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How I Took Charge And Emerged Strong From Stress And Depression

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By Dr. Preeti Talwar:

Dr Preeti Talwar

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny,” wrote CS Lewis. I come from a middle class family of medicos who gave me a sound education and upbringing. Everybody felt I was suited for the medical field but somewhere down the line, I felt cadavers were not my cup of tea. I ventured into the field of research and dreamed of working in the premier research institutions of the country.

Armed with a doctoral degree, I thought soon I would be shattering the glass ceiling by making it big in this field. I managed to get a tenure bound UGC fellowship to do further research after my Ph.D. While working on this, I got hitched to a person whose job demanded extensive travelling. Pursuing a career after marriage and then motherhood became impossible, so I decided to call it quits and I became a SAHM (stay-at-home mother). I didn’t want to miss out on my children’s milestones.

I work hard 24 hrs a day! Yes, I loved my job. But this parenting was more or less single parenting, as my better half remained away for months together in remote areas of the country where communication was next to impossible. A trying time with no family support from either side as I lost my mom early in life. No one could fill that void. In-laws regarded me as a good for nothing with only a paper degree to my name.

Maintaining my sanity in a hostile environment was quite difficult. My life revolved around the kids. But mental torture and loneliness started taking its toll on my health and I was turning into a nervous wreck.

Sometimes, I rued my fate and shed copious tears. But they say ‘when you cry, you cry alone and when you laugh, the whole world laughs with you’, same was the case. Being morose and wallowing in self-pity made the once happy, vivacious person a loner. I drifted into an abyss of despair. Time passed and toddlers turned to teens. Now loneliness engulfed me as the kids became independent. I wanted to re-start my career. But it seemed the two decade sabbatical had lessened my chances to procure a job. The career market had flourished by leaps and bounds, technology had advanced and we were moving towards the digital age.

  #RaiseYourGame challenges on SHEROES: Learning need                                      not stop at any age!

I felt lost in this new age but still decided to try and procure a job. Owing to the big gap in my CV, I wasn’t successful in my endeavor. But as Eleanor Roosevelt has said, “A woman is like a tea bag. You can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

Rejection sucked me into a vortex of despair. But with my family support, I started coming out of this and wanted to prove my worth. I brought out my latent talent, writing, to the fore.

I managed to do a creative writing course and armed myself with the nuances of technology. During this low period, I read a lot of books – both fiction and self-help books which helped me tide through. I got published in national dailies, magazines and sites on the web, both national and global.

Interning In My 40s

My career progressed and I procured a proofreading job in a reputed publishing house. During this period, while surfing the net looking for internship opportunities for my kids, I chanced upon Internshala, a platform providing internships to college students.

I registered on it and then forgot about it. In 2015, I got a notification regarding their women re-start programme, along with two success stories of women joining work after a break of say 8-10 years. I too yearned to become a success story. I started applying to various internships. I wanted to try my hand at content writing. After applying for several internships I was dejected as I got no response from any of them.

After a wait of nearly three months, one responded and they gave me a task, as the country was abuzz with the “Padmavat” controversy.

I was asked to pen down my views and they liked it and I procured my first internship with India Go Social. I was thrilled and then started my love affair with these internships. I managed to work for Oddsnspaces, Plant Writer, Story Mirror, Student Star, Imblogger, Multibhashi, Know Your Food, etc. I applied for content writing internship for an education start up but my credentials impressed them and they gave me the position of Education Advisor in the company.

                     My #DreamDate challenge post on SHEROES

During this period, I came across an only women’s platform SHEROES, where I started writing and I opened my heart out. Their CEO Sairee Chahal gave me a positive feedback on my posts, which helped me a lot.

Soon, the platform diversified and various communities for women growth came up – health, sex & relationships, women in data science, vegan first, among others. I benefited the most from  aspiring witers community by participating in competitions and winning several accolades. SHEROES has a big hand in my overall growth as a writer.

SHEROES Challenges also give much food for thought, and bring about clarity of mind. I would advise more and more women to take up these challenges, and bring your passion to the fore. I won lots of books through these challenges. I feel books are one’s best friends when one hits rock bottom. I can swear by Norman Vincent Peal and Shiv Khera.

Today, I blog, curate content, work as an advisor and aspire to become a renowned author! 

Letting Go Of Fear

I would like to sign off with the message that we women undergo a lot in life which breaks us but it is only in our hands to manoeuvre our life in the right direction to live a good life. I went through mental torment due to the barbs thrown at me by my in-laws; I lost my self esteem with the result diagnosed with Hyperacidity, I.B.S and anxiety. The cure was popping tranquilizers to calm me and keep me away from depression. But taking those drugs harmed me and I became dopey and thin.

The once fun loving, vivacious girl lost the ability to laugh and looked like a scarecrow. But then it is said ‘God helps those who help themselves’ and once I took the decision to bounce back to my normal self, my doors opened, I started writing and these work from home internships and boosted my morale.

From a mental wreck, I became confident and my health improved. Internshala featured my success story, made me their women re-start ambassador which has helped me to see myself in a positive light. Now I don’t bother about barbs but only focus on my mental growth, it is better late than never. Ladies, don’t fall prey to depression, try to work on your strengths to lead a happy life.

Don’t be afraid to start over. It’s a brand new opportunity to rebuild what you truly want.

Dr. Preeti Talwar is a SHEROES community member currently residing in Jabalpur.  

SHEROES Communities for women are accessible via Sheroes.com and the SHEROES app
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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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