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What It’s Really Like To Live With Anxiety

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Nights are the toughest. Laying on a hard mattress in the hot summer is not easy when you have countless questions looming in your mind. The fatigue from sleep deprivation and the tension from popping pills gets the better of you even if you’re only 25 and supposedly in the prime of your life.

I’m an anxious person. Oxford dictionary defines anxiety as a ‘strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen’. Although I would love to have this kind of ‘cool’ anxiety, that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about the feeling that starts in the pit of your stomach and reaches your throat in a fit that you can neither ignore nor decipher. By the time it reaches your brain, your body has already started preparing you for a danger that isn’t even there, and your heart has started pumping oxygen to all corners of your body even when there is no need to do so. You can’t catch the ghost which is haunting you, and while you figure out the name of that ghost, your body is trying to become a shadow of itself. Feeling anxious yet?

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety or in clinical terms Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a mental health condition identified as an actual disease (yeah, it’s not made up) in many countries, including the United States. It has physiological symptoms which make the daily life of people who suffer this condition a little more painful and awkward than usual. Still, Indian society continues to consider anxiety a taboo alongside hot topics like beef eating, gay marriage, and speaking against your nation’s undesirable qualities.

In a famous and memorable conversation -well it’s famous for me- I had with my mother, we discussed how people in India are not taken seriously for their mental health problems until they are clinically proven to be ‘mad’ or in simple terms until someone loses his sh*t. If we, as responsible adults, treat anxiety like any other disease and take medicines and preventive measures for it, maybe we can avoid reaching that gruesome stage.

anxiety disorder

An Anxious Life

My life with anxiety is a double-edged sword. Neither I can rest, nor can I do anything without a lot of effort. From the time I was quite young, I enjoyed basking in my laziness every now and then. Now, anxiety won’t allow me to sit still, and the meds won’t let me do anything but. It’s like there is a war brewing inside me every second. And no matter who wins, I lose.

That’s how I feel every day and every night. That’s what anxiety is for me. For anxious people, medication tends to make us a little less awkward and nervous around people. Just enough to fit into a supposedly normal society and not make fools out of ourselves due to our clumsiness. It’s not pleasant, nor is it sad. It is what it is.

I mean, I have my moments. I can solve an integration problem -however difficult- in my mind under 30 seconds. I can recite the names of all major and minor Gods of every prominent world religion. Not that it helps me socially or in conversations with girls. Nobody wants to discuss how the sun is not really yellow or how there is no such thing as a black cloud or why electricity is a wonder of nature. It might be cool but not good conversation material. What? What do you mean it’s nerdy?

Living On Meds

Believe me, SSRIs (the medication used for treating anxiety) don’t slow you down. However, I believe that too much happiness eventually bores you. At least it does in my case. I have always been a firm believer in pessimism. Just like seeing only the shady side of a scenario is dumb, so is looking at the bright side every time. It’s not natural. The world is not perfect, and as such you need to observe and appreciate the imperfections as much as the perfections if you don’t want to be taken down by the cold hard truths of life. If I relate to the negative side more, that’s just how God made me. My meds, however, don’t allow me to to do that. That’s just torture.

On the plus side, I love when my doctor says I need medicines to slow my brain down. I feel like a superhuman who has an ultra-fast mind. However, I don’t want to be one. I just want to fit in, as do many people like me. We want to relate to you, go out, and tell scary stories by the campfire. We want to be taken seriously in our friend circles and be not seen as the shy people sitting in the corner. That is not possible until people around us realise that part of what we have to offer may come from a disease, but that doesn’t define us.

Walk in Our Shoes

Reach us at our home because we won’t get out of our beds. Anxiety is widely believed to be an introvert disease. Though it could happen to an extrovert personality also, the likelihood of an introvert having anxiety is quite high simply because we are built that way. Overthinking, overindulging in fictional scenarios that literally won’t happen, and worrying about problems that haven’t even surfaced yet are the favourite past time of us introverts.

For me personally, the only semblance of peace is talking to my loved ones and writing. I don’t write because I’m good at it or anything -far from it- but because I have no other choice. I don’t like talking about my life problems with people who just want to listen to them out of some misplaced notion of curiosity. Instead, I discuss them with the only faithful companion I have had till date: my empty sheet of paper. Through our art, we anxious people can get our constant worries out of us and in return, get something productive done.

This is how us anxious people feel day in and day out. So if you think your life is hard, imagine walking in our trembling shoes and sweaty clothes. Ciao.

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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)’.

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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.”

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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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