Saturday, 14 October 2017

Self Harming, Masochism and Control | Shrink Tales



I realized i wasn’t ready to talk about my weight problems and eating habits. I was just not ready to put it on the list - of things to address. And guess what, i came back home and at night my partner showed me a video from film school where i was dancing in my room and i realized that i had put on weight. Since then my mood has shifted back to those from the dreadful times when i couldn’t stop eating. When i couldn’t walk because i had too much food inside me, when i just couldn’t do anything. Oh my god. That time when i went to a gym in Kolkata. That time when i tried exercising. Even as i type i am welling up. Just because i saw an earlier video of mine in which i appeared thinner. I am now going to on Facebook and delete the recent photo i uploaded when i was so happy that the Hadiya case was moving in a hopeful direction. Probably will end up deleting all the photos in my phone too. 

Ish asked me to remind my psychiatrist of this weight issue when i mentioned how i kept two weighing scales at home. That reminds me. Let me re-re-re-check my weight in the second weighing scale. 

The most hopeful part of that day's therapy was when Ish told me that depression could be shut off forever. It came up because i had been shocked the week before when she had said that it was also her job to make surethat it didn’t come back. It was possible, she said. Usually people kept conditions like ‘i won’t take pills but i can be at therapy’ – this one is just like Mother. She also stopped going for therapy later. In fact people, like how Mother did with me, might even discourage people from doing it. She was very upset when she heard that i had gone to a therapist in Kolkata. The issue was my eating habits at that point of time. There was nothing wrong, that was how all people were, she had said. No, Mother, all people are not like that. We are all, as a family, used to such abnormalities and self-punishment that we feel that it is normal.  

We did a flashback session in which Ish spoke about the major developments in each of our sessions so far. There was a turning point where i realized that the repeated abusive relationships could have come from the normalization of violence in my childhood and life. In fact, i am very thankful to Ish for having recognized that as a serious problem. She herself was surprised, she said, that it was not enough for me to have got abused once, that i went back again and again to different forms of violence in different relationships. I feel so much relieved every time i think of the moment from my first session with Ish, when she said that she would like to start by addressing my recurring abusive relationships. It was an area that only Inji had touched till then. No professional had correctly identified that problem. It was always as if i was waiting for them to identify it and make it go away but when they didn’t figure it out themselves, i deluded myself saying it wasn’t probably important. I thought of Mother’s and Sister’s opinion that it was happening because i had ‘a thing’ for older men. These are educated women, one, a journalist who even writes about abuse. Imagine the horror! 

She also reminded how i always looked up to my sister and how, i always wanted to be like her. Yes, i copied her handwriting, her words, her way of speaking and everything i could because she was the best. But later, when i saw that she was doing things that i couldn't copy, things that i didn't want to copy, it occurred to me that i no longer had anyone to copy. Maybe that's why i stuck to inji like a magnet. Today, i pursue inji's character with the same vigour i pursued my sister's character. That made me wonder why i always wanted someone to emulate. Was it common? 

This reminded me of Mother. While growing up, after puberty, when i started voicing my opinions, i used to find it really annoying when Mother said that she didn't want us (me and Sister) to be like her. I remember getting angry with her even, for always speaking like that. I selfishly wanted a mother who asked their children to be like her, because she was the best. I hated that she had no respect for herself. And look at me now.
 
I think in the next session i should talk about my sex life that got affected. [If it is okay to speak about it during therapy.] The way i am ashamed of being sexually aroused by things that were part of abuse and i got introduced to because of and during abuse. It’s dreadful. I remember a victim of child sexual abuse once telling me that it was a common phenomenon, after i made the film in solidarity with Memories of a Machine. This may also explain why i feel a lot guilty in my relationship with my partner. Sexually. 

Over the sessions we had also touched upon the kind of love i wanted. The kind of love i had. Spoke about Appan. Who never hurt me. About what i thought was motherly love and how i broke that stereotype by understanding that was just a name i had given the love i wanted. 

She asked me when my self hurting methods had started. I told her about the time when i had scored 85% in math in high school and was scared that Mother would beat me or yell at me for that. That was when i firstran a razor blade over my wrist. I remember going home and making some more superficial cuts. I also just remembered that i had the habit of doing stuff like that for apparently no reason too. I remember dripping wax from a candle on my fist to experience that pain. I remember striking my thumb with a stapler just to ‘see if it would hurt.’ These had no triggers, like a poor score in an exam or sadness. 

The next time i scarred myself like crazy was when i heard of Appan. He was losing his memory. I knew that this was the first in the series of things that was going to lead to his death. I thought of him, sitting in the room where i had stuck some of his sketches on the brick wall and scarred my wrist – all superficial cuts, just enough to let me bleed. That was the day i started preparing for his death. 

I remembered how i had broken a bangle and scarred myself in front of Mother when she and i were having one of our arguments. Ish asked me what i felt during those. Frustration. When i thought of it, even though i don’t even remember what the fight was about, i got that feeling i get when people don’t understand what i say. She said that it could be because they weren’t yet there. That made sense to me. I too, have come a long way. I do understand things i never understood when i was younger. It could also be that the other person was shunning me. Could that be intentional, i asked, thinking of Mother. ‘Could be,’ she said. They could be doing it also to protect themselves. From the truth or pain of realization. 

I totally loved that. I no longer feel frustrated. I no longer feel like wringing my body like a cloth till every word that will help others understand how i feel will drip out of my body. Instead, when i think of people who have put me in such positions, i feel sorry, that i even tried so much. Every time i tried, maybe Mother was getting hurt. Or trying hard, not to listen and tried to shun me in ways that hurt me. I feel like hugging Mother now. [Maybe because she isn’t here now. Why don’t you call her, i ask myself. ‘No, that wouldn’t make any sense.’ I will write a mail. I know. Hey Gmail, are you hiring?

I also spoke of how i viewed therapy. How i could see and feel changes. Like how i laughed more, or joked more. There is no desperation about the sexual harassment battle or any battle. There is no thoughts of giving up. How i felt happy that my partner was less burdened with my sadness. Feeling responsible for Mother. The way in which i was handling the situation. 

Ish then said that hurting my body was part of human beings’ strategy of being hard on themselves. All our social values and morals etc. taught us to be kind to others, loving to others [Was Jesus a conspiracy of moral science?] It does not teach us to love ourselves. When she said that, my hopes diminished. It was true. If there ever was a lesson called ‘love oneself’ i was absent in it. Or, it could also be that it wasn’t taught properly. Facebook is always flooded with images of women who say ‘in love with myself’ i don’t think i can ever do that with my whole heart. I got scared that i wouldn’t be able to solve the self harming problem because i was sure that i wouldn’t succeed in loving myself in the manner that Ish was talking about. She further explained that we turned to our bodies because that was ALL WE HAD. That made perfect sense to me. 

Mother, sister, abuser, venomous words and verbal fights could only help so much. Beyond that, i would have to turn to something i had absolute control over because i possessed it. I HAD my body. I could do anything to it. I clench my fist as if to hit someone when i think of it. Get visions of a knife running through my leg exposing blood and flesh. Many more bloody images flash. To think that i had something that i could do stuff to, the power it gave me, it must be really soothing to my brain that i had control over something. That there was one thing i could abuse. For once, i could be nasty as abusers were to me to someone. Something – my body. Whenever i write ‘my body,’ you know what i think of? A sack. Filled with potatoes or something. It’s just a thing i carry, i feel. 

[Read Raya’s update the same day. Commented there.]
Ish’s method of joining feminism in therapy was really good. I thought of NN's mother who she said was a therapist. Her views on things had scared me. It's not about feminism either. It is about dealing with victims. Professionally. Even when i am an atheist i should be able to deal with Mother's problems regarding her faith. 

The sketches i had made for Sanghadita upon Inji's request got published. One day Mother abused Inji and pappu and baby and i thought it was because she had seen those illustrations. I felt horrible and the wound is sore. I need to get out of the frustration to be able to help Mother. I am the strongest and i have the most love. I really long for Mother. There is just this wall in between. I should start making tools to break it. 

One of the sketches i made for Sanghadita on the theme 'Mother and i'. Even though the picture here is not from my life, i added elements from my childhood and filled it with the same love i feel for Mother. The task is to make Mother understand that i love her and that my love is perhaps different from hers.


During the week i thought of an abuser’s psychology. Wouldn’t it be great if i could figure them out? I think it is important to understand their psychology just as i try to understand all aspects of a victim's psychology.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

I Like to Laugh | Shrink Tales



In this one, Ish told me that the fact that i was interacting better with my colleagues was definitely a good sign. It meant that my depression was wearing away. When she said that it was because i was working hard, i felt good. Proud of myself. We also spoke about the stigma attached to mental health. She told me that people sometimes were apprehensive about even sharing the contact details of a therapist because it would raise the question of how they had come to have it in the first place. In that context i felt that it was great that i decided to write about therapy when in Kolkata. Remembered Sri  asking me for the therapist’s number and later saying that i was insane. Yet, it felt good. Maybe not everyone might be able to do that. 

Then we spoke about my eating habits. She asked me when the comments about my body had started. The earliest memory i had of it was when sister Jaseena, the nun who sat at the office of my school asked me jokingly if i was eating all of my sister’s food. Because she was thin and i was fat. This must have been when i was in 3rd or 4th standard. 
Mother’s comments about my body. The yelling sessions where she would call me a fat thing that was good for nothing – this during and around puberty. The teachers who made comments on the clothes i wore. Mother who did the same. 

She asked me what i felt when i thought of these instances. I felt indignant. It was not my fault. And it was not fair on their part to speak like that. I never even knew that i was what was called ‘fat’ till these people told me. Like how i didn’t know i was dark complexioned till people started ‘joking’ about it. 

I remembered my then best friend telling me that she chose to walk with me because i was darker than her and therefore less attractive. Somehow the taunts regarding my complexion stopped affecting me by 17. May be because a forty year old man ‘took interest’ in me.  I felt like crying. Some people who are not even close to me got to decide how my life would be later on. Without even realizing it. That was just not right, i felt. 

I noticed that i didn’t feel angry about my mother. She did do damage to me and i am trying to repair it but at least she was close to me. From birth i had given the right to her to hurt me. What about strangers! What right had they to pass comments on my body.
Ish asked me if inji was thin. No, i told her. 

I thought of the dreams i get about people telling me that i have put on weight. That’s the most scariest sentence ever in my life. And it was pathetic. Ish reminded me how we were always hard on ourselves. I left my office group because they were constantly engaging in fat shaming etc. [Of other people. Because random people you find on internet can be fat shamed.] Yet in my own life i was chasing numbers on the weighing scale. I am not underweight but i would love to be. In fact my aim is to be underweight. That would be apt revenge on all those people who called me fat, i felt.

During the week i did think a lot about these problems about appearance that i was worried about. How it had come to matter so much to me. Like what Ish said, it was not possible for everyone to even judge me. Yet, i always felt i was being judged. The saddest part, i think is that i don’t want to break away from it. Years of experimenting with my body has taught me a thing or two about it and the only thing i can do is to stick by it even if it is unhealthy. I am always constipated and got my first piles this year but i am willing to pay that price. 
I am willing to not have a baby because that would mean that i’d have to quit smoking and eat healthy. My priorities are definitely muddled but i don’t think much about it because i have sort of made peace with it. 

Happy that my conversations with mother are improving. Maybe i am really helping her. Hope in Hadiya case. The group of women [fighting for her] gives me so much strength. 

From the previous session, there is something Ish said in passing. That she had to make sure that ‘it’ didn’t come back to me. That was when i realized that there was a possibility like that. From the age of 17 i had always thought that depression, suicide attempts and self destruction was going to be my cycle. In 2015 when i popped all those sleeping pills and survived, the first realization that i had was that that was how i was going to die and that there was no escaping that. But here was a woman who was talking about not making it come back, like it was her job. I didn’t even know that that was part of her job. And because i trust women doing their jobs, i felt hope. It might mean that this sadness that i thought was part of me would not be there anymore. But then i thought of priorities. What did i want, romanticising depression or less number of cuts on my wrist. 

Plus, i feel good when i laugh. There was a time in SRFTI hostel when people actually asked me why my laughter was not resounding in corridors anymore. (Because my laughter is another weird thing about me.) It feels much better to laugh than to prepare oneself for some scarring so that you can escape the sadness. 

My question for the session – is it actually possible to eradicate depression forever from a person’s life? Does PTSD include forgetting names and other things i forget? Is there anything i can do about that? 

Free Hadiya: This group of women have provided unimaginable comfort to me over the past weeks. We will not rest till we #FreeHadiya. Wish someone took this news to her.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

What Do Janam TV Reporter and Journalist Shahina K K Have in Common?




This is the video footage of the press conference we held at Press Club, Ernakulam on September 23rd. This press conference was in news for many reasons and a hate  campaign was unleashed on us by the right wing media. When you see this you will be able to decide for yourself who was attacked by whom. In any case, some things must be said. 

It was a reporter from Janam TV (An openly right wing news and media channel in Kerala. It was denied permission to launch itself twice due to RSS links and got approval as soon as Modi government came to power.) who asked us if we were connected to Popular Front of India. NIA report was to come on 3rd October. So how was it that this reporter on 23rd September, spoke about the reports Asokan, Women’s Commission and Human Rights Commission had given NIA? You can see this part around 2:56 minutes.)

In the present context, I would like to draw your attention to how similar the Janam TV reporter and mediaperson from Open magazine, Shahina K K are, in their arguments on social media and other platforms. Hope you know the difference between Sreekanth from Janam TV saying such things and a privileged senior mediaperson like Shahina with all her clout and influence saying the same. 

Both of them ask the same questions regarding Hadiya’s name. Sreekanth’s very first question was regarding that. (2: 55-) In her post in which she completely demonised Hadiya’s husband, Shafin Jahan, a Muslim man with no privileges, she says the same thing. She argues that Shafin Jahan is lying when he says that those were spelling mistakes. Both Sreekanth and Shahina quote the same portion of the High Court verdict and say that you can’t call that what’s on an affidavit, a spelling mistake. There is nothing wrong in two people thinking the same way. That’s how ideologies are formed. But I think this should be put on record.

Sreekanth then spoke about the NIA report. (2: 56 -) Shahina says that Open magazine’s Delhi bureau got access to the NIA report. What secrecy does NIA maintain with reports that can be accessed by Open magazine and Janam TV alike? A right wing Hindu activist told me that he was 99.0% certain that the NIA report was going to say that ‘love jihad’ existed.
Shahina says that NIA report can be accessed by making a few calls. So why is it that other media did not get access to it? Please don’t say that it is because they didn’t make those calls. When Hindu right wingers and Shahina K K (her Delhi bureau) claim in the same manner that they have access to the NIA report and that they know that it establishes that ‘love jihad’ exists, why should it be ignored? 

On top of this, people are speaking on social media about the NIA report. One person said that our mouths will be shut when it comes because he worked for the NIA. Hadiya’s father, Asokan says, exuding confidence, that he will happily read out the report to her. Who read out the report to Asokan? 

When did Human Rights Commission and Women’s Commission visit Hadiya? When people went there Asokan allowed no one (except Rahul Easwer, Sasikala and Kummanam) So these documents that Sreekanth claimed they gave the NIA – whom did they examine and visit to make these? 

From 4:56 Sreekanth started mentioning Media One (Jamaate-Islami affiliated) reporter Shabna. He was talking of a writ petition that was made in High Court. Shabna was the first journalist to intervene when Sreekanth’s questions started getting aggressive. (6: 09) She then told him that she was the Media One reporter who approached the High Court. Sreekanth said that he didn’t know that.

At 7: 07 Mrudula (one of the 6 women who visited Hadiya) said firmly, that we were questioning the verdict of the High Court. Later all of us reiterated that. This was after he yelled if we (a few women) were questioning the court verdict. At the same time, Shahina gives free advice on social media that ‘you can say these on social media but not in court.’ Who is she representing or speaking for when she says that? The women she called ‘immature’ and ‘cheer girls’ were sincere enough to state that publicly. She wasn’t. 

In the argument that followed this, Sreekanth again spoke in a one sided manner and Media One reporter intervened again. 7: 58. Later when he started asking us about Popular Front, she was the one who asked ‘why are you asking these girls that?’ (14: 30) We asked him to go ahead with the question. 

At 12: 43 you can see this reporter stating the most favourite narrative of Shahina. The one about how Hadiya’s father Asokan is a na├»ve victim. She has written a long article just to state that Asokan needed help and was being abused by RSS. Keep in mind that Shahina is doing this in a space that these six women created by going there and shifting the entire discourse from only religion to that of human rights also. Everyone knows that a rapist also needs help. Which feminist or human doesn’t know that even then the victim has to be freed from the abuse and even the presence of the abuser? Yet she weaved a narrative in which Hadiya, her parents Asokan and Ponnamma were all victims of the same abuse by RSS. The Janam TV reporter who told us that Asokan was kind enough to let Hadiya do namaaz was saying the same thing without beating around the bush. 

It is at 13: 12 that Media One reporter left the conference room. You can see the Janam TV reporter saying ‘I can now speak freely’ right after that. Around 15: 52, another argument happens. You can see the Media One reporter standing up and questioning him regarding something she thought he said about her. Other mediapersons intervened following this. I wish that Shahina figured out to express her right wing journalism the way the Janam TV reporter expressed his Islamophobia. 

#FreeHadiya

Note: I edited together two separate clips I had recorded on my phone. The uncut versions of both the clips are available. The lip sync has been compromised in many places because the phone was acting up due to calls and messages that interrupted the recording. I have tried to sync it as much as possible but didn’t get time to perfect it. We made a complaint to the secretary of Ernakulam Press Club regarding Sreekanth. We got to know that he made a complaint about Shabna from Media One. I intend to write more about Shahina K K’s journalism because it has a pattern (like how NIA said that the marriage had a pattern in Supreme Court J which was rejected ruthlessly) and has happened in various other issues. This is because I cannot unsee the damage her narrative and journalism did to Hadiya and Shafin Jehan. It was cruel and misleading to say the least.)