This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Guneet Singh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

I Was On The Edge Of A Building, Weighing Pros And Cons Of Jumping. Here’s Why I Didn’t

things happened in the last few days:

March 31, 2017 – WHO announced that depression is now the world’s most widespread illness, launching a campaign called Depression: Let’s Talk.

April 3, 2017 – Our beloved superhero Modiji said, “We (in India) are afraid to talk about it (depression) openly” and urged fellow Indians to talk about it.

April 4, 2017 – A 24-year-old B.Com student committed suicide leaving a note saying, “I’m a drug addict…I don’t want to live anymore and hence committing suicide.” (His college is just 2 minutes away from my engineering college in Mumbai.)

Let’s Talk.

About 20 years back, sometime during primary school, for the first time, I had felt suicidal. I honestly don’t remember why. I assume it must have been something that made me very angry or sad. Through the next few years, I felt the same urge multiple times. As a kid, I used to think that this phenomenon is normal, that it happens to every normal person, and as seen in the movies and on TV, one is not ‘supposed’ to commit suicide. Then there were a few good years from the 6th-grade till the 12th-grade during which I didn’t I feel this urge.

January 2008 (12th Grade)

A girl, my 4-am-friend and someone I had developed feelings for, suddenly walked up to me one day along with her boyfriend. I had no clue that they were even friends before that day. There. Say hello to my first real heartbreak. Of course, my world was turned upside down, and I almost heard my heart getting crushed. My crushed heart had started to beat abnormally fast. This was an external phenomenon over which I had no control. However, then I started screwing my own self over. Some 3 or 4 months before IIT-JEE, realising that chemistry was my weakness, I started feeling I like I wouldn’t be able to crack it (in case you don’t know, IIT-JEE is the entrance exam for India’s best engineering institutes — the IITs). This was even worse than the heartbreak. I had such big dreams of studying in the IITs and had shared those dreams with my parents and teachers as well, raising their expectations of me. The realisation that I had messed up and let everyone down was soul crushing. You can probably guess what’s coming next.

I started feeling suicidal. This is my first clear memory of feeling the urge. The girl and the JEE constantly occupied my head throughout day and night, over-thinking and over analysing where I had gone wrong and what my mistake was. My head used to keep telling me, “forget the girl, JEE is the one chance to make a great career. Don’t compromise.

I cried a lot, multiple times. I had told my best friend about the whole thing, so I used to talk to him. I hadn’t told anyone about the suicidal thoughts though, assuming that people would either panic or judge.

“I was standing at the edge of the terrace of my building, staring downwards at the ground and evaluating the pros and cons of jumping.”

I remember one night, vividly. I was standing at the edge of the terrace of my building, staring downwards at the ground and evaluating the pros and cons of jumping. I tried to imagine how much it would hurt, how that pain would be compared to the current pain I was going through, what would I tell my family later if I survived, etc.

I didn’t jump.

This night is very important to me because while evaluating the idea of jumping, I found my reason to live.

There are 3 absolutely most important people in my life — my grandmother, my mother, and my father. The payoff in jumping would be the end of this extreme sadness in one move – and what a relief it would have been. But the downside would be the sadness and the depression it would send these three people into, and for sure the sadness caused to them would be much worse than what I was going through. The choice was simplified – my current sadness versus their future sadness. I love them unconditionally. That means I love them more than I love myself. That means avoiding their sadness is more important to me than avoiding my own.

Okay. I’d rather live.” I told myself. “At least till they are alive.

A few days later, on a Sunday, I sat in front of my parents and told them in a choked voice, “I don’t think I will be able to crack IIT-JEE this year. I would like to drop a year and give it a shot next year.” My father, expectedly disappointed, first reminded me of the things he had warned me about which could go against my IIT dream, like hanging out a lot with my friends, deciding to study in Mumbai instead of Kota, etc. Then he said “Anyway, whatever decision you want to take, you take with confidence. You have our support. IIT or not, you will still be the same son to us.” I remember this word-to-word. It was the most relieving moment ever. Feeling accepted and loved, even after being a ‘loser’.

Fast forwarding a bit, I cut off all ties with that girl to get her out of my head. I took all my entrance exams very lightly since I would be attempting them again next year anyway. My parents flipped 180 degrees after the entrances and forced me to join ANY engineering college I could get into that year itself, as their friends had told them that dropping a year might just prove even worse for me. They were adamant and I gave up. My scores in 12th boards and Maharashtra CET were disappointing (much more than my effort deserved, much less than what I really deserved). I got absolutely lucky and secured the last seat in my preferred branch in a good engineering college in Mumbai. The family was content, I was not. I was still feeling like a loser.

Nevertheless, I decided to make the best of my situation and build whatever career I could with the opportunities I had. Over the next 4 years, I had almost 100% attendance with the teachers whose classes I used to like. I worked hard in extracurriculars. I religiously went for my dance classes and to the gym. I fell in love with a very beautiful and sweet girl and experienced my first romantic relationship. I could never top my class but managed to secure the first job on campus – which still didn’t offer a salary even comparable to what an IIT job would entail, thus contributing to my feelings of underachievement. Two years later, I managed to crack the CAT, got into a top-tier B-school, and in June 2015, secured one of the best jobs on campus.

Do I feel successful today? Not even close. Over the last few years, I have realised that having a comfortable salary is not a measure of success; contribution to society is. However, it took sevenand-a-half years since that night to prove to my own self that I’m not a loser.

February 2016 (Second Last Month Of MBA)

Not one, but 3 events in a matter of 5 days shook my soul to the core. I cannot share the events publicly because none of them exclusively involve me. The first event was an unexpected shock, the second one was an unprecedented shock, and the third one was slightly anticipated but still the most painful one. There were other small things too that went bad during those days. For me, those days are now the benchmark for ‘bad days’.

The suffering began. The three events occupied my head 24×7. For one part of the day, I was trying to fix things while telling myself ‘don’t give up’, for another part I was trying to pacify myself while saying ‘shit happens’, and for the rest of the day I was just cursing my fate.

I started waiting for my day to get over, hoping that sleep would bring peace, but nights, unexpectedly, were even tougher to handle. I was either not able to sleep or would wake up once or multiple times in the middle of the night. Suicidal thoughts returned, after a long time. Even though I still had the same reasons to live, this time the thoughts seemed out of control. I was feeling weaker.

After four such days – or three such nights – I decided to visit a psychiatrist. I narrated to him the entire story with brutal honesty, hiding nothing. Mid-way through my session, he started writing his prescription.

For the first time, I got diagnosed with depression and went on medication. I remember telling myself, “Shit just got real.” The same day, I called my father and told him the story. He was the first person to know.

Honestly, the medication never worked for me (or maybe I underestimated its effects). My thoughts remained the same, just that the medicines made my brain function a bit slower. I still continued taking the medicines as prescribed. My struggle continued nevertheless. What really really helped were the four or five 30 to 60-minute conversations I had with the doctor – Dr Birman from Dwarka in New Delhi – where he patiently explained what I was dealing with, plausible reasons and what steps I could take to get out of it. In a way, those talks helped me understand my own self and make my own solutions.

As I said, I started devising my own solutions. One solution, for example, was that until this phase was over I would not stay alone in my room, not even for a minute (except for sleeping in the night). It so used to happen that as soon as my roommates used to leave the house for some work, I used to call a few friends and I used to plan something with whoever was available. I designed this for myself, and it seemed to work for me.

“After four months, in June 2016, with my own will and confidence, I went off medication.”

I kept adding one such ‘solution’ after another – some worked while others didn’t. After four months, in June 2016, with my own will and confidence, I went off medication. My company posted me in Nagpur city for a month in August 2016. I spent the entire month far from family and friends, including 5 days at a stretch literally alone — comfortably and at peace with myself. This was when I was 100% convinced that I had left my depression behind.

It has been 9 months since then. Life has been more beautiful than ever. I have been more confident than ever, happier than ever.

Dear Everyone Reading This, Especially Friends And Family,

Please don’t panic, please don’t worry. In case you are tempted to, please don’t think of me as a victim. I’m far from being a victim of anything. Each one of us has a spectrum of happiness and sadness and I assume everyone’s life makes them oscillate between the two extremes periodically. The only difference with me is that my spectrum is a little more stretched. On the sadness side, I am can be stretched to the extent of feeling suicidal, while on the happiness side, I am sometimes stretched to the point of feeling like the happiest person on the planet. And on a positive note, I now have the experience and skill necessary to deal with such extreme crises.

Dear Suicidal Reader,

A couple of my friends have expressed their concerns about publishing this online. Valid concerns. Making this public could open the floodgates of panic and judgment, and could even come back to haunt me in the future in multiple possible ways. It is taking a lot of courage for me to publish this and I am doing this only for you.

We may be very different from each other. Your brain may be wired very differently from mine. Your childhood may have been very different compared to mine. Your parents must have been very different compared to mine. Your reason to live may also be very different from that of mine. My only advice to you is – get yourself out of that inertia and start searching for your own reason to live. It could be a person, it could be your pet, it could be your passion or it could be something that I cannot even imagine. It may or may not be very easy to find but it will, for sure, make the next few decades worth living for. Beautiful things can happen when you don’t give up.

Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.

-Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

(inspired from a similar quote by Friedrich Nietzsche)

There is just one person who knows almost this entire story already. He goes by the name Ronak Bapna. He is the best human being I know. Sharing my sadness and vulnerabilities with him has always helped me feel better. He generally doesn’t have solutions to all my problems, but he listens and supports me like a true friend. He has, on many occasions, also helped me realise how trivial some of my problems were. There are a couple more friends with whom I can share my problems – and this is very relieving on bad days.

I hope you have a Ronak to talk to. If not, I promise you, I’ll be there for you.

This post was originally published on the author’s blog. You can reach the author on Facebook, Twitter, and via e-mail.

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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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