A Woman of Hope
VIN’s Women’s Empowerment Program is wrapping up a two month long project focusing on social development within the villages of JitpurPhedi, VDC. The project itself focused on issues relating to mental health which included discussions on healthy coping skills, issues of abuse and domestic violence, healthy relationships, and communication skills. Classes were held for both women and men, and included people of varying age groups.
Within the first week of the program, concerns about a woman in the village of Dadagaun were brought to VIN’s attention. During a group on healthy coping skills, women’s group members began to express their worries over this particular woman’s mental health state. Following the class, VIN staff and volunteer (a Licensed Clinical Social Worker), met with concerned community members and the woman, herself, to gather more information.
Bimala Devkota, a middle aged mother and housewife, tragically lost her son due to suicide just over 2 years ago. This heart rendering loss was mourned by many, but Bimala seemed to take it the hardest. For the first 15 days after her son’s death, she refused to eat and was unable to do anything but sleep. While her reaction was alarming, it was when behaviors of this nature appeared to worsen, rather than subside, that community members and family really began to worry that she was experiencing something more serious than typical bereavement. After a series of medical appointments and even a hospitalization, Bimala was told that there was nothing physically wrong with her. She was sent home; her symptoms untreated. For Bimala, it appeared that her grief had transformed into a mental health issue.
During the initial interview, Bimala appeared frail, listless, and emotionally absent. Staring at the ground, unable to make eye contact or consistently verbally respond, Bimala’s ability to engage was limited. Information on her current physical, emotional, and mental state had to be gained primarily from her family and neighbors; the situation seemed dire. However, toward the end of the meeting, a glimmer of hope appeared; Bimala, unprompted, asked for help. It was this small gesture that the VIN staff and volunteer would glean on to, and what would eventually begin Bimala on her path to recovery.
After agreeing to continue to meet with VIN staff and volunteer over the next couple of weeks, Bimala eventually consented to see a medical doctor with training in mental health and psychiatric issues. Accompanied and assisted by VIN staff, volunteer, and her husband, Bimala was able to discuss her current symptoms with the physician and was prescribed an anti-depressant medication. Due to Bimala’s vulnerability and delicate emotional state, VIN staff and volunteer solicited a community member to assist in the distribution of Bimala’s medication.
While Bimala initially agreed to the treatment plan, VIN received a call within a few days that Bimala was non-compliant with her medication. After phone calls with VIN staff, Bimala’s unwillingness appeared to be more deep seeded than a simple act of defiance. The next day, VIN staff and volunteer met with Bimala in person to further explore her reluctance. As is typical with individuals who suffer from depression and complicated grief, Bimala’s refusal to take the medication was primarily based in fear. If her symptoms subsided, if she felt better, would this mean she was forgetting her son? For all the guilt she felt around her son’s death, didn’t she deserve to feel this way? In fact, if she tried the medication and she felt no relief, was there ever hope for her? These questions are all too typical of a person in Bimala’s situation, but it was her ultimate hope for recovery that allowed her to process these fears. She agreed to take her medication. Through the help of her trusted friend, Seti, and encouragement from VIN staff and volunteer, Bimala made a commitment to give herself a chance.
For the next several weeks, Bimala remained medication compliant. Despite side effects that raised skepticism, she remained dedicated to the healing process. While it will still be several weeks until she will notice any significant difference in her emotional state, people around are already starting to see small changes. She is slightly more alert, slightly more engaged, and slightly more attuned to her surroundings. She is making more consistent eye contact, reacting to others’ attempts at humor with a small smile, and even has cracked a few jokes. She appeared eager and one might even say, excited, to see the doctor for the second time to discuss her concerns with side effects and to ask questions about the course of treatment; a sign that she was invested and optimistic in her ability to feel better. Although the changes have been small and slow, they are just that—changes; improvements, something she, and many around her, thought was no longer possible. Her desire to be well, her vulnerability in asking for help, and her willingness to trust others has propelled her on a journey of recovery that is now, a not so distant reality. While Bimala acknowledges that the road ahead of her is long, and not without difficulty, she has confidence that she can conquer all obstacles. Here’s to the power of hope, help, and healing!