The Crusader of Mental Health

Madhuri’s Guilt

Dr Shyam Sundar started practical training in psychiatry for their batch of MD students. One day CRC was assigned to examine Madhuri*, a housewife, who had come with her husband. She complained of frequent headaches, lack of sleep, getting tired while taking care of her children, and often getting angry.

The husband launched off into his tale of complaints. “Doctor, all these are excuses to shirk responsibility. She may be a graduate, but is not intelligent. She is not at all organized in her work and has no pride in her work. If you come to our house, you will see how disorderly it is. It looks like a railway platform, with clothes and other stuff scattered all over. On my working days I get bread for breakfast and have to have lunch at the office canteen. On holidays, breakfast is served at 11 AM. I have to get children ready for school by getting them bathed and dressed. She is lazy and get up at 7:30. All in her family are like her; they say it is a quality of high class folks. She cooks indifferently something for herself for lunch and serves it to us for dinner. I have to improve the food by adding spices. If I dare to comment on her cooking, she flares up at me. She loses temper with my aged parents and children. They are afraid of her. Sometimes I have lost control of myself and hit her. Then later I feel ashamed and ask her forgiveness. But she thinks that it is my weakness when I ask her to forgive me.
“She has complained about innumerable things about me to her brothers often. I have lost respect in their eyes. They have threatened to lodge a complaint with police if I ever beat her.

“Another cause of my anger is her encouragement of Girish, a bad character. He talks smoothly and wins over people after studying their weaknesses. He makes them happily lend money to him. This fellow comes to our house in my absence, though I have warned her not to admit him. She defends him, saying that he paid our electricity bill and has bought groceries. I can’t tolerate this.

“To top it all, she goes to her brothers’ homes without telling me. When I come home, I find the door locked and have to make a round of their houses to find and fetch her.”

Madhuri butted in. “Doctor, after he leaves home for work and children for school, I am left alone in the big house. My in-laws confine themselves to their room. I have no one to talk with. I grew up in a large family with six brothers. I am the only daughter and was loved by everyone. I cannot get up early. I do not know how to cook well or maintain a house. Two children were born in quick succession to us. I find it difficult to manage them. My husband does work hard, but he also scolds me often. Whenever I get bored, I go to my brothers’ homes. Girish talks to me nicely and entertains me with local gossip. One can listen to him the whole day!

“Two of my brothers are in business; they have suggested that my husband should leave his low-paying job and join them in their business. They say he will make loads of money and we could employ servants, and I could live like a queen. However he will have none of it. He is not ambitious. If I suffer loss in business, will your brothers make good, he counters me. I hate washing and cleaning up around the house. He calls me lazy for that. He makes no effort to understand my point of view. He calls me obstinate. But he is even more obstinate than me.
CRC saw that both were self centered and had high expectations from everyone except themselves; they were unwilling to compromise for the other. They seemed to be an ill-matched couple.
They started to come to the hospital once or twice a week. The doctor would listen objectively, without taking sides, to their mutual complaints and accounts of their fights. He would try to find the root cause of their disagreements and look for solutions.

Both would keep their appointments with CRC without fail. Madhuri was put on a course of anti-depressants and soon her headaches and tiredness were almost gone. Dr Sundar praised CRC on the progress achieved. After one year of therapy, the couple stopped coming.

Madhuri came to CRC about a year later. She was in a terrible state. She sat down on the chair and started sobbing. CRC asked her what was the matter and how was her husband.

“It is all over!” she said and continued to weep. After a while she composed herself.

“What my husband had said about Girish turned out to be true. My husband’s parents passed away within three months of each other. My husband became withdrawn and depressed after this. He felt guilty that he should have better care of his parents. My loneliness increased. I tried to keep myself engaged in reading, house work and taking care of children. Girish would visit more often now.

“My husband proposed that we go on a pilgrimage, but since the children would miss school, I asked him to go alone. Girish must have been waiting for such an opportunity. After my husband had left for the trip, Girish came home one afternoon. Maybe he hypnotized me. I could not resist his advances and I gave in.

“I am scared now. On his return, if my husband comes to know about this, he will kill Girish. He will kill me too. Our children will be left orphaned. Everyone will come to know about this scandal. I should not live. I do not have courage to commit suicide. Sir, please give me something so that I die. I do not know what to do. I have been wanting to see you for a week, but was ashamed of what I had done.”

At first CRC was taken aback. He did not know how to respond. Then he remembered that a psychiatrist should encourage the patient to talk, which would make the patient calm down.

He encouraged her to talk. She narrated how she felt her husband had become cold towards her, and she craved for love. Girish plied her with his sweet talk. She willingly let herself be seduced. But after the event, intense guilt overcame her. She realized that she had done a wrong, and was worried about being blackmailed by Girish.
CRC told her that indeed she had committed a wrong from moral and legal stand point. She should stopped worrying about being blackmailed or her secret being revealed. He counseled her that at that point in her life, she had needed what the affair afforded her, and that should avoid negative thoughts and shun her lover. He advised her to get checked up for any infection and keep her mind steady.

Madhuri seemed to receive the counseling in a positive spirit. She never turned up to see CRC after that visit. CRC would often remember Madhuri and wonder what became of her and whether she could save her marriage.