The Calling

14 Nov

I took up psychology in my under graduation solely on a whim. The subject was different, didn’t involve useless rote learning and very honestly, sounded cool. However, through the first two years of the course, I was disheartened, because it was nothing like what I had imagined it to be. I was constantly rushing to meet deadlines for practical reports I couldn’t make much sense out of, studying subjects like sociology and philosophy and even mathematics, a demon I had been running away from all through my high school. Since I was fortunate enough to study at the best college in the country, I knew I couldn’t blame it on the faculty or the course. It had to be the discipline, and suddenly the spontaneous selection of the subject didn’t seem so right after all. I was soon regretting not taking up journalism or economics.

In the third year, I was introduced to Abnormal Psychology, a paper that dabbled with all the interesting and sometimes bizarre disorders, and my faith in the discipline was restored to an extent. I found myself studying outside the course, something I had never done. It had whet my appetite for more and it was this hunger that drove me to contemplate a future in this stream. Only, there was one small doubt. Clinical psychologists don’t bring in the moolah and the prospect of fat wallets owned by pursuers of Organisational Psychology started luring me towards it. I was caught between the love for Clinical Psychology and the need to earn enough to live comfortably. After all, who wants to live with a salary as meagre as a student’s allowance all their lives?

It was to solve this dilemma that I interned at a neuropsychiatric hospital this summer, to get an idea of how all the disorders I had studied about actually manifest in people like you and me, how it changes them from fully functioning people to frightened, confused beings and to learn how help and support is extended to them. In less than even five hours a day for a month, I knew this was my calling.

I worked under a warm and amiable psychiatrist, who I soon learned was not only loved by the interns, but also by the staff, the patients and their families. I was amazed at the way the patient’s families worshipped him. Like a mother once told me with tears in her eyes, “He is God for us.” I could only imagine the immense satisfaction he must be feeling every night while falling off to sleep, having helped hundreds of individuals lead a fulfilling life once again. But this was not what decided it for me.

We were asked to interact with one in-patient during the internship, conducting minor tests on them, having general conversations with them, and overall building a rapport with them. Mine was a middle aged lady who had suffered from frontal lobe injury and had lost her control over basic movements, her bowels and bladder, and her sense of orientation. I was nervous on the first visit but soon I grew fond of the lady. I found myself thinking of her even after work, explained patiently as she asked intrigued how I put kajal in my eyes and almost wept when she wrote on a piece of paper ” I really want to go home to see my children” and gave it to me. Soon, we were waving at each other whenever our paths crossed in the hospital and she turned to me for comfort whenever she felt ambushed by strangers in the wing. She progressed gradually and a week after she was discharged, she came to the hospital for a follow up having driven the car on her own! She sought me out and proceeded to thank me for all the help. I was taken aback since it was the doctor who cured her, I was just an intern. She looked at me with gratitude washed on her face, an image I will never forget and told me, “You were there when I was lost and scared.” And it was in that one moment that I just knew that this is what I want to do all my life. The kind of happiness you feel when you realise that you were instrumental in restoring peace and sanity to an individual, that you could comfort a person who is scared by his own thoughts, is beyond compare.

Sure, it was not a joyride throughout. In the course of the one month, I had been sternly scolded by a highly irritable girl suffering from mania, been asked to leave without being allowed to ask a single question by a patient of schizophrenia and dealt with patients who would stubbornly stay silent while you run out of ideas to get a word out of them. Yes, it was exasperating and both emotionally and mentally drained you at times, but nothing in the world can compare to the joy you feel when you see the bed ridden patient go back into the world and live their lives, with a little help from you at a time when they didn’t even know how to live with themselves. Nothing can ever compare to the kind of attachment you build with a complete stranger, someone whose name you soon start to add in your prayers.

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One Response to “The Calling”

  1. Nicholas May 14, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    the prospect of handing out shock treatments must hav been tempting as well :3

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