This is a beautifully-made, revolutionary movie about Schizophrenia and its treatment.
A Drop of Sunshine is a 2011 film made by an Indian filmmaker and winner of the National Film Award. It chronicles the story of Reshma (Resh) Valliappan and her incredible journey of triumph over schizophrenia. It questions conventional notions about the treatment of Schizophrenia and will make you question everything you have been told about schizophrenia.
Most psychiatrists today believe schizophrenia is merely a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Treatment options, under mainstream psychiatry, are limited to the prescription of various medicines.
But these medicines come with a slew of side effects: obesity, sexual dysfunction, lactation in men, worsening of symptoms, involuntary repetitive body movements and even loss of personhood.
In Resh’s case, the medications may have made her easier to “manage” but they made things a lot worse for her. She felt her brain was no longer functioning as it used to. When she was on her meds, she no longer felt like herself. It was as if she was just going through the motions, but not truly living.
So Resh and her family decided to look into alternative treatment options – counseling, art therapy, yoga, meditation, etc. With the advice of a friend, Resh also started befriending the voices in her head. And the voices actually started helping engineer her own well-being. Ultimately, they showed her the next step in her healing—painting.
Following this unconventional path would turn out to be a turning point in Resh’s journey. Little by little, Resh rediscovered herself and took back her life.
It is a remarkable story and, in my humble opinion, revolutionary.
This theme of befriending your voices seems to be a common one for some patients with psychosis. Here’s a TED talk by Dr Eleanor Longden, who overcame her diagnosis of schizophrenia by learning to listen to her voices. She also found that her voices were in fact a sane reaction to an insane circumstance.
She says, “the psychic phenomenon (of hallucinations) is a creative and ingenious survival strategy that should be seen not as an abstract symptom of illness to be endured, but as complex, significant. and meaningful experience to be explored.”
One organization that helps people having hallucinations explore the meaning of their experience is the Hearing Voices Network.
Here’s another TED talk by Phil Borges, an anthropologist who has observed that in indigenous cultures, psychosis is regarded as a spiritual awakening.
So…what we understand about the phenomenon of psychosis is very little.
One thing I have realized by opening up my thinking in this manner is that we should not fear these symptoms…we should not fear them as individuals experiencing them, as family members, as physicians and as a society. As a society, we need to develop more tolerance for such experiences and allow for people experiencing them to have an open dialogue about them.
I encourage you to watch this film and let me know what you think!