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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.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.
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.
You don’t matter because deep to my core I understand that you may have to leave, book a train to nowhere to find your soul that may long for something more than me.
You should not matter nor your presence because inside our bubble you are both hydrophilic and hydrophobic scared and happy at the same time I understand that you may take off and fly when the chemistry won’t be enough to stay with me.
You can never matter as we were never build of the same substance and our minds are linked with these crazy frequencies colliding to create a jazz form making music we both love. I understand that you may get crazy and walk out of the room when your soothing heavy metal song gets too noisy for me.
What matters is Love and Only Love as one day I may not matter to you like nobody matters to anybody these days And why should love care about bodies floating in time and space?
I find whatever I write is eluded with what I see around me, deep linked sieved on the fibres of the souls of this generation.
We are whatever generation, rolling cannabis or else dreaming about rolling them. Our aim is to make triangles out of the smoke, circles are meant to be broken because we are generation whatever.
Ideas make sense out of this smoke, life is generated out of this smoke because otherwise we are living dead among tall building, fast cars and heaps of metal and electronics scraps piled like a cage around us
I, probably am been laughed at for writing one word of truth as it just means whatever … as long as you, me, he and she are rolling our joints and life is an ecstasy with hollow eyes and hollow hearts.
They have their pills and you have responsibilities and when you move around like a crazy piece of sh*t acting like a junkie trashing your house looking for any bad thing to give you high because of one bad thing happened to you in life.
But nobody really cares about the future as long as the triangles are being made out of weed smoke and the concentric circles of puff goes up and up. They flash cigarettes like middle finger welcoming you to join their club which you probably should if you want to learn to let go So, just let go.
Why let that sad father hold on to you or let the sick mother be a heavy deadweight to your freedom You are born in whatever generation! As the adults remain adults forever domineering and finical, these pals you have gathered while following the rules of ‘Mari’ are like you also chasing freedom.
It seems everybody is just breaking bad for freedom and I wonder if perhaps tradition is breaking free too. You have a swamp at the left and black hole on your right, either you care too much or you just de-humanize every aspect of the world, even yourself.
What about Love? Well, as long as you let the lovers go they will love you as long as you watch them suffer in self-pity they like that sh*t.
They like watching you get hurt to pity themselves as you pity them, that’s dark — you’d tell them. They cringe or laugh at your face for being too emotional. You either watch them listen to trending pop or slayers heavy metal. Seems like everyone just have an opinion to act upon, seems like everyone wants to do the right thing by themselves as long as their freedom is intact.
‘Love thyself’! Lose the dead weight, and if you can’t lose feelings, they are the heaviest thing on this planet! I already feel super light as a hollow log easy to be dealt with and why, now none of your actions gets my reaction! Easy , I’m easy. Feelings? Me ! No Sir, my ex-lover kissed me under the sycamore and left me naked in the morning, with a Goodbye Forever Note. All was left were his joint’s ashes and memories of the signed-out eyes of a hollow man with dark bags under his eyes and black lips.
No, I’m not describing a monster, but a tragic lover who loved his freedom and his ways a bit too much.
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