There was a time I was ashamed to mention that my
father had a nervous breakdown and had to go to a
mental hospital in Pakistan to get shock treatment.
There was a time I felt embarrassed to share that I
was born in a family that was affected by mental
I remember my mother saying to me one evening, “ I
should not have married your father. People told me
that I was being married into a ‘crazy’ family”. Since
their marriage was arranged by friends and relatives,
my mother felt she had no control or choice who she
married and at some level deeply resented it.
I remember the time when I found out that mental
illness was hereditary and I decided never to have
children as I did not want to pass on the illness from
my father to my children.
Now that I look at my past life I realize that over
the years I have come to the profound realization that
the mental illness that I considered a curse gradually
transformed into a blessing and I began to perceive it
as a gift. Now I believe that embracing the gift of
mental illness in my family has made me a better
person and a compassionate psychotherapist. It helped
me develop a special sensitivity to the needs of
people suffering from emotional problems and the
struggles of their families. It inspired me to become
a psychiatrist to understand the mysteries of mental
illness and develop a humanistic philosophy towards
people with emotional problems.
Now I feel that it is sad and tragic that
even in the twenty first century people with mental
illness are penalized and persecuted and have to face
stigma because of social ignorance and prejudice.
I think the time has come for all of us to have an
open and honest dialogue about mental illness so that
we can view it similar to physical illness.
I think the time has come for us to share our stories
with others so that it is no longer a taboo to talk
I think the time has come to get rid of the myths that
mentally ill people are violent and stupid and have
And I think the time has come to develop a scientific,
rational and humanistic attitude towards mental
When would we recognize that most people suffering
from mental illness are caring friends, colleagues and
relatives. They are peace-loving citizens of the
community and contribute to the society in their own
unique and meaningful way.
I believe the maturity of a community can be
determined by how people with mental illness are
treated in that community. I hope we see a day when
they are treated with respect and looked after in a
Now I am inspired to share my story about
my encounters with mental illness in my personal and
professional lives hoping that it would encourage
others to share their stories. There is no doubt in my
mind that my embracing the gift of mental illness
helped me become a caring and creative person and a