A Spell Of Psychiatry. In this write-up, I highlight one of… | by Bro. Doc. | Jan, 2024

Book Cover

So, what happens when you view medicine through the lens of fiction? It messes with your mind in strange ways, though exciting. I know because I have been there before.

Everything good will come

One of my tweets about the author.

In ‘A Spell of Good Things’ by Ayobami Adebayo, we are thrown into two worlds alienated by various circumstances that collide at different points in time, with the climax spelling doom for both worlds. Various themes are explored: politics and its effects on the everyday person, cultural practices, relationships, and mental illness, to mention but a few.

In one of the worlds the writer painted, we come across Eniola and his impoverished family. His father, a history teacher, is a victim of the illogical government policy of removing History and other subjects from the curriculum.

As the story proceeds, Baami, as he is repeatedly called in the book, fails to get a new job because no one wants to employ a history teacher. His family suffers as he can’t provide for their basic needs. This theme rears its ugly head throughout the book. And to make matters worse, he resigns himself to his fate.


The darkness has been there for as long as he could remember

The first time I read the book, I was seriously pissed at Baba Eniola. Why would this man resign himself to his fate and not do anything to help his family? Each time his wife goes out to look for menial jobs, why can’t he pick himself up and do something? I was like, “Do something! Anything!”

Fast forward to some months later, I began my mental health posting, which started with a barrage of lectures that I slept through. I digress. A week later, I began the hospital posting and began interacting with patients, even though I had not fully grasped what the posting was about. Medical school throws a lot of information your way and expects you, with your superhuman brain, to assimilate everything. Again, I digress.

On a particular occasion, I had the opportunity to interact with a patient with major depressive disorder, and I was dumbfounded. At the back of my mind, I knew I had seen this somewhere, somehow, in the past, but I couldn’t grasp it. It wasn’t until later, I figured.

Another of my tweets

Ayobami was preaching the gospel of depression, and I was blind to it. The picture she painted was as clear as day. The darkness had been there for a long time—the predisposing factor. He just found a way around it. Not until the loss of his job—the precipitating factor. Even after the job loss, he couldn’t get a new one, even though he tried—the maintaining factor.

He exhibited the major symptoms of depression (depressed mood, lack of interest, and reduced energy), and Ayobami made a crucial point about it. Other symptoms like reduced concentration, reduced self-esteem and confidence, ideas of guilt, ideas of self-harm, and diminished appetite were also present in him—symptoms crucial to the diagnosis of major depressive disorder.

He was suffering from something she could not fully understand; she would be patient with him

Kudos to Iya Eniola; just like me, she did not fully understand her husband’s predicament. But unlike me, she was patient with him. Eniola was also patient with him, though out of fear that his father was contemplating suicide. Busola, on the other hand, was different, though her uncompromising behavior helped to divert the darkness sometimes.

My point?

It’s beautiful to see when writers do their characters justice. Ayobami understands this and exploits it well. ‘A Spell of Good Things’ was a good read, and I recommend it especially to medical students. There are various talking points present in the novel that one should not miss.

Medical school can sometimes be interesting, especially when one experiences relatable situations.

I could have used this piece to address the relative paucity of information or awareness regarding mental health issues in this country, but that would be a story for another day.

Till then…

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