CHENNAI: On a fateful day on the roads of Bengaluru many years ago, a young man was speeding down to reach his exam hall to be on time. And out of nowhere, his thoughts began to race faster than the large number of vehicles around him. Unable to get a grip on his thoughts and the bike, he crashed. Spending the next few days in ‘recovery’ or rather discovery, as he would come to know, Ganesh N Rajan had little clue that the wild thoughts would keep him awake for nights, and change his life.
Many years since, after he successfully recovered from what was diagnosed to be schizophrenia — a widely-undiscussed mental disorder in India — he proudly unveiled his boldly penned memoir that encapsulates his journey. Fifteen years in the making, he says the need to write the book entitled I, Me and Us had in his own words, ‘grabbed him by throat’. His effort gathered an audience that was rapt in attention at the Amethyst Cafe on Thursday, as he spoke of how he was one of the lucky few to hold schizophrenia back in remission stage for as long as he has.
The positive and negative symptoms, as he defines them, make the yin and yang of the disease assert the need for a personally tailored recovery process for every survivor. While auditory, olfactory and visual hallucinations that often affect victims, are surprisingly what he calls ‘positive’, they can be dulled by medications, which, he believes, have come a long way. The symptoms that he calls ‘negative’ belong to an arguably darker realm. “Self-esteem issues, poverty and resentment — there is no medication for it,” he says.
His words left the audience absorbing in spaces between his pauses, the grossly underplayed truth that ‘mental illness’ and ‘psychiatrists’ are words that we fumble over as society, in shame and embarrassment, instead of simply looking at it as another health condition, like diabetes for instance. “It needs a Deepika Padukone to open up about her depression for us to socially accept it as okay. If we hit a simple Google search, we will hardly find Indian celebs talking about mental illness they’ve battled against,” says Dr Thara, director of SCARF, who was also present along with celebrated psychiatrist Dr Nagaswamy. The decades that trailed, saw Rajan trot the globe and today, he has a score of professional achievements (counselling, consulting and authorship) to his name. But he attributes this to the people in his life without pausing for a beat. Caregivers, as he calls them, played a pivotal role in reeling him back from the three-day trip of near madness, following the accident. “I don’t want to know what would have happened if I stayed away another night,” he says.
Leafing through his old journal, he adds with a trace of nostalgia, “I was touched by the anguish of the person that was me. I wanted to reach out to help the person and others who go through the same.”