Varsha Bhosle’s Suicide….A psychological perspective


Warning bells for depressed clients:

Person turns recluse
Shows little or no interest in the on-going activities / personal care
Has a history of previous suicide attempts or talks about wanting to end life
Has recently met with disappointment or failure
Has lost a loved one or moved away from a loved one
Changes in food and / or sleep habits
Increased physical complains
All the above mentioned signs were present in Varsha Bhosle. With a series of disappointments and failures in her life, losing a close friend and associate might have been the last straw which led her to end her life. However how does a caretaker determine in such a long standing case history of a depressed individual and repeated suicide attempts, when is she most likely to commit suicide? Often it so happens that the people around them take their depression as a routine and do not find anything unusually wrong in their behaviour that particular day.

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HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY



Ramesh (37 years old) had been coming for therapy for depression for a week now. One evening he came for the session really frustrated. He asked tentatively whether loss of memory could be due to his depression or the related antidepressants that he was given by his psychiatrist. He then went on to explain that he had excellent memory as far as numbers were concerned, so much so that as a child he could remember almost all 49 children’s marks in the class as the teacher called them out aloud before handing over the papers. Yet the previous evening when he had to give his new office number to his very important client he could not just get it right. It almost cost him his contract as the client got offended.

When I asked him when he started noticing this forgetfulness in him, he mentioned that a little before his divorce 3 years ago he had been noticing his forgetfulness but had been too emotionally wrapped up to pay further attention to it. He now realizes that the forgetfulness has been increasing over the years. Initially he thought that he was preoccupied and later brushed it off as a sign of early ageing and even hereditary. But yesterday’s incident was disturbing him.

First and foremost any physical disorder needs to be eradicated. Secondly causal factors as well as the mechanism of forgetting need to be understood. Usually mental decline begins by the age of 40 or 50. However people who are undergoing high emotional stress for an extended period of time also experience these symptoms as early as in their 30’s. Some of the stressors one cannot do away with given the stressful and competitive environment we live in, however we can counter them with certain changes in lifestyle. Health conscious people interested in living quality life introduce yoga/ physical exercises to their routine along with dietary changes. Similarly for mental health one needs to introduce what is called Neurobics in their life, a mental gym. Also contrary to popular belief, the mental decline most people experience is not due to the steady death of nerve cells. Instead, it usually results from the thinning out of the number and complexity of dendrites, the branches on nerve cells that directly receive and process information from other nerve cells that forms the basis of memory. Dendrites receive information across connections called synapses. If connections aren’t regularly switched on, the dendrites can atrophy.

The function of memory is primarily carried out by the cortex and the hypothalamus in the brain. Hypothalamus is the emotional seat of the brain. Anything which is emotionally laden is usually easier to recall, however if there is a flood of emotions it leads to confusion however if this flood continues for extended period of time, it can even cause atrophy in dendrites. This reduces the brains ability to put new information into memory as well as to retrieve old information. The good news is that aging brain, however, continues to have a remarkable ability to grow, adapt, and change patterns of connections. Therefore establishing associations and new pathways for connection have a healing effect on the brain.

The exercise program calls for presenting the brain with nonroutine or unexpected experiences using various combinations of your physical senses—vision, smell, touch, taste, and hearing—as well as your emotional “sense.” It stimulates patterns of neural activity that create more connections between different brain areas and causes nerve cells to produce natural brain nutrients, called neurotrophins, that can dramatically increase the size and complexity of nerve cell dendrites. Neurotrophins make surrounding cells stronger and more resistant to the effects of aging. Also, using multisensory approach, retrieving from the memory becomes easier with a web of associations supporting the matter. More often than not, adults don’t exploit the brain’s rich potential for multisensory associations. Think of a baby encountering a rattle. She’ll look at it closely, pick it up, and run her fingers around it, shake it, listen to whether it makes a sound, and then most likely stick it in her mouth to taste and feel it with her tongue and lips. The child’s rapidly growing brain uses all of her senses to develop the network of associations that will become her memory of a rattle. Adults miss out on this multisensory experience of new associations and sensory involvement because we tend to rely heavily on only one or two senses. As we grow older, we find that life is easier and less stressful when it’s predictable. So we tend to avoid new experiences and develop routines around what we already know and feel comfortable with. By doing this, we reduce opportunities for making new associations to a level that is less than idea. Simultaneous sensory input creates a neural “safety net” that traps information for future access.

Social interactions are also non routine and therefore socializing has similar effect. However we find more often than not that people who are undergoing emotional stress / depression want to be left alone and withdraw from social contacts. Is it any wonder why Psychiatrists suggest going for a walk rather that doing a fitness workout alone in your gym? Going for a walk allows one to experience all 5 senses and also provides the brain with social nutrients necessary to heal the brain.

Here are some of the ways in which you can use mental gym to improve on your memory:

1. Involve one or more of your senses in a novel context.
By blunting the sense you normally use, force yourself to rely on other senses to do an ordinary task. For instance: Get dressed for work with your eyes closed. Eat a meal with your family in silence.
Or combine two or more senses in unexpected ways: Listen to a specific piece of music while smelling a particular aroma.

2. Engage your attention. To stand out from the background of everyday events and make your brain go into alert mode, an activity has to be unusual, fun, surprising, engage your emotions, or have meaning for you. Turn the pictures on your desktop upside down. Take your child, spouse, or parent to your office for the day.

3. Break a routine activity in an unexpected, nontrivial way.
(Novelty just for its own sake is not highly Neurobic.)
Take a completely new route to work. Shop at a road side market instead of a supermarket. Normally, placing a key in a lock uses vision and “motor memory”—an unconscious “map” in the parts of our brain that control movement—which provides an ongoing feedback that allows us to sense where parts of our body are in space. (This is called the proprioceptive sense.)

Neurobics is recommended as a lifestyle choice, not a crash course or a quick fix. Simply by making small changes in your daily habits, you can turn everyday routines into “mind-building” exercises. It’s like improving your physical state by using the stairs instead of the elevator or walking to the store instead of driving.

Ramesh worked on these mental gym exercises for about 6 months and started regaining confidence in himself and also noticed his stress reducing, life feeling more meaningful, increase in interest and involvement in routine as well as novel things and social interactions and in general an elevated mood.

DEALING WITH JEALOUSY IN YOUR MARRIAGE



As Akash explains his marital relationship, there are tears brimming in his eyes. He looks down, unable to look the therapists in eye as he talks about why his marriage was not consummated even though they had been married for nearly 4 years now. They met at a wedding and he was instantly drawn towards Alka. Before the week ended he proposed to Alka through a common family friend. Alka and Akash met a couple of times before they committed to get married. As they courted, Akash sensed that Alka seemed disinterested in him and he asked her about her lack of enthusiasm, but she brushed it aside. They got married shortly and didn’t get much time to discuss this further in all the wedding preparations.
The wedding night Alka seemed to be very scared of sexual intercourse and Akash thinking that she will overcome it as time goes by, focused on making her feel comfortable in his joint family. Despite Alka’s efforts to be an ideal wife and Akash’s efforts to break the ice between the family members and Alka, she was unable to mingle with her family. Soon there began arguments which turned into huge fights between his mother and Alka. Initially he tried to explain to Alka that his mother used strong words to express her disappointments and that if she just let things be, it would help bridge gaps. But Alka was unable to digest this and started withdrawing and/ or getting righteous whenever she was criticized. Often they would end up in an argument wherein Alka felt that Akash was unable to stand up for himself and her. She complained of feeling unprotected in the family environment and they decided to move out on their own to maintain peace, sanity and intimacy in his marriage.
He got the desired benefits and they became closer to each other in their own house. Alka also started coming out of her shell and shared her feelings of how she thought that Akash was very naïve and not smart. He felt extremely hurt initially but also started matching up with her expectations of a husband. So he started learning dance, grooming himself well and even life coaching for his business. They now seemed to share some fun moments, however he was perpetually falling short of her expectations. He seemed to have gotten out of his mothers rows of criticism only to fall in love with a person who only could match his mother in being critical.
Soon he started feeling insecure and jealous of all his friends and cousins who seemed to evoke respect and / or interest of his wife. He found himself often in the periphery of their life events and withdrew further into his depression. He would often wonder with whom his wife talks to when he was at office. So he started giving ‘surprises’ to his wife when she least expected to check on her activities. On one such visit, he found his cousin cum business partner and wife in a compromising position. This is when he totally lost his faith and he started hurling abuses at her and at the same time criticizing himself. She unable to bear the abuse in a no – love marriage decided to move out into a rented apartment by herself. This made him even more insecure. He started begging and pleading at times in hope of getting her back and at other times he would shower her with violent abuses.
He blamed himself viciously for the break up of the marriage at times in his therapy and at other times he felt absolutely justified as she seemed to have evoked / instigated all this. It was now at a point wherein he did not know how mend their marriage. He was unable to forgive or forget her. He felt like an animal and was ashamed and scared as well as angry. Let us look at some of the theories to understand how and what this jealousy is and how one can overcome it.
Jealousy is a complex monster that develops from the melding of three other emotions – fear, anger and love. Romantic jealousy can be defined as “a perception of a threat of loss of a valued relationship to a real or imagined rival”. Jealousy in committed relationships is cultural and universal as a boundary-setting mechanism to protect certain relationships as important and exclusive. to protect the relationship of physical intimacy and self-disclosure from trespassers. In fact, all committed relationships, where physical and emotional intimacy exists (including purely sexual relationships), will be subjected to jealousy. Early attachment problems with significant others are known to profoundly affect feeling secure in future relationships, particularly the capacity to initiate and maintain loving relationships in adulthood. Given that attachment relates to anxiety regulation, support, and intimacy, it is not surprising that attachment also relates to jealousy.
According to the attachment theory of love, an adult becomes a secure lover, avoidant lover or an anxious-ambivalent lover in his or her romantic relationships based on the quality of his or her childhood parental relationship. Secure lovers are people who are comfortable with intimacy and have no problems with others feeling close to them. In contrast, avoidant lovers feel uneasy when close to another person. They have difficulty trusting or depending upon a partner. The third type, anxious-ambivalent lovers want to desperately get close to a partner, but often find that the partner does not reciprocate the feeling. This insecure relationship is often due to too much anxiety within the relationship stemming from the feeling that the partner does not really love them.
When “paranoia” or extreme distrust, arises in a relationship there are many factors which can be causing it. It is absolutely necessary to understand where these feelings are coming from, or else it is easy to act out in the relationship, blame the partner, put all kinds of unhealthy demands upon him, and even believe that he is cheating on you when he is not. Not only does this destroy his trust in himself and good feelings about himself, but he can easily grow to feel there is no way he can please you, or make you secure and happy.

When an individual gives into these feelings of paranoia, (or extreme fear, suspiciousness and jealousy,) and begins to create more and more restrictions upon the partner, or demand more and more information about what he is doing, this is often the beginning of the end.

Loving another person does not mean possessing them, or having them there simply to help you feel better about yourself. This does not take their needs into account. It is not loving or respectful of them, of who they are.

In all relationships each individual needs time alone, time with friends and of course time together. When we take away a person’s individuality and freedom to enjoy all aspects of their lives and grow, we are not behaving in a loving way. Sooner or later the individual begins to feel it, and can feel trapped, misunderstood and blamed falsely. Naturally, they then often think of ways of getting out of a relationship such as this.
Much like infidelity, distrust can leave an indelible mark on a relationship and challenge even the strongest of marriages. Depending on a variety of circumstances, such as whether or not distrust and dishonesty have become a constant in the relationship, couples can work through past hurts to become closer together if both are committed to making positive changes.

If one requires that their partner take away the pain they are feeling, they will be disappointed sooner or later. They are looking in the wrong direction. No matter how loving a person is, no matter how solid the relationship, they cannot take away pain and confusion that exists within oneself. We have to take responsibility for our feelings and work them through on our own. Psychotherapy is an insight oriented process and helps couples achieve this. Do not hesitate to take professional help of a psychotherapist if you find yourself going around in circles.
Handling insecurity and jealousy in a relationship can be difficult. However, change is possible once you understand their underlying causes. In order to overcome insecurity, people need to:

* Be willing to be put in vulnerable positions in life where they might get hurt.
* Take risks to change their current behavior.
* Trust others enough to expose themselves to them, risking vulnerability and the possibility of being hurt.
* Have a healthy and humorous belief in themselves in order to overlook their exaggerated need for acceptance and approval.
* Take a rational approach to each problem they face so that they are no longer inhibited by debilitating fears or beliefs.
* Practice assertive behavior in their lives, earning respect and the acknowledgment of their rights.
* Arouse the courage to take small steps in learning to experience success and overcoming their lack of belief in self. Once the success is experienced, they can build on it to gain the courage to act out of a strong conviction in their self-goodness and worth.
* Break the barrier or outer shell of the self-doubt they have hidden behind and reach out to others. Breaking out of their “shells” requires letting go of past hurts (real or imagined) and moving on with life.
* Open themselves to the possibility of success and accomplishment. Visualize or make a prophecy of winning at life so their energies are focused in a growth direction.
* Reward themselves for who they are and capitalize on their strengths, attributes, skills and competencies.

Answer the following questions to handle insecurity:
a. What behavior traits signal my insecurity?
b. What happened in my past to make me insecure?
c. What are some of my beliefs that account for my insecurity?
d. What are some negative consequences I’ve experienced due to my insecurity?
e. What behavior traits do I need to develop in order to overcome my insecurity?

Even in a loving and open relationship, it is normal to experience some paranoia or doubt. However, if you find yourself overwhelmed with distrust and suspicion, it’s time to confront your spouse. Whether he or she is guilty or not, it is important that you clear your conscience and put yourself at peace.
Confront your spouse but avoid making accusations at all costs. Your spouse will automatically react defensively, and if you are wrong, which you very well may be, you run the risk of making some painful and potentially permanent dents in your relationship. It is never a good idea to hurl unfounded accusations at your spouse. Instead, approach him or her with compassion and trust. Tell your spouse that you have been experiencing some worries in your relationship. Make sure and let your spouse know that you are approaching him or her out of love and a genuine concern for your relationship. It is extremely important that you do not attack them or judge them before finding out all of the facts. Specify what concerns you, keeping in mind not to accuse.
Accordingly, if your spouse is the one experiencing doubt, the most important thing to remember is that he or she is simply concerned out of love for you. Instead of immediately lashing out in defense, take time to consider what your spouse is saying and consider how it might make you feel if the situation were reversed. Instead of getting offended, be compassionate and empathetic. Your spouse will calm down when he or she sees that you have truly have nothing to hide. A defensive response, even if you are not guilty, makes you look as if you’re trying to divert attention from the issue at hand.
Doubt in a relationship has serious and obvious consequences, and you and your spouse must work together to eradicate these feelings and concerns. Jealousy is a very strong emotion and often a culprit in leading to marriage breakups. It helps if there are intense emotions and hurts to take help of a psychotherapist who can sit down with both of you to help each of you gain objective insights into your own thoughts, emotions and behaviours which are causing this drift in your marriage and help you both arrive at a solution.