I claim what should not be claimed,
I claim darkness to see the fireflies and the stars,
I claim the serpents to love them more than the hatred they get from others,
I claim a mortal to live with sacrifice and hope,
I claim the winter to see the dead tries rising up with more strength,
I claim a wound to realise the weakness I have got,
I claim death of man/womankind to make the earth live in peace,
I claim sadness to measure the depth of the grief,
I claim fantasies to be in a fiction with a woman wearing a chiffon gown,
With soft steps and two drowsy eyes filled with the syrup of fairies,
I claim the curse of love more than the potion of power,
I claim the woman from the fiction to be in your serene beauty,
When you arrive I see you inside the seductive literary woman,
The watch keeps rolling over to unite at a place where I feel,
You must be wondering what, right?
It is the feeling which I usually trespass, even when I lie deep in the unconscious mind,
The feeling of loving you more than the woman,
The feeling of loving the negativity of the fiction,
To gather the courage of diving inside her lust,
And seek you with all the peace and fight loving each other.
Having struggled with depression for half of my lifetime, I identify so much with what Rich Larson said recently on Chris Cornell’s suicide.
In my journey to win over depression I have lived through some extremely dark times. Depression sucked me into some very dark pits but my belief in myself and the Universe (yes faith has a very important place in my life, perhaps it is the axis my life revolves on) brought me out into the light, each time.
After spending the whole day aimlessly roaming around in the city, and tonnes of selfies and hundreds of jokes later, with empty stomachs you and your friends find yourself inside a pizza parlor, laughing your guts out and enjoying yourself to the brim. Seems perfect, doesn’t it?
Well, picture this. A friend is recalling some random moment from the day and everyone is interrupting him with their own recollections and passing comments at each other and none of you is caring about how loud you are being, and you take a bite of your third slice of pizza, and just like that something inside you dies. You don’t know what it is, but it is overwhelming, confusing, and saddening. Time slows down, your friends are oblivious to what just happened, you feel your heart beating against your chest and it seems like it’s trying to break out, your body temperature rises, your palms get sweaty, you feel like crying; but there you are, munching your food down, looking at your phone even though it didn’t ring, smiling, and definitely not crying. You try to shake it off but that feeling holds on to you. You get silent, your appetite dies, your friends ask what’s up, and you just say you’re getting late and leave.
Back at home, when you’re finally done with the day and you’re on your bed, getting inside the covers, it suddenly hits you. Your eyes are closed but you try to picturise that moment once again, you put your mind on rewind and play the tape real slow trying to figure out what happened. Nothing did. You don’t understand, you were having a perfect day, you felt happy after a long time.
“Hmmm… maybe you shouldn’t have gone out and enjoyed yourself, maybe you shouldn’t have been happy and uncaring, because you don’t deserve it.”
You spring right up. “Hey! Wait a second! What? Why did you say that to yourself!? You certainly deserve being happy! You’re not a perfect human being, but you’re a perfect you! You shouldn’t think like that!”
“But, what if you’re right? I’m not saying you are, but what if? There’s loads of stuff you have to do, things are not going the way you want them to, you are still so far away from your dreams, you’re not really making a difference, you’re nowhere close to being the person you want to be, and you’re definitely not the person you should be. So… should you really be happy and enjoying yourself?”
“Maybe, you’re right! But then, what should I do? I certainly am not making a difference even when I’m trying my best, so why not take a much deserved a break. Won’t make difference anyway, would it?”
“It won’t. But you shouldn’t do that. You need to be ashamed of yourself. People expect so much from you. And if you don’t care about them, then what about you? You had so many dreams, didn’t you? Are you really not gonna try and be the person you should be. I don’t see any reason why you should be happy. There’s so much to worry about!”
“But.. I want to be happy. I’m trying to be happy, aren’t I? That’s the big picture. And since I feel good in these little moments, I fail to see what’s the harm.”
“You’re wasting your time. I told you, you don’t deserve to be happy because you’re stupid and worthless. You’re pathethic. Have you ever looked around yourself? People your age, people younger than you, are doing so much more to make this a better place and you, like a selfish little prick who doesn’t do anything other than fantasizing about how amazing the future is going to be, do nothing! Why are you even alive? You’re nothing but dead weight.”
“Stop saying this again and again! You’re not helping me!”
“I’m not here to help you! I’m here to remind of all the things you aren’t and couldn’t be.”
“But it’s not my fault!”
“Hahaha! Keep telling yourself that. It is your fault. Everything is your fault. Had you been a bit wiser, things wouldn’t have turned out this way. But no, you can’t keep your mouth shut. You always mess things up, and you always mess up bad. How are you not ashamed of yourself!?”
“I don’t know. I don’t understand what’s happening. Shut up. Leave me alone.”
“Oh, please! Now you’re backing off because you know I’m right. You disgust me. You don’t even deserve to be alive. You should just stay at home and keep yourself locked up inside a room, because everytime you’re out there things are bound to go wrong. You could’ve been such a better person, but no, you only care about yourself. No one can be more narcissistic than you. You’re useless, you’re……”
And without even realizing that tears are streaming down your face, you give up the fight. With a heavy heart you listen to your banter, agreeing. And you fall asleep.
The next morning you wake up with no remembrance of last night. But just when you’re getting up from your bed, last night’s encounter hits you like a speeding train, and suddenly you go numb. You stare at the chair infront of you, trying to remember happy moments(because people say it works, right?), but your mind draws up a blank. Boom! You’re dead again. You look at the clock, you don’t have time. You pretend it’s like any other day. And you get ready and you’re standing in front of the mirror, you look at your swollen eyes just for a second, and shift your gaze to your hair. You adjust your clothes, you touch-up your make-up, but you don’t look at yourself, afraid that the horrors of yesterday might catch up with you again.
As you’re stepping out of the house, you silently promise yourself that today you won’t smile.
Today, you won’t be happy.
But guess what? Hours later, just when the sun is going down, you find yourself at a coffee shop laughing with your friends and by now, you already know how your day is gonna end.
Pratigya Esther Ram is a 19-year-old undergrad commerce student in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh in India. When she got in touch with me, I published this here on Bhor and here on Medium.
Last time you didn’t, someone was left alone to deal with their demons.
Mental illness, or as Jhilmil calls it ‘temporary altered state of mind’ is deeply rooted not just inside us, but also inside the intricate fabrication of our society. It’s hidden behind the very word ‘fine’.
But why hide it? Why not educate ourselves and the others? Why not be more than these labels?
Bhor wants you to talk. Openly. About yourself. About someone you love. About people who are suffering from mental illness alone.
Bhor wishes you hold hands with creativity and if possible inspire. We think it’s time.
Be Part Of Our Publication!
Write your story, draw your life, paint artwork and publish here, submit beautiful poems, and talk about your struggles with mental health.
Sign in to Medium and make an account.
Send us your interest at email@example.com
We will add you as a writer to our publication.
Write your post & send to Bhor.
We will accept and publish here.
Medium posts will be published on our website blog as well ( credit will be given to the writers)
You can submit artwork, non-fiction stories, poems, someone else’s stories with the theme of mental health.
Some Ideas- You can submit informative essay on mental health and even a journalistic piece will be welcomed. An interview of someone related to mental health, like a psychologists, therapists, psychiatrist.
No limit to the word count, however the editors may ask you to edit the pieces on the basis of the theme and display of the publication.
You don’t have be someone who is suffering, but can be inspired or be inspirational in nature. We encourage caregivers to come forward with their stories.
If you’d like anonymity and would like our editors to post, please send your work at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do it for you respecting your anonymity!
Something About Bhor
Bhor setup by I and Jhilmil Breckenridge (who has done activism for mental health for more than 20 years), is based in a bustling capital of India. Where there are strong activism done in other states such as Pune, Goa and Maharashtra, Delhi still is a city that hides so many truth and voices under politics, social stigma, illiteracy and poverty.
On Wednesday, 8 February, Namarita Kathait and I were invited to address a group called Sunny Siders, a group that meets every Wednesday at Anhad. Made up of a motley group of survivors and sufferers of bipolar disorder across ages, professions, and backgrounds, they have an interesting format. They start with checking in, just a few minutes to tell the group how their week was, and then choose a theme from any of the issues that came up, and then discuss it, as a group, come up with options and then each meeting ends with holding hands and a show of solidarity.
This meeting was different. They had asked me to share my experiences of bipolar disorder, how I live (and thrive) on no medication, and introduce the NGO I run with Namarita, Bhor Foundation, that does advocacy in the field of mental health and has started introducing poetry as therapy intro asylums and other spaces. Namarita also taught a small module on poetry and the ten attendees each wrote a poem in two ways, one, just by thinking of words, and two, using an image to see what ekphrastic verses flew. The results were startlingly good, and here is what Swati Agrawal, a Delhi based lawyer, wrote:
2016 I came out so many times from so many shadows as a patient, as a survivor as mentally ill physically sick as someone abused mentally physically sexually emotionally as queer, as depressed I gave so many words to the storms inside me So many labels But I still don’t fit anywhere
I shared with them my own journey of an abusive marriage, sexual trauma and being labeled since 2002. What I initially thought was bipolar disorder was not, and as the marriage ended and the sexual trauma stopped, I came back to my utterly charming self! But to stop being facetious, those years of ill-health forced me to focus on my health, read about mental health and well-being, and I was always open about my said condition, gave interviews in magazines like India Today and more, and always had words of support for others suffering with bipolar disorder. I was never on medication and in 2007, I was forcibly and illegally incarcerated in Vimhans for 46 days. This was repeated in 2012 and I spent a week in IBHAS in a general ward.
Unfortunately, this practice of families colluding and having people locked up without proper checks with psychiatrists is all too common even though the new Mental Health Law claims to have advance directives and checks and balances in place. My story along with the stories of three other women who have faced being in mental hospitals in India is captured in a 2013 documentary made by Anjali Mental Health Rights in Kolkata and is titled Come With Me and is now on YouTube.
I shared with the group my strategy of self care, exercise, fitness, mindfulness and my opinion of Big Pharma and medication. I believe strongly that medication should be used as SOS for short durations and most other chronic illnesses and conditions like bipolar disorder can be managed through exercise, sleep, and more. But more importantly than this belief is my conviction in the right to be able to choose how you want to treat your own health condition, and if some people choose medication, great, if others choose therapy, perfect, and so on.
The meeting ended with a few of us strolling to the nearby Nizammudin Dargah area for a delicious dinner and over roomali roti and paalak goshtand kababs, new friendships were forged.
We are curating and editing a book of stories, non fiction narratives, poetry and art around mental health. We are looking for original, anonymous work if you want to protect your identity; we hope to help create awareness around this important area and help people realize they are not alone.
We will have a section around the trials and tribulations of being a caregiver, so if you are a caregiver or want to write about one, please write.
Poetry, Art, Prose are welcomed.
Original,non-fiction writing, 3000 to 8000 words. We are looking for accounts of one person’s journey through any mental health issue. It could be written in the first person or the third person. It could be written from the point of view of a person affected or their caregiver. We are not looking for fiction or stories. We are looking for real accounts and can change names, if needed, to protect identities. English only.
Original and unpublished, up to 40 lines. English.
Photographs and artwork around the area of mental health very welcome.
Last Saturday, I and Jhilmil met at Vimhans. As part of Bhor poetry project, we were there to assess whether Vimhans, a well-known hospital that also had a mental OPD, in reality, could possibly be a habitat to invite poetry as part of mental therapy sessions.
We tried contacting the director of Vimhans. Jhilmil had tried calling him before, but all she received was an out-of-office mail. Many of you may know since it’s out there in her biopic- Vimhans had been one of the mental institutions where Jhilmil was forcibly and wrongfully diagnosed as bipolar.
Vimhans had changed in last seven years. Jhilmil pointed out how it had been beautified.
An institution decorated with green climbers on white walls, a glass tunnel passage, a green garden with an open gym and a retro styled stairs going upstairs towards the terrace cafeteria. Such a beautiful structure containing people, suffering in the dark, getting treated, medicated to get ‘better’ ? But all that inside that beautiful structure of a building.
I was actually excited to find that Vimhans actually supported different kinds of therapies; as from what I have heard, according to popular opinion, psychiatry didn’t quite harmonise with psychotherapy. The good news was that we got phone numbers of therapists who conducted such art therapies for mental patients and differently abled kids. I also appreciated the level of transparency at Vimhans.
Siddharth Ashvin Shah spoke about social stigmas around mental health
From Vimhans, Jhilmil drove to the beautiful and oldest colony of Nizamuddin West, Delhi. It was an event organised by one of her friend where Siddharth Ashvin Shah, a well-known trauma recovery/stress management preventive physician who also taught psychosocial resilience was a guest speaker.
The topic was fighting social stigmas around mental health. He moved out the cliched talks of social stigmas.Very profoundly, he spoke of another kind of stigma that a sufferer could internalise. A sufferer at a point, himself/herself could start believing and living the very stigma society may wrongfully accuse him/her.
Accepting there is a problem is the first thing to destroy the stigma
It’s hard for the ‘can-do’ people to accept that some things they have done all their life have now become physically and mentally hard. Society tells them, ‘Yes, you have done this before, you can do this again.’
But the very idea of a mental illness is that it makes the simplest and most ordinary things hard in life. For someone suffering from depression, it’s hard to even get out of the bed the next morning.
If it’s hard for us to accept mental illness in ourselves, then I don’t think anyone else can make the society accept us with it.
Jhilmil, a spokesperson of anti-pharma, pointed out how in many cases, other ways of healing like therapies, exercise, love, acceptance and art can help in transcending the very illness one is fighting with.
Transcending the illness
However, each individual, each mind is suffering differently and perhaps, we need all help to feel better. Sometimes, medicines and a listening ear of a therapist may help you heal, or sometimes, you will need other ways to get better.
There is a need for balance, where both mind and body need to be healed. And at times, medicines only heal a part of your mind causing a lot of stress and side-effects on the body. Social stigmas stop us from taking all the help we can.
One thing most people who attended the event agreed on was-
Talking. Talk about it. Build your support group. Don’t keep it to yourself. Accept it and share it with the trusted ones. Hold hands and heal each other.
Breathing is poetry of the body and poetry is breathing.
An article on Spirituality & Health explains how breathing is close to poetry, which in turn is the sign of wellbeing.
As we sit for pranayama ( breathing exercise), we develop a rhythm known as Kumbaka. It is those subtle moments between inhale and exhale and vice-versa. Closing our eyes, we will feel these natural pauses between the cycles.
Poetry is a world of metaphors. A canvas of memories and repressed emotions. Many therapists agree that poetry has healing properties and poetry therapy can help various disorders such as schizophrenia, acute psychosis, depression, prisoners, sexually abused children, terminally ill children, suicide survivors and more.
Poet, Writer, Artist, Wanderer, Yogini. Mental Health and Domestic Violence Advocacy. MBA Boston University, MA Creative Writing, University of Westminster.
Fiction Editor, Open Road Review, Editor, The Woman Inc., Managing Trustee, Bhor