From Disease To Self-Development: How I Made My Anxiety Work For Me

I am Srishti Gupta, founder of TrendToFit. This narration is my journey of battling two heart diseases, ruining my mental health, and then turning into a mental health advocate.

Representational image.

This is about how I got inspiration from anxiety to become a wellness and mental health enthusiast and help people who are suffering from anxiety. My mission is to help anxiety sufferers get rid of this demon by teaching them self-love and other mechanisms such as yoga and exercise.

I had to undergo two heart surgeries five years ago to get the treatment of two heart diseases diagnosed during my college days. I had a hole and valve disorder in my heart medically known as Atrial Septal Defect and Pulmonary Stenosis successively.

Amidst this chaos and tension, I had developed a very negative towards which was affecting my life and career very severely.

I was so lost in my thoughts. I forgot to eat, sleep, and even breathe properly. One day when I found my mother in grave fear of losing me, I decided to dedicate my life start from a fresh end.

Initially, I started writing my thoughts on the diary and set some fitness goals, which helped me come out of depression to a great extent.

What helped me much in this journey was the ‘change of attitude.’ Here are the things which I did to change my attitude.

I Embraced My Anxiety

Growing up, I always found people believing that anxiety is something that no one should carry with them, as if anxiety is a choice, and something one can control. I never understood why we are taught to suppress it instead of embracing it. I often would ask myself, if people can accept my flaws, weaknesses, and other physical diseases, why they end up downplaying when it comes to anxiety.

I couldn’t understand why I needed to fake my feelings when my heart was wanting to cry out and forcibly stop my emotions from coming out just to look calm. And why it’s not okay to look anxious. Whom could I harm if I chose to show up my real emotions instead of masking them?

In a decision to look relaxed and chill, I had distorted my mental health to a great extent. Gradually, I decided to embrace my anxiety and not feel ashamed about it. I noticed with the time, and it has helped to manage the anxiety with more grace. I don’t feel awkward and restless when anxiety hits me now because I have embraced it. Psychology also says that the things you accept, won’t bother you much.

I Stopped Masking My Emotions Caused By Anxiety

There is no harm telling the people who are fighting the anxiety that they are strong. But it doesn’t always work. My personal experiences allow me to say that. It sometimes reminds people how life has forced them to stay strong forever. You might not know how desperately people need to be vulnerable sometimes.

In my case, too, hearing ‘you are strong ‘was aggravating my anxiety, and no one noticed! It was stopping me from releasing my emotions. This phrase had to suppress my anger and grief. It exacerbated my anxiety every time whenever I would hear this.

I wondered why nobody tells me instead that “You have been so strong all your life. You don’t need to feel strong all the time“. I just wished people would be my side and not remind me of staying strong. I always expected them just to hear my emotions rather than giving a lecture on being strong.

But now, I have learned that my mental health is more important than masking my feelings. I won’t pretend to smile if I don’t want to. It unburdens my soul. It allows me to release my emotions.

I Stopped Trying To Learn ‘How To Be Happy Alone.’

Imagine the situation when someone wishes to have friends and loved ones by his/her side, and what would happen if they have to hear cliche things ‘learn to be happy alone’?

You would argue staying happy alone is a healthy practice, and people would be motivated to find happiness within. It might be a bit of good advice, but it also inflicts more pain on a lonely heart. When people have been fighting loneliness for a long time, they just want your support, not your motivating words.

Please understand that phrases like “you are strong, anyone would be lucky to love you, you are going to find someone, you can go through this face, you are strong!” can also be toxic depending upon the severity and the situation of a depressed heart. You can persuade them instead that you are with them.

Moreover, you don’t need to learn how to be happy alone, even if you have none to share your feelings with. Nobody needs to do to learn it because every human being has a good listener. Yes, we call it/Him Universe/God. You just need to believe this.

Trust me; when I realized Universe listens to everyone and brings justice in everyone’s life, I never felt alone in my struggles. I cry my heart out to this Universe, and I know it listens and reciprocates. It gives me happiness that I am not alone. A true friend is with me.

I Realized Anger Is Always Not Unhealthy

I agree anger isn’t a very productive tool to release emotions. But it isn’t bad either the way we think of it. It’s normal to think anger poisons the hearts, but it can be creative at the same time. It can be used to heal the hearts as well. It doesn’t mean you should be an angry person, but the point of saying is we should not punish ourselves for showing the anger.

Earlier, when I didn’t know any other method to let my frustrations out other than anger, I used to spend days regretting my anger episodes. This left me in severe anxiety and guilt several times.

Now, I practice mindfulness to curb my stress and share my emotions. I also have realized anger isn’t always unhealthy, and I don’t need to feel anxious about it. I focus on reducing my anger and releasing my emotions mindfully by bringing a change in my attitude.

I Exercised And Found It To Be A Coping Mechanism 

My mother inspired me to set short term fitness goals. Initially, I failed multiple times, and I was not even regular. But then later, I found that exercise and yoga work as a coping mechanism. Science has also proved the same.

To keep my motivation high, I also invested in fitness gadgets and workout clothes. When I shed some weight after running, it gave me happiness. I added more nutrition to my food.

Adopting this attitude, I appeared for a few competitive exams. I cleared a few of them as well. But I could not give up on the idea of writing blogs and inspire people to pay more attention to their physical and mental health. In today’s busy lifestyle, it has become a challenging task to give time to fitness. During my journey, I found exercise works as a coping mechanism to improve mental health. Therefore, I want to inspire people to live a healthy lifestyle despite their busy lifestyles. On my website, I share my experiences on how setting short term fitness goals can help get rid of anxiety.

If you are also suppressing your feelings for the sake of looking strong and being kind to everyone, I encourage you to respect your pain and embrace your anxiety and not be ashamed of it. Though anger is always not unhealthy, you can also adopt these productive ways to release your emotions and set yourself free. It may be the most powerful thing you ever do to bring peace in your life.

I feel that to be successful, you should try not to overburden your soul and talk about your anxiety and fear without feeling ashamed of it. Don’t hide your emotions and make your heart free today!

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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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