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Writing Did For My Anxiety, What Pills Never Could

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Anxiety is a seemingly simple term. However, it can turn into a catalyst of drastic change for the ones who are diagnosed with it. ‘Anxiety’ was the only word written on the topmost line of my prescription that the psychiatrist gave me.

That was the name given to the slow and stormy change that was creeping into the life of my 11-year-old self. Little did I know that this bane would introduce me to the form of art that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I was never a carefree child, to begin with. However, nothing stopped me from exploring a
plethora of co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Be it dramatics, dance, elocution,
quizzes or debates, my name was always there in the list of participants. Putting my best foot
forward in every event that I was selected for put me into the limelight pretty soon.

Furthermore, the chirpy little girl in me could befriend anyone in a heartbeat. Well, anxiety changed all of that. In doing so, it metamorphosed me into nothing more than a lonely, trembling, fretful student who was toiling away for academic success with all her might. The only thing that pushed me to study was a crippling fear of failure.

This change was unpleasant for everyone I knew. My family tried to respond to it by booking
appointments with the best psychiatrists in my hometown. Unfortunately, none of their pills

Nevertheless, pen and paper helped me in a way that pills couldn’t.

When anxiety started magnifying even the most insignificant incidences into ghastly
disasters, my instinct forced me to write down my worries. Soon, I realised that years of
being an absolute bookworm made it easier for me to face my problems if I could express
them in the form of a poem.

I do not know if it was my general comfort with creative writing, the aesthetic allure of poetry, or the mere desire to put my misery to good use which was at play there. But, each poem that I wrote out of sheer desperation to handle my anxiety made me feel more and more empowered.

The thought that resonated in my head after filling every blank page was, “I am not a hopeless case after all!”

Moreover, this newfound activity gave me a lot of time to think about the particular trigger of
anxiety that I was writing about. Each verse of poetry that I wrote helped me gain a better
understanding of what seemed to be an insurmountable issue. The acceptance and clarity thus
gained also helped me during therapy in the recent past.

The most important lessons that I learned while writing about anxiety are as follows:-

1. People are a lot more than just their diagnosis: I was often teased, scolded and picked upon for getting anxious so easily. ‘Anxiety’ was also used as a nickname for me at
times. However, I realized that it is just one part of me! My abilities, choices, qualities, imperfections, personality as well as the disorder combine to make me who I am today.

2. People deserve to be understood, accepted and cared for: Learning how to accept myself with the disorder taught me how to be less judgemental of others as well. Every single person has a lot more to them than what I can see. Now, I try not to rush to conclusions about people. Rather, I try to gain a better understanding of them and see if I can be of any help.

3. Imperfections aren’t unacceptable: Had I not encountered anxiety, I wouldn’t have even dreamt of writing poetry. Once I accepted that this condition was overwhelming for me, I got the courage to sort my thoughts out. Thus, a disorder and its therapy introduced me to a form of art that I treasure today.

4. A disorder isn’t a sign of a weak personality: An anxiety disorder doesn’t signify that one is weak. It’s a psychological disorder that can happen to anyone! Moreover, the right treatment can cure it as well. I’d rather say that it takes a lot of perseverance and optimism to fight such a problem every single day.

5. Finally, don’t lose hope until the very end: I received the counselling I needed for getting better after many years.  Nevertheless, it’s very important to cling to the hope
of getting better irrespective of how long you have been struggling with your disorder for.

I may thus conclude that I survived my battle against anxiety because I could convert most
of it into poetry. This helped me develop a different perspective towards psychological
disorders and the people who live with them.

This perspective of mine helps me work as a junior therapist at Mind Solace – a mental health organisation wherein we strive to reach every Indian in order to treat people and not just the disorders they suffer from. I must say that those childlike rhymes scribbled on the last pages of tattered notebooks have made me who I am today.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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