Our therapist Dr. Swetha Turlapati questions systems of oppression that often minimize pain in the lives of people who are labelled with severe mental illnesses.  Some conditions are often labelled as thus with a very limited prognosis, making pain and suffering a very private one. Is this sufficient? Are we doing enough for people we love? What is the role of systems of care in understanding lives in distress?

These and more questions are evoked by this piece written by Dr. Turlapati who works with people experiencing what is often diagnosed as Schizophrenia. She speaks from the lens of a career who hold space for those in distress and sees pain as this systemic wound that medication solely can never heal.

Tactile hallucinations couldn’t justify the pain imposed by the systems around her.

Tactile hallucinations was a removed name to her experience of deeply internalised pain. This pain showed up in bodily sensations and they were dismissed by the world around her as “not real”. She felt invisible unknown men laying their hands on her; her tactile hallucinations.

While this was convincing even to her own mind sometimes (hearing to diagnostic specialists for years), there was yet this internalized “systemic wound” of being an unmarried woman detached from any intimate relationship (while she was fighting with these unknown men to leave her alone and not abuse her body), being a doctor herself (just striving to treat her own body with different treatment styles), being a daughter of closed family knit (regarding the respect to family), being a “normal” human (struggling to greet a person next door).

Medications for “tactile hallucinations” didnt help with this systemic wound.

She strived and reached every professional in search of help, hoping to hear something different from “not real”, “hallucinations” and every word associated to psychiatric language.

The power of this system though silenced her, made her believe in this pathologizing language. She gave into psychosis, yet nothing of it allowed healing to her own body.

She finally confronted these unknown men by taking her guards off and noticing what they were intending? The sneaky message was about her “losing her virginity”- the system which has locked a meaning to women’s virginity victimizes pain and privatizes it. She confronted the systems that hurt her deeply, systems of patriarchy, capitalism, abelism and misogyny allowing her to experience liberation from labels and affirmation of pain as systemic.

What should we make of this? Shouldn’t we diagnose the system and help it heal? Or should we privatize her pain and call it “not real”?  

How does just a tactile hallucination justify it all?

What is this condition in your own body that is given by the systems?

Would just one name from the medical language provide the healing to your experience of pain?