Pakistan Ill-Equipped to Deal with Disease of the Mind

Part C: Problems and Solutions

The dislike for people in need of psychological treatment is so deeply woven into our culture, our home and our workplaces that it will need massive awareness raising to help overcome this issue. The problem is also of perception regarding mental illnesses. People perceive people with such problems as weak and ‘abnormal’, as in they are unable to function as normal functioning adults and that is not the case. Though I have talked about two different levels of mental illnesses and both are treated differently in different scenarios they still face disapproval from society.

To further this issue there is a  lack of awareness about the treatment available. There are not many good psychologists and psychiatrists in Pakistan. Even if there are they aren’t as popular as doctors in other fields. Furthermore, the stigma attached to someone searching for treatment for their illness along with someone pursuing psychology as their field of study further worsens the situations.

It is very easy to point out a problem than solve it or just propose some solutions to it. There is a dire need to treat mental illness like a physical disease. Diseases of mind are of equal importance. Depression and anxiety can lead to other physical ailments if not treated or managed properly. There also is dire need to build special education schools. If that is not possible then it should be made compulsory to educate the teachers and train them in firstly, identifying students who require special education and secondly, to teach them or frame the curriculum accordingly. Doctors in emergency health care also need to be trained to identify and deal with such conditions. All in all a massive awareness raising campaign should be launched.

Read Part A: Reflection of Personal Experience here.

Read Part B: The Neglected Special Needs Children here.


Pakistan Ill-Equipped to Deal with Disease of the Mind

Part B: The Neglected Special Needs Children

As a Pakistani and someone who has been through psychological problems from 15 years of age, I can say this with certainty that Pakistan is not ready to treat mental illness at all. There is no training for the doctors or teachers who can diagnose and identify a patient suffering from mental ailment. Diagnosis is the first step to treating such a condition.

Teachers are also unable to recognize students who have learning disabilities and the sad part is that the parents themselves don’t cooperate enough to ‘see’ that their child is special. Another sad turn of events is that Pakistan also does not have sufficient number of schools to educated students of special needs.

Since I started teaching last year, I have been struggling to teach special needs students with the students who don’t need special attention. It is good that we try to treat them like normal students but it is over burdening for them emotionally, psychologically and academically because they are unable to interact and learn the way their fellow classmates can.

A teacher once said to me, “I get it that this kid has autism but that doesn’t mean he can misbehave.” I was not offended but I felt sorry for the kid who had teachers who did not understand his condition. All I said to her was that children with learning disabilities also have behavioral issues. They do not see the world like we do. That’s why they are called special needs children.

It’s not just the teachers. Most students can also notice whether a student is not acting ‘normal’ like they themselves do. A student recently exclaimed out loud in class in a very insulting manner, ‘Oh ma’am, is (named censored) abnormal?’ I stopped in my tracks and just stared at the kid because I could not believe what he had just said. The other kids avoided looking at me. Instead of scolding him I tried telling him that not everyone is the same. Some children need special attention. Some learn fast and some learn slowly. I am pretty sure I was not convincing which depresses me.

I told him to never use insulting words like ‘abnormal’ and ‘retarded’. Such derogatory terms are also one of the reasons that people are in denial and refuse to seek treatment for their illnesses.

Read Part A: Reflection of Personal Experience here.

Read Part C: Problems and Solutions here.

Pakistan Ill-Equipped to Deal with Disease of the Mind

Part A: Reflection of Personal Experience

I can still recall how it all happened so fast. I was in our car with my dad. Suddenly I burst out in tears. There was so much sadness. We were having a normal conversation but I just had this sudden profound urge to cry my lungs out. I wanted to scream as the tears rolled down my eyes but soon I realized I had lost my voice. I could barely speak because I was gasping for air. Air! I wanted to breathe but I couldn’t. My chest hurt while I took shallow breaths that barely reached the depths of my lungs. I thought maybe I was having an asthma attack. I wanted to vomit. I felt so nauseated. The entire place was spinning. I couldn’t see properly or hear anything or breathe anymore. There was only pain.

As I continued to take shallow breaths my dad drove me to PIMS. I couldn’t talk or breathe. I had no idea where my dad was taking me. Yet at the back of my mind I knew I was in the hospital. I could see and hear and understand but my response was so delayed and slow. The doctor asked me questions and I could barely speak with all the tears. She looked angrily at me. I was grown up woman crying like a little baby and was unable to describe the simple symptoms I was experiencing.

They gave me an oxygen mask and made me sit there for fifteen minutes. Then a nurse struggled with my hands to insert gravinate in my veins which she was unable to do so three times. My hands swell and then I vomited. It took me over an hour to normalize but I was so worn out and tired by then. They made me go through a lot of tests which I recognize is important to help in eliminating the obvious causes of this attack. It included ECG, Chest X-rays, blood tests and what not. Everything was clear. So they sent me home without diagnosis.

It happened again. But this time I was able to evade the situation I was in locked myself in a room and started breathing heavily. I was able to control another panic attack. They had happened before too but because I was alone and was able to escape the situations causing the attack I was able to normalize faster. Sometimes these attacks just happen for no reason. That is when one feels overwhelmed and chest starts hurting.

You must be wondering why I am mentioning such a detailed account of what happened. It’s because I was not the only person who had a psychological issue and ended up in the hospital and the medical doctors did not diagnose the disease as they were not prepared to do so. Anxiety disorders and panic attacks aren’t that difficult to deal with, once someone knows what they are dealing with and what approach they should take to manage the problem.

Read Part B: The Neglected Special Needs Children here.

Read Part C: Problems and Solutions here

Ask Yourself Why

We believe in so many things or people in life. We like and dislike many things or people for many reasons. We hold such beliefs close to our hearts. They are based on certain facts and experiences that are unique to each one of us.

The question of ‘what you believe in’ is not as important as the question of ‘why you believe in it’

I just recalled an incident a couple of years back. I was friends with this guy and he was an atheist. I was at that stage in life when I was struggling with my religious identity. I wanted to know why I was a Muslim. It was very important for me. To gain insight into this question I asked him a similar question because he seemed like an intellectual person. I asked him why he was an atheist the conversation became a bit long and I asked so many why’s I guess he felt I was questioning in faith-or rather faithlessness.

So imagine asking the following questions:

What religion do you follow?

What political party do you support?

I say I believe in Islam. I believe that PTI should be the leading party. But imagine adding the ‘why’ to the same interrogative sentence. Why do I believe in Islam? Why do I believe PTI should be the leading party? After you listen to someone’s answer to the question why with an open mind you will develop a deeper understanding for the person and their choices. You will learn to respect them maybe, depending on how convincing the argument is. But the key is having an open mind to opposing ideas.

We often DON’T ask OURSELVES the ‘why’. It is important for the critical thinking skill that we lack very often and do not bother to imply by asking why do we do what we do or why do we believe in what we believe in.

Self-evaluation is very uncommon and only few know how precious this gem is for personal growth and development. The problem in Pakistan is that our education system does not focus on a life skill like this which will help in the intellectual and spiritual of an individual but it will also develop and understanding and compassion for the people in society.

Dilemma of an Overweight Female Citizen of Pakistan


‘Shouldn’t you lose some weight?’

‘So how far into your weight loss program are you?’

‘Ah. You have gained some weight.’

‘Hm. You look fat.’

So on and so forth. Yes, these ever consuming questions and statements that plague everyone who meets me. So dear random citizen (or relative) who is concerned by my overweight appearance, this is dedicated to you. But please take note that every time you tell me how I need to lose weight, you lose respect in my eyes.

I honestly appreciate your constant remarks about my weight. I get it. You are concerned for my well-being. But please elaborate on how losing weight would be so beneficial for me? So I get it when you have a normal weight the chances of you getting cardiovascular diseases is low and there are a million health benefits. But how can you tell by looking at me that I am not physically active? You cannot. You know why? Because even though I am overweight I workout 150 minutes every week which is the required amount. Do you? I am physically fit and do not have any disease currently. Alhamdulillah.fat

Furthermore, physical activity in itself is beneficial for mental health. I agree. It makes you intelligent, releases stress, and makes you happier. But I am physically active and I eat just as much; the reason I don’t lose weight that fast. I love food, period. I am not giving that up just so I could lose a few inches around my hips and my waist.

And if that isn’t really the reason why you want me to lose weight then what is? Would losing weight make me look more ‘beautiful’? Is that why you want me to lose weight? Because if that is the reason then let me say this; beauty is subjective. It changes from person to person, place to place and era to era; what might be beautiful for you might not be for me or someone else across the world. If you follow the set standards that society has defined as ‘beautiful’ then we can’t be on good terms. Those standards are shallow and unintelligible. Being skinny and fair shouldn’t be the only measures of beauty.

I think I am beautiful the way I am, thank you very much. I do not support or endorse the unintelligible shallow society’s standards. I create my own standards. Allah created me with a broad bone structure. He gave me hips wider than yours. I don’t have a problem with it and you shouldn’t either.

Hiring Experienced Professionals Only?


‘Experience is the teacher of all the things’, Julius Cesar. That is undeniably true. However, if not given any opportunity there will be no way to gain experience.

Are you an unemployed undergraduate looking for an entry level job? Have you seen the years of experience requirement for those entry level jobs? Have you held your head in shock and dismay at how stupid it sounds; because I certainly have.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a degree from abroad or even if you have a strong reference. I have tried all that. It took me months to land an entry level job even though I studied for sometime in USA and had strong references. Clearly the HR managers at most of the firms are either too dumb, or they just don’t care about the consequences of the overzealous requirements they post for job applications. I will only say one thing, passion trumps experience in all walks of life as Phillip Di Bella said, ‘Passion is the one thing experience can’t teach’.

‘As a job seeker, remember this: You only lack experience if they want it done the same old way’, Robert Bault

The problem is people are better at being bosses than being leaders. These bosses treat their workforce like slaves and not like a team. Leaders teach their subordinates and take them places. Then again it’s not their fault because certain people are not passionate about the jobs they apply to and ‘ditch’

‘Hire passion first, experience second, and credentials third’, Paul Alofs

I believe that hiring passionate inexperienced individuals and then training them could be a great team building exercise. It would also help filter out those who are not at all interested in pursuing the career. Not all successful people started as experienced professionals. They started with an undying passion for their field. Combined with never ending persistence, they are who they are today.

Life Lessons My Car Taught Me

red car 2

‘Khat, khat, khat! Crunch, crunch, crunch! Dug, dug, dug!’, this is what my car sounds like. You see people talk about their brand new cars but you never really see them post pictures of cars that sound like this or the junk they might have driven a long time back. Well, I still drive the same junk. I have been driving my Suzuki Khyber since A’Levels since I got it as a hand-me-down from my parents.

My car broke down so many times, I have lost count. There were many times I was stranded in the middle of the road because it just refused to start and the sound of the cars honking their horns behind me made me feel worse. Sheer embarrassment and outrage used to engulf every cell in my body. So many times people drove past me laughing at the wreck of a car I was driving while I tried to hide away my tears because I felt so ashamed and sad.

So many times I was pulled over by police and other random strangers just so they could make me feel worse that I owned the worst and ugliest car on the planet. There were a couple of times I actually broke into tears in front of strangers for the helplessness I felt after they were done telling me about how pathetic my car was. Even pedestrians who couldn’t afford a car laughed at me and the condition my car was in.

red car

But there is this odd contentment in my heart. I believe I have received more than any woman in this society could. I got permission to drive as soon as I was 18 and had my own car; women rarely get that opportunity. So maybe it wasn’t a Ferrari or a Mercedes and maybe it wasn’t the most comfortable ride in the world, but it was my ride and it was earned through halal money. It had no interest on it to be paid.

This crappy wreck for some people is what has taught me many lessons. It has taught me that life will have ups and downs and this has made me stronger. My car taught me to not be afraid and made me confident.

But most importantly this red junk taught me humility. Now every time someone’s car breaks down I don’t honk a horn, I get out and try to help them out. Every time someone has an accident I stop my car to help them out. My car taught me patience. When someone drives really slowly because their car looks crappy I try to be patient and not honk since it won’t make the car go faster.

We people forget who we are and where we will go in the end. The car has made me more considerate to other people’s problems. It’s easier to say just go get a new car from the bank, than to actually go do it however, it isn’t that easy. It is impossible for me because I have no intentions of getting stuck in riba and interest. This car is a little price I pay but it is better than going to war with Him which is a definite loss. I will wait my turn surely He has something better in store for me.

The Beauty in Diversity: Part 2

‘When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion or political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.’ – J. Krishnamurti

I got into a disagreement with my brother when he shared this post on his wall on facebook. He agrees with the man above and I don’t. He shared his opinion and I shared mine. Now, let me clear up one thing I don’t dislike anyone for disagreeing with me, because it is only natural. I dislike it when they start to become disrespectful while they disagree, for example calling someone stupid is violence just because they don’t agree with your point of view. Intellectual discussions cannot be fruitful if they are based on emotional outrage.

While I appreciate the man above and my brother for supporting peace and unity, however their argument to blame it on our differences of opinions and beliefs seems a little immature and impractical to me.

First of all, violence is not only directed to humans it is also directed towards animals and nature in its entirety. So violence can be towards any living species, according to my opinion. Furthermore, violence can be physical, like wars, or it can be social, like discrimination, or psychological or economical, like trade bans. Once we have cleared in our minds what violence could and could be, only then can we further discuss the quotation above.

Let’s break down what Krishnamurti has said above. ‘When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent…’ When Krishnamurti states this, he is in short implying that associating oneself to a group is being violent. It is our natural and psychological tendency to associate ourselves to a certain group.

In the next sentence he says that it means that we are separating ourselves from others, which is the main cause of violence. I disagree because the main cause of violence towards any living being is not the differences in themselves. The main cause is showing intolerance of the differences we were created with.

He further adds that anyone who wants to understand violence does not belong to any group and says ‘…he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind’. His point is valid to an extent that a person should be unbiased while trying to understand humans. However, the understanding of mankind is contingent upon accepting the fact that humans will always have differences. They will always disagree on one thing or another. It is a basic and fundamental fact and not accepting this fact leads to such impractical utopian ideologies which are impossible to implement to eradicate the issue of violence.

Therefore, violence can only be curbed by accepting the differences and tolerating each other’s diversity in opinion and beliefs. Making these differences our strength, instead of making them our biggest weakness can the issue of violence be curbed, if not completely eradicated.

The Beauty in Diversity: Part 1

People fail to see the beauty in diversity. It could be the diversity of opinion or simply diversity in colors of our skin or the sizes of our bodies. Amazingly it is human psychology to associate diversity with weakness and hate it. This diversity is what should make us stronger and kind to each other but the story is slightly difference in practice.

We have all experienced that people get into slight disagreements and they start to express their opinions in sheer rage which eventually leads to cursing and resentment. But truly if we reflect on our day to day lives we experience a huge number of disagreements every single day.

We don’t need to express our disagreement to opinions by anger, but accept for a fact that not everyone looks at the world the way you do. Each one of us has amazing experiences to share and those experiences shape who we are and the way we look at the world around us.

There are two types of discussions we humans have; firstly, a discussion driven by our egos and pride to prove to other person that we are superior to him/her and that their opinion is worthless and secondly, a discussion driven by empathy, pure curiosity to learn and know more about the world.

When discussions are driven by egos, ethnocentrism and pride, there is no positive outcome from that discussion. There is no learning in it. It would always end in hate and resentment. It is best to avoid these discussions as they may lead to a very sour ending to your relationships.

The moment you realize that the person is only presenting their side of the story to show you that you are inferior to him/her that is the moment you jump the ship. For such a conversation would be merely a waste of time and effort on your part and would only lead to resentment and dislike for that person. This won’t mean you are too weak to defend your grounds but it means you are stronger and more courageous to not let your ego and pride take control of you. And this is the hardest thing to do, trust me!

I guess we don’t need to disagree all the time. I guess we should only tell people our ‘side of the story’ when you know the other person is just as open minded as you are. We need to recognize the difference between arguments driven by ego and pride and discussions driven by sheer curiosity and empathy.

While writing this I was wondering how many people would disagree with me on this. I would love to hear your side of the story though. It could prove to be a great learning experience for the part 2 of ‘Beauty in Diversity’ post.

Dear parents, let go.

Parents’ need to let go; parents’ need to let their kids learn from their ownlet go mistakes and gain their own experiences. I understand that there is an urge to protect your kids all the time, but that’s not possible. I also understand that you want to see your child have a happily ever after, but that’s not possible. They will fall, get hurt and cry and there will be pain; lots and lots of unbearable excruciating pain. But that’s the whole point. Nothing will last forever in this world. Then death will take over. Only then there will be a happy ever after for those who are on the right path. So teach your kids the right path and let go.