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

Loneliness Almost Killed Me, But It Also Healed Me

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The room was dark except the table lamp in front of me. My laptop was open and a cup of coffee was getting cold. I was sitting stiffly. Tears rolled down my cheek but I did not know why I was crying.

I was not jobless, the reason was not a broken relationship, I earned a decent salary. I was earning respect but I was alone. Being alone has nothing to do with being single, neither does it have anything to do with staying alone. I am alone amid many people. I am alone with my parents when they visit me. I am also alone when I am alone.

Now, I know it may be getting confusing for you because you might understand loneliness in a different way. It is not isolation, depression, solitude, mood-swings, bad phase, breakup, resignation, struggle and all other things. These are not even reasons for loneliness at times. However, you will often find situations when you are alone or loneliness might lead to these feelings. But, that’s not the story I am here to tell you.

I come from a happy family with the usual if’s and but’s. My hometown in West Bengal has a wonderful cultural history but a pathetic present of deteriorating academic opportunities. So, after completing my graduation, I had to leave my family to chase my dreams and my family was very supportive. With time, I achieved what I wanted to.

My loneliness has been very self-contradictory. At times, I feel jealous to see happy couples or a big group of friends but most of the time, I feel sleepy at the dates I have been to. I feel like leaving everything and going somewhere I can be alone but when I reach, I miss my friends. I wait to spend my weekends alone but at times, I get very frustrated and look for people to at least talk to me. My parents are the only ones who wait to talk to me every day. I sometimes love to talk to them but some days I just get angry as soon as the conversation starts.

It feels like I have no one.

You can have sex with as many people but you don’t crave sex to be happy, you crave it to get out of the place you’ve been stuck in. You forget how to make love, you forget how to hold someone, you forget how to touch, you just know the exact spots which will help you to achieve what you want.

I used to cry sometimes because I had no one to talk to. I had no one to go out with on weekends. What was I looking for? You cannot answer this question all the time.

Let me clarify one very basic thing, loneliness is not solitude. You should achieve solitude but loneliness is imposed. I still fight to come to terms with loneliness. Sometimes I win, sometimes I fail. But loneliness has taught me many things.

I have started accepting the fact that loneliness is something I must deal with. Yes, I never wanted to be lonely but now that I am, it’s better to accept it. When you start accepting the loneliness then you will start exploring things which make you feel less lonely. No, I won’t use the cliched ‘focus on your work’. It’s bullshit, trust me. If you always feel lonely you cannot even focus on your favourite chicken.

So I tried to explore spaces apart from my work. I started gymming and it’s a great thing to do. Then I started reading more.

A very important thing to learn if you are lonely is to balance your food. I was never hungry but would eat all the time. You should eat food for a need and not to make you feel better.

I started meeting people without the aim to date them. I started doing things I love, like attending poetry sessions or storytelling sessions. I started meeting new people and for the first time, it also turned to some kind of dating.

Then I started attending sessions professionally and made sure my interactions remainded professional. It helped me in meeting some great people.

With time, now I write more, I drink less, I smoke less, I spend on good things and I fight less. But it’s not that I am never lonely, it still happens to me but I am now more frank about my issue.

Created by Sayantan Ghosh

Do you feel you too suffer from loneliness ?

You can share your stories with me or reach out if you just want to talk. I know that conversation is very important when you are in such a phase. Trust me I am not an expert but a survivor hence I can listen. Reach me at work.sayantan@gmail.com or follow and DM @sayantan_gh.

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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.

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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