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How I Faced Abuse, Battled Suicidal Thoughts And Still Won at Life

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By Clara Asirvatham:

“Where do you want to go?”
“Away.”

I have always felt the strong urge to go somewhere far away. My name is Clara Asirvatham, and I’m a loner. I’m a 26-year-old writer from Bengaluru. On February 15, 1991, I and my twin happily jumped into this world from our mother’s womb. I had a whole life in front of me. The world was my playground.

My childhood was awesome even though I had lost my dad when I was but a few years old. I did not remember anything about him, hence suffered less emotionally. However, mom’s determination and struggle to raise us couldn’t stop me from missing my dad. I didn’t miss him personally, but I missed the “father figure” in my life. I wanted to be a daddy’s little girl too. I respected what mom was doing – a young, working, beautiful single-parent who was still getting used to the “widow” tag – but come on, I missed dad dropping me off at school.

I don’t remember the date when emptiness, and a feeling that I didn’t know was sadness back then, crept into my life. When I was 11 years old, I enjoyed playing with my sister after school time. We would reach home, freshen up and play before mom came home. Those were the best days of my life. My sister and I fought over games, laughed at our silliness, ate together, adopted a pet, tied a swing to our window, and stole each other’s snacks! Little did I know, that my happiness would soon end and the beautiful curve of my lips would become straight. I stopped laughing or smiling.

Suicide Survivor Story-3
Photo: Pixabay

If only someone would have stopped and asked me what was happening, I swear I would have cried. If only someone had asked me why I stopped playing, I would have told them that I didn’t like the game of being touched inappropriately. I started dressing appropriately and avoided all my friends. This was the first time I wanted to end my life. My dad had taken his own life by consuming poison. I had heard many narrate to me how he ended his life. I wanted to do the same. I felt like taking a bath a million times to clean the dirt that I felt in my body. Oh wait, I think it damaged my soul more than my body.

We had shifted house and moved closer to my school. I was happy that it had all ended. But had it? A few months later, a person who was a “family friend”, “teacher”, “church member”, started abusing me. It all began when mom was not around. I thought this man who was thrice my age was a friend who came with gifts. Every day, I was being abused in my own house. I couldn’t tell my mom anything as I was scared I’d upset her when she already worked so much to raise us. I used to get angry whenever I saw this person though. I avoided staying alone at home and went to tuitions instead, even when I knew I didn’t need them. He attacked me when I came back from tuition. He stood at the end of the street, under the tree, in the darkness.

Guys from my class who knew about the abuse tried taking advantage of me instead of helping me out. It broke my heart when the crush of my life proposed to me when I was 16 only to take advantage of me as the abuser had told him that he could get to me easily. I felt that I didn’t deserve a meaningful relationship just because I was being abused. I thought about dying but was confused about how to do it.

My first suicide attempt was after my first relationship failed. I was 17 years old and heartbroken. I felt men were taking advantage of me, but I longed for a man’s love. I wanted someone who would protect me from my abuser. Days passed by and I finally gathered the courage to tell my sister about my abuse. She made me call the abuser’s family from my mom’s phone which she flicked for me. I still remember how we stood at the corner of the street, away from my house, and told the abuser’s wife and son what was happening. My sister assured me that nothing like this would ever happen to me again. Thankfully, it didn’t.

The scars were already there; the hurt was deep. The memories haunted me. I had nightmares of being abused almost every night. I couldn’t walk straight; I slouched, I dropped my shoulders as I was scared that anyone could pull me anytime. I still walk this way. On multiple occasions, I had tried ending my life. I couldn’t find a purpose to live. I felt depressed, sad, lonely, and used all the time. Even during the happiest days, I felt incomplete. I couldn’t define the feeling that I felt. At one point, I glorified suicide. I just wanted to stop everything. I didn’t want to feel any pain and I thought to end my life was the best solution.

Right now, I’m being treated for depression and anxiety. I’m finding my way out. Counselling, dance therapy, art classes, music, travel, poetry helps. If you ask me whether it is worth trying – yes, it is! Life can throw a million obstacles at you but living through it is worth it. If you stumble and fall and think you can’t get up at all, make it a part of your dance. When you think it is all over and you can’t see why you should live- hang on, breathe, stop, remember somewhere someone else feels the same way too. Suicide is not an option. You deserve to live and feel all the happiness in this world.

Whenever your depression kicks in and your past tears you apart, remember that this is just a bend and not the end. I grew up as a fatherless girl and was vulnerable because my dad chose suicide. I don’t want to do that to the beautiful people living in my life. I do not want to make my mom grieve for me; my sisters miss me.

Suicide Survivor Story
Photo: Pixabay

I’m now married to a wonderful man who loves my flaws, my deepness, my madness, my tears, my story, my past, and embraces my shortcomings. He has held my hand through depression, abuse, and has helped me put away my suicidal intentions. If you are suicidal, please talk it out to someone. There will be someone out there who is willing to listen. Don’t ever be mute about abuse or suicide. Ask for help – it makes you stronger. Hey, life picked on the wrong person to mess with – didn’t it?

Note: As a part of the suicide prevention and awareness week, this story was written by Clara Asirvatham, for YourDOST, an online counselling and emotional wellness platform.

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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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