N.R. “My brain felt itching”

I don’t know what happened to me, why I got so ill.  I had married the year before and I came from India to Coventry to be with my husband in September.  But by Christmas I was having panic attacks, smelling blood all the time.  I was hearing voices laughing and saying horrible things about me.  I was scared that my neighbours were part of a conspiracy against me and I used to sit alone at home too scared to even leave my room.  I was isolated with strange thoughts and feelings, and I was getting weird experiences like in horror movies. My husband couldn’t understand and he was getting frustrated.   I felt that there was another person inside of him like a ghost.

I met my husband through a matrimonial internet site and he seemed kind, affectionate and respectful, a modern man which made me decide to marry him.  We both felt well matched and I was then happy with my life.  I don’t know what went wrong.

The GP admitted me to the mental health hospital and I stayed over 6 months.  Even there I felt there were ghosts in me and around me everywhere.  My brain felt itching all the time with stress and my mind was crying a lot.  My Care Coordinator referred me to Arty-Folks and I felt so much better meeting other people with similar problems.   I started to relax and enjoy my artwork and my mentor helped me to start volunteering and join other groups.  After a year I was leading a busy life but still didn’t feel I was progressing.

Arty-Folks suggested changing medication as I had been on the same one for over 10 years, something I hadn’t considered.  It took a while to sort it out with mental health professionals but you wouldn’t believe the difference it made to my mind and my quality of life!  My mind belongs to me again and I live in the present.  I can hear myself think and I know what is real and what is not.  My Arty-Folks mentor told me that I used to let out a torrent of words without start or finish but I have now started to look at my story, warts and all.

I was born in India and I was very happy when we all lived with grandparents in one house.  I still don’t know why I had to go to a primary school for military personnel and move way.  I hated this school. There were 65-70 children in one class and teachers had to be very strict and punished us often.  My English was very weak and when I had low marks I was scared that everyone would make fun of me.  I was always worried they would call my parents and that I would have to repeat a year.  I had my book always with me, worried about forgetting things. I had no friends and I felt like an outcast because I didn’t come from a rich family.

12 years I was at this school and it felt like a prison.  I couldn’t wait to start secondary school and make new friends.  I wanted to help everybody.  If somebody asked me for money I would give it to them.  I would help with their studies and do their homework for them.  I just wanted to make friends, whatever they asked me to do I would do.  I would also go with them bunking class, just to go with them, to have fun.  But actually, now I realise they were not friends, they were just using me.

My parents believe I got this mental illness because I didn’t obey.  I was 20 when my mother found out I was in love with a boy I my class. My mother was shocked and she wouldn’t allow it.  At the time I was highly excitable and probably already ill.  I thought I was happy, I had friends, I was at college, and I had a teenage crush on a boy.  My parents said I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating, and I was aggressive and not listening to anybody.  They took me to the hospital where many people held me down and injected me with so much medication that I slept for 2 weeks.  After that I was blank and I not able to function without meds.  When I went back to college I was afraid to talk to people and they weren’t talking to me.  I felt like a ‘mental patient’, a feeling that is still haunting me today.

In India if you have a physical illness people understand but if you are mentally unwell they keep away and consider you an outcast.  Nobody knows back home I have been ill and I have learnt to hide it from everybody.  It was my parents’ dirty secret.  I feel guilty and ashamed of the things I have said when I was ill but most of all I feel sad about my past.

I have completed a Masters in Computer Science but I don’t really understand this illness.  Arty-Folks has always encouraged me to express my thoughts and feelings in my artwork and to share my experiences with my peers.  It has taken me a long time to find the courage but they did not judge me.  I am so proud of my artwork and I am always excited when we all exhibit together.  I can show my husband how I feel and I can show him that other people have similar experiences.  It makes me feel so much more at peace knowing that I am not the only one.

My husband and I have been through a lot these past couple of years but it has brought us closer and made us stronger together.  I feel good now and I am looking forward to starting my own family.

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