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Writing Stories Every Day Helped Me Cope With Depression

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By DaMuRiq:

For a while I didn’t see the point anymore. I was stuck in a job stacking grocery shelves. Every night, I returned to an empty apartment that stank. I didn’t like the people I hung out with. I only hung out with them because I was sure nobody else would want my company.

I even toyed with the idea of just killing myself, as I couldn’t see much hope for improvement. The only reason I didn’t commit suicide was because I was too much of a coward to end it all. And I hated myself for it.

‘Why Don’t You Write About It?’

The big problem was that I couldn’t really talk about my problems. I wasn’t in touch with my emotions and struggled to find the words to describe them. As a result, when I went to see the psychologist, we’d often just end up staring at each other. I was unable to express myself at all. They had no idea how to get me out of this.

Finally, one of them said, “If you can’t say it, why don’t you write about it.” I asked her what I should write about. “Well, your problems would be a good place to start.” I told her that I didn’t think that I could do that. “Can’t you try? she asked. I replied that I couldn’t.

She looked at me. I looked at her. I could smell liquor and sweat from my clothes. Her name was Susan. I felt as if she was depressed as well. You can see it when that happens. There’s something about the eyes which give it away. A combination of poorly concealed frustrations and strain.

“Fine, then write about something else. Tell me a story,” she said. “Can you do that?” I nodded hesitantly. “What should I write about?” I asked. She glanced at a painting she had on the wall of Mount Fuji. A walk in the mountains.

Walking With Words

I’d never really tried writing before. My school didn’t really encourage it. They didn’t really encourage me at all, to be honest. Most of them had given up on me the same way the counsellors did. I didn’t know where to start.

So I started drinking, with the notebook on the table. I didn’t stop until I was unconscious. The next day was the same, though I did draw a little on one corner of the page. What did I know about mountains?

It was only on the night before I was supposed to see her again that I finally started. I was drunk. It didn’t matter. Or perhaps it did. I started to search for motivation to write about walking in the mountains or how I imagined it would be. This managed to awaken something in me.

The Question

It made me ask questions. What would it be like like to walk on the mountains? And from there it made me ask other questions. A whole tirade of them. Now, questions are nothing new. I asked hundreds of questions every day. Why me? Why does nobody care? Why does nobody love me? The problem with these questions, however, was that they were entirely self-indulgent.

This question was different. This made me think and explore something which wasn’t about me.

Not that I was aware of that at the time. But Susan was aware. She realised that something had changed. And so she gave me some more stories. And I wrote them. And something had begun to change.

Curiosity Awakened

Every story she made me write allowed me to explore something new. It might have been a place, a thought or an emotion. And as I explored them, I was filled with a sense of wonder. I became capable of looking out beyond the prison of my own skull. I started showing an interest in other people and activities. I became aware of alternatives. And the first step to finding a way out of the darkness is to understand that there is a way to the light. My stories became that light. Or perhaps it is better to say they became the roadmap towards that light.

A Long Road

Now don’t get me wrong. The stories were only the beginning. The point is that they changed my perspective. They helped me want to get better by showing me there was another person I could be. I could be those people in my stories. Some of them were brave. Some were smart. Some of them a lot more like me.

And once I had that hope, I found that I was able to take some of the hard steps that I needed to get out of the darkness. It made me want to climb that steep hill. It made me get back up again when I got knocked down. Be rest assured that I got knocked down a lot.

I’m Better Now

I’ve found my way out of darkness. I’ve built up emotional resilience. I moved out of that apartment. I’m no longer stacking shelves. My life isn’t perfect, but it is better. I’m no longer depressed. And the stories? I still write them. I’d like to be an author one day. I know that I still have a long way to go. But what matters is that I’ve come a far longer way since that first story about a mountain walk. I’ve climbed a mountain on my own.

That Makes Me Wonder

Did Susan pick that topic just like that or did she see the parallel? Did she realise that depression is a lot like a mountain walk. There are so many peaks and dales, that often it’s a hard slog to just walk a few miles.

Susan and I parted ways when I got better and I never managed to ask her before we did. Still, I’d like to think she did. I’d like to believe she understood how a story about a mountain walk would offer me the strength to climb out of my depression. Because that just makes it a far better story, don’t you think?

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Image source: Bruce Guenter/ Flickr

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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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