Call me crazy

I never thought about it until today.

How can one be assessed for mental illness or disorder like depression and anxiety in a country where it is in our culture to keep everything private and to not bother anyone else?

Could a Thai goes to therapy be completely honest?

Hey, OakMonster! What on earth possess you to ask those questions?

Why, dear reader, a recent diagnose for my mom’s condition is what brought on such insight, of course!


My mother has cancer. Almost a year ago, one session shy of her final chemotherapy, she had a stroke which left her with her left side paralyzed. Since then, the cancer had been held at bay and she seemed to have been doing fine with occupational and physical therapy.

Until recently.

Mom has been home for a few months. The last time they talked to the residence psychologist at the government hospital, my family was told that mom’s mental health was fine. They had her on a “de-stress” medication this entire time, and now they’re going to take her off. (That’s the word in Thai. I can only assume it was an anti-anxiety pill of some kind.)

This pills so far had been helping mom sleeps otherwise she has insomnia. Besides, when she was on this medication, she seems just fine, talking to people and at least try to eat.

Once she was off, she struggled with insomnia for a week or so, and finally fell asleep at a decent hours on her own. But her liveliness seems to go away with the pills. She isn’t quite so chatty. She has stopped eating, and recently she wouldn’t swallow fluids either. Not even her own spits.

Her doctor said there is nothing physically wrong with my mother. And the psychologist said she was fine.

Fine? FINE? I don’t frelling think so.


I don’t know if there has been advancement in the field of psychology since I left home almost 14 years ago. So, please forgive me for the following rant.

Psychology, in Thailand, it seems to be only for the crazies. I mean, you don’t see a psychologist until you’re completely nuts–as in hallucinating, multiple personality, out of your mind mad. The madness that is known to us Thais as going to the “Red Roof House”, Baan Langka Daeng.

The local mental institute, back in the days, used to have a red roof. A movie was made about it a long time ago, featuring Bird Thongchai McEntyre, further popularized the Langka Daeng term and cementing the image that mental illness = crazy. Ask anyone older than 30 about that movie. But I digress. 🙂

Mental illness doesn’t even mean a little depression or anxiety disorder to Thais. “Mental Illness”–Roke Jitr, literally disease of the mind–means multiple personality, hallucination, total raving lunacy.

Thai culture, like most Asian cultures, is all about keeping things private. Saving face. Keeping everything to yourself. There is no such thing as airing out your laundry to anyone.

A few friends of mine have family issues that were kept secrets until they told me much later in life, when the country is more open to hear about divorce and mistresses. Girl A’s dad left her mom a long time ago. Girl B’s dad had long since divorced her mother and the Aunty M she referred to actually is her stepmom. Girl C’s had never brought up that her mom had passed away and dad re-married. We thought “Mommy K” was an affectionate term.

Heck, my uncle has family issues too and although we knew about it, we weren’t allowed to talk about it with our cousins. We went on pretending like nothing ever happened. Not even they moved out and all but disappeared from our lives.

The shrink would ask a Thai patient, “So how are you feeling?”

Sure, he/she may feel like slitting his/her wrist, bash the shrink’s head in, or wash his/her hands exactly 22 times, but that person would probably just say, “I’m fine. Feeling okay.”

“Tell me about your father?” “Oh, we have great relationships” would come out of your mouth even if you know he has mistresses all over town and that your mother cries herself to sleep every night.

That kind of thing.

In a society where everything is kept under wrapped, I don’t think ANYONE would get a fair psychological assessment. Until you open up, I don’t think anyone in Thailand could get the right treatment for their mental health.

I’m sure my mom kept mummed on a lot of things when the psychologist came to talk to her at the hospital. I KNOW for sure she didn’t tell him/her everything. I am sure she would say, “I feel fine” to everything that the young psychologist asks her.


The reason why I am writing about this is that I believe my mom is suffering depression that is going untreated.

After all the treatments she had gone through and the rehabilitating stroke, I was damn sure someone would have given her something for her mental health. Some kind of anti-depressant? An upper? Something.

From what I hear from everyone about mom’s deteriorating behaviors, it sounds like she’s clinically depressed. I am no expert but from my research, it does sound a lot like it. With all the treatments and medications she is on, it wouldn’t be a surprise if it screws with her brain chemicals.

But guess what they did? After a few words, mom is proclaimed “fine”. So easily dismissed.

Could she be off the meds because every time we had to get the meds refilled, we have to wait at least 3 hours to get the doctor’s signature? Is this too much of an inconvenience to treat the mental disorder of a possibly terminal cancer patient?

Do you think this is a waste of time and medication on a dying woman?


Oh sure, I am probably projecting my anger and fear about losing my mother to all the doctors that so far haven’t gotten anything right. (No chemo after a 2-inch diameter cancer has been removed along with half of her lung? What kind of a honked up decision was THAT?)

Oh look! Someone has read my verbal rampage about Thai medical field! There’s a white van parked outside of my apartment. These nice gentlemen gave me this nifty white jacket with buckles on them. They said I have to stop typing to get into this, what is it?, straight jacket.

Funny. It doesn’t look straight to me.

6 responses to “Call me crazy