Exclusive Talk with Eminent Author Rakhi Kapoor with International Mental Health Club Australia

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Author Rakhi Kapoor has been an Inspiration to several people around the world . She has written several books that have been a great inspiration for the Youth. Two of her most famous book “Now You Breathe” that talks about Toxic Relationships and How to cut of ties with people who are toxic and “ Expecting Daddy Delivers” which talks about what is the ideal role of men in pregnancy has been loved and admired by several people. 

Rakhi Kapoor is also a prenatal counsellor. International Mental Health Club of Australia is glad to interview Author Rakhi Kapoor on an very important topic “ Sexual , Predjudice Suicide and Mental Health Issues”.

 

Q1) A warm welcome to the International Mental Health Club , Australia . We would love to know about what made you choose the topic of your book “ Now You Breathe?”

Ans : Now You Breathe is a book very close to my heart. During the final moments of my father’s life I stood by and watched him struggle to breathe. He finally died of a silent chest. My father was battling several health issues like coronary artery disease, type two diabetes and renal disease from an early age in his life in spite of having a healthy life style.  Amongst the numerous hospital visits in which my father almost succumbed to heart attacks there were a few of the visits to the hospital when my father showed no signs of any evident abnormal parameters in his vitals except for complaints of tightness in the chest and breathlessness . He was kept under observation in the emergency care and sent back after a few hours with no significant findings indicating a threat to his life. It did leave the family confused. I was exhausted fighting with my father. “The numerous hospital visits and the desperation to save the one person you love the most takes its toll on you.” It was taking a toll on my mental health as well.

 I connected the dots gradually in due course of time after his demise. Grief took over, I began to have issues with my mental health and started exhibiting early signs of the life style diseases similar to the ones my father developed. Being a physical therapist and an expert in counselling pregnant women in the country I have been guiding numerous young women have healthy pregnancies, defer gestational diabetes, manage healthy weight gain during pregnancy ,breeze through natural birth and spring back to their fit self after child birth for more than two decades. This also meant that I had to practice what I was preaching. I had a fairly healthy life style, I had trekked iconic mountains to mount fuji, Kilimanjaro, hiked to the Everest base camp and completed the Annapurna circuit yet I failed to avoid the similar path that my father’s life took. It got me thinking that there was a missing link between living healthy and its positive outcome. The math never added up. So what was I missing?

 

A quick reflection in to my years of dealing with young women and couples began throwing light over the fact that my clients who were stressed during the pregnancy due to various reasons like relationships, bad marriages, professional difficulties did end up having health complications during the pregnancy. It was a struggle to get ideal physical health outcomes no matter how I tried to get them to exercise or eat healthy. One morning I held on to my chest unable to breathe thinking that I was having a heart attack. I was rushed to my physician who was also a friend. Just like one of the visits where my father was rushed to the hospital without yielding any positive indications of an actual physical ailment my vitals also came sparkling clean then is when Mental Health and its undeniable affects, the white elephant in the room revealed itself.  I had my first panic attack which was the case with my father as well in the past. Regressing and deep diving further I found the common cord that tied me and my father together, the same noose which was going to bring untimely death and disease in my life. Me and my father were both the victims of abuse in a toxic relationship due to the presence of a close family member suffering a mental illness. It ran havoc in our lives for years for which neither we got help and nor did the loved one who was diagnosed with a mental illness get any help.

 

Once a victim always a victim. Hence I continued to attract such toxic relationships and people all my life. It was one night while after I faced the wrath of a narcissistic rage from a neighbour who manipulated me pretending to be a friend was when I completed the first thirty words of the first draft of Now You Breathe. After surviving a violent attack from an individual who was provisionally diagnosed with a personality disorder like Narcissistic Personality Disorder especially the malignant variety I dove in to spending hours day and day out for months arming myself with extensive research and certification. Finally based on facts and decades of research backed by the Directory and Statistical manual of mental health constituted by the WHO and American association of psychiatry with concurrence from Psychiatric bodies from various countries along with my personal journey of surviving emotional, mental, physical as well as sexual abuse I successfully published my book  Now You Breathe. Now You Breathe was going to be the beacon of light for countless helpless people and children who suffered abuse in the hands of loved ones with various personality disorders especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder within closed doors silently. My father couldn’t be saved but  Now You breathe was going to help save many others suffering from narcissistic abuse with the flash of realisation of the toxicity that they were slowly being poisoned by.

 Q2) This is a very important question , often there are times where sexual assaults happen by members of the family. It takes quite a while to accept and it even becomes difficult to cut off  ties. What do you think about this matter and what can be a possible solution ?

Ans : Healing is essential for an individual to have a fresh start especially if they have been abused and violated by a loved one, especially a family member. Once there is a breach of trust from a relationship which is meant to love and nurture an individual it leaves an unimaginable amount of detrimental effect in an individual’s mental health and personality development (especially in the case of children). Be it abusive relationships from childhood or adulthood; any form of violence and abuse ; be it emotional, mental , psychological and sexual in nature (molestation or rape);  the absence of healing and unresolved effects of trauma and abuse will show up as PTSD or complex PTSD.  PTSD or complex PTSD is a cluster of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and panic attacks, suicidal tendencies, addiction along with a host of other mental health conditions eventually altering an individual’s personality (in the case of childhood abuse) eventually.

 

Unresolved trauma from abuse can also lead to an individual taking up extreme forms of coping mechanisms which can lead to losing contact with reality like psychosis. This might involve seeing or hearing things that other people cannot see or hear (hallucinations) and believing things that are not actually true (delusions).  Hence any form of trauma and abuse or violence inflicted on an individual be it psychological , emotional physical and sexual cannot be  shoved under a carpet or locked up in a closet pretending it never happened.  It must be dealt with, desiccated, and subjected to healing by mental health professionals along with spiritual guidance.  When there is an incidence of sexual violence, rape, or molestation involving a closed family member it is even more challenging to overcome. Due to societal pressure such incidences are always kept under covers which makes healing impossible. Many cultures and societies unlike the west have great taboos in even acknowledging the truth due to societal pressure and family reputation of such incidences.

 As for what happens to the victims. Imagine having to live alongside the perpetrator in close vicinity? Healing becomes delayed or impossible. If a wound is picked on frequently it does not get the time and resource to heal at all. Legal implications are also very lucid and are non-existential. How do you get divorced, impose restraining orders against a parent or a family member or a blood relative? Imagine the irreparable damage it does to the family’s reputation. Most victims of sexual abuse and molestation by family members stay silent due to this repercussion in fear of hurting other family members. It’s a huge burden to carry. Carrying the weight of one’s own trauma and the responsibility to protect the other loved members from pain. It’s unfair!

 I was molested in my childhood at the age of eleven. It took me years to speak up against it. It was after I turned eighteen years of age and the perpetrator became an elderly person could I muster the guts and relieve myself from this secret of pain and shame. Even when I gathered the courage to speak out loud, I had no help from my own family members due to shock and fear of how the family would be shamed in the society. Instead, I was blamed for the incident. I didn’t get ant help. Something broke within me deep down. Years later when the past began to affect my mental health where it took a toll on my marriage, I went for marriage counselling. It is then when my therapist worked on the root of my issues not just in my marriage, but my past childhood trauma of sexual and emotional abuse. Then is when I finally found my path towards healing and overcoming years of darkness and pain.

 So yes, it’s extremely important for people to reach out to professionals, family members or loved ones who can be trusted, authoritarian figures in institutions after being assaulted or sexually abused and ask for help. Trauma and any form of abuse comes back to bite us in the back always. It’s important to unfold the baggage and get rid of it. Therapy and counselling are never easy. It means reliving the pain all over again. It means reporting the abuse and being judged by the world, but nothing is more painful than living with regret of not having tried to deal with the pain and getting justice for us.

 A life pretending to the world is still livable but having to look into one’s own reflection and pretending is like serving a life sentence for a crime we never committed. The victim mentality will prevent us from living a beautiful life filled with love and happiness. It’s not others who ruin our lives. It us who allow the others who caused us pain to ruin our lives by giving them space in our heart and mind forever.

Q3) Do you feel Male’s generally face a problem expressing sexual assaults as compared to females ?

Ans: Yes , Statistics show that men don’t report rape or sexual assault. Even when they do it is looked upon as a matter of bewilderment that how come a man wasn’t unable to protect himself. The very essence of their manhood is questioned which is even more traumatising for the victims. Over all there are very few laws which protect men and the laws which exist are more pro woman. When a woman cries rape or abuse everyone has sympathy but somehow the society is prejudiced about men who undergo narcissistic abuse, young boys and men who are raped or sexually abused.

Finally it is changing . Thanks to the voices of the victims who cried out aloud and fought for themselves and generations to come. Religious institutions also have been brought under the radar and justice has been served. The most recent example not of sexual abuse but narcissistic abuse of actor Johnny Depp whose court proceedings were shared openly was an eye opener for the society. Women can be abused and women are also capable of crying wolf . Mental illness and personality disorders can affect both genders. Women are no exceptions. If women are prone to breast cancers than men are prone to prostate cancers. My point being is mental health issues, rape, trauma are not gender biased occurrences, even if the incidences of occurrence towards women is higher.

 

Trauma and pain is personal and it can affect both the genders deeply and just by being a man does not make the trauma any less. It also does not make a man any less masculine because he cries, asks for help or is abused in any form. A man deserves equal amount of compassion and fairness when it comes to rendering justice for being raped, molested or sexually abused instead of his manhood being questioned or doubted. If we speak of gender equality then it holds good for men as well.

 

Rape trauma syndrome (RTS) is the psychological experienced by a rape survivor that includes disruptions to normal physical, emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal behaviour. The theory was first described by nurse Ann Wolbert Burgess and sociologist Lynda Lytle Holmstrom in 1974.

RTS is a cluster of psychological and physical signs, symptoms and reactions common to most rape victims immediately following a rape, but which can also occur for months or years afterwards. While most research into RTS has focused on female victims, sexually abused males (whether by male or female perpetrators) also exhibit RTS symptoms. RTS paved the way for consideration of complex post traumatic stress disorder which can more accurately describe the consequences of prolonged trauma than PTSD alone. The symptoms of RTS and post-traumatic stress syndrome overlap. As might be expected, a person who has been raped will generally experience high levels of distress immediately afterward. These feelings may subside over time for some people; however, individually each syndrome can have long devastating effects on rape victims and some victims will continue to experience some form of psychological distress for months or years. It has also been found that rape survivors are at high risk for developing substance use disorders, major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other disorders.

 

Q4) With cyber crime increasing , the suicidal rates have also gone very high, what should be the primary responsibility of Educational institutions and parents in this regard ?

Ans :Parents and authoritarians of educational institutions should accept that social media and the internet is an integral part of the children’s lives. Covid made the internet, smart phones and living online a natural way of life for children as young as kids going to kindergarten . The virtual world and its influence has already made a deep impact and founds its roots deep in to the lives and minds of children. There is a generation of covid babies, kindergarten kids, covid high school graduates and undergrads whose virtual and real lives have merged. The line between online and real is really fine for them. They started school online, graduated online, learned online and made friends and established many relationships on line. For them the virtual life is much more intimate, influential and real.

 

The parents and other authoritarians can accept this and then change the laws of allowing the children to incorporate the virtual life responsibly with caution and guidance instead of abstaining or banning them from social media and virtual world influence. Truth be told the adults themselves are struggling to find a balance. Post covid the smart phone and virtual life has left everyone engrossed and sucked in to it reducing social interactions in the real world drastically. Children follow examples not words. If parents can lead by example and show their children by themselves living a life which balances real experiences compared to the opinions of people in the virtual world, the children will follow suit. Adults let the number of likes on social media decide their moods and self-esteem levels then why will the children not be affected by the same? If adults themselves spend more time on social media losing touch with reality then why will the same not happen to children and teenagers?

 

Everything begins at home. If parents can also learn to balance their dependency for validation from their virtual lives, lead more meaningful real lives, bond with their children, do real things and have real experiences and understand their children’s needs instead of judging them it will help bridge the gap. A child always reaches out to their peers and the outside world when they are not seen appreciated or accepted at home. Children and teenagers follow the footsteps of their parents. Parenting and holding influential positions in institutions is a matter of great responsibility. It needs to be executed with love and unconditional acceptance. A fine balance between authority and love, empathy not control, acceptance and not judgement, understanding and not rigidity will create an environment where the children and youth will not want to escape the real world by giving up on themselves and ending their lives; instead find the balance between the enticing virtual world and also see the beauty in living the real life.

 

Q5) In your Book “ NOW YOU BREATHE”, you have talked about Narcissistic Behaviour. It would be really helpful to our new readers, If you talk a bit about this and shed light on this behaviour .

Ans :Narcissism is a feeling of grandiosity and entitlement in an individual towards their needs completely lacking empathy for others. Narcissistic Personality Disorder NPD is categorised under the Cluster B disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical manual. The DSM is a book which is referred to by mental health professionals all over the world compiled by the American association of psychiatry. This manual has been drafted after compiling decades of research by important bodies like the WHO and hundreds of international experts in all aspects of mental health.  

 

The latest editions of the DSM which is DSM V included a list of nine criteria. A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (fantasy in behaviour), need for admiration and lack of empathy, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five ( or more ) of the following:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance example exaggerates achievement and talents, expects to be recognised as superior without relevant achievements.
  2. free occupied with fantasies of unlimited success power brilliant beauty or ideal love.
  3. Believe that he or she is special and unique and unique only be understood by, or should associate with other special or high status people or institutions.
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement that is unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative that is takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends.
  7. Lacks empathy is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  9. Shows arrogant haughty behaviour or attitudes

When any of the above five or more attributes become a permanent part of an adult’s personality it is known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  A person with this kind of personality disorder is commonly referred to as a narcissist. The root word Narcissist emerged from the Greek Mythology were a young man Narcissus was cursed to be awestruck by his own reflection in a lake. He  then refused to eat, sleep and then perished because he just sat still in complete awe of himself. A narcissist perceives themselves as flawless and perfect and that there is nothing wrong with them. Narcissists projects themselves to the world as flawless, perfect, virtuous, kind, successful, and righteous. A narcissist wears a mask in front of the world. A totally different person emerges within closed spaces in privacy devoid of public eye.

So how does living with a person who has NPD or a narcissist feel like? A narcissistic adult has the emotional maturity of a two year old tantrum throwing child .The disordered erratic side of a narcissist who is an extremely controlling, aggressive, abusive, unreasonable person lacking empathy unveils with individual’s who can be easily controlled and manipulated. It could be a family member, a subordinate, a friend or a colleague who is considered weak by the narcissist. A narcissist mimics the behaviour of a spoilt child as an adult who manipulates one or more individuals who are known as a supply or a scapegoat. A narcissist’s scapegoat is a person on whom a narcissist has emotional, financial , positional or professional advantage  example a spouse, child, student, subordinate, employee etc. A narcissist indulges in various manipulative behavior to satiate their need for attention, importance, admiration, and attention. A narcissist clearly has no respect for the free will of the people they control. A narcissist needs to be in complete control of their primary supply’s life in order to get constant attention and admiration from them. It gets choking and suffocating to be around them. Lack of empathy is a narcissist’s most prominent trait where a narcissist hurts the scapegoat with insensitivity, rudeness, stubbornness, or failure to think before they speak or act. This amounts to verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. A narcissist will never admit to their irrational behaviour  and will deflect the blame on the supply, scapegoat or others in order to escape being held accountable for their behaviour and actions.

 

In short it’s like living with a dictator who will be extremely harsh with their control tactics, control the thoughts and actions of their victims, will not let them breathe or even think for themselves let alone live they way they want . Narcissistic abuse makes a person lose their mind, go in to depression, show signs of PTSD, have real health issues related to stress, and life style disorders.  Victims of narcissistic abuse are left penniless, divorces are long pending, visitation rights to children are denied, subjected to cheating, hostile business take overs leading to bankruptcy, false police reports and legal implications , failed health , depression, anxiety, trust issues and even suicidal tendencies.  This is the trail of devastation left behind in any kind of relationship with a person having NPD. The truth is that therapy and counselling mostly fails when it comes to people with NPD making this a very difficult personality disorder to manage or treat. A narcissist fails  to establish a relationship of trust with their therapists. A narcissist is constantly manipulating their therapist. A person who considers themselves to be perfect and flawless will never be open to any suggestions of change.

 Keep in mind a person with NPD will not pick a person with intact self-esteem who has more power over them as a scapegoat. Narcissists do not mess with people in powerful positions ,people with great mental grit and emotional strength. I handle numerous questions on Quora and other social media handles of victims of narcissistic abuse who are drowning in pain and disbelief that a loved one can treat them so badly and unrealistically. “How can someone who is meant to love me treat me shabbily without any consideration for my feelings. The same person speaks of justice, ethics , values in front of the world. Makes a mountain out of a mole hill when they subjected to small inconveniences while I get abused and battered ?

Such questions and expressions breaks my heart because I have been in their shoes. Behaviour stemming out lack of empathy can feel like an extremely cruel act. So I strive to help the victims who are suffering and or have been destroyed and discarded by a narcissist to heal.  Self-love without seeking validation from others , learning to drawing boundaries, respecting one’s own needs and standing up for them and finally living a life of purpose with awareness, awakening and spiritual evolution is the only way towards healing and overcoming trauma and abuse is what I believe.

Q6) Finally to what extent do you feel counselling and therapy can help a victim of Sexual abuse?

Ans: Counselling is extremely important for victims of sexual abuse or for that matter any form of abuse. Things which are beyond our control leave us wondering why it happened to us, could we have averted it what could have been the alternate reality .We begin to seek answers. The fact is that there are no easy or readymade answers to such questions. Why did one get sexually abused or raped? Why only such a horrible thing happen to the victim. Why only their loved ones betrayed them where as their peers and the rest of the world remain safe, loved and unaffected. Was there an alternate reality or a way to avert it and above all were they responsible for it? Victims need answers to the questions which have no answers.

 The objective of therapy and counselling is to find peace beyond not having answers for all the whys? The ability to accept what can never be changed or the existence of an alternate reality which never manifested itself, instead a nightmare became reality is the peace with which a victim of any form of abuse needs to make peace with. Usually family members and loved ones will ignite shame, revenge, pity , fear within a victim depending on what kind of emotional entanglements they have the victim. Hence an unbiased, emotionally neutral, knowledgeable, informed and experienced individual will be best suited to guide the victims. Hence therapy and counselling through mental health professionals is extremely essential for healing from sexual abuse. I strongly insist that meditation and making higher connections like faith, God and spirituality is equally essential in healing from any form of trauma and pain.

 

 

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