Today I have a very special interview from one of my readers who recently reached out to me on a post about creativity. Muhammad Tahir is his name, he’s a courageous father who’s living through the tragic loss of his oldest son who suffered from bipolar disorder. Blessed with an amazing ability to write poetry, his son, Nasir Mahmood lost his life to suicide 5 years ago. Today, Tahir has decided to open up about his son and his illness with hopes to reach the many parents like him and children like his son so he can make a positive change. Please welcome Tahir and if you’re moved to do so, please leave any messages you may have for him in the comment section below, he hopes to hear from you!
Welcome Tahir, I’m so touched that you wanted to share your story with us. I know this wasn’t an easy decision and I want you to know that I’m so grateful for your courage. I along with my readers are reading with open hearts with a hope to learn from your family.
To start the interview, can you introduce yourself and share a little about who you are and where you’re from?
Can you tell us about your son Moody?
Nasir Mahmood, alias “Moody”, was born in Lahore on March 21, 1975. He was a quiet child and not naughty like some children are. There was nothing extraordinary which I should have noticed or bring out at this point. Yes, he was fond of dressing well. He was not bright in studies and like many parents I had to constantly keep telling him to study.
Then one day we had a disagreement on his choice of University abroad which was beyond my means. There was no way I could afford it. He tore all his forms and left home. We did not speak for a month.
I started experiencing tapping on my arms, shoulders, feet, legs and sometimes my thumb or other fingers would flicker momentarily especially when I am writing. Every muscle of my body responds. Even right now I am experiencing this writing to you. But gradually he has started to become more resilient. He communicates with me through words spoken on TV, while I am reading, when I am writing my office work, during conversations with people. I can’t even begin to explain you how difficult living has become when someone is being distracted after every few seconds and is corrected each time. Imagine as if someone grabs me from behind my neck and moves it around to look at certain objects, as he desires me. I try to not move and stay still but I cannot do that because he strangles me by the neck. If I could feel his hand then I can move it away because it is physically possible. My life is living hell in every true sense of my sentences. He is living and acknowledging my thoughts. The sort of thoughts those are mute. No shrink in the world can help me and no medicine can cure it.
What other unusual symptoms or behaviors did you noticed?
He started reading a lot in Arabi’s book on and would watch the movie The Last Temptation of Christ. He believed that the spirits had gained control of his body and that these were Muslim Spirits who were not leaving him alone. One day he wrote me a letter to tell me that he was converting to Christianity. He thought that if he did that, the spirits would leave him alone. This did not happen and in his last letter before he committed suicide he mentioned this fact.
What type of treatment did your son have to treat his illness?
Sadly, my deepest regret and guilt is that I failed to go all out for him. As I was in Liberia, I could not monitor his medication. He stopped taking them and told his mother that the medications were making him slow and despite our best efforts, he skipped medications. I know he must have seen all the side effects of these medications on the computer and also I believe he knew about his disease. He spent all day long in his room and read books. He stopped writing.
You mentioned to me that in your culture, seeking help for mental illness isn’t done and that careers in the mental health field aren’t even pursued because of the stigma. Can you share more about this and how this stigma impacted your son’s life?
It had an impact on us and him as well. At times, Moody would would sit and stare and just smile. One day, he returned after meeting his friends and told his mother that now his friends are also laughing at him. He stopped going out too much. He would not even go to the doctor and my wife who was the only elder at home had absolutely no idea what was going on inside his mind.
I read online in one of your posts that you have guilt about your son’s death. Can you share where this comes from?
First, I was not there for him. Second, I did not gauge the gravity of the situation and allowed him to slide fast. The mere fact that I came to know about bipolar disorder after his death is enough guilt. I have tears in my eyes as I write these lines. I wish that I could revert time. It has impacted my wife and younger son too much as they were the ones who saw him in his room where he killed himself.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
Oh a lot of things, as you can see it is so obvious. As I was not present, I could not physically follow him. My wife says that, “the children should be listened to”. She thinks his suicide was triggered by him not getting married to Sonia. And she says that he decided to take his life after he came to know that Sonia had gotten married and had a child. That broke the camels back. She repents for not getting him married.
What would you teach other parents based on your experience?
Personally, I think we as parents make lot of mistakes in raising kids. We fail to recognise the true potential of our children. I’m not talking about exceptions. I’m talking run of the mill. My culture and that of the West is very different in raising kids. We keep family together, more of joint family. There is a lot of respect for parents and marriages are mostly arranged through the consent of boy and girl. The children tell you so much without saying and we fail to notice things which are right in front of our eyes. We take things for granted. We do not heed to what children want, sometimes their demands are excessive and sometimes we replicate what our parents did and behaved with us. Sometimes we’re over protective and sometimes we do not care. A middle ground is the best.
What would you say to someone who was suffering with mental illness but was afraid of treatment because of the stigma or social impact of a diagnosis?
I would tell him first and foremost about the great men and women, the achievers of so many varied things in history, in every field, who have also suffered and yet achieved. We need to tell them that, “yes we know you suffer in moods, but everything is okay.” I believe most people with bipolar disorder are not listened to, when they tell us about their problems, we brush it aside. We become intolerant of their mood swings. We need a big sympathetic heart and open mind to listen and bear with them.
As a final word, what message would you leave with us?
The last word is, never take anything for granted.
Thank you for patiently reading my story everyone. You must read my lens on Squidoo about Moody’s writings (see link below).
I know that Tahir is anxiously awaiting your responses to his interview, please leave him a message, comment or question below, he would love to hear from you!