Manjula and the Astral Body
“Hi Where have you? I looked for you at your desk and asked Latha too. She too doesn’t know if you are on leave”.
“Yeah, I’m on leave. What happened?”
“Nothing – except we are missing you. There’s no spice in life without you!” Umesh was laughing in a teasing way.
Manjula* felt confused at his tone. Was he pulling her leg? She said she was busy and cut the call. His voice kept buzzing in her head all day. The initial confusion gave way to a seething anger. He was mocking her in an intimate, suggestive way, she concluded. She had been forwarding chain mails to a group of people, just like the others did. Most of the emails were amusing stories or jokes. Some of them may have contained risqué stuff, she was not sure; she would quickly skim through the mails and forward them dutifully.
She started avoiding Harish and stopped forwarding mails to anyone. Couple of days later a chain mail was forwarded by him. It was about ways to improve one’s love life. Manjula was upset and did not know how to react. This was 2012, and the sexual harassment act had not yet been enacted. There was no stated policy on sexual harassment or redressal committee in her company. She did not confide in her husband. He would blame her for forwarding mails and encouraging him, or he would brush it off. Either way, he wouldn’t listen to her. They had been married for five years but never used to have any real conversation. Satish was always talking of general things, never about himself or their child or her. Most of the time he was engrossed in himself, and would flare up at the slightest thing.
Her colleague had not given up trying to re-establish their friendship. He came up to her and held forward his mobile, asking her to see something. Another colleague had done the same thing a few days ago; she had the feeling that he was aware of this and was doing the same. She felt upset, but was unable to repulse him. As she extended her hand, she noticed she was trembling. He had clicked her when she had been staring intently at her computer screen moments earlier. She withdrew her hand and told him sharply that all of them had been sucking up to the management and deserved a hard-driving management to set them right.
Nobody said anything to her, but she had a feeling that her colleagues were talking about her and what had happened between her and Harish. She could not sleep for many days; she would lie awake at night, filled with a sense of fear. Her head felt light headed. She could not even doze off during the day. Her body felt lifeless and it was an effort to do the simplest task. Her blood pressure was above normal, she discovered. She took leave from her office.
The acupressure therapist, who she had been consulting for her sinusitis, suggested she was suffering from mania. Her mother had been brought to see CRC recently for her depression. Manjula realized that she too needed treatment for her mental stress.
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Manjula is the second child of her parents; she has an elder sister and two younger brothers. Manjula and her youngest brother were brought up by their grandparents. She did not question or resent much being brought up by her grandparents. Years later, when the incident in the office happened and she sought counseling, she began to examine her childhood. She recalled that even as a child her parents did not seem to love her much, since they had wanted a son. Her sister, being the first child, and her younger brother, being the first son were preferred over her and the youngest one. These two were indulged by the parents and had an easy life, not being asked to help around the house. The grandparents lived in a village near Kundapura. Manjula grew up to be a somewhat reserved, quiet child, who was naïve and believed whatever was told to her.
Her father was transferred to Chennai by his company. He left Manjula and her brothers in Mangalore , where a small house was set up for the children, next to their uncle’s house. Manjula had to study in college as well as cook and take care of the house. The youngest boy was studying in PUC. In his second year in PUC, he began to talk about his grand ambitions and expressed disdain for his siblings’ mediocre aspirations. One day he disappeared from home, leaving a note asking them not to search for him. Manjula felt guilty that she had not taken care of her brothers enough. He turned up later at their parents’ home when he was unwell, and left home again when he recovered. This cycle continued for few more years; he lost interest in continuing his education and took up small jobs. Ten years later, he completed his degree course and got a decent job in Bangalore.
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In the brief time CRC saw Manjula, he did not speak much except to say she should put all her burden in God’s hands and to take the prescribed tablets. Her husband accompanied her. He heard for the first time during counseling about the incidents in her office. The counselor told him to devote quality time to her and give her emotional support. The medication and counseling worked for her. She felt much better – her BP was normal, her anxiety had gone and she was sleeping well. She felt deeply about what CRC had said and started reading books on spirituality. She and Satish slowly started truly communicating to each other.
In June 2012, a new CEO was appointed. Manjula felt that her rebuke that they deserved a tough management had been prophetic and came to believe that her words had the power to change things. The CEO had an intra-company blog launched for employees to share their feelings. Manjula started writing posts about right work values people should have and about suggestions for improvement in the company. Many of her suggestions, like appraisal based promotions were implemented. Manjula was thrilled that she was the cause of changes in office and continued writing blog posts.
After about a year of taking psychiatric medication, she reported to CRC that she was feeling much better and wanted to stop medication. CRC agreed with her, but the counselor suggested otherwise. The acupressure treatment had gone on in parallel. The therapist had started treatment for depression. She stopped the tablets. After a few months she stopped going for acupressure treatment. But this good phase did not last long.
On an office trip to a theme park in 2014, Manjula had a small accident on a fun ride. She had to have a surgery done and stay in hospital. After this she noticed that people in office were falling ill or were having small accidents over the next few months. Medical claims shot up in the company. The CEO who had been implicitly encouraging her to write blog posts on spirituality told her humorously that she was a digital psychopath, attributing the accidents and illnesses to her powers.
Manjula associated these events with herself and was troubled. She went to the acupuncture man. He told her that an astral body had attached itself to her, which was the cause of all the negative events. She developed severe anxiety and feared that more bad things would happen around her. Her depression came back and she stopped posting on the blog.
The therapist asked her to conduct some rituals in a temple near Trimbakeshwar, near Nasik, to remove the ‘doshas’ or bad effects associated with ancestors whose desires had not been fulfilled in their lives. Her husband refused but she pleaded that this would be the last time. They completed the ceremonies but she did not feel better. Her fearfulness increased.
The therapist asked to do some more rites like writing the names of people who had troubled her and burning the papers one at a time in a different cremation ground each time. He asked her to sit with him while he chanted mantras to heal her. She had to bury a pot of honey in ground at sunset when no one was watching, and more of such stuff. She had a sensation while doing these that someone was compelling her to do these things, that she was being pushed by a force, and that she had no choice.
There was no improvement in her mental and physical health. The therapist said it could be due to Vitamin B and D deficiency. It was confirmed by testing and she started taking vitamin supplements. In the meantime, the office environment deteriorated. The CEO could not manage people well and rumors went around. The CEO was asked to leave at the end of 2014. After he left, Manjula was assigned to a new role with very little responsibility. Her depression became worse. She became insecure about her job. Her blood sugar levels and BP shot up.
She had episodes of hallucination a few times. At night she had the sensation that that her husband was ‘possessed’ by someone. She did not confide in him. When she went back to the therapist, he finally started showing signs of helplessness and said it could be schizophrenia. Satish forced her to give up on the therapist and go to the counselor again. Her second phase with psychiatric treatment started. CRC examined her and diagnosed it as recurring depression. She was prescribed antidepressant tablet.
Manjula has largely recovered; the hallucinations have not recurred and her depression and anxiety have reduced. She does have obsessive thoughts whenever minor setbacks happen and keeps brooding about her past and how it affected her life. She comes for counseling and consults with CRC regularly. She has faith in her counselor, who has become her mentor.