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“To Me, Having Schizophrenia Or Depression Is Our Souls Telling Us To Wake Up”

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By Reshma Valliappan

We would have heard this ‘NO’ in context to the rape culture that has been going on ever since dinosaurs stopped existing and man and woman sprung up from some strange godly discourse of existence written in some scripture. Again, this scripture was written by a man and not by a woman. If she did, I really wonder what life on this planet would look like.

reshma valliappanThe word sex has been the biggest taboo ever since then. It has been the biggest power tool for repression, oppression and control ever since man realized he could only shoot climatic stars of ecstasy (orgasm) once (or maybe twice for certain gifted ones who have worked out) or several times (for those who know what they are doing in bed) as opposed to the woman who can own the sky of multiplicity. I say ‘man’ because I would agree to the feminist terms of womb and vagina envy that speaks of how men have a natural envy to the biological functions of the female body. However, this term has sprung up from the same psychoanalytic school where Sigmund Freud first coined the term penis envy. But there would be real dangers if we kept our focus on the psychoanalytical theories of gender roles and sexuality given these theories came from individuals born and raised in a different culture, society, religious and spiritual beliefs, language and existential roles but have been put on the same pedestal of gods by you.

Since I am writing this article, I would call everyone else fools for doing so. Why? Because since the birth and rise of psychiatry and psychology in the 1900, it took this one man called Freud followed by Jung and a whole bunch of other baboons to come up with many different intellectually stimulating words and spread it through the economics of mindless fascinations because they couldn’t understand themselves better. They needed to find the ‘mad people’ which mostly comprised of women labelled with hysteria for them to study and experiment upon while some even had sexual bondages with these women they claimed to help. Then this other fellow called Eugen Bleuler coined the disorders and broke them into different branches called schizophrenia, autism, bipolar so on and so forth. This further entered all the psychology books, education and social understanding of what mental illness is. And the whole world believed them and follows them. Coming from being a schizophrenic, I think everyone else are complete fools for doing so because they have no voice of their own. On this note, I am glad I hear voices, many of which are my own. But I have been treated for hearing them. I have been called crazy, lunatic, pagal, mad, insane, unsound and have been completely rejected by society and the same system claiming to help someone like me finding my way back into society.

What society fails to really understand is that mental health issues affect each one of us. No human being is discriminated on the experience of mental health breakdowns yet they choose to discriminate and stigmatize the likes of people like me along with spreading and believing that we can be violent or dangerous to others or ourselves. If they do their research and use their brains, they would find that many of us were ‘victims’ of violence and our spurts of aggression are merely defences for the acts committed on us which live in our minds.

Even in my entrance into cross-disability, many others with physical disabilities did not want to have anything to do with the ‘crazies’ for we might spread our madness to them or just the very thought of sitting in the same room with me would stigmatize them. The invisibility of the stigma and discrimination is equally proportionate to the invisibility of our pain and condition. And the only way we can bring this forward is by talking about it even if it hurts others in the process for being this honest about it all. The very fact is that mental health issues arise because nobody wants to talk about them. Nobody wants to address what is really happening inside of their heads. It is easier to fit in and brush it all under the carpet. And then it grows and gets bigger and out of proportion leading to breakdowns. It is easier to believe it is a chemical imbalance that needs to be treated and the pills will make it all go away. How can people be so blind to treat human experiences and call them disorders? It is disabling no doubt, but it is disabling since the larger whole does not find the need to able themselves with true empowerment of their experiences and voices.

The questions we must ask ourselves are: What really are the causes of mental health issues? Is it what you think has been written and sold? If people have enough access to reading this article, they should use their discretion to do their own research and really find out because until it happens to them or someone they love they really don’t bother waking up. To me, having schizophrenia or depression or any other so called mental illness is our souls knocking real hard on our doors and telling us to wake up to our purpose because we are nothing but a populated group of consumerist dodos; extinct of our true selves. We have developed false expectations and needs of what success means to us and in the road to gaining these illusionary needs we develop such issues.

But no one is going to believe me when I say this because I have schizophrenia. If I had ‘Dr.’ prefixed to my name, the whole world would clap for me and shove degrees up to me. Then again when doctors are funded for research on how to deal with our voices – it is called a discovery. It is called the new edge of helping schizophrenia sufferers to listen to their voices and have a relationship with them. But isn’t it for the very reason that we hear voices and listen to them and have a relationship with is why we are getting treated and stigmatized? This is the double irony of the system which society does not see.

Why do I bring up this critique and how is it relevant to the topic of sexuality? Let’s be clear of the definition and oppression of independent women. That is, any woman who voices her opinions, her needs, her wants and what she does not want is called a bitch, a slut, a selfish badly influenced person who needs to be taught a lesson and this list goes on, as there are over 300 mental health disorders listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) aka The Psychiatry Bible.

What I really want to point out are the many hats and roles placed on women. Let’s take the schizophrenic woman with alternate sexuality. Both these labels and existences are not born with her but are received when she reaches adulthood. When we remove these labels we get the young adult who is rebellious, opinionated, desiring an endless list of what pleases her, saying no to authority, disliking others or their philosophies. She is actually abled by it. So we remove this label and we get the mother, the daughter, the sister, the wife, the boss, the carer, the girlfriend all of which are about owning her. Even in the attempt of telling her to ask for her rights and educate her about patriarchy, she needs a man to tell her that. This is how strong the hold is.

How is this connected to sexuality? Easy. How many heterosexual able-bodied women can tell their husbands or boyfriends openly ‘Hey, I don’t feel like having sex with you today?’ When we find out how many can say NO – then we have to ask the next question ‘Hey, I’m feeling horny let’s make out’. When we can find out how many are allowed to ASK for what pleases them is where the labels of hypomanic or sexual addiction are placed on women. They’ve classified this as disorders that need to be treated because apparently the woman loses herself to it and stops functioning for her betterment which in turn affects her life. Fair enough a point to call it something that does not allow her to function well. But if she was given the respect and choice from the very beginning to say what pleases her, the disorder won’t have to exist to make up for what she can’t ask consciously.

Therefore, before we even get into the discourse of mental illness, psycho-social disability, sexuality, alternate sexuality, choices and rights, legal privileges and recovery, women as a whole need to begin questioning this simple NO. The day I said NO and listened to the voices in my head was the day I discovered my wants and needs. The voices that told me ‘You’re a slut’ were the voices of authority I have heard before. But since society tells me not to question authority and moral notions by them, my psychosis made up for it.

The voices that told me ‘Watch the movie and go out and have fun’ were my innermost desires becoming so strong that they have to assume the existence of controlling voices to the point of psychosis so that I do it. So that I engage in it and know what I really want and not what I should want according to society.

I hear voices and it connects me to my various selves hence others want to control me or treat me. If others only heard their own true voices, we’ll all know who is taking me out for a date tomorrow.

This article was originally published here on the Sexuality and Disability blog. 

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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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