Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 30, Tuesday March 7, 2006



Interpreter of Maladies

Q. I am a 15 year old girl. As a person, I am very jolly and cheerful and always the centre of attention. But there are a few problems in my life, which need immediate attention and solutions. First of all, I am a very short-tempered girl. I get angry very quickly and easily and use abusive slang, throw whatever is in front of me, cry etc., irrespective of elders. I just cannot seem to control it in any situation and it is ruining my life. And I am very possessive about the people I love. I feel insecure, especially about my friend. I just cannot tolerate it when she hangs around with someone else. I know it is wrong. But I cannot help it. I feel she will leave me. Another problem is that, I am emotionally very weak. It is not that I cry very easily. It is just that my emotional strength breaks very easily when I am hurt and as a result I lose stability in my academic life. And I feel I always need a person for emotional support. Lastly, the worst problem of my life is that I cannot give full and 100% concentration to anything, specially studies. I have a good memory and can catch things quickly but I usually take a lot of time because my concentration wanders here and there. A thousand thoughts enter my mind and then I lose the willingness to study. Can you please help me? Please do not tell me to visit a psychiatrist as I am only 15 years old and cannot go alone. Thank you so very much.

Ans: The way you have described yourself portrays a person with some specific mental problems like- moodiness, impulsivity, outburst of anger, possessiveness, insecurity and fear of abandonment, difficulty in concentration, racing thoughts etc.

You have only mentioned your age but nothing about your family background, childhood history or history of mental illness in the family etc. It seems that interpersonal relationship and getting a task done (studies) are the main challenges of your current life. There is no evidence of any thought disorder (a cardinal feature of Schizophrenia) in your write up and your self-awareness or insight to your problem also sounds quite reasonable.

What stands out in your self description is instability of mood leading to impulsive behaviour. These could be a sign of Bipolar Disorder. Irritability, lack of concentration, rush of thoughts, restlessness, easy distractibility and inability to finish a project in hand, sudden outburst of anger are also signs of Bipolar Disorder (a mood disorder). However, people going through withdrawal from Substance Abuse Disorder also report similar experiences. Certain personality traits tend to make people more susceptible to a particular nature of mental illness. Under stressful condition, certain personality traits get more pronounced and may lead to a personality disorder (“always the centre of attention”- sounds like Histrionic personality trait). Cyclothymic Disorder (“I am a very short-tempered girl. I get angry very quickly and easily and use abusive slang, throw whatever is in front of me, cry etc”.) is another situation where people feel this kind of quick shifts of mood. Possessiveness causes people anxiety at any sign of loss of control (e.g. if things don't go the way they want it to go- this blows them away). Your deep sense of insecurity in relationship and possessiveness also indicate possible contribution of childhood trauma. Survivors of abuse and violence are likely to feel this kind of emotional disturbance. Unstable home environment and dysfunctional family atmosphere has an enormous impact at emotional level which can lead to different kinds of maladaptive behaviour. Besides the hormonal and other physiological changes of adolescent years, any pathological changes in chemical environment of brain needs to be ruled out before any suggestion is made.

I'm concerned that you are not willing to see a psychiatrist. Are you isolating yourself from your family or feeling disconnected from others? Is there any fear factor working behind it? I would love to give you a solution if I could. But the harsh reality is that there is no quick fix to this kind of problem. Medicine, counselling or therapy nothing works like magic (definitely not through e-mail!).

Revised Mental Health Act of Bangladesh (replacing the old “Lunacy Act” of British era) is supposed to be in effect by now (as far as I know, the bill was on its way to parliament about 3-4years back). That law is supposed to protect your right for confidentiality when you are seeking help voluntarily. The law also gives you the right to seek help without any guardian/parent (according to that law you are not a minor). In psychiatry, the law requires disclosure of information to appropriate authority only when there is suicidal or homicidal risk. Situation demanding forced confinement or hospitalisation, forensic psychiatry cases (e.g. subpoena from court to disclose information), psychotic patients (who are deemed incapable of making conscious decisions and judgment), concerns over inheritance or management of property are obvious exceptions to this confidentiality right. This law is designed to protect human rights and to promote social justice.

If you have no concerns over the above listed issues, please do not hesitate to see a professional.

In developed countries, youth service centres offer general counselling to youths over different life skill issues and guide them in right direction. Youths usually don't hesitate to go to a place which is safe and supportive to their needs.


Make-up artist Hasna Rahman

It was the year 1989. Hasna Rahman, a homemaker, tried her hand in hair styling and make-up just to pass the time. Then was when she thought - why not try it with a professional twist? It would in the least earn her a few extra cash. So, she joined Bithi's Herbal as a beauty worker and learned all the tricks and traits of make-up. She went on house calls occasionally still considering all of it as just a mere hobby.

Things changed when her husband died in the year 1994. With two teenaged daughters to raise, she reshaped her hobby into her profession. As her marriage was not approved by the family, she was on her own from the beginning. Life was not very smooth in the initial period but with will power and hard work she managed to learn more of life and her work. She obtained more training and became a popular name among the ladies who often called her for home service during weddings and for party make-up.

Soon, she was able to open her very own salon named Saajghar in Mohammadpur. Hasna Rahman is now a prominent name amongst the make-up artists. With her fine work she created a place among the fashion designers and models of Dhaka who often hires her to do the make-up for fashion shows and photo shoots for designer collections. She got the chance to work with prominent names like Aarong, Rina Latif and many beauty contest and fashion shows. From Mohammadpur she moved to Banani road no 19 with her new enterprise 'Hasna'.

That's not all. After obtaining a diploma from Habib's Hair Academy and Pandhari Jukar's Make-up Academy, India, Hasna now performs magic with her nifty hands. Hasna married off her two daughters and is now enjoying her professional life and freedom very much.

Hasna has passed all the exams of her life with flying colours and is still scoring.

By Shahnaz Parveen

By the way

To remove stains from the keyboard and mouse of your computer, take a few drops of nail polish remover on a cotton ball. Rub it over the stains; they will disappear.

Under a different sky

By Iffat Nawaz

Tearful Bengalism

My right eye sheds constant tears once every month. It is never twice, but only once that this random happening takes place. The tears normally start after my morning showers and continue till I fall asleep at night. That day my eye liner runs all over the right side of my face, dry tear marks follow in straight lines all the way down to my neck, I smile and unintentionally cry simultaneously all day long, the tears win over laughter, tears without pain or harm.

He said I should go to the doctor, get my eyes checked, see if something is wrong, perhaps it is a medical condition that needs treatment.

She said, it might be my eye liner, my kajol that I can not live without, my black kajol without which the world doesn't seem as colorful when I look through these eyes. I wasn't going to give that up. Even if it was the kajol that is giving my right eye a certain medical condition.

In the past years while intentionally and unintentionally I tried to shed off different Bengali traditions and superficialities that dwelled in me deeply or nimbly, while I rebelled and criticized my kind and my country there was one thing I couldn't give up. In fact it is something I adopted. My blackest of black eye liner, my kajol, which accentuates my eyes, and gives me the most Bengali look, I am not sure when I adopted this tradition, this claim of individuality which actually drags my entire culture with its carefully drawn black lines, and finishes it off with a curiosity, claiming prominence of heritage by creating the black painted slants in the creases, asking the western world to recall the eastern faces they have seen, the face of Sharmila Tagore in “The World of Opu” or the eyes of Durga in National Geographic Magazine.

I have tried to go without it a few times. But I couldn't, so even with my deep blue jeans or skirts that won't make my mother happy, I had to, absolutely had to line my eyes with the old Bengali trick of Kajol. Without it I am as good as sick, without it I am half as Bengali, and whatever Bengalism I have left in me, I would like to keep it all, and my shelter and savior is that tear jerking kajol.

It's not my fault. It's the fault of the images of beauty imbedded in my mind, it's the fault of the romantic songs sung by Hemonto and written by Tagore…”Dagor dagor chok e keno kajol dile” and “…kalo meye kalo horin chok” , how can one let go of such teasing romanticism, how can one not want to be that girl from those songs, it's impossible.

So my hypocrisy reaches a new limit everyday. Every day when I boast about my new existence, my left behinds which I don't regret about, when I bash my country and it's people for their provincial tendencies…I still yearn to be one of them…with my black lined eyes, with my glances I still want to say…I am still Bengali…outside…and inside.

So it's the pain of effortless hypocrisy that cries once a month, through my right eye, the left eye watches, the sacrifice I have chosen to give, countless salty tears, every month, to claim my left over Bengalism.


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