Men Who Need to be Institutionalised are Walking Free

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Saira Agha

They are all around us. You may see them in the face of a colleague, a friend, a brother perhaps, a romantic partner, a cab driver and even your son, but the most problematic of all is if you’re married to one.
The trouble is, we tend to believe, and this is something deeply entrenched in our whole belief system as a society, that only patients of psychotic disorders like schizophrenia need to be put in a mental hospital or institutionalised. We completely forget and pay no heed to the fact that there are patients with extremely serious mental disorders walking free around us who are in desperate need of medical attention. These patients can’t identify and then accept that they need medicinal drugs or professional help and their parents and siblings turn a blind eye or rather live in denial that there’s a person in the house who is struggling with serious problems.
The behaviour patterns of these clinically depressed men would be something along the lines of angry outbursts, irritability or frustration over the smallest of matters. Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports. Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much. They would have no motivation to do anything. They would avoid socialising, taking a shower, staying clean or prim and proper and being silent and awkward around people. They are also reluctant in changing their environment or living conditions for better peace of mind because of denial.
A very close friend of mine had the misfortune of getting married to a man who was a patient of a chronic mental disorder that involved disturbing behaviour patterns that in ignorance, one can deem crippling, hapless man-child demeanours, which can easily account for countless other “non-serious neuroses” like depression or being downright psychotic.
The mistake many people make when getting married is not giving enough time to get to know the other person well and quickly jumping onto the “married people’s bandwagon.” This might stem from various insecurities for example, fear of not finding a connection with someone again, coming of age, being bored of the mundanities of life, longing for some form of excitement, societal pressures or being in the utter dark as well about the intentions of the suitor, which only time reveals what they are. That’s why, I’m stressing about getting to know the other person well, given about a year at least of courtship. I read somewhere that even if someone is pretending with you, it takes about five months for them to reveal their true character which in my friend’s case, was not availed and she got engaged to him after dating for two months only.
His disturbing abnormal behaviour was noticeable before they got engaged but increased later, but from what I hear, was “already too late for her to back off” because of the shame broken-off engagements carry in our society, leave alone the stigma of divorce. She recalls calling off her nikah two days before the date because of his frightening mood swings, erratic outbursts and concerning verbal spats but got very little to non-existing support for it after confiding in a friend.
Just a few days post her nikah, he began hitting her and after a few months passed, beating her to a pulp where he used to hit her head with his phone, slap her in the face repeatedly, pull her hair, hurt her ears and so on.
There was never an apology of any kind for any of such behaviour except for telling her that she made him do it and he would never hurt a fly if it was just up to him. This continued for many months until the time came for her wedding day post the nikah ceremony when she had to start living with him. After one of these verbal abuses on a fine day, she recalls telling her mother a few months before her wedding day (when she had to move in with him) about the violence she was being inflicted upon and about his unpredictable behaviour where her mother instructed her strictly to call off the wedding for the meantime and observe his behaviour to see if he was mentally fit to be married to.
You see, the trouble arises when women believe that now they are married, a lot is at stake if they even consider divorce. They think about the financial investments they’ve done, they think about the involvement of family, the time and energy involved of every kind and most importantly, about their mental well-being dealing with divorce. They think “Maybe he’ll change,” “Maybe it was my fault,” “Maybe he hits me and hurls abuses at me because he loves me so much and owns up to me thinking I’ll take it,” “Maybe he considers me so close to him that he vents his anger and frustration over me.” That’s the problem plaguing the mindset of our women trapped in abusive marriages. We believe in giving clinically depressed men not another chance but many chances, especially if it involves saving a marriage.
My friend went ahead and gave him another chance like so many times she had done so already and recalls this one time when her mother-in-law invited her to dinner and she got late by a few minutes. She recalls being hit mercilessly, her things thrown around, her hair pulled and her hair punched by her husband in front of his mother outside the gate of his house. She recalls gasping for breath and pleading for him to stop. She says this was 10 days before the wedding ceremony and even then she went ahead and forgave him because the guests had already been invited, the invitation cards had been sent, the dresses and venue booked and most importantly, she was now his wife.
She recalls his depressed behaviour; sitting aloof on a sofa in front of his family, not saying much, telling his mother like a toddler to serve him food, not making eye contact, staring into space, and when talked to, snapping at her. On the day of one of her wedding events, she recalls being punched in the face while riding in a cab with him, in front of the cab driver, with her jewellery falling off and tears welling in her eyes.
Another trouble with patients with mental illness is they don’t take the gathering into account. She says during the festive event, he sat aloof staring in mid-air with both hands clasped tight, staring angrily at the guests and wanting to go home.
One important highlight to note is mentally ill men take comfort in letting their families dictate terms in their life because they don’t have the capacity or the ability to chalk out the trajectory of their lives. And womenfolk related to these men sometimes cash in on their disability to serve their agendas with their sisters-in-law or daughters-in-law.
During the three months following the wedding ceremony and living with him, my friend describes his odd and disturbing behaviour that she now got to observe as she was now living with him. She recalls him crying uncontrollably after an incident when he threw her on the floor and kicked her in the stomach and her head. She recalls being hit and slapped so many times that her earrings used to fall off and she felt a concussion. Receiving blows to her head became a routine in her marriage. She says every time, her head hit the pillow, she used to feel dizzy because of being hit or beaten too much.
Other than crying on multiple occasions while holding his phone, he was sleeping at odd hours, sometimes even for a whole day and other times, not sleeping at all. Not taking a shower for months, refusing to improve their unhealthy lifestyle, not giving her pocket money, hurling petty taunts and abuses at her, the moment she used to set foot in his house after hours of gruelling work at the office, refusing to learn how to drive or travel and just blaming her for all this behaviour were keynotes from her short-lived marriage. She remembers the time when during one of his anger fits, he threw around all her expensive belongings on the floor including the furniture, breaking glass and everything around, only for her to pick all up and tidy the place herself.
She talks about how he ordered her to kiss his feet and call her family names otherwise he would “divorce her and kick her out of the house.”
Anger, irritability, aggressiveness, anxiety, restlessness, always being on the edge, loss of interest in work, his wife or once-pleasurable activities was common in him. In other words, being depressed can cause you to pay less attention to your partner, be less involved, be more irritable or have trouble enjoying time together-all of which can cause your relationship to falter.
All these are vital symptoms of chronic depression. Depression has a way of closing in the walls around you – of populating your mind with so much noise that you effectively lock yourself in a mental prison of your creation, unable to turn down the volume long enough to focus on anything else. The common answer is that men, traditionally, see mental illness as a sign of weakness and are reluctant to seek help. The trauma of being married to a man who should have been medicated, institutionalised or helped professionally lives with her.
The takeaways from my friend’s marriage to a patient of serious mental illnesses with a family who served their agendas with the crutches of their son’s and brother’s disease are to strike immediately on the first red flag. Giving a benefit of the doubt more than once is putting yourself out there to be taken advantage of, being tricked into marriage and ultimately becoming a victim of domestic abuse and torture, in other words, setting yourself on fire, which in my friend’s case would’ve been quite literal had she not found the courage to escape one night.
My friend’s marriage is one of the billions of examples of women trapped in marriages with men who are in urgent need of medication, professional therapy or educated parents and siblings who would help them treat their wives better rather than feasting on the troubles.
Women need to escape toxic, mentally ill and clinically depressed partners who refuse to seek therapy. Their professional achievements, emancipation, strong family backgrounds, independent bank accounts, healthy physical and mental health, sound social circles, blessed looks and positive vibes all are triggering factors for these men with mental disabilities and depression, including the women in their house who breed upon their son’s or brother’s mental state to vent out their jealousies, insecurities and inferiority complexes.