The edited volume is an anthology of twenty-four real-life experiences of mental illnesses survivors along with seventeen lovely poems and a little bit of art on mental health. At the outset, the editors explain the rationale for the title in their Preface. Mental illness affects every aspect of individual lives as well as of their family members. In addition they have to face various forms of stigma and discrimination in their daily life. Negative attitudes are highly associated with people with mental illness and their family members, which has an impact on different life domains like social mobility, relationships, and community. There is also an adverse effect on the marital life of patients with mental health problems. The condition is a state of ‘social suffering’ as we read in the different stories in the book.
The author of the first story has written about her journey in the field of mental health while the last tale is about the author’s personal journey with hypomania. The stories in this volume, e.g., ‘It’s All in Your Mind’, ‘An Anaesthetized Life’, ‘Bipolar Sunshine’ and ‘Enter the Light’ are life narratives of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar, major depressive and manic disorders.
The belief in supernatural etiology of mental illness from magical spirits (witches or demons), or possession by evil spirits is still prevalent in our society. This compels the patient to seek help from different traditional healers such as astrologers, gunias, tantrics, babas, ojhas, fakirs, and sadhus. The story ‘Coming out of the Closet’ mentions these practices. In one astrologer’s opinion, ‘this is the punishment by god due to robbing the temple in his previous birth.’ People expect miracles from these traditional healers. Family members prefer to consult the traditional healers as allopathic medicines need time to take effect.
This reviewer liked most the story of ‘An Anaesthetized Life’. It is a touching story of a patient with borderline personality disorder. At the age of ten, her family was thrown into turmoil because of her father’s extramarital affairs. She was continuously sexually molested by her uncle and suffered sexual and physical abuse by the local thugs during her school days. In another tale ‘Pyaar ka Punchnama: A Memoir’, the author explains the similarity between the jersey gau (cow) and anemic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She says that ‘the cow is fed generously to produce more milk and an anaemic patient is fed the same way so that their hemoglobin levels rise without their likes and dislikes.’ Most of these stories are also about gross human rights violations of people.