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How Setting Small Goals Helped Me Fight Depression

This story is a part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s weekly topic #WorldMentalHealthDay to create a conversation about mental health in India. Share your personal stories of coping with a mental illness, trying to access mental healthcare or any experience with mental health here.

For the past two years, I have been facing difficulties in articulating my thoughts and feelings. I know something doesn’t feel right but sharing what it is, becomes the most difficult task in the world. I constantly feel the need to justify myself. The feeling of insecurity and anxiety have clouded my brain and weakened my decision-making ability.

I became aware of these symptoms long ago, but I ignored them because I was functioning normally. I assumed these feelings were by-products of my hectic college schedule and fellowship work, that I was managing together. Months passed by, but I kept denying that something was wrong.

I became so engrossed with the wrongs that were happening around me that I never took clear notice of how and when it had started to impact me and change me. I turned cynical and slowly started withdrawing from social life.

I knew I was depressed. I had cried everywhere; at home, on the metro, on a bike, in the shower. But I never let anyone see me. I didn’t want to explain anything to anyone because whenever I did, I was told things like, “You are thinking way too much,” or “You are making up your own problems,” or “You’re strong. I know you’ll be okay.” I knew I wasn’t okay and pretending to be strong had only exacerbated my problems.

Though I felt guilty for my decisions on the inside, I couldn’t stand my loved ones pointing out my mistakes. I snapped at them easily and simultaneously developed a feeling of shame for my frustration (and I compensated by being extra nice to the ones who weren’t close to me).

After receiving the above responses from the people I had shared my feelings with, I started to believe that being vulnerable was not an option because if my expectations that came with being vulnerable were not met, then I would be left feeling more hurt.

It took me many days and long nights to decide that I have to make things better for myself. High costs of professional help constrained me from seeking therapy and bigger family issues demotivated me from sharing anything with my family members.

During these days when I tried to figure out what to do, I felt extremely heavy and sometimes decided to give everything up and lock myself in my room.

I slowly gathered strength and decided to work on it on my own. I started reading about depression and ways to deal with it. This took willpower. On some days, this willpower feels shaky but I manage to look for small or big reasons to make it work.

Initially, I tried to give meaning to what I was feeling and understand why I was feeling so. How from being an extremely positive and social person, I had turned into an individual who wanted to run away from people.

I traced three to four years of my life to understand the major events which had impacted me – my beliefs, my perception and my attitude.

I analysed my failures, my choices and decisions and realised how a very bad experience with a fellowship programme had shattered my faith in all the people who were working in the field of development.

I became aware of the social factors that had made me believe that I was not capable enough – or that I was stupid – and had made me more anxious about my future.

I started reading more books, papers and articles. It kept me engaged and interested in something. I made it a habit to read the newspaper every day. It encouraged me to look at my problems from a smaller lens. I started playing badminton again which I had left long back after school.

I took out time to learn some new skills like painting and encouraged myself to work on small ideas that I have had since forever. I invested these months in myself; learnt more by reading than doing things for a change and took out time for self- reflection. I started setting very small goals for myself and completing them filled me with a sense of achievement. Moreover, I initiated more physical interactions with people and decreased virtual interactions after realising the adverse impact of social media on my mental health.

Though all these efforts have borne some fruits, I still feel anxious many times. I try to calm myself down by writing something in my diary or taking a nap which helps. I still have many issues to work on like my lack of confidence to fearlessly share my ideas and constructing healthy relationships without snapping every time I feel like I am being attacked or let down.

I have realised how important it is to be self-empathetic and it is the only thing that has given me the strength to keep going.

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  1. Deepak Khabani

    The things u told about u is same happened with me and yes I also overcoming from this …thannks for sharing

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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.

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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.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.

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