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As A Trained Therapist, It Was Hard To Accept That I Was Dealing With Depression Myself

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By Vidyashree

I trained to be an Expressive Arts Therapist in 2012. Expressive arts therapy is the practice of using imagery, storytelling, dance, music, drama, poetry, movement, dream work, and visual arts together, in an integrated way, to foster human growth, development, and healing. It is about reclaiming our innate capacity as human beings for creative expression of our individual and collective human experience in artistic form. It is also about experiencing the natural capacity of creative expression and creative community for healing. Counseling and talk therapy are an integral part of the work of expressive arts therapists and are used as very strong aids to process the work created by the client.

I4012904148_ddded1b10d_on July 2014, I had my first baby. What followed was postpartum depression. Overwhelming feelings of sadness and unstoppable bouts of crying. When it happened, it took me a few days to realise and to completely accept that this had happened to me, a trained therapist! This was the real test of my training. To be able to apply all my belief in therapy and art. The first step to healing is always acceptance. Acceptance of feelings, acceptance of behavior of self and acceptance of the situation. No healing can take place in the absence of acceptance. I accepted that I was undergoing postpartum depression. I accepted that there were inexplicable feelings and I accepted that I needed to reach out and seek help. I also completely accepted that my ‘symptoms’ were separate than me, the person.

On one such evening of depression, I opened my diary and wrote a journal entry. I wrote about how wanting a daughter had been a childhood dream and how I felt when she was born. I felt better. The next day I wrote some more and I painted. Within the next few days, I also went and consulted my homeopath. She listened to me for close to two hours and just that made me feel a lot better. As a habit, I also shared my everyday feelings with my husband, close friends and my mother. I also cried a lot, without feeling ashamed. A combination of writing, painting, talking, crying and sessions with my doctors ensured that I was on my way to feeling better and feeling healed. It took four months for me to get over my postpartum depression. Some feelings of depression come and go even now, but the deepest feelings of sadness have disappeared.

I share this very personal journey with all of you to bring to light the importance and the beauty of healing. How it is imperative that each one of us recognise feelings that need a way out and then choose a way to let them out. The process of ‘letting out’ needs an anchor. An anchor can be an art form, a close family member, a spouse, a friend or a trained therapist or a clinical psychologist. This is a personal choice and one that has to be made with trust, openness and no judgement.

As a trained therapist and as someone who has herself made this journey of seeking help to ‘let out’, I would always recommend finding an Expressive Arts Therapist or a combination of seeking an art form and going to a therapist.

Please consider the following factors before making a decision about your therapeutic process:

1. Self-Expression: All therapies, by their very nature and purpose, should encourage individuals to engage in self-exploration and self-expression. A platform where this is made possible becomes effective from the beginning.

2. Active Participation: The experience of doing, making, and creating can actually energize individuals, redirect attention and focus, and alleviate emotional stress, allowing one to fully concentrate on issues, goals, and behaviors. How will a process of active participation be facilitated?

3. Safe-Space: The space where therapeutic work happens has to feel safe. The concept of safety can be relative and its notion is as much psychological as physical. Aspects like trust, rapport with the therapist, confidentiality, a non-threatening and a nonjudgmental environment, all of these contribute to safety. It is important that you ask questions related to the physicality of the space which will be used for your sessions. A neutral space is always a good idea – neither your house nor the therapist’s.

4. Affordability: You have to decide what works for you. There are clinical psychologists associated with every hospital, there are expressive arts therapists- difficult to find but they exist and there are therapists running their independent practice. There is also a lot of pro-bono work happening in the field of therapy and while individual therapists may not offer these services, there are organisations and NGOs and online channels which provide free services.

5. Stigma-Shame-Marginalisation: There is NO shame in seeking help. There is NO shame in going through depression, battling mental illness, fighting feelings of suicide. There is no shame in accepting that maybe your mental health is affected and it needs healing. Each one of us goes through cycles of a low tide in our mental health. Marginalisation begins with oneself. When you choose to go into a shell because you are ashamed of what is happening in your mind, you initiate the process of stepping away. It is crucial to remind ourselves every day that each of our journeys are sacred and precious and difficult. When there is no shame, stigma and marginalisation affect us less.

paint-328676_19206. The Person You Are: Who you are and what you want is the most important. How you want to heal is of primary concern while making this decision. How much time you want to take before seeking help, is your decision. A dear friend I know doesn’t take medication for her schizophrenia. Another friend I know takes medication for her depression and goes to a psychologist.What works for another person may or may not work for you. Rely on your intuition and your own understanding of yourself.

7. Seek Therapist Information:

a) Ask for information about where the therapist is trained from and what the body of work is like. This is important because when you make an effort to do research and seek information, you also take the responsibility for your therapeutic process.
b) Ask if the therapist is registered and works independently or is attached to a therapeutic establishment.
c) How will goals be identified for your therapy sessions? You may go with a set of goals you want to achieve, but as you make this journey, you will realise that the goals might change. For e.g. you may decide that you want to do seek therapy to improve your self-esteem. But in the process you will discover stored up anger from childhood experiences. The goal of the sessions will then switch to the theme of ‘anger’. And will eventually lead to enhanced emotional expression and self-esteem.

Mental health is imperative for a healthy society. I have witnessed some fantastic work that is being done in this field and I have also witnessed the evolution of people from ignorance to awareness to healing and then to empowerment.

And NO, therapy is not just for ‘the not normal’. We are all normal neurotics.

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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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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