Recovery Oriented Blog for Mental Illness

I have recently started a new blog, because I felt that I needed to strictly focus on recovery in serious mental illness, as a theme by itself and calling it any other name would not do justice to my commitment, engagement and research. I have, in the past, tried writing on this blog about mental illness related encounters I have had. However the purpose of the new blog is slightly different.

The new blog is committed to one single theme. All my mental ‘illness’ oriented work would go on that blog as it is also my desire to share with the lay intelligent reader whatever knowledge I interact with, in the course of my phd research. Since a researcher by definition tends to be looking into a vaster expanse of information, data, analysis and study than someone who is not a researcher, for reasons of social good and making research accessible, people could routinely offer small chunks of that knowledge to the wider audience. This is my attempt in that direction.cropped-website-hope-image

However research is not an easy journey to make, for it is largely solitary and a tough act of balancing one’s financial needs, professional goals, study commitments, family responsibilities, domestic routines and you name it. I cannot say I am in any enviable position except that to reduce the monotony of my work, I have started teaching classical music to a few youngsters- it is a breath of air for me. Of course I continue learning with my own guru also- another breather!

This blog post is basically to re-direct anyone who is connected to me for the above reason, to redirect their gaze in a more appropriate corner. You can well imagine that I am likely to post little on this blog, while my focus lies in recovery. However peace is close to my heart and at the heart of all my efforts. If one can help even a single person come into their own center, attain a little peace- they will gradually create their own peace and spread it further as well. I call the new blog- recovering self, because only in re-covering ground that people lose due to setbacks which are called mental illness, do we become our WHOLE SELF again- the self that we were intended by Mother Nature to be. The recovery blog is only meant to be a little offering in wholeness, a testimony to the work I am doing as well as a knowledge sharing blog- diminishing stereotypes about mental illness, challenging convention and offering alternatives.

Hope it accomplishes the intention of its birth.

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Accepting violence, as part of ‘love’

Dear H

I have been thinking on the subject of routine violence of women’s lives and how they condone, accept or even justify it. A few days ago, Haseena, the young woman, mother of three, who works as my home assistant (I prefer this term, instead of ‘domestic help’, because I feel she assists me in my home in diverse ways, and is a part of my home, just like a member of the household) came with face that was not exactly chirpy and bright the way she does every morning. I asked her if everything was fine. She responded that her husband had hit her, because she had screamed at him, due to his parents’ calls to him, which she objected to. His father is disabled and possibly bedridden. Naturally his parents require money, even though the mother herself earns from domestic work in the homes of others.

However, when the son could not send money immediately, as his wife (Haseena) was out of work for several months before starting work with me, they grew frantic. On the other hand Haseena was also upset that they could not hold on patiently, because though she had started in her new employment she could only get money at the end of the month- not in the middle of it. So she ‘screamed’ at them! She needn’t have- but this is the circle of poverty and this is the circle of dependence, which makes and keeps people insecure.

So I asked her again, what was the response of her two young girls to the fact that her husband had hit her. She said that the children were very troubled and became anxious, fearless and tearful. What can one expect?

Yesterday those two children came to me, for I invited them to come meet me. I wanted to see her children and in general I am always concerned about children who are first generation learners, for I wish to be in their little journeys and assist them, if I can, in understanding life in different ways. I know, coming as I did from a family of college teachers, how differently we grew up- these children would never know a house full of books and parents studying. For them their father works in a scrapyard and mother works in someone home.

When I saw them and interacted with them, I saw they were no different from any children. The two girls were actually quite beautiful- and the older one expressed her desire to write stories and the younger one said she wants to be a doctor, though she is also fond of drawing. I thought it would be good if they met me with some regularity and tell me about their lives and I tell them about other things. I invited them to bring their friends as well, so that the group can have a maximum of ten children- girls and boys or only girls. And they can always bring one adult with them, since they have to walk a long way to reach my home. So i hope to add some little things in the lives of these little children in my vicinity, which opens up alternative ideas in their minds and not just the violent realities of their lives, homes and discrimination of daily living, being Muslims. It remains to be seen whether they would take up the option or how seriously.

Perhaps for Haseena, her husband slapping her in the presence of her children was not a big act, for she condoned it saying, “It is okay if he hits me, because he has a right to, but I do not think he can see how wrong his parents have been to him always.” To her mind a man hitting his wife is a right that he has earned by virtue of being husband, to my mind it is a violence perpetrated not only on her, but on the three children, who were unconsciously taught the rules of patriarchy- a man can hit a woman- both the girls saw it, the boy saw it too…and this way the circles will continue. Unless we bring these little children into new worlds of ideas where hitting anyone is not the done thing, no body in a position of power will exercise their powers in ways that can demean another human being. But we have to begin early.

So you would say, why in the world am I telling you this? Just imagine how far you are from these people in every possible way, living a world apart in the heart of developed Europe, whether women have fought and earned their rights in significant ways and routine violence is just not acceptable any longer, it is NOT the done thing, just because you are a man or anyone in a position of power. What about the fact that your university education and the fact that you hail from South Asia- how far you are from this world, where hitting a woman, because she loves you, is the done thing among men.

So what happens when a man who is a part of your life, by your choice, chooses to behave with you, the manner Haseena’s husband did? In what way is your response different from Haseena’s condoning of her husband? She has accepted the fact that being a woman she is liable to get hit- are you also? And why is that? Just because you loved someone? So what is the purpose of so much education, if it could not instill a sense of self worth? What is the value of your independent spirit, if you could choose to live alone, in a house of your own, yet be exposed to routine verbal or physical violence and take it with an attitude of submission?

The reality of education is that no matter what women are studying in universities about gender, violence, equality or any ideas- the homes that they go back to, beat them back into submission, clip their wings, abort their dreams and bring them back into the same cycle of daily abuse, which has been heaped upon women from times immemorial, because women who challenge patriarchy are best outside of their own homes. Parents and in-laws only want submissive, silent women, who will take anything because they have to carry the responsibility of their family pride, honor and social respect.

On the other hand when women who are educated, do not have the support, mentoring and guidance of other women who are independent, strong and clear thinking, they lose their ways in the labyrinth of emotional submission because they think that no matter what they study in their universities and classrooms, they cannot deal with the same ideas in their day-to-day lives. They have to accept day-to-day patriarchy, because otherwise they will be alone, single and unloved. The reality is that in seeking love from those men who have a power-oriented conception of relationships, women also enter into negotiating around power. That struggle enters into diverse domains- of money, sexuality, behaviours, interactions, social displays and so forth.

Relationships based on power

If you remember, Hobbes (the philosopher) had said that the essential nature of man is nasty and brutish. I do not remember what he said further, but one of the goals of education could easily be to overcome this nastiness as an endowment of birth, by appropriate socialization, in which people overcome their habitual bad manners, spiritual ugliness and shortcomings by comprehending the benefits of mutual respect, altruism and the benefits of collaboration, over dominance, submission, cruelty and misbehaviour.  In any relationship which is based on power, there will be an interplay of power, at least in the mind of one partner, the other may be completely ignorant. The one who has money may think that they hold the key to the relationship. Usually this struggle is such that all resources are vested in the hands of men, more so in marriages.

However, in your case, this is not the situation. You are not dependent on any man to pay for your bills, your home is in your name, you live in Europe far removed from the values of what women in South Asia face on a daily basis. Then why cling on to ideas of this part of the world, my girl? Your parents had enough money to take you from here and offer you the scope for this life, where you could make choices of your own and be responsible for them. I do feel that a mentoring that was required could not be offered to you, but that does not mean that the very values they wanted to shield you from your life, should dominate your mind, no matter what milieu you live in, on the outside.

Diaspora is more entrenched in old values than people within their home countries

I felt this for a long time actually- that Indians who lived in the West were less liberal and more feudal, navel gazing and parochial than Indians living in India. Their only real connection with India is very watered down, and largely defined by ideas that they have imbibed from cinema, and the cultural icons exported out of here. They do not live the dynamic life that Indians live in India, a hotbed of ideas, struggles, debates and whatnot. Diaspora lives a cocoon – neither a part of the progressive ideas of the subcontinent nor progressive ideas of the West, as though all currents of progressiveness just pass them by!

They are quite consumeristic, fond of razzle-dazzle and empty in their minds. I am especially referring to those who are born in the West. The ones who have gone from here in search for higher education, especially in the social/human sciences are doing some very wonderful work and contributing to scholarship. The ones who have gone in search of jobs are seeking escapes out of the poverty and socio-economic backwardness of our society. Anyways, this is not meant to be a critique of them, (for they merit a longer post or article) but a reminder that when they left South Asia it was decades ago. Their ideas stopped growing organically, because they had no exposure to the ideas that were developing in this society. They were on a foreign soil and they had to protect their ideas, values, culture and tradition in a foreign land- often they took the most rigid, dead ideas of the past and continued them in the name of tradition; the sort of ideas we would never accept in our own lives here.

I see you there!

And this is the underlying reason for this post- to remind you to not cut yourself from the reality of your life, but embrace it more fully. Women’s liberation or feminism is not about antagonism towards men, only the militant versions may be. The truth about women’s liberation is that it has to be a liberation from the day-to-day oppression in the lives of women, and even men need to be liberated from that oppression, which they are also victims of. Women liberation is a struggle for dignity of every person on the planet and not just women- for women are the wiser of the species (a fact proven by the animal kingdom too), and they have no need to dominate, murder, kill and maim people- they just need to be more empowered to recognize their strength, their wisdom and their abilities.

Unless women do it themselves and stronger women, mentor weaker women, old women nurture younger women into more empowering roles and positions, women will continue to get tortured in every private space- in homes, offices, relationships and you name it. Women will continue believing that it is okay to be hit in their homes and it is okay to be violated in their jobs, because they are women and this is the price they have to pay for womanhood. They just need to be reminded that women need to connect with their masculine sides, their inner man, and not be with an outer man who needs to subdue her to prove his masculinity.

This is my hope too, in writing this note to you- that you do not need a man whose need it is to abuse you or any woman in any way. You do not need a man who clings on to you because he sees you as a symbol of power, yet wants to crumble your spirit by regularly violating it with words, abuse your family, doubt your character or your friends, demand money from you and wants to escape the drudgery of his wretched existence back home, by escaping to Europe, yet not learn the liberal values of the West, that you have grown up internalizing.

I may need to write another post on how sexuality needs to be seen by the modern woman, but I will reserve that for a later date.

Your’s in concern

PS

Cry out Sania (Mirza) but not like a baby, LIKE A WOMAN

Dear Sania

Just encountered you weeping in response to questions posed by Barkha Dutt and I felt she was just rubbing in things with the loud questioning, though trying to show solidarity as a woman. Let me tell you, that please do not even bother about being singled out- feel privileged. When people pick targets such as you, they are actually bringing to light a bigger social malaise out there- the double ostracism of women who marry across the border. They face rejection as ‘outsiders’ in a foreign country (how foreign can Pakistan be though, for we are the same people) and while back home they are made to look like ‘traitors’.

Remember as women we will have to represent many things, not just the trades and professions we choose or choose to excel in, as in your case. But being a sportsperson you have all the more reason to remain focused on the idea that people like you are the modern symbols opposing patriarchy, defying man-made boundaries, defying stereotypes in so many ways. You are a symbol, remember that. Most of this is targeted at who you represent symbolically – so give a befitting reply, not a baby’s crying.

Also remember that when one lives a life in the public eye, personal is political and the vice versa. Just imagine if someone had said something of the same sort to a woman who is ‘invisible’ to the public eye- a simple homemaker in Karachi or Dariba Kalan in Delhi, who would have bothered about her? So in targeting you, the ones who targeted just wanted some visibly and of course bring you out in the open and make you face situations that are all fabrications of their mind, their values and their ideas of beti and bahu. Forget it- you are a daughter of India and a daughter of Pakistan. We do not marry countries and become in-laws to a whole nation. I find the in-law word a bit of an anathema and a root of a whole lot of problems in the world.

But we are all proud of you, for you are girl of our subcontinent- a girl who breaks stereotypes about every possible dimension. So just maintain your tenacity and keep the focus, just like you focus on your balls, while in the court. Make this a turnaround situation, to speak up for women who face, what you just did. Do not cry like a baby- speak up like the woman of substance you can be. Bring your sporting spirit upfront NOW.

Love and blessings to you

from a musician who works in ‘recovering voices’- old enough to be an older sister to you 🙂

A poem in anger- against open defecation, (and the murder of the two girls in UP recently)

Many months back I had shared a poem from a longer poem, which was in several parts…among my notes here. At that point I could not type it out, neither now. But in the light of the recent rape and murder of the two young girls I am ENRAGED. So before I write about it in other ways, i want to put this poem out, which is parts 4 and 5 of the longer poem (Dawn and the Moving Train- fleeting glimpses, from 11th September 2013)

 

These parts are written at the sight of the morning squatters, who dot both sides of rail tracks, answering the call of nature- and at that point i felt a huge sense of loss, sadness, that we in India could not even provide for toilets for a vast majority. But TODAY, I’m terribly ENRAGED…I never use this word so frequently. In the previous part, No.3, i had talked about an urchin begging at 5:30 in the morning

 

(4)

Not much further, on my side of the track

(for naturally enough I cannot see the other)

The track is spattered with men and women

Squatting to evacuate,

Some have their backs to the train

‘N some face it resignedly 

Though none looks at the passing beast

To see if someone peeps out of the windows

 

I am pained-

In my aloof, middle class educated sort of a way

Or may be in my human dignity- oriented sort

 

I am pained-

(More so) as I see a young girl and by her side a woman

Just a fraction away

One looking down

May be waiting to squat

May be having got up from it

Waiting for the train to roll away

To carry on with their open defaecation

Publicly, openly, with hundreds passing, on a passing train

 

 

(5)

My country alas we failed thee!

Or did we?

Perhaps those who took control

Over a thousand million’s destiny

Do not have clarity

Except for self interest-

They still go on that way

 

While we- the majority, resignedly, helplessly

Our backs broken every single day of our miserable lives

For numerous reasons

Having been reduced to a mental slavery

Of machines, cinema, of the media

Of astrologers, cricketers, actors and politicians

Are now inured by our own reality

Unconcerned about our fellow humans

(What to mention other life forms))

live lives blinkered, chasing dreams

That celluloid advertising sells us,

 

We the idiots, the inhuman slaves of the market

Untouched by the indignity, the suffering

Of our own people, who squat in the open

No matter what season

what part of the nation

For the simple reason

Like us they are also human

Who need to eat and evacuate

Alas! we fail the majority

‘N this NOT THE ONLY way.

 

Copyrights prateeksha sharma 2013

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