Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Vixen in the bottle

In the eerie silence of the night, a 41-year-old man in Paro woke up to see nine cats in boots and hats dancing in his room. The dance was so mesmerizing that he found himself enjoying it. But all of a sudden, the cats vanished as mysteriously as they had come. He never saw them again but days later, he saw a man at his window who told him he had planted a device in his head with the help of a gun and that he was now wiretapped. Since that day, he felt he was being completely controlled by somebody. He started hearing a voice at his right ear giving him orders and instructions every day. The voice would sometimes even ask him to eat odd foods. However, the invisible man at his right ear seemed to hate alcohol and would discourage him whenever he decided to take it.

In the midst of all those confusions, he then saw a catwoman approaching him one night as he lay awake on his bed. She told him that she loved him so much and that she wanted to be with him. But the invisible man at his right ear told him that he would immediately die if the catwoman manages to insert her whiskers into his nostrils. To him, she was a vixen. After several attempts to seduce him failed, the woman left, only to return a few days later with greater vengeance. The vixen then castrated him and chopped off his genitalia. For him, the experience was very painful. The trauma left him shattered and confused. Fearing that the society would ostracize him, he even went to police for protection but when his request was not entertained, he decided to walk to Thimphu as advised by his invisible guide. Once he reached Thimphu, he checked into a hotel and decided to take a shower. It was at this time that he realized he still had his genitalia intact. Thoroughly shocked and confused, he finally decided to go to hospital. The psychiatrist at JDW National Referral Hospital, Dr. Nirola who assessed him ultimately diagnosed him with alcohol-induced psychotic disorder.

Characterized by visual/auditory hallucinations, the alcohol-induced psychosis occurs when a person suddenly quits drinking. It is part of the withdrawal symptoms that usually appear within one month from the day of last intoxication or withdrawal. However, it is said that these symptoms would naturally fade away as the body gradually adjusts to the new way of life. But if the symptoms persist, one must seek professional intervention. The alcohol psychosis can be treated either through detoxification or long-term rehabilitation.

We all know that alcohol is injurious to our health, yet it is difficult to completely get rid of it since it has become an integral part of our cultural life. Bhutan being a mountainous country, the culture of drinking could have evolved as a way of coping with cold and freezing weather conditions as well as relaxing after a hard labor in the fields. Today, it is imbedded in our culture so deeply that despite several laws, policies and public awareness programs in place, we continue to have easy access to bars and other liquor shops. What is more worrisome is that even children below the age of 18 can buy alcohol without being questioned. As a result, alcohol abuse is increasingly becoming a national concern in Bhutan. The records show that it is a leading cause of death, domestic violence, dysfunctional families and other social problems every year. It is high time that we now revisit our customary traditions and see how we can re-define our cultural life so that at least our children would get the opportunity to grow up in a safe environment. This was the key message conveyed by Dr. Nirola during the Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop organized by the Ministry of Health for school counsellors in Paro from 27-29 April 2019.

Author’s note:

The story in the article is derived from the article titled ‘Fantasm Without Elixir’ contributed by Dr. Nirola in the 2011 Annual Health Bulletin.

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