She took my advice to get her husband treated so why do I feel guilty?

Published: April 19, 2014
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I racked my brain to figure out how I could have been a party to the happiness emanating from this woman who was once so miserable with her marriage and life that she often talked of death.

I was rewarding myself with a fat free yogurt in the gym cafeteria when someone called out my name. I turned to find an old neighbour from yester years standing behind me.

The last time we had met was in Islamabad, 14 years ago. After the preliminaries, I had to remark on how well she looked. Smiling, she replied,

“Yes, I am happy and life is good.”

She looked fit and confident; a 360 degrees change from the miserable girl I remembered. Genuinely pleased for her, I said,

“Seems like your husband finally turned over a new leaf.”

Although it was a personal comment, our intimacy as close friends from the past had revived within a few minutes of the conversation and she said,

“Yes, things are very good compared to what they were.”

She paused, looked at me thoughtfully and then added,

“I have never told anyone but it’s all because of you.”

Surprised, I racked my brain to figure out how I could have been a party to the happiness emanating from this woman who was once so miserable in her marriage and life that she often talked of death. So I replied,

“Really? So, Zain finally did consult a psychiatrist… I am so glad he did. Relationships improve radically for people with obvious mental disorders once they start taking medication.”

Feeling pompously proud that she had taken my advice but curious all the same, I asked,

“But how did you ever convince him to seek help?”

Her next statement burst my pride balloon in a second. While stirring her coffee she said,

“Oh no, he never went to any doctor.”

Flustered, I stared at her, my attention and curiosity peaked to an all-time high.

“Then?”

All I could think of was that if she hadn’t taken my advice to take him to a psychiatrist, how could I have been a party to her happiness? I was no pir or aalim to have helped her situation otherwise. I had only given her serious advice, the gist of it being to take her manic depressive husband to a psychiatrist to start therapy and medication. Maybe she had finally dumped the guy and married someone else. She laughed when I asked her this and said,

“No. I am still married to Zain.”

Samreen and I became acquainted as neighbours years ago. I still remembered one night being awakened by my husband at midnight saying that our neighbour was at the front door asking for me. It was Samreen without shoes, sweater or a shawl in the cold night, asking in a trembling voice if she could call her mother. I observed her silently as she tearfully mumbled into the phone. She was doing her best to appear normal but to no avail.

Her mother came to my house an hour later to pick her up.

Samreen returned the next week. This was not only the beginning of our friendship but of similar such visits to my house. Her husband Zain was a manic depressive who went through severe mood shifts. Samreen’s life was under a continuous microscope given his mania related paranoia.

In bursts of anger he was abusive, loud and insulting and would often throw her out the house regardless of the hour of the day. It was hard to imagine that this guy was even educated. Once the ‘hulk’ receded, he would grovel, apologise, make sweet promises and her family would send her back.

Although convinced that he suffered from manic depression, I still discussed his behaviour pattern with my brother-in-law who was a psychiatrist and he confirmed that it sounded like manic depression or bipolar depression. According to him, it couldn’t be fixed without medication and treatment and was bound to get worse.

When I told Samreen about this, she laughed in my face and told me that one can only take a person to a doctor when they admit something is wrong with them. Not only her husband but her in-laws too were quite convinced that it was Samreen’s ‘immaturity’ and ‘wrongful handling’ of him that made him go into such a rage. They claimed that otherwise, there was nothing wrong with their son.

Her own parents did not want to ‘ruin’ their daughter’s marriage by ‘God forbid’ suggesting  a psychiatrist for their son-in-law. I did my own research and told Samreen that it only took a regular prescription of a couple of medicines to regulate violent mood shifts. These meds also help control hostility, irritability, hyperactivity and sleeplessness associated with the disorder. Since the disorder does not go away with time, medications have to be taken regularly to keep the mood stabilised.

I remember imploring Samreen to somehow take her husband to the doctor so that his quality of life and their relationship could improve.

And here she was telling me that he never went to a doctor. So how could he have gotten better? Quite irritated, I said sarcastically,

Rooh Afza (concentrated squash made with fruits, herbs and vegetable extracts) doesn’t fix the chemical imbalance in the brain that causes these disorders. You need medication.”

She leaned forward on the table and replied very seriously,

“Exactly! I took your advice and started giving him the medication.”

Shocked, I asked,

“Where did he get the meds if he never went to a doctor?”

She shrugged her shoulders and said,

“You don’t need a prescription to get medicines in Pakistan, especially, if your cousin’s husband runs a pharmacy.”

Now all I could think of was how could he have taken the medication if he never admitted he had a problem and I asked her exactly this,

“And he takes these meds without question?”

And then, she dropped the bombshell, shrugging lightly as if it was a minor matter,

“He doesn’t know. I crush them and mix them in his food. What he doesn’t know is not hurting him, it’s only helping him.”

I was shocked into silence as my mind tried to absorb, comprehend and then find a justification for what this woman had been doing all because of the advice I had given her. All I could say was,

“But this is not what I told you to do.”

She put her hand on mine, looked into my eyes and said,

“I know. I am not blaming you but telling you that you did an inadvertently good thing by being the friend I needed and telling me that my husband had a problem that could be fixed. The idea you planted in my mind grew with time. I did my own research and found that you were right. Zain wasn’t going to change without meds and our relationship was suffering terribly. Then, standing at the pharmacy one day getting some antibiotics for my throat, I asked about these meds and the busy pharmacist placed them on the counter in front of me.

I saw my life lying in front of me. I just stared at it. But I didn’t have the guts to buy them that day. But a month later, I did. I crushed them and mixed them in his food regularly. And a few weeks later, I could see the change. His mood and temperament mellowed and stabilised. He started communicating normally, he started listening and he started caring. He just got better over time and he remains so today.

I am not saying he isn’t difficult at times but at least, now I can handle him. I know his moods, unlike before.”

Still dumbfounded, I mumbled,

 “You could have just left him if it was getting too much for you to handle,”

She continued to justify her action,

“I know but by the time I mustered up the courage, I was already pregnant with the twins. Where could I go with two children? My mom had told me from the beginning that some men were just ‘hard to handle’ and that I would have to live with the situation. I had nowhere to go. That pill box on the counter was my future staring back at me. I knew it was a gamble but I had nothing to lose.”

“You don’t feel guilty?” I asked.

She seemed genuinely surprised at my question and replied,

“Guilty? I now have a marriage that I can live with, my kids have a loving father and my husband has grown more stable both, at work and at home. How can I be guilty for something that has saved my home and marriage?”

Taking her leave, she said,

“I have told you all this out of the gratitude I feel for you. You were the stepping stone to the life that I and my children have right now. But please, let this be our secret, ok?”

And I could only nod.

She left me with a whirlwind of conflicting thoughts that revolved around one basic question – should I feel guilty for putting this idea in her head?

But then I thought that it wasn’t for naught. By hook or by crook, if she had managed to set her husband and married life straight, why should I, or she, feel guilty?

aalia.suleman

Aalia Suleman

A freelance writer and poet who is keenly interested in the status of women in 21st century Pakistan. Her writing also zones in on Pakistan's new social and political status on a redefined global chessboard. She has a masters degree in English Literature and blogs and invites debates at 'Socio-politically Pakistani'. She tweets @aaliasuleman (twitter.com/aaliasuleman)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ajnabi Sheher

    An exceptionally well written and objective article. You presented a case but you left it up to the readers to decide what was right or wrong. No twisting to suit any particular agenda or vested interest. Still you highlighted a very important aspect of our social lives. And I am sure it has the potential to transform many lives for the better.

    I really appreciate your article and I invite other bloggers to have a look at the way you wrote. They need to understand that opinions can not be forced upon the people. A writer has to present evidence and leave the opinion making for the reader.

    Not for a moment did I get bored or felt less interested. You have the potential to be a fiction writer as well. Good job and keep it up !Recommend

  • taimoor

    ‘But please, let this be our secret, ok?’

    and you decide to share it with the world!Recommend

  • Well, it worked. And he’s still alive after all these years. Sooo… lolRecommend

  • IH

    you shouldn’t feel guilty. You didn’t tell your friend to do exactly what she did. If there are any problems with wrong medication/side effects or over dosage, the burden of the act rests on her shouldersRecommend

  • Kiran

    Nice piece of writing, hope to read more of your work in the future.Recommend

  • UMSadiq

    She did the right thing.

    In the hypocritical society like ours, men will never give women their due share after a divorce. Its extremely hard to judge her after all she has been through.

    And you’ve been an extremely good neighbor. In fact, I think a lot of Pakistanis suffer from this. We might be onto something huge here.Recommend

  • nust

    Wasn’t this meant to be a secret?

    Just saying. What if her husband chances upon this article?Recommend

  • Cat

    What if the husband comes across this blog post? If you really did feel the need to share this article you should’ve done it under a pseudonym (in case the name you submitted this under is your real name). I’m sure he’d be able to connect the dots. Some woman trusted you with her deepest secret and you went and wrote a blog post on it.

    Regardless, I don’t think you should feel guilty of having had advised her; your words helped her salvage her life when she was trapped in a scary situation. And I’m sorry but no one needs to feel any guilt for people who refuse to acknowledge that there might be a problem with them (her in-laws and her husband) and place the blame on innocent people.Recommend

  • Umar Sheikh

    i hope her husband doesn’t read this otherwise you are really going to feel guilty this time for posting this over internet.Recommend

  • Anonymous

    Problems of this type or of a sensitive nature usually can’t be treated, because of the unwillingness of the impaired individual, as was in this case, unless a family intervention is carried out. It is only to be expected that the individual, on their own, will not agree, in most cases, to consult a psychiatrist. Who would resign themselves to believe that they had a disorder of the mind?
    And if the family is also not at all ready to acknowledge the fact, or in the least be open to discussion of the problem as a potential disorder, I can understand why she would take such a drastic route to mend her marriage.Recommend

  • Manahil

    I can’t even… I’m completely dumbfounded. She’s medicating her husband without his knowledge. But she saved her sanity against a man who would not take help, and no one would help her. My prayers are with her. I wish her all the happiness in the world from Allah. Ameen.Recommend

  • s

    I just hope, you have not used real names? or another means to give away her identity.

    Not to say what she did was right or wrongRecommend

  • Sam

    I was told by such “experts” that I had Asperger syndrome, So i went to an actual practitioner to figure out what the problem was. It turn out I didn’t lack empathy, I was and surrounded by people that lacked empathy. And seriously that woman choose a dysfunctional person over others, I think people in general are responsible for there own choices. I feel sorry for the children. they have a emotionally unavailable, manipulative mother, and beast for a father that can snap any time moment. I about the law, but drugging a person definitely violates the non aggression principle.Recommend

  • Sam

    I was told by such “experts” that I had Asperger syndrome, So I went to an actual practitioner to figure out what the problem was. It turn out I didn’t lack empathy, I was surrounded by people that lacked empathy. And seriously that woman choose a dysfunctional person over others, I think people in general are responsible for there own choices. I feel sorry for the children. they have a emotionally unavailable, manipulative mother, and beast for a father that can snap any moment. I don’t know about the law, but drugging a person definitely violates the non aggression principle.Recommend

  • AnonPak

    What a sad commentary on Pakistani society and the dire situation of its women.Recommend

  • Umair Waheed Sheikh, IBA

    what a piece of trash!Recommend

  • pike

    And you thought about writing the who incident in a national news paper, the secret is out aisterRecommend

  • Dante

    She must be one smart and awesome woman!Recommend

  • tungi

    are you telling me that you told someone medications, he didnot approve of? you know how illegal that is?
    do you even know the side effects of these meds?do you even know how they are to be administered and how they are to be tapered off with time! that poor soul is wondering about the where he is getting the side effects from!
    if he was bi polar the family should have been involved, there is no way such illegal prescription is to be advised! im sorry i see you as the criminal hereRecommend

  • Parvez

    To me the story is constructed to ask the question ‘ Was the friend’s action of medicating her husband, without his knowledge, right ? ‘……….the way the story was written it appears that the author wants you to say yes. Now that’s a tough one and I’ll sit on the fence, because I’m undecided.Recommend

  • Clin Psych

    Please tell this friend of yours that the moment those meds stop working, her husband is going to relapse. And the next abusive cycle is going to be 10 times worse than what she went through before.

    Sincerely,
    Clinpsych kid.Recommend

  • Zack

    Weren’t you suppose to keep this a secret?Recommend

  • Unknown

    So you wrote the secret on ET blogs. yay!Recommend

  • Farah

    well put Sam!!Recommend

  • Phr. Mirza

    This case has many aspects to discus but the one I can relate to is wrongful dispensing without prescription. People’ lives are constantly in danger because noone even tries to change health system in pakistan. Its simply a matter of money for people to get hold of any kind of medicine or even poison! What this woman did to her husband is morally wrong but that’s an individual problem but illegal dispensing is a danger to whole society.Recommend

  • hasan

    a women should know that another women cant keep secret in her stomach.lolRecommend

  • Engr. Ahmad

    I’ve read your articles

    Frankly I really liked your advices u suggested for men but I cannot agree with the advices u give to women regarding their hubbies…………Only a man knows a man & only a woman knows a woman. Being a man I tell u that men’s life is very complex but towards women it is very simple. Men will praise women’s different qualities, show their various sides, mood swings etc but that is all

    Every man wants just 3 things from wife

    2) Dress modestly outside & esp in front of other men, not laugh around with other men. Men value loyality.

    3) Financial assistance. G8 if wife earns. Her father can get him better job. provide dowry, If wife cannot do either then at least keep expenses very low don’t demand servant etc.

    REGARDING THIS ARTICLE

    What she did is a crime. Those medicines might have a side effect & her hubby might become mentally disabled latter. No one has r8 to feed anybody anything without his permission. HER R8 WAS TO TAKE DEVORCE THAT’s ALL. She committed this heinous deed bcz she was dependent. Women must try to be financially independent by earning halal livelihood like us men do & then try to keep terms equal with their hubbies. If her hubby could afford mood swings some days in a relationship then he should have been prepared to bear with his wife’s mood swings on other days. Recommend

  • http://positivepakistani.blogspot.com/ Shahryar Saqib

    What she did is perfectly correct, as far as i can tell the medicine she is giving her husband are SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake inhibitors) easily available off the counter in Pakistan, they are general depression meds. Now to all those suggesting that why didn’t she leave the marriage, WHY? her husband as we can apparently see is suffering from depression and is otherwise a loving person, its not his fault that his brain lacks serotonin so much that his life becomes hell? isnt he suffering as well? this is the new kind of mentality “Leave em if it isnt working” which is causing the divorce rate to rise” i wonder if after 50 years we will even have happily married couples for 50 years at all”Recommend