Human beings are daily being exposed to various experiences, ranging from the
everyday to the exceptional. Naturally, there are many pleasant ones that people
desire. On the other hand, however, there are some experiences that everyone
would like to avoid. These are not necessarily terrible experiences; they can
sometimes be periods of self-doubt and depression that we go through.
of years ago, I was quite close to a girl named Julia. For reasons unknown,
Julia experienced a nervous breakdown during that time. No one, not even her
best friend, could understand what had come over her. She began talking to thin
air and sometimes lapsed into fits where she desperately tore at her hair and
clawed her face, all caused by hallucinations. It was very problematic for her
family. They tried to handle it for as long as possible, but they finally had no
choice but to send her to mental hospital. When she arrived, she became agitated
and had to be sedated. She was admitted for and kept under observation for a
Julia's mother gave us regular updates about Julia's peaceful life in
hospital. Everything was regular and methodical. The day would start with a
shower at 7.00 a.m., followed by morning exercises and then a simple breakfast
of soft bread and coffee. Patients would be given their medication, while
doctors examined them on their rounds. Afterwards, the patients would clean up
the ward and the corridors. Later in the day, there would be a one-on-one
session with the resident psychiatrist. Julia herself later recounted how
patients would fill the rows of small green chairs, waiting for their names to
be called, and how the psychiatrist would ask her all sorts of strange
questions. He discussed her hallucinations and the voices they represented,
trying to understand their significance as mental images. Julia, however, never
explicitly talked about what was actually said.
Everything seemed aimed at building the patients' sense of purpose. After
lunch, Julia would spend time in the Occupational Therapy hall, threading
pastel-colored glass beads together to make wall hangings. These hangings were
later sold to raise funds. She and the other patients would help to wash the
crockery and cutlery after every meal,
including the mid-afternoon Milo and biscuits breaks. There were also group
singing sessions after dinner. The woman who conducted these sessions, according
to Julia, was a serene middle-aged lady who
smelt of talcum powder. Some others learnt how to prepare simple dishes under
the supervision of a short, moustached man, but Julia usually chose the singing
sessions as she missed singing in the school choir. It was her favorite time of
the day because it most resembled her life outside the hospital.
At 9.30 p.m., the patients would begin getting ready for bed, and lights
would be out by 10.00 p.m. Julia, however, often lay awake long into the night.
Although the nurses and attendants were kind and friendly, trying to make the
patients feel comfortable, it was not the same as home. Merely being there was a
constant reminder that she was what others labeled "crazy".
Three weeks passed in this fashion before Julia was discharged. She was not
completely cured and was advised to be on medication as long as necessary, but
she was more able to control her fits. However, she
resented the whole affair and seemed very embarrassed about it. She
did not seem able to face any of her friends after that. It certainly was a very
difficult experience for her.