She Is Living With A Meningioma And Schizophrenia, But It Doesn’t Define Her

I am living with a meningioma and schizophrenia. My search in life now is, how can I unite the world with the colours that have helped me this far

Reshma Valliappan, known as Val Resh from Maharashtra, India was diagnosed with Schizophrenia at the age of 22 and spent years of her life within the walls of her family home with her parents and younger sister. Val then nine years later was diagnosed with a Meningioma. Both things have shaped her life tremendously. Her way to find peace in herself is to paint. 

“Mental Health rehabs don’t treat patients as individuals but as sheep, and thus my dad refused to send me to one even if it meant leaving his full time to care for me and be the strength for the entire family. My search in life now is, how can I unite the world with the colours that have helped me this far” Val Resh

Here Is Val Resh’s Meningioma Story

In 2011 I was 31, I was having severe fevers, the abrupt start of partial body seizures, where I felt my insides were constantly squeezed and electricity felt like it was coming out of one side of my head and right ear. Dissociations (becoming someone else), suicidal ideations (paranoid).

Doctors were ignoring me under the claim that it was pseudo-seizures caused by my refusal to take medications for schizophrenia. Eventually, after a few tests, I was diagnosed with a Meningioma on my left hemisphere in June. I had brain surgery to have it removed.

Post-Surgery Problems

Post-surgery I developed ADHD like symptoms, supersensitivity to noise and colour that on its own can trigger a seizure, my brain works super fast too, although some parts have to compensate: I cannot exercise, and enjoy dancing or clubbing like I used to because one night wipes away a whole week for me where I become disoriented and fatigued.

I have lived with this since 2011, then left my anti-epileptics in 2015 after discovering the possibilities of alternative healing and just a change in my lifestyle.

In-operable Meningioma

In 2019 the tumour resurfaced. Some doctors feel it could be brought on owing to the shift in my lifestyle from being slow and careful to extreme travel, work demands and life. I’ve been advised to live with my tumour as it is too small to be operated on and too large for radiation – plus I do not have the finances for either.

This happened in 2019 when I realized how I got consumed by this fear of something having returned – despite having overcome So much in my life
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Recovery

I am back on anti-seizure medications but my super-sensitive hearing and synaesthesia that developed continue to exist. There are days my brain ‘mal-functions like a computer RAM and just hangs sort of. I feel it’s almost empty or dead.

Although I learnt to make peace and live with my schizophrenia, I continue to face challenges of the stigma and discrimination that exist with it. I have also been a child survivor of Reye’s syndrome. When the tumour showed up in 2011, I was at my peak as a recognized Mental Health advocate here in India.

But there comes a time when something hits you and brings the worst fear imaginable. This happened in 2019 when I realized how I got consumed by this fear of something having returned – despite having overcome the other ‘brain related’ journeys in my life.

What is the toughest challenge survivors face?

The invisibility of the condition. Also if it is non-cancerous people do not understand the complications that otherwise exist and think it is nothing.

Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?

  • Do what makes you happy not others
  • Do not allow yourself to get into ‘self-doubt’ of the leftover effects of the tumour

What motivates you?

My artwork: I used to teach children from communities (under-privileged). When I saw their struggles, yet how they accepted me when I would slur, or forget the lesson plan, or can’t move – they brought me joy.

My faith (spiritual practice) has been a strong belief system that when all things crash – I automatically surrender to what the universe has to offer me.

Help Raise Money For Artist With Schizophrenia And Brain Tumor
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By Val Resh

Do you have a personal hero?

Personally – me.

I need to remind myself who I was, am and can be. Looking in the mirror is a difficult thing to do but has to be done. But heroes exist everywhere in every person and I try to look at this aspect in others when I can’t find myself, I observe and ask myself what drives this person to live and not give in to whatever struggle they might be having.

Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know?

My life of living without medications for schizophrenia, using art was made into an award-winning documentary the same year called ‘A drop of sunshine.

I often am at very difficult episodes, but I do not like to show it or disclose it. I find comfort in making others smile. I do not have friends I hang out with – they have mostly been imaginary. And for friends who have reached out to me, I carry the regret of not being able to accept their invitations owing to the complications of me losing out on days after being in a social setting. I am prone to fatigue.

Tell us about Shared Consciousness?

t started in September 2019 when I found out that my brain tumour had returned. Just the thought of it affected me drastically and made me revisit everything I have been doing “How do I connect people through their differences and discrimination”. Having battled schizophrenia and multiple other conditions, the stigma I continue facing with my family because of schizophrenia, alongside the invisible effects of a brain tumour made me relook at my narrative and work in mental health as an activist.

COVID-19

As schools shut following the COVID-19 pandemic, I lost my only source of hope which came from the interactions I had with my students. Waking up each day just to be with them was something I looked forward to, irrespective of having seizures, losing memory and temporary loss of days and function. The opportunity to connect with other humans surfaced in May 2020 when I asked individuals to share their thoughts with me and I began painting them. It gave me hope while I saw how it uplifted others who couldn’t paint, or express themselves creatively.
This was how Shared Consciousness came into being. A voice in my head told me “If you are going to create art, it should be to awaken others and a tool for bringing people together – not a revolution, not a reaction, nor a fight”.

More information is available here: Shared Consciousness Project

Connect With Me Here

Website

Facebook Page

Instagram

Twitter

How Can People Help You During The Pandemic?

I would like people to ask me to paint for them – I am honoured by the stories that come in and this gives me a reason to wake up. People can pay me or I can do it for free. If people do donate, it helps me pay for paints and equipment and renting a studio to do my painting

I do have a crowdfunding campaign at the moment but will finish in March 2021 – Any help is truly appreciated: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-reshma-41

I am living with a meningioma and schizophrenia. My search in life now is, how can I unite the world with the colours that have helped me this far
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I am living with a meningioma and schizophrenia. My search in life now is, how can I unite the world with the colours that have helped me this far
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