Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 56, Tuesday August 2, 2005




Interpreter of Maladies

Dr. Nighat Ara, Psychiatrist

Dear Dr Nighat Ara
I am of the nervous type and cannot easily cope with stresses of normal daily life. Under stressful situations I usually take 10mg Clobazam, which calms my nerves and gives some degree relief tension. How can I deal with stress without restoring to drugs? Is long term use of Clobazam harmful?
Thank you,
S. Ahmed

Dear Mr. Ahmed, you have evaluated your negative qualities (nervous, can't cope with stress etc.) but make sure you are not too harsh about it (leave it to the rest of the world!) and not under estimating your positive qualities at the same time. We all have our weaknesses and strengths, when

you are making an honest self-inventory, do not forget to give yourself the credit for all the right things you are doing in life. People who have a greater tendency to evaluate themselves negatively are more prone to develop low self-esteem and eventually their stress bearing capacity declines.

If someone is not confident about his or her inner strengths then there is even greater chance to give up in a stressful situation. You have mentioned that you use Clobazam under a stressful situation to calm down your nerves.

Information regarding your frequency of use is vital (e.g. how often you have used Clobazam in the past year, how many times per week or per month) to understand your pattern of use and evaluate the risk of developing a dependency on it.

However, your tendency to cope with stress by chemical use is definitely making you a high-risk person to develop drug dependency (or other types of addictions) in future. Clobazam is a Benzodiazepine group (minor tranquillizer) of medication, which is usually prescribed to help people to deal with their anxiety, sleep disturbance etc. However, all Benzodiazepam medications have addiction potency in it and people who take it for indefinite period (approximately more than six weeks) are at a greater risk.

When someone starts depending on medication (particularly self medication) to deal with day-to-day stresses of life, then that person is actually avoiding the realities of life and living in an artificial comfort zone. This becomes a breeding ground for addiction (a strong desire to escape reality, specially the inner discomfort) and the natural coping ability to deal with stress gets eroded as a result of non-use (like a muscle gets atrophied in a paralysed patient because of non-use).

Persistent use of this kind of medication also enables you to suppress your strong emotions (anger, hostility etc.) and the natural ability to cope with negative emotion wears down further. Who can offer you a life without negative emotions? So, your life skill (frustration tolerance, coping with stress, managing emotions etc.) automatically will become inadequate to meet the demand of the environment. Try to see the stress as a challenge and not as a threat to your existence. An optimum stress feeling is healthy because it drives people to take necessary steps, maximizes ones performance.

However, too much stress can eat up all your energy to function and too little stress may lead to apathy (lack of drive). Maximize your natural ability to deal with stress (build up your self-esteem, study your environment at a greater detail to prepare yourself to deal with it effectively, mobilize all your natural resources).

A stress management course can help people to develop their individual strategy to overcome this weakness. I work in an addiction treatment facility (holistic model) in Canada, as part of the whole treatment program we offer workshops and courses on various life skill issues depending on individual need. I believe, psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and physicians working in addiction field can help you out in this respect.
Good luck.

Dear Dr
I am a 32 year old male. About 5 years ago I got married to the woman I loved. I have two sons with her. In the beginning when we got married my family was a bit rough with her especially my mother. Since then they never got along. I can understand that. But recently my wife started behaving very disrespectfully with my family members. Saying that she can't stand them any more. She will not go to my parent's house and will not let me or my two sons meet their grandparents. Our relation started to fall apart. Once I decided that divorce is the final solution. Then it is my relatives who took the initiative to resolve the situation. The decision was that my family members will not visit us. I decided not go through divorce as I was also worried about my two sons.

But now it is again taking new turns. I cannot say my mother is always nice with her. But my wife is making my life hell. How can I not maintain relationship with my family? My wife did not even let me visit my father once when he was in the hospital. I went there secretly, fearing more scuffles. I don't understand why she is behaving in such a manner. Please help how I can make the situation better. Anonymous

This is really unfortunate when things take a downhill course and puts a person in a stressful situation like this. I am aware that you have stated only your version of the story and your wife's version could be very different from this.

You have not mentioned your relationship with your in-laws if that has anything to do with it, how are other areas of life (financial, sexual, parenting, physical health, habits etc.). It is not unlikely that the apparent problem between your wife and your Mom is the end product or displacement of other deeper unresolved problems between you two or just within one of you, which none of you are even ready to acknowledge or address.

Any relationship can be potentially at risk if there is lack of effective communication and nurturing from both ends. However this particular situation tells about lot of negative emotions and behaviours (revengefulness, anger, fear, disappointments, intolerance, disrespect etc).

The worst of all obviously is to try to cut you off from your biological family. This is invasion of your (as well as your children's) right and even if someone has a "mother-in-law from hell" that wouldn't justify this kind of autocratic attitude. When people start thinking "my way is the only way" to fix a problem and stops listening to others need then that makes conflict resolution even more difficult.

This desire to "win" makes them so blind that they can't see the sufferings of the person who "loses" and rather enjoys a false sense of power over others. So they remain unprepared for the subsequent emotional development and things can go really out of control at that point. This could be a cover up for low self-esteem, deep sense of insecurity, excessive desire for power and inability to trust the spouse etc. An impulsive way of dealing with inner dissatisfaction could be aggressive outburst and irrational behaviour.

Low EQ (emotional quotient), suppressed past memories and upbringing etc. also can play a role in it. You have also mentioned that things got worse after first reconciliation, this usually happens when people try to patch up their problems without making any real commitment to change their old problemetic ways of living.

Just preventing your family from visiting your place was not enough, so the problem seems to be more between you two. Love is an emotion that needs constant nurturing, having conflict is not necessarily a bad thing and sometimes when both parties are honest and committed enough, successful conflict resolution even brings them closer. Divorce is a situation where both parties lose and bring misfortune for their children. However, children living in a family where they are witness to violence or abuse are also at the same risk.

If none of you are doing any work to bring a better solution to this problem (negotiation-where both parties give up some of their needs or win-win- where both parties have all their needs met), automatically old conflicts will grow stronger and divorce will become inevitable for a healthy survival.

One definition of insanity is when you expect different outcome while doing the same thing again and again. What different (or new) things you are ready to do to make this marriage work? Marriage and family counsellors help people to find a common ground where both parties can have a new start (even if the couple finds that divorce is the only way out that would also save time and energy of all sides).

By The Way

Dry cleaning for Mushrooms?

Did you ever notice that when you clean Mushrooms it soaks up water like a sponge? Then release it later while cooking (which can change the consistency of recipes). Try "dry cleaning" your favourite fungi. Don't get alarmed by the idea folks. Its easy and gives you good results. Just get yourself a soft bristle brush. Lightly moisten the brush (a rag will also do) with water, and gently wipe the mushrooms clean.


By Iffat Nawaz

The Mongol on last Tuesday

There is something liberating about mid-week parties don't you think? The impromptu or the planned ones. To get through the hump day (Wednesday), Tuesday hangouts have always been my favorite. I feel like Tuesday is the day that saves the weekdays, it's a day after the culprit Monday mornings that only drain and challenge your professionalism to personalism (I know this is not a word). It's better than Wednesday when you are finally too busy to look left or right, and better than Thursday, which promises the fast coming weekend but doesn't do anything to bring it nearer. So I make a divine effort to have the best weekday, on Tuesdays…It's my get-alert, get-chilled and get- with-it day, and I love the Bengali name for it, Mongol…
so to seek Mongol last Tuesday I ended up at one of those mid-week hang outs.

I was at one of one my favorite spot in the city, a roof top that looks over the whole area, one of those pricy buildings in town that makes you feel temporary blessed. The wind blew gently through the curls and strands of our long and short hair, the greasy and spicy food delicately served and even more delicately chewed, and I, like others around me slipped into my social self, trying to be articulate with intelligent. Yes, it's a chore but there is really no other way when you live in a city where dogs definitely eat dogs, and long conversations might not lead you to friendship but new arenas of corporate linkages…
so we all with our relaxed bodies worked our alert minds.

And it was in between those conversations about yoga, dancing, Karl Rove, Russian literature that world traveling and homeless people became a topic right after someone defended Gandhi (if he was a Politician or just a spiritual leader). I found myself in the middle of a conversation with a bright woman in her 30s, who had gone as close to Bangladesh as Kolkata during one of her eastern world visits and wanted to visit Bangladesh in the next one year. I was amazed and excited too. A friend just to annoy me asked her "and why would you go to Bangladesh? I can bring you back mosquitoes and pirated DVDs from South America during my next business trip." I ignored the comment but then made a similar comment myself by asking her "why?"

So she told me about Kolkata and she told me about Bengal, which coming from a non-Bengali perspective sounded foreign to me. She told me about the houses she visited in Kolkata, how they eat off of each other's plates, how they would let go of the bed so she can have a good night sleep and the whole family would sleep on the floor, how name dropping worked, how monsoon brought gardenias at the least expected corners, how Bengal was still not as pretentious like Bombay or Delhi. She told me how people were giving in a way she had never experienced, how the word "friend" meant so much more in those counties than it does here, how here a favor is a favor and there a favor is actually a duty...

She asked me how hanging out in Dhaka was, and I tried to explain, but strangely I couldn't explain it. And the best I could say was, "oh it's hang out in roof tops and good food…it's humid with occasional thunderstorms, it's full of little kids in the streets without shirts but bright smiles"…and for some reason I myself wasn't really understanding what I was saying so I shut up…

But after talking to her I missed Dhaka, Dhaka that I can never define right, Dhaka that I understand yet can't do justice to. I left that night with the realization how a pair of blue eyes can often help the dark brown ones that I own to see, and how the blond hair can encourage my dark locks to once again long for the humid monsoon breeze to wet it with cloudy tears…


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