In North Carolina, 33 year-old Naiyana Gauri Patel lies in a hospital bed. Patel is a tormented soul; over the preceding years, she has been medicated for various reasons, including depression. Pills are the way doctors treat her internal demons.
And by demons, I mean demons.
According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, Patel murdered her two daughters — four-year-old Piya and seven-year-old Jiya — with a hatchet. When her husband returned from work, he found his daughters hacked to death and his wife severely injured; she attempted to take her own life by repeatedly hitting herself in the head with the murder weapon. According to Patel, a “ghost” was responsible for the slayings.
Clearly, Mrs. Patel suffered from problems far more serious than a murderous spirit, if ever such a thing existed. Her situation doesn’t necessarily say much about the paranormal craze of recent years, but it might tell us something about the pharmaceutical treatment of mental illness. In Patel’s case, such treatment is likely justified. But what about those who aren’t as disturbed?
Let me state that I do not know Mrs. Patel, nor am I familiar with her condition prior to this grisly incident. However, I’m not just a paranormal nerd, I’m also a high school teacher, a job that gives me a certain insight into how medication affects people — I’ve seen the before and I’ve seen the during and I’ve seen the after. Often, one is no more or less scary than the other.
I’ve seen bright and intelligent students with some fairly obvious personality quirks walk into my classroom one day tense and easily agitated, then dull and near-unresponsive zombie within 24 hours. I’ve seen highly violent students quick to do harm to themselves and others be transformed into apathetic beings with emotionless eyes. I’ve see kids who dart around the classroom with the energy of a chihuahua but the grace of a dancer become immobile and stationary, a shadow of their former selves.
I’ve seen kids with intensified, but typical teenage problems become twisted entities of their former selves, and seen those same kids, when taken off the pills, self-medicate through drugs, self-induced violence, or worse.
I’ve also seen students personifying heartache — kids who can take these feelings and turn them into beautiful expressions — become cheerful and engaging people at some sacrifice to their creativity.
I don’t know what “normal” is. I don’t know how to feel it and I don’t know what it feels like. It does seem to me that our society has chosen to excise portions of personalities deemed irregular by capturing them in pill bottles with the hope that it produces this elusive state of being.
And like I said, I don’t know Mrs. Patel, or her situation. She is confused to a degree well beyond anything I can imagine. She may indeed require pharmacological intervention to deal with her inner demons. In the days of yore she would be considered possessed and put to the stake, today she remains medicated. I simply have to wonder if this is the case for all of the kids I’ve encountered whose energies may not be so sinister, simply misdirected.