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‘The Memory Of My 6-Year-Old Daughter Pained Me’ – My Story Of Living With Bipolar Disorder

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By Punitha Suresh:

I am 45 years old and have been living with Bipolar Disorder for the past 16 years. 25 years ago, my mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. We were children at that time, the four of us, and we did not know anything about mental illness. We couldn’t comprehend her sufferings and were baffled by her bizarre behaviour. She was taken to a psychiatrist but didn’t respond to the treatment. Then one day, she tried to commit suicide by immolating herself; she was admitted to the burns ward in a general hospital where she succumbed after three weeks of agony.


Mine was a love marriage; my husband Suresh was a drummer. When my daughter was one year old, one of my friends died in a road accident. This was when my husband’s late working hours and drinking habits made me panic that he will meet with an accident too. I started ruminating over this issue endlessly; it caused so much distress that sleep eluded me. Because of my delusions and hallucinations I was taken to the hospital where ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy) was administered. I was devastated when I learnt that I had mental illness like my mother and thought that I will end up like her.

On returning home after the trauma of the scary diagnosis, I faced stigma and discrimination. Both educated and uneducated people treated me with contempt. I was ashamed of my illness and the medicines were making me gain weight. After two years of treatment, my doctor informed that I had recovered and could stop the medication. My joy knew no bounds.

But after few months, I started becoming very argumentative and abusive. I fought with the TTR in a train once which made me feel that something was amiss. I got myself admitted voluntarily but refused to admit that I had had a relapse. I just kept on saying that I needed medicines to put me to sleep and when they started treating me instead, I got frustrated and went on a hunger strike. The doctor however said that he will go on with the treatment; I resisted and the ward boys manhandled me. I felt helpless and traumatised and ran away from the hospital to a church on a hill. My husband came and requested me to return. My running away infuriated the doctor further and he threatened that he will hand me over to the police. I was scared. After this I was discharged, but the doctor said that he was doing this against his wishes and advice.

Later on, my husband took me to many different doctors. I was put on different types of medication and had to go through their unpleasant side effects each time. Finally, there was one doctor who’s meds put me on right track. I started recovering but the hitch was that I wasn’t really a part of the treatment process. The doctor wouldn’t talk to me, so when I had marital issues, instead of going to my doctor I stopped my medicines and headed for a relapse. I was working in Avon Cosmetics and running a boutique at that time. I used to smash things in the house and be very abusive; I wandered to Chalukudy in Kerala once and was taken in police custody, my husband brought me back to Chennai. I refused to go for treatment. This time, I was administered ECT without my consent, and admitted in a rehabilitation home. I was paralysed with shock. The memory of my six-year-old daughter pained me and the fear of being locked and forgotten made me spiral deep down. It was then that I vowed that I will recover and come out. I also felt the need to be treated.

I came out of rehab as a totally different person. I started attending a day care attached to the rehab and after a few months I also took up a job. My interest in computers made me join an IT consultancy; I started as a recruiter and was promoted to the position of lead coordinator within a few months. I was happy with my work but deep down a fire was burning

“If I am not for myself who else is for me?
If I am only for myself what am I for?
If not now then when?”

I began my search for people like me and came across an NGO, the Banyan. Here I got a job as a supervisor of a day care and was promoted to be the Jr. Coordinator. I love the job in The Banyan. To think that I used to go to a day care myself and today I am managing one has made me stronger. People think that after ECT a person becomes like vegetable. But that is not true. Since my strength is advocacy, I took up “International diploma in mental health law and human rights”- a WHO initiative with Indian Law College, one of top ten law colleges in India, and passed in 2013.

My Vision: I want to see the world where people with mental illness are accepted in the society, get married, get employment, live with families in a world free from stigma and discrimination.

My Mission: I want to start a movement in India, be a change maker.


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  1. Aditya

    hey YKA,

    This post is so direct and straigt forward. It motivated me. A brilliant piece. I wish to have a word with the author seeking her guidance over a my personal similar issue. Is there a way I can get in touch with her?

    -aditya singh

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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