May 31, 2016

Musings: 5 YA Books That Talked About Mental Health

For most of my childhood, I was depressed and anxious. I didn’t know why or how. I was depressed due to a variety of personal reasons and though my mother tried to make me tell her what was bothering me, I never could. Not because I didn’t want to tell her but because I had no idea what to tell her. As I was growing up the term ‘depression’ was very casually used. It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. People felt sad sometimes and the next day, they were magically better.

Sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning.  
That’s like saying, have you tried switching it off and restarting it again?

And it’s horrifying. How can you equate human emotions with that of a stupid mobile phone or TV? How can you simply ‘snap out of it’ if you’re suffering from depression and anxiety and you’re too young to know what these are in the first place!

Previously, Privy Trifles wrote a post about her own battle with depression as a child. Reading her article made me realize that with all the talk that goes around about mental health the children get utterly ignored. It’s always the stories of someone who suffered a heartbreak, who failed in something they’d set their heart on, someone who is on the other side of eighteen who gets even the smallest attention we are offering. That really got me thinking.

And I remembered. I remembered that I read books that had been primarily targeted at a younger audience, and where the authors tried their best to talk about mental health. I had never felt so thankful towards my love for YA books.

Here’s a list of the books that I had read and would personally recommend, that spoke about mental health.

The Princess Diaries Book 9

Right after Michael Moscovitz leaves for Japan, Mia Thermopolis spirals into depression and until her parents force her to go see a therapist she pretty much sinks to an all-time low. Mia already had issues. She had an overbearing best friend in the form of Lilly Moscovitz, who didn’t like it when Mia opposed any of her plans. What I liked about the book was how well Meg Cabot handled the scenes with the therapist. There is nothing wrong in seeking help when you most need it. And Mia needed all the help she could get. She had to be forced to go see the therapist...but in the end, it was all to help her cope with her life.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson

An excerpt from this novel will give readers an idea about what David Levithan and John Green were driving at with their novel:

“i think the idea of a "mental health day" is something completely invented by people who have no clue what it's like to have bad mental health. the idea that your mind can be aired out in twenty-four hours is kind of like saying heart disease can be cured if you eat the right breakfast cereal. mental health days only exist for people who have the luxury of saying "i don't want to deal with things today" and then can take the whole day off, while the rest of us are stuck fighting the fights we always fight, with no one really caring one way or another, unless we choose to bring a gun to school or ruin the morning announcements with a suicide.”

The Perks of being a Wallflower

When we talk about YA novels that have dealt with mental health, it would be a gross injustice to not talk about this novel. ‘Charlie’ had been the victim of abuse from someone he loved and because of his conflicting realities, he suffered from depression. We do not understand because reading his letters, he sounds just like any other teenager going through the traumatizing experience of high school. But the novel serves as an eye opener to everyone who does not take mental health of young adults seriously.  
Love Letters to the Dead

The story of Laurel and her sister, May, had most certainly done a number on me. Because the story is narrated via the letters that Laurel writes to people who are do not realize the underlying issues of mental health until you’re well into the novel. This is a very good reflection of what mental health issues are like in real life. It doesn’t just knock on your door and says, “Surprise!” But slowly creeps in and one thing just leads to another. What particularly loved about this novel was the fact that it was guilt that had disturbed the mental peace of our young protagonist...but she decides to seek help. No one in her life treats her issues as trivial. In order to understand more about mental health awareness, I would suggest that everyone read this book.

All the Bright Places

More recently, I read the book that everyone’s been talking about: All the Bright Places. It was the tagline that will stay with me forever:

This is the story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die.

Initially, Finch seems like nothing short of an asshole and you don’t want to spend a minute with him. But as he opens up about himself, you’re slowly drawn into his world. You’re going crazy trying to figure him out. You’re lining up post it notes against the walls, trying to figure out his cryptic messages. And you’re filled with this irrational desire of wanting to save him. Yes, he’s fictional. So you begin to think about all the Finches that you might know. The Finches you didn’t take the time out of your busy lives to save...and you begin to notice young adults in a whole new light. Mental health is not just about adults who’ve hit rock bottom, but also for young adults who are doing their best trying to find their ground in a world determined to knock them off their feet! This book introduced me to a certain kind of depression and I am so thankful for it. 

YA novels are not just about vampires and werewolves and magic and supernatural. They talk about real issues. They start conversations that young adults should be having with their parents. So we bring our series of Mental Health Awareness to end, but giving you the list of YA novels you could check out if you would like to know more about mental health. Whoever said YA novels are not for adults, never read any of the books on our list!


With this blog post, we come to the end of our series for Mental Health Awareness Month. I would like to thank Namrata, Dhivya and Preethi for being a part of this journey and writing posts for the issue, even when they were busy with their lives. I am truly grateful to you three. To all the readers, thank you for reading and sharing the posts. We hope you consider joining us next year in May as we do a similar project. I sincerely hope our posts have found their way to those who really needed help. If you happen to be struggling with your demons, please remember that you're not alone. And you're loved.

May 27, 2016

Guest Post: Becoming My Own Saviour by Preethi Venugopala

I was born in a quaint, remote little village in North Kerala where myths, superstitions, and folklores colored the thoughts of its inhabitants. Luckily, I was born as the daughter of a man of science, a homeopathic doctor and a hypnotherapist, who worshiped the human mind.

I grew up hearing tales of the demons that lived on the giant Pala trees (Indian Devil Tree) and about the dangerous spirits that lurked in the darkness to pounce upon unsuspecting wanderers on certain full moon Fridays. But, at home, we were taught about the miracles the human mind was capable of performing and even the science behind certain common beliefs.

Homeopathy heals by stimulating the healing power or the vital force that exists in every living being, it studies in detail the intricate connections that exist between the mind and the body. A hypnotherapist learns to control the human mind. My father combined both these systems to heal his patients. More than that, he taught us that every single thought was powerful. The wall between sanity and insanity, he said, was very feeble and was entirely balanced by thoughts. To drill this into our consciousness, he told us case histories of his patients. Some had lost their sanity due to a sudden trauma, some others after years of ill-treatment or self-abuse. He told us how hypnotic suggestions (instructions/affirmations to the brain to think in a certain way) brought about dramatic changes.
My brother and sister both followed his footsteps and became Homeopathic doctors. Whenever their friends came home, there would be healthy debates about the healing powers of a single drop of medicine or a single hypnotherapy session. All in all, I grew up venerating the human mind.

My father left us in 2011, after being bedridden for eight long months. All of us were in denial for the longest time. My sister was the worst affected and would burst into tears every other moment. My mother left our family home to live with my brother in Delhi saying she couldn’t bear to live in the house which had lost its pillar of strength. I bottled all my sadness in and acted bravely in front of others. Relatives taunted me that even though I had been the most pampered by him I seemed happy that he was gone. They didn’t know that I was withering internally. I had to remain strong externally; I had a two-year-old to look after. But I loathed myself, I criticized myself constantly for being fake. Slowly but steadily the sadness I had trapped inside began to surface as random outbursts of anger or tears. Sometimes, all I wanted was to escape from the numbing sadness, find a window to jump out of, and end everything. My health suffered, I was always lethargic and exhausted. Insomnia plagued me. I tried many things to distract myself; painting, crochet, and endless hours of television. Nothing worked.

I turned then to my sister for help. She prescribed medicines. But recurring thoughts would again lead me into the same pit of depression. It was during that time that my sister found healing for herself through Reiki. She encouraged me as well to take it up. Reiki again instilled in me the confidence that we human beings are capable of healing ourselves. The power to heal was through thoughts, intentions and meditations thereby harnessing the cosmic energy to heal. I did the self-healing Reiki sessions religiously and all the symptoms of depression began to disappear.

At the Reiki class, I met Saileela who was then a techie working at IBM. We became close friends as we shared many common interests. Her life ambition was to master past life regression, which she learned eventually. She was kind enough to let me experience the magic of past life regression during mid-2013. The experience taught me many things. The most important one was that we incarnate many times. Our soul is immortal. The experiences we undergo in this life are already chosen by the soul even before we incarnate. Everything is a lesson our soul wants to learn. And our thoughts create our reality.

The period of 2011-2013 was the dark period in my life where I was reeling in mild depression, a common mental disorder. When I look back at those hours now, I understand how they made me stronger. I also understand why bottling up emotions is harmful.

In the current world, nearly half the world population is depressed. Having experienced the debilitating numbness this mental disorder brings into one’s life, I know it is a tough and lonely fight. But it can be won. I wish to share here the pointers I use to keep myself centered and happy.

1)    A Happiness shield:
I believe that being happy and content is our most natural state of being. Everyone deserves happiness and love. Whenever a situation arises where I find myself haunted by recurring sad thoughts, I deliberately start thinking about happy things. Remember the spell ‘Expecto Patronum’ Harry Potter uses to drive away the Dementors who makes him think dreadful thoughts? I create my own Patronus, my protective shield using happy vibes. These can be happy memories, music or dancing. Happiness comes in little packages and inundates our being if we care to collect them.
I take care to read happy light reads, watch comedies and weed out negativity from my social media feed when I am in such a phase. Also, I eliminate toxic people from my life who are responsible for giving me those negative thoughts or vibes.

2)    Exercise:
Whenever sadness becomes unbearable I make myself move. I go out for a long walk in the park, spend an hour at the gym, do yoga or dance away to the music.

3)    Gratitude:
I maintain a gratitude journal. I write in it every day. It is a very powerful spiritual practice. Once we begin to notice the things that we are blessed with. If you are reading this using a laptop, have an internet connection and is wealthy enough to buy the food or clothes of your choice, you are blessed than the majority of the world population. Whenever I feel down I take out a paper and start to list things which I am grateful for at the moment. When we become aware of our blessings, despair goes away.

4)    Self Love:
I practice self-love to build self-esteem. I take care not to chide myself repeatedly if I commit a mistake. I mentally hug myself and tell it is okay to err. After all, I am human. I use the mirror method prescribed by Louise L Hay to say affirmations of self-love. Check this article by Louise L Hay where she talks about ways to help build self-esteem. In fact, Louise L Hay says we can heal any ailment using self-love and affirmations.

5)    Meditate:
I meditate whenever I feel overwhelmed by day-to-day life. If you search on Youtube, there are many guided meditations including by many masters like Louise L Hay which bring perceptible change into our mental makeup and thoughts if practiced regularly.

6)    Talk to a friend or relative:
A face to face talk with a loved one is more effective than a hundred counseling sessions. I talk to my sister or my husband. Both know me better than I know myself these days.

7)    Prayer:
I chant my favorite Devi mantra till a negative thought leaves me. I visit the nearby temple when some event occurs that agitates me. I like to unburden myself by giving it all to God. I make it a point to ask for healing whenever I visit a temple. Ask, believe and you will receive.

8)    Live in the moment:
I firmly believe in this quote by Lao Tzu.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

9)    Write to vent:
Writing in longhand on paper about the things that trouble you is an effective way to vent. Free writing to make your brain vomit all those random thoughts floating around inside your mind helps to purge half the anxieties and fears. Putting them down on paper make half of them sound ridiculous.

10)    Seek medical help:
Depression is a serious mental illness which can be cured. If nothing you do is returning you to your natural state of happiness, seek medical help. Find a counselor.
I can assure you that all these methods work. I used various permutations and combinations of all these methods when a bout of depression hit me again this year in February about which I have written on my blog. I became my own savior this time. 

Preethi Venugopala is a bibliophile in love with words. Her debut novel is ''Without You'' published by Write India Publishers. She loves to dabble in fiction, poetry and arts on her blog

Twitter: @preethivenu || Instagram: @preethivenu || Facebook:

May 22, 2016

Guest Post: "Depression" by Dhivya Balaji

Sample this conversation!
“Hey, I wanted to ask you since morning! Why the long face?”
“Not feeling well”
“Tired? Feverish? Having a cold?”
“No, no, feeling a bit depressed since yesterday. I am perfectly alright, now, though!”
“Good to hear… So, feeling up for some fun?”
“You bet!”

This is not an excerpt from any particular conversation, nor is it abnormal. It is actually a commonplace conversation that can happen between any two people. In the age of growing awareness among people about various mental illnesses, it is heartening to see more and more people talking about these, finally coming out of generations old taboos and realising that people with psychological ailments require as much help as people with physical ailments.

But this particular conversation is not really the best thing that could happen. Guess why? What is wrong? A concerned friend is enquiring another about them being dull, and the other friend is not shy to accept they have been depressed. Which part of this conversation is wrong? Not many people will get that even if they think hard. Not many people will understand what is not quite right with this. And the worst part? Not many people will grasp it even after I explain what is wrong.

Depression is NOT like the common cold or a cough that makes a flying visit to check on us once every quarter of a year and goes off with a few tablets. It is a permanent, hopeless feeling that lurks inside seemingly normal people’s minds, clawing at them in their weakest moments, making them unfit to do even basic tasks like socialising with people or even their personal tasks.

When the person in the conversation above said they were feeling depressed, it is not depression. A temporary bout of sadness, tiredness maybe. Sometimes even a deep seated feeling of despair without a probable cause in sight. But not depression – no, definitely not that. Depression is not something that would come and go in a day, that would disappear when there is ‘something fun to do’.

It is saddening to see people refuse to talk about or acknowledge depression as an ailment that needs to be treated, saying ‘It would go off once you get a job, get a spouse, go on a vacation and so on and so forth’. But it is even more shocking to see people use it in everyday conversations as adjectives. No. If you were really depressed or even understood what it means, you would NOT discuss it in such a blasé manner.

Having a psychiatrist for an uncle has taught me fair few lessons in life. This particular man made it possible for me to identify and talk about everything psychological without having to associate it with ‘being mad’. He has this weird habit of convincing many people, at least those who would listen, that seeking psychiatric help is not something to be ashamed of, and will not make one ‘mad’. But every time he does try talking about this to someone, only a select few people actually understood and accepted what he said.

Few of his listeners just nodded and looked at him with a sceptical look, few others grinned and shook their heads. A few more looked at him in shock, scandalised, while a few resorted to knowing giggles and ended up with some variation of, “I know, I know, doctor, you are trying to improve your business!”

Of all the scandalous things I have heard, this tops the list. How is asking people to seek help and make their life better considered boosting business? It is not a commodity trading business. For all of these reactions, sometimes even heated insinuations from friends and parents of his patients, all my uncle would respond with is a gentle smile and a mild nod or shake of his head. And whenever I ask him why he did that, and why he did not explain further or contest the words hurled at him, he would tell me, “The first principle of human psychology is simple. People are uncomfortable in the face of truth. In our society of quacks and ‘Godmen’ who claim to cure people by either hitting their face with neem leaves or thrashing them with whips or sometimes going to extremes like branding them with hot irons to chase away the evil spirit that has possessed them, not many people want word to leak out that they were thinking of seeking psychiatric help.”

And I would realise he had a point. The people who oppose him vehemently are those who probably knew he was right. Whenever he had a patient in his or her twenties or early thirties seeking his help because they had something they thought he could cure, he would be called or visited by irate parents of the patients who demand why he made their child come to him. They feared a lot of things, the most predominant one being the patient’s visit to him ruining their chances of marriage or their promotions in their career.

But if there is a competition between which is worse, those who vehemently oppose the necessity of psychiatric help or those who think of serious conditions as everyday ailments, it will be a close call. People who refuse help are in no way lesser mortals, nor are people who use these ailments as everyday words better in any way.

Not everyone can understand what it actually is until they actually feel it, or have a loved one feel it. But empathy does not cost you a thing. The next time you hear someone say they are depressed, talk to them, but only if they are okay with it. Hear them out. And if the person is close to you, fine tune yourself to sort out and notice their desperate silent pleas and cries for help. They might fear to break the taboo, they might not even know they need the help. Even if they know, they might be afraid to speak about it, to finally bare their soul and free themselves.

Depression is like a chain that ties a person to a heavy object. At its mildest, it slows down the person. At its worst, it totally consumes the person and completely diminishes any shred of self-worth they might have, weighing them down. Involve yourself in their cause only if you think it might help them. Try to reassure them, comfort them and make them seek help.

In this age where medical advancements have made miracles possible, psychological ailments need their share of treatments too. The next time you see someone who is actually depressed or prone to anxiety or any other condition that might require help, don’t ridicule them, don’t pretend to understand them completely if you don’t, and most important of all, never trivialise whatever it is they are feeling.

It takes great courage to accept that they require help and greater courage to seek that help.

And while I am at it, I am busting a few myths:
·         Depression does not ‘sneak up’ on you. It always lurks in the background, ready to lash out and possess at the shortest notice or even an unconscious trigger.
·         Depression is not incurable. There are therapy techniques, medicines and other methods that are successful in curing a person
·         Depression is a seriously noted disease, medically termed with some other names, but essentially a psychological condition that requires help
·         People who suffer from depression do not always cry a pool of tears and swim in them. They go about doing their everyday jobs, seeming normal. But if there is a sudden change in their regular habits, even those that concern eating and sleeping, or if a person resorts to too much silence, alone time and is asleep for as long as they could manage, you need to look out.
·         Depression is not a hampering factor to creativity – but it is a condition where the sufferer lacks motivation
·         When people say they have depression, or if you know someone who has been clinically diagnosed, their medication is only half the treatment. The other half is support and acceptance
·         Depression is a constant cycle of hope and despair. They might feel all hopeful and clear one second but be plagued by self-doubts the next. While it does not disappear in a day, if a person has constant mood swings, it is better to notice them and their root cause.
·         There might not be any single root cause. Depression can develop over time until it cripples the person and makes even breathing seem cumbersome. Repeated hits to a person’s mental strength might one day snowball into depression
·         Suicidal thoughts are symptoms. Yes. They are very real and probable. People who are depressed have suicidal thoughts many times over, and a little push might send them over the brink. Though they do recover, high levels of depression clouds all thoughts and makes them forget reasons why they should live. There is a surprisingly high probability of this happening.
·         And last but most important – depression, clinically diagnosed, is nowhere near madness, and seeking help at the right time is critically important.


 Dhivya Balaji  is a writer, dreamer, foodie and bookworm. The best of her friends have been books since she was ten years old. An engineer by education, she has dribbled in book reviewing, editing and beta reading. Words have always had a magic pull over her and she enjoys writing as much as reading. 

May 17, 2016

Guest Post: The Beginning by Namrata (Privy Trifles)

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and in order to help make people more aware about mental health, I decided to run a series of guest posts on my blog on this very topic. Bloggers will be sharing their experiences and hopefully, these articles will help someone in dire need of it. People are finally talking about mental health and we want to keep the conversation going. Mental Health needs to be taken seriously and I hope this little series makes a difference in someone's life.

You have been a bad girl and you deserve to be punished.” She said sternly oblivious to the tears in my eyes.  The punishment was always a boycott for a duration that depended on the gravity of the crime committed. It could vary from few hours to few days or weeks. I don’t remember anything about it except the feeling of being boycotted in your own house. They would continue with their lives in that time as if I never existed. We all sat on the dining table to eat together but I was never spoken to or heard during that period. The usual chatter around would slowly turn mute for me as my mind could only feel the stabbing pain in my heart.  Till date, my biggest fear is being left alone!

As a child I didn’t know that pain was what the grown-ups called depression because according to them children can never be depressed, they don’t have any reason to be. It was as simple as that. I don’t know if this was the beginning of my depression or was it triggered by something more sinister, like my experiences with CSA. Recently when I was discussing it with someone, that person very nonchalantly said, “You know it’s very normal for parents to not support you on all this in our country. It shouldn’t surprise you at all.” I wanted to answer to that person, "One, it is very easy to answer nonchalantly when you are just a mute spectator to such incidents. Two, what is normal for you need not necessarily be normal for me."

But I held back my tongue because in that one moment I had my answers. I wasn’t upset with their non-reaction; I was upset because they blamed me for having faced it. Everything from eve-teasing, molestation to facing CSA for 8 years was my fault. And it was that finger-pointing that was creating havoc in my mind. Since the time, I can remember I was never suicidal but by the time I was entering my teens I had taken refuge in self-harm, a companion that stayed with me till the time I touched my twenties. The physical pain it brought alone made me forget the mental pain I was going through. 

The journey which went spiraling down taking me along like a house made of a pack of cards also had a way upwards and all that was needed was a choice to be made, a choice that I want to live happily no matter what. A series of EFT and meditative healing sessions later I can proudly say that I took the first U-turn when all I could see ahead was a dead end in the name of a future.  I might not remember the beginning of all this but I definitely remember the ending. A very close loved one once told me in a fit of anger, “You are very selfish. You love yourself so much that you can never kill yourself. “Taken offensively by me then, today when I look back I proudly smile and say, “Yes I love myself a lot. Nobody out there in this world deserves to die for. I would rather live for myself.”And that was the end of it all or the beginning, perhaps

Namrata is A Lost Wanderer who loves traveling the length and breadth of the world. A published author in various anthologies and magazines she enjoys capturing the magic of life in her words. Having recently completed a travel writing course from University of Sydney she is now in pursuit of a new country and a new story.

May 13, 2016

Musings: An Idiot's Guide To Being Best Friends With An Introvert

1. Respect their personal space.

They maybe your favourite person in the world and they might love you too. But if they don’t make the first move to hug you – don’t hug them. If you hug them when they are not feeling up to it, you’ll just find yourself wondering if you did something wrong. Maybe you did. But chances are they just need to find their inner calm before they are ready fully accept and embrace you. This could be the 20th time they are meeting you or the very first one.

2. Don't bug them.

If they are in a bad mood, bugging them about what is bothering them is not going to help you. They’ll shut off even more and might find your incessant questioning so irksome, that they could decide to cut you off from their lives completely. If you care about the introvert in your life, a word of advice: when they tell you to back off, respect it.

3. Hibernation is a thing.

Yes, there are days when you won’t hear from them. It would be like they never existed. They are not sad or angry with the world. They just need time to recharge their batteries. So they go into hibernation. Real life prevents me from doing that. But when I was college, my friends made me promise I would tell them before I went off into hibernation. I retrospect that helped all of us.

4. They find certain people overwhelming.

Introverts cannot handle being around all kinds of people, all the time. Some people are naturally overwhelming and staying with them for a longer period of time, tires the introverts out. They are, therefore, very choosy about who they let into their life. Even then, some people around them might be more naturally draining than others. So don’t be surprised if they don’t sound too enthusiastic about your plans to pull all-nighters or movie marathons!

5. They need to gather strength to go party.

May 9, 2016

Motivational Monday: Things To Remember Part 3

Do you remember when you started to write down the things you wanted to achieve? Do you remember making your bucket list?
Well, I cannot help but notice that you’ve stopped checking things off the list.
When did you get so comfortable, living day to day, without any wish of chasing your dreams.
Remember the time you first sat on the plane? The time when you excitedly proclaimed to the world, you’ve love to live in another city someday...

How did you lose your way?

Decide what you want.
Make a plan. And go after it.
Stop thinking about the how, the why and the when.
You were single minded before.
Why would you let something else distract you from your original goals? 
Never let someone else rain on your parade. March to the beat of your own drum.
Remember that putting yourself first isn't selfish. You have one life. 
Make sure you check everything off your bucket list. 

You have only one life.
And if you get caught in the vicious cycle of what is this person going to think,
Or how would that person react.
Because truth be told. This is your life.

And you need to remember it.
Before you forget yourself surrounded by the noise of others.

Chasing your dreams is not selfish.
But the person who gets in your way of doing that. That person is selfish.
Always, always remember that.