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My Life As A Perpetually ‘Anxious’ Young Person

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#ShrutiSpeaks about how millennials might live with anxiety, unlike the carefree version that is more popular.

So, the brief given to me for writing this piece was that I was a representative of the ‘youth’ and that my voice matters — to talk about issues that I relate to, concerns that are pertinent to me. And that got me thinking as most things do. I have anxiety, so thinking comes a little too naturally to me, you see. Yeah, so I was trying to figure out if I am fit enough to represent the ‘youth’? On most days, you can find me watching vlogs on YouTube while procrastinating on one assignment or the other, and finding any excuse not to go out. So, as I attempt a New Yorker-level think piece, I do want to say that I represent a very niche segment of the Indian ‘youth’ — my hashtags would include privileged, upper caste, Hindu, female, very reliant on digital media, ‘arts’ student et al.

Now I am really tempted to meander off into a completely different topic — I just finished watching a Buzzfeed video on Britney Spears, so talking about the media’s treatment of young female celebrities seems very attractive — but I won’t.

I do want to talk about what it is like to be a perpetually ‘anxious’ young person.

Take this write-up for example. I’ve been procrastinating writing it for ages, partly because I am a serial procrastinator and partly because I’ve been stressed about how it’ll be received. And I have delved off into scenarios that involve Anushka Sharma tweeting me or that I end up deleting Facebook because of hate comments. But you know what? This is minor, I’ve woken up with panic attacks, and struggled with them throughout the day while trying to get through 3-hour lectures, or trying to write a 3000-word paper. Sometimes, my struggles are with simple events like going to eat, or hanging out with a friend.

I’ve written about living with anxiety on a college campus before, yet over time I’ve realised that so many people around me, especially older individuals, live with, and normalise mental illness. ‘Normalise’ in the sense that they consider it a part of themselves, not as a disorder. I am trying to find a balance between the two — considering mental illness as an illness and realising that it will hinder certain aspects of my daily life.

Image credits: https://goo.gl/CYA3sr

Obviously, not all experiences of mental illness are similar — in India especially, a large part of the population does not recognise mental illness and its effects. Yet, through this piece, I aim to show what’s its like living with mental illness and being your average, Netflix-bingeing millennial (in this line, you can also see how accustomed I’ve become to writing thesis statements).

Living at college, I’ve been through various ups and downs with my anxiety. There are some things I avoid – too much caffeine, skipping lunch and dinner, and getting too overwhelmed. I realised the need to regulate my mental health and get help last year when I had panic disorder — I woke up with panic attacks, and got them throughout the day. The journey hasn’t been a very rosy one, as I live at a college hostel and I’m not able to freely schedule appointments with a therapist. Yet, I also try to ask for help when I need it.

In the coming weeks, I’m trying to be a little healthier — have breakfast, go for a run et al. Usually, I wake up, shower and sprint across campus for my 9 am. This has not had a very good effect on my physical health. I’ll let you guys know how my ‘healthy’ living pans out, and the fate of my Netflix subscription – the friend whose account I was mooching off of didn’t renew her membership.

As I navigate through the trials and tribulations of walking halfway across campus in 40-degree plus weather, trying to save up enough to buy MAC beauty products, I’ll keep you guys posted.

About the author

A committed advocate of mental health, Shruti uses communication as a medium to dispel the myths around mental illness. She is a regular contributor to our posts. When not writing, she can usually be found in her favourite place — her bed. She can also be found eating and reading, at various points across Shiv Nadar University.

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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.

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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.

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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