National Institute of Mental Health

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The Sunday Leader - July 31, 2011

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Depression From The Perspective Of A Patient

By Shanthi

Traumas experienced in one’s childhood have a profound bearing on one’s adult life,” – Sigmund Freud. This article is about a very close friend of mine, who suffered from Bi-Polar Depression. He wishes to remain anonymous and I have respected his wishes.

My friend was a progeny of a Jaffna Tamil father and a Sinhalese mother. He had a very happy childhood. However, the problems began when he reached his adolescent years. His father whose priority, as in the cast of some middle class Tamils was to educate his children to become professionals in the preferred order of a doctor, engineer, accountant or a teacher.

My friend’s elder brother had already passed out as a doctor but he (my friend) failed his ‘O’ Levels a couple of times, since he was more into sports and neglected his studies. Ultimately at his final shy, when the results were announced and due to some mix-up the results of another student with the same surname who had got seven ‘F’s were announced as that of his. At that moment my friend had decided to take his life by running towards the railway track, but fortunately the mistake was detected in time, and to his relief he had obtained good results.

My friend relieved and happy, went home to announce the good news to his parents. His mother was overjoyed and hugged him. His father was pleased that he had the necessary qualifications to sit for his ‘A’ Level and thereafter to enter Medical College and pass out as a doctor. My friend of course had other plans and was keen to switch over to arts subjects and ultimately become a lawyer. His father however, insisted that he should become a doctor similar to his elder brother. The father’s aspirations for his son were negated and he left school and joined a reputed firm of Chartered Accountants as a Management trainee. Whilst working as a trainee, he managed to pass a couple of parts of CIMA. He concluded his training and took the first job offer, in order to marry his childhood sweetheart. Thereafter he steadily climbed the corporate ladder, but had a troubled marriage. With the collapse of his marriage my friend attempted suicide and was saved in the nick of time, but the scars remained.

A second marriage, after a period of four years also ended in divorce; and this triggered depression coupled with suicidal feelings once again. He recovered and went on to achieve great success in the corporate world holding senior positions in the private sector, but still felt  inadequate not being a fully fledged professional; the one thing his father had expected of him.

A sudden job loss ten years later resulted in his experiencing severe depression coupled with suicidal thoughts and diagnosed as Bi-polar Depression. He consulted several psychiatrist in Colombo, who were unable to cure him and he also experienced the severe side effects of the anti-depressant drugs prescribed.

During this dark period he was befriended by a gentle and gracious lady volunteer at Sri Lanka Sumithrayo. She was empathetic, non-judgmental and assured him of confidentiality and was ready to listen to him at any hour of the day for long periods, which gave him solace.

Subsequently, my friend was offered a lucrative job in a Free Trade Zone and carried on with his work successfully, although still experiencing Bi-Polar Depression on and off. The psychiatrist treating him even administered ECT under under general anesthesia a couple of times. This doctor of his choice and make a change if necessary.

In desperation, my friend confided in his local G.P. and was requested if he so desired to consult Dr. Kapila Ranasinghe – MBBS, MD (Psychiatry) and a Consultant Psychiatric who is attached to the General Adult Unit and Psychogenic Unit, National Institute of Mental Health, Angoda and is also in private practice. This particular young doctor, who had recently returned from the U.K. had a tremendous impact on my friend. He administered anti-depressants with absolutely no side-effects and my friend experienced a miraculous recovery to normalcy.

He now lives in retirement on completing 60 years of age and used the spare time available to research and write a book on Management and HR, which was successfully launched last year.

My friend by then had become a personal friend of Dr. Ranasinghe and consults him once every three months.

Dr. Ranasinghe himself published a book titled Understanding Dementia and had even invited my friend for the book launch, which took place on June 11, 2011 at the National Institute of Mental Health in Angoda.

My friend’s only regret is that he did not consult Dr.  Ranasinghe earlier on. His other regret is that he had not visited Sri Lanka Sumithrayo located at No. 60/7, Horton Place, Colombo 7 much earlier when his first marriage broke down in the late 70’s.

My friend now lives in the outskirts of Colombo experiencing a fruitful and happy retirement. He still consults Dr. Ranasinghe once every three months and looks forward to these visits.

The good doctor has prescribed one tablet in addition to others, which prevents high or low mood swings and keeps my friend on even keel.

It is my belief that the information contained herein would be of interest to those suffering from similar episodes of depression and would give them a ray of hope.


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