The Seven Vows

First Vow
My mind was an area of conflict
In an entire decade of marriage
All he offered me was a land –
Mud-cracked, parched;
Full of wild weeds with life-splitting thorns
Everything I did was a question
With open ended arguments
Conclusion-less thesis

It broke me a bit

Second Vow
The noise grew in silence
And the silence settled comfortably
In my chest
Like a withered flower
He never raised his hand
But his pitch hit the threshold of my ears
My heart raced like a new lover
And the tears flowed like unlocked rivers

It broke me a bit more

Third Vow
I cried too much for everything
Mom said I always inclined towards sadness
Like a mango tree in April
With a womb full of fruits
Almost bent to kiss the earth
But how can sadness be a longing?
I too dreamt of starry nights, candle-lit dinners
And a I-can’t- live-without- utexts
Once in a while

It broke me as always

Fourth Vow
Then when I gave up on talking
Packed my expectations and threw them from the fifth floor
Burnt the smiles while the chimney
Sucked away the leftover energy

You named it an ailment

Fifth Vow
People said I was incapable of loving my daughter anymore
That I always sought solitude
But who knew of my howling heart
While you hurled at me your screams, yells
That was thrown as easy as a dart
But settled like greasy dust
Who knew of the ridicule that you gifted me
At every anniversary
Of the reminders of my incapability
To please you that you posted so frequently
As telegrams of distress

Sixth Vow
You chuckled while I struggled to find myself
You failed to see the minutes, the hours and the days
When I tried to fight back the lurking shadows
In my living room
Fight them hard until they wounded me enough
To surrender

Seventh Vow
Now I am too broken to be fixed
The demons have me by my head
They slay me in bits, nerve by nerve
I spot them in colours, in skies, in eyes, in butterflies
I guess this weariness isn’t a guest anymore
Or is it another act of permanence
Of beloved hallucination


Courier Declaration.jpg
Poornima Laxmeshwar

Poornima is a Freelance content writer, Academic and Research writer and Proofreader based in Bangalore.

She has written this poem to speak of the verbal abuse, so common in many marriages, that can often lead to mental health issues.

Horton Hears a Who!

I have been thinking of starting a blog for some time, where ‘some’ is actually a lot in real-time, like three years, maybe. ‘Thinking’ being the operative word in the preceding sentence, just add a tiny prefix before it: ‘over’. So I have been over-thinking about starting a blog, and then having cold hands (yes, that is possible) on feeling the occasional shove from the limited few inside my ‘sanctum sanctorum’ to actually start.

So I will just type. One sentence at a time, trailing my thoughts without trying to bend them to my will. Okay, just so you know, that was a bad joke, I have zero self-restraint, no concept of will power. So, I will just write notwithstanding the constant background noise, of feeling apologetic, of feeling that with each sentence I disinterest you, the reader.

Ummm… so, as I was saying, over thinking is my staple state of mind, though it was not so from the beginning. The beginning — that is when I learnt to remember, when I was three or four, maybe — was different though. So to begin with, I was a daydreamer, a dedicated one at that. From being the saviour to being the saved, I could dream the shit out of everything. Which follows that I had no understanding of time and space — in other words, what is generally called ‘reality’ — or perhaps a warped image of it at the best. Like in the old times, where we could take a selfie and then warp our faces into not looking like our faces. What fun that used to be, the ‘insect’ and ‘alien’ warps were my all-time favourites.

Of course, when my elders asked me, as is their bewildering habit to ask children such profound questions,

— “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I dutifully replied in equally confusing terms, at three, I wanted to be un-constipated and disown that horrendous yellow potty seat; by five, I was a tad more sorted and proudly declared my ambition to be a scientist; at seven, I wanted to explore outer space, so an astronaut; at nine, I wanted to journey to the centre of the earth, so a geologist; at eleven, I wanted to never marry; at thirteen, I wanted to top the class again; at fifteen, I wanted to be a paediatric-cardiac surgeon, for a brief span of time, till I realised that would involve a lot of maths and chemistry too, besides biology; at seventeen, I wanted to be a journalist, because I had the naïve idea that it only involved words; at nineteen, all I wanted was to be left alone; somewhere in between, I also toyed with the ideas of being a teacher, a veterinary doctor, an astrologer, an astronomer, but unfortunately they didn’t stick.

Since the age of five, or maybe earlier, I learned to lie, or if you will, make up stories. It was a survival skill I developed, to keep my beautiful realm of I-am-free-from-being-anything, safe from external threats. Thus, my version of reality thrived, like a new world, lush, odorous with the heavy scent of spring and full of bizarre, primeval creatures. Of course, it matured over the years, sequestering me in its fantastical, non-linear alleys, whenever real-time got too ‘real’ for comfort.

I mean, I was convinced at some point of my life (read, early teens) that I could be a superhero-saint, that is, a saint for you who is also a super-hero, or the other way round. Nevermind the details of imagined destiny, what is of relevance is, the fact that I had a hyper-active imagination; where I evolved from being a snake-woman (naagin), to a demi-god (my father being Krishna, and my grandmother being Durga), to a treasure-hunter, to a prime target on a hit-list of my own creation, to a descendent of a sacred but secret clan of warriors, to a witch waiting for my letter from Hogwarts, and then ultimately, a superhero-saint.

Thereafter, my inner world got infested with malware, maybe because I went mainstream and got addicted to pornographic fiction, or because I put up a poster of Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter on my walls. Random voices began tearing through the seams of my well-watered horizon,

— “No! You can’t fly…”,

— “What shit?! You are not here to save the world”,

and the most lethal of them all,

— “You are perfectly normal”.

So after years and years, of service, my system crashed, and had to be formatted hurriedly. My reveries were reset, to be mostly about ‘love’ now, about being the damsel in distress. Certainly, a knight in shining armour was a good bargain, in lieu of my old junk, wasn’t it?

However, the only thing that was certain was nothing. I was ripped through the very middle, into a million specks of glitter dust. Doubt, my arch-enemy, reared its ugly head out of my navel. I forgot who I was, if I ever was at all. There began an arduous, tedious pilgrimage to collect all the scattered parts, to glue them together. Somewhere around this stage of crisis, Over-thinking became my loyal servant. Today, I can say, except the rare slip to an old habit, I never day-dream. I’m too full of mistakes and experiences, for the basic amount of innocence needed to purchase reveries. Instead, the protracted voyage has made me an ace thinker. I can think of everything and nothing, all at once. And I can move away from my short-term adult goals, in such a lyrical movement of intellectual pretence that I can hardly recall where I started from. Like now… excuse me a minute, I’ll quickly scroll upstairs.

A blog, I was thinking of a blog, I was thinking of starting one of my own, I was thinking of how to start a blog of my own, I was thinking of what a blog of mine could be about, I was thinking about what the first post would look like. And guess what, for all the beauty in my chaotic mind, I’ve got a few key things figured out.

  • It has to be anonymous, I must take up a nom de plume (don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it right), an effective pen name — because it gives me the creeps, to think that in this age of open source information, were my cloak of anonymity, ever to blow off, I’ll be pulverised to dust, like a vampire doused in sunlight;
  • It has to be about something I like — though it gets a tad muddy here, because my brain suffers from a low attention span issue, and sincerely believes the world would be benefited by being enlightened of its exact expanse of convolutions;
  • It has to be consistent — because I cannot endure another loose end, so I have to be careful, not to set myself unrealistic goals; like those times my vacations would be preceded by long to-do lists, where the very same lists would escape and refuse to return until the last day of the vacation; and,
  • It has to be honest — because otherwise, there would be no point, no motivation, no concrete end to all those journals I wrote, since age twelve, no end to my great epiphany — that fiction can be found in what I perceive as reality; no healing in the process of this blog, because healing is what I am trying to get at after sieving through every layer of my difficult atmosphere. It exhausts me, to be honest, this sieving, so it must be purposeful, or else, I will have to host yet another party for self-pity.

The good news my dear readers is, I finally know, this is what my first blog post looks like. I attach great significance to it, because as I mentioned, I am undertaking a mission, to heal myself, to not give up. And I cannot begin to express my gratitude to anyone who has read this far, for I cannot do this alone. I know, it is unfair, to be so self-indulgent, and not hint at what is to come. Well, it can be about any of the following things, and forgive me my vagueness:

# Mental Health

# Cinema

# Literature

# Art

# Poetry

# Travel

# Philosophy

# Love

# Sexuality

# Nostalgia

# Nightmares

# Eventually, a continuous attempt at self-knowledge, through all of the above.

I hope to post on any of these at least twice a week. Thank you again, for coming this far with me. I hope to heal, and I hope to reach out, if you are hurting too, or simply make you aware, that I am here. And Horton still has it in him, to hear a Who!

 


usri photoUsri Basistha is 27 and a former journalist with Tehelka magazine, currently a poet, blogger and doodler. She has done a rather broad range of things beginning with cinema, books, nature, travel, photography, comic strips, history, dinosaurs going all the way to outer space. Follow her on Twitter at borderlinebee.

Simple Steps to SUBMIT TO US on Medium

For all the newbies on Medium, here’s how you submit your work to us-

© Prasanna Kumar

In recent past few days, we started inviting writers to submit their mental health stories, artwork and poems to us here.

We found many were not on Medium and when they did come to Medium, they were having trouble submitting to us.

Please follow these simple steps to get your work reach us –

Once you accept our invitation to Medium, sign in.

Click on your profile button at top right.

In the dropper, click on ‘ New Story’.

Write your story there, format it whichever way you like. For more help, go here.

Once you are done, click on the three dots appearing on your top right like ‘…’

In the dropper, click on ‘Add To Publication’.

Since you are already added as a writer, click on ‘Bhor Publication’.

And you have successfully submitted your story to us!

We will find your story as a draft.

We will edit ( only if required), add the right tags and publish your work!


Write your comments below for assistance. Hope it helps!

Follow us on Twitter & Facebook.

Button — A poem by Jhilmil Breckenridge

Persuaded to try medication,

“very few side effects, no problem,”

the smiling Dr Atul says to my husband.

You are just another possession, a car

to be serviced, a house to maintain.

He proudly leads you home, 10 mg

of this and that, and a brand new wife,

whose buttons can be pressed and chosen

like a favourite television show. Your voice

does not matter, the thickening tongue,

the diminishing libido is minor to him.

Your body is not your own any more,

it’s limbs feel like you are swimming

in treacle, your mind anaesthetised,

your smile pasted. The new, improved

Wife, Model 101 — will last without

complaining. You just have to press the

button.

Anxiety — **What it feels like**

Imagine this.

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

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.

Art: Yuriy Ibragimov; Pastel, 2012, Source: Pinterest

It’s Time For Your Voice


Let’s talk about it.

Last time someone didn’t, they struggled alone.

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.

How?

  1. Sign in to Medium and make an account.
  2. Send us your interest at trustbhor@gmail.com
  3. We will add you as a writer to our publication.
  4. Write your post & send to Bhor.
  5. We will accept and publish here.
  6. Medium posts will be published on our website blog as well ( credit will be given to the writers)

Final Push

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 trustbhor@gmail.com 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.

Press Release- Creative Writing Alumni Set Out To Eradicate Stigma Against Mental Health In India

Know about Jhilmil BreckenridgeInspirational Woman: Jhilmil Breckenridge | Poet, Writer & Activist

A Talk For Sunny Siders—A Bipolar Support Group

anhad

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.

nizamuddin-dinner
For more information on this story or our work, follow us here and get involved!

SUBMIT TO BHOR ANTHOLOGY

© Jhilmil Breckenridge

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.

Prose

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.

Poetry

Original and unpublished, up to 40 lines. English.

Art

Photographs and artwork around the area of mental health very welcome.


Submit at: trustbhor@gmail.com

Curated by Namarita Kathait and Jhilmil Breckenridge

Stay updated for more details about the anthology.