaceable”…can make all the difference. Be that voice. Be that hand. These homemakers are the glue behind every happiness in your life. Make sure that they aren’t eroding whilst giving you strength. Don’t let them suffer in silence.