THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Guilt-driven depression

I was in my office yesterday morning when a call came in from an unidentified number. There was a lady asking for me, she said she got my number from a personnel of MAC in KL. I knew immediately this had to be one of those HIV related calls, and that this was a Perak case, otherwise MAC would not have referred this lady to me.

This lady was actually worried about her husband who thought he had been infected with HIV. She said something about her husband talking about killing himself. Oh dear… not one of those… please…

It’s not easy talking about these things especially on the phone. When you don’t see them you can’t see their facial expression and their body language. As such it was hard to tell how serious the husband was about killing himself. So I asked if it was okay for me to visit them at their home so we could talk face to face. She welcomed the idea, gave me her home address and directions how to get there.

So, after office, I headed for their home. When I got there, one depressed looking man in his late twenties (let’s just call him Mr X) opened the door and invited me in. There was also this sweet smiling boy (about 1 year plus) welcoming me at the door. The wife (Mrs X), who had called me earlier, was inside, clearing up the mess made by their son (yes, that sweet smiling boy).

We sat down, and the wife started to explain to me the chronology of events. About 3 weeks ago, Mr X followed some of his friends for a trip somewhere. Apparently his friends went there with the intention to enjoy themselves with some prostitutes. Pressured by his friends, Mr X joined in the so called “fun”.

Never having been involved in such activities before, the moment he came back, Mr X felt tremendously guilty. The feeling of guilt became even more unbearable when his private part began to feel itchy and some sort of rashes began to develop. The first thing that came to his mind was that he had been infected by HIV as punishment from God for the sin he had done.

Noticing his uneasiness, Mrs X asked him what was wrong. Mr X finally opened up and told her the whole truth. He asked for her forgiveness, and God bless her, she forgave him! To her, if her husband really regretted what he had done, then there was no reason for her not to forgive him. He’s only human, and human makes mistakes in their lives.

His wife’s forgiveness did not reduce the feeling of guilt felt by Mr X. He became paranoid, thinking that every single itch or whatever else he felt was a result of HIV. His wife urged him to see a doctor. So, he went to a clinic and was told by the doctor that it was just a normal infection. He was given some medicine and when the rashes did not subside after a few days, he went to see another doctor. The doctor told him the same thing. Not satisfied, 2 days ago he went for blood tests. The results? Negative.

While for some people it would have been a great relief, for Mr X, he was still not satisfied. He read about the “window period” during which HIV may not be detected even after someone has been infected, and so he was convinced that was the case with his first test results. He was still talking about ending his life.

His wife got worried and got Mr X’s parents to come into the picture. They too were forgiving despite what he got himself into. But it wasn’t easy to calm a man who is pressured from within inside himself! His wife was forgiving, his parents were forgiving, but HE could not forgive himself.

Mrs X began to panic when after the blood test, Mr X brought home a bottle of pesticide he bought… to kill himself with. So yesterday she took emergency leave so she could stay home to make sure her husband did not do anything foolish. And yesterday morning she called MAC so she could get someone with more knowledge on HIV to talk to the husband. But as I said earlier, it was not easy discussing these things on the phone. That was when my contact number was given.

Wow! This was serious. I had better be careful with whatever I was going to explain to him. It is true about the window period and he will need to go for another test after 3 months but at the same time I must also convince him that life is not over even IF he is infected. I had to keep reminding him that in the first place he is not necessarily infected. He kept thinking about all the negative things and kept pressuring himself with all the “what if” questions. I told him about other PLWHAs who are doing fine living normal lives.

Having gotten over the HIV part of our conversation, the next thing he asked was what if God would not forgive him. Ah… I knew then I’d better quickly switch to “religious” mode. No, not the “this is wrong, it’s a sin” kind of talk, but more of the “God is loving, God is forgiving” kind of talk.

At the end of it, he did look a bit calmer but I was not totally convinced he’d be able to get out of his depression yet. I begged him not kill himself as he would lose any chances of seeking forgiveness from God. I advised him to keep himself busy so his mind would not go wandering, thinking about all the negative things. And finally before I left, I told his wife to call me if his depression turns for the worse.

So far so good, I hope I will not get any SOS calls from Mrs X...

17 comments:

nyonyapenang said...

With help from God, his supportive family and from you, I pray Mr X will recover from his depression.

Pi Bani said...

Nyonyapenang,
Mr X is indeed lucky his family is supportive. Otherwise we would probably already be reading in the papers about a suicide case in Ipoh.

Thanks for dropping by.

ash wednesday said...

Ma'am

I have the utmost admiration for the work you do.

Mr X is indeed lucky his family is supportive. He is even luckier that you went around to visit him.

Everyone else has forgiven Mr X. He now needs to forgive himself.

Pi Bani said...

Ash wednesday,
Thanks for dropping by.

I called the wife yesterday. She said Mr X was a bit calmer after I left but he could not be left alone. She just left him home alone for half an hour to fetch their son from her parent's home yesterday. When she got back he was already attempting to hang himself. That was close... I've told the wife NEVER to leave him alone at any time.

Many more follow-ups still needed for this case...

elviza said...

Dearest Pi,

I am compelled to tell you that never take the threat of suicide lightly.

It often happens to the persons we least expect to do so. Of all illness in this world, the ones related to the brain and emotions will take the longest to heal.

We must have more people like you in this world Pi. I am serious. Tak puji saja2 nih.

I hope one day, I will have enough money to retire before I am too old to do things that I want to do. Charity for instance. Insyaallah.

Take care Pi

Pi Bani said...

Yes you're right Elviza. NEVER take the threat of suicide lightly. Although most of the cases I've seen so far are just threats to seek attention, still need to talk to them just in case. However, in Mr X's case, he was dead serious! Nasib baik he didn't attempt to commit suicide when I was there at their house... sure I panic one...

Raden Galoh said...

Pi... tak tau nak kata apa...ngeri ada, suspen ada... tak taulah camne you boleh deal dengan matters like this... kuat sungguh semangat you!

About the thinking blogger tu, it's okay if you can't carry the torch...it's what you do now that humbled me more... it's hard to find a good samaritan like you nowadays...

Pi Bani said...

Raden,
Kekadang kecut perut juga buat kerja ni... tapi taklah selalu dapat kes macam Mr X ni. Maunya tak suspen... kita pergi nak sembang-sembang dengan dia, tau-tau dia dah beli racun nak telan...

Clark Gable of Pulau Duyong said...

Dear Pi Bani,
Keep up the good work.Working with exemplery sellessness

Pi Bani said...

My, my, CGOPD... thanks for dropping by. I must say I like to read the postings in your blog which are full of wit and humor. Helps me to loosen up a bit after having to face cases such as this one...

Mat Salo said...

Dear Pi Bani,

You are my heroine. When I walked your hallways during my annual Southern Trips way back in Somban, I might have missed you as you were in the lower forms.

You have my utmost admiration and respect, Madam Pi.

And you write so very well. My only regret is not having been here sooner...

Pi Bani said...

Mat Salo
Thank you... bukan heroine filem Hindustan I hope! Welcome to my blog. And please lah, just call me Pi... no need madam madam...

Apandi said...

Pi, I am going to be cruel. this Mr. X, to me doesn't sound much of a man. More an insecure person seeking attention. Come on, you did something wrong, you were forgiven, yet you keep trying to do stupid things like hang yourself ? Does he even think about the effects of his actions on his wife (emergency leave, embarrassment, etc.) ?

I am also certain, that this Mr. X, once this episode is over, will be going over to have fun again. Afer all, he now knows where to go and what to do. And he'll ask for forgiveness again...

I say this as I know a similar character. Tell him, OK, just go and kill yourself but please don't make too much of a mess. Guess what, he was upset for not being taken seriously but he is still alive and just as annoying to this day.

Pi Bani said...

Apandi,
I'm not going to tell him to go ahead and kill himself. He would! And I'll be the one ending up having nightmares after that!

He had actually attempted suicide TWICE... the second time he almost succeeded... but wife got home just in the nick of time...

Apandi said...

Had a good laugh reading your response to my comments as I imagined the look of horror on your face. Kah kah kah. Sorry, I know this is a serious issue but it struck a funny chord in me.

No, I am not asking you to tell Mr. X to do it. Actually I told my similar character to do it. Let me tell you another story on this.

Its 2 AM, your roomie wakes you up and says he is going to jump off the balcony. You say, groggily, hmmm, OK, and go back to sleep. The guy on the next bunk heard this and being a more humane person quietly follows your roomie to the balcony and in the nick of time manage to grab him as he was climbing up the railing. The next day when asked why did you not stop the guy from jumping, the answer - look, we all live and die by our choiches, if he wanted help he should have asked, he did not, he merely informs, it was his choice and I respected that.

True story - not me lah....

Back to Mr. X, I hope he comes to his senses for the sake of his wife and kid. If he doesn't could you give him a tight slap or two for me. Kidding, only kidding (as the look of horror creeps up to your face again - LOL).

Pi Bani said...

Apandi, he doesn't need a slap or two. He needs a big whack on his head!! But no, as you may have expected, I don't have the heart... unless of course he suddenly becomes hysterical. But then again, if he becomes hysterical, I may just RUN FOR MY LIFE and get somebody else to do the job!! This is a MAN I'm talking about, not another woman...

Apandi said...

He he he. I understand. In any case and whatever situation, look out for your safety first. Take care.