We don’t need the Olympics of pain

On May 15th I stood in front of a bunch of people and gave a speech, voluntarily. The purpose of this entire post might just be to tell you all simply that because I am so proud of it! ūüôā Okay, it was a very messed up speech and I got way too emotional but nevertheless unlike my master thesis defense I didn’t faint at any point, so good job me! As May is mental health awareness month, our support group was chosen to be part of the global Ally program of a mental health NGO based in Chicago (details after June 5th when we become officially a part of them). We are the first group based out of the US to be chosen so me and Livia were pretty stoked. We hosted an Art for mental health event and talked Art, suicide and self awareness, there might have been beers involved, but come on, its Germany!

All of this talk about suicide has become so routine that sometimes it bothers me how much it doesn’t bother me to talk about it now. But in all of those talks there are some details that I always conveniently side step, for instance the why of it, not because it emotionally draining to talk about but I am embarrassed by it, so terribly embarrassed. There wasn’t any point getting up there and talking if I couldn’t be honest to myself and others. So here is what I did, I told them a story first, the story of a space shuttle flight. It goes like this,

In 2003, mission STS-107 space shuttle Columbia took off for a fifteen day orbital mission around the earth. This was the 115th flight of the space shuttle program and a pretty routine one at that, but for the whole of India it was a pretty special mission since Indian born astronaut, Kalpana Chawla was on board as one of the mission specialists. As we all now know Columbia didn’t make it back to earth, it disintegrated on reentry, killing all seven astronauts on board. Until that day there hadn’t been a loss of crew for NASA on reentry so this was a complete shock to the entire space community. All the subsequent space shuttle missions were shelved and the investigations went on for two years, what the committee found out at the end of the investigation was pretty heartbreaking.

When Columbia took off fifteen days before the fatal accident, a piece of the foam insulation from the external fuel tank hit the right wing of the shuttle. Now, this was obvious from the launch footage. Nobody thought it could have done any serious damage  for two things, one- this has happened in a number of previous space shuttle launches and two-because it was a piece of thermocol (which is lighter than air) hitting a structure made of carbon reinforced carbon ( which is, well as strong as it sounds ). But, it did do damage to the heat shield and the shuttle didn’t survive the heat of the reentry.

Here is the deal, Columbia accident could have been easily prevented but no-one absolutely no-one saw it coming.

The point of me bringing up this whole story was just to say that sometimes we realize the breaking points only when we get there. For Columbia it was a piece of foam and for me it was a handsome Mexican boy.

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Credits: wuukasch

I know that I am stretching the story to the limits here, but my fuck-patriarchy-feminist-self needed something to lean on when telling a bunch of people (friends and strangers) that I tried taking my life for a boy. There might have been a whole bunch of repressed childhood trauma that might have made that depression as bad as it was but I cannot kid myself out of the truth. I am ashamed of it, but that is may be exactly why I had to say that. Because we are not running an Olympics of pain here my dears.

It may be high time we stop trying to one up our trauma stories and stop romanticizing heartbreak (of any kind) so much. Because there was absolutely nothing romantic about wanting to die day in day out. Out of all the heartbreaking suicide survival stories that people have told me over the past two years my reason is the silliest but that isn’t going to stop me from telling this openly again, because for all of you out there who are feeling shitty about feeling all the things that you are feeling and not finding a good enough excuse for it, here, you have a person who messed up big time for something very very silly.

As you can see I am very good at making circumlocutory stories ūüėÄ in the next post I would write about the art and mental health part of the speech and put up the video if I feel adventurous or may be not! Let’s see.

Its been long again. How have you all been?

Love and hugs

Jo

 

 

The art of letting people in

In a previous life, I had a secret baking blog on WordPress. It was called Thoughts and Cakes.  I was young and full of hope of making a life selling cakes and used books. There were silly posts like ‘how to make Mascerpone cheese in an Indian kitchen’ and recipes for Armenian Nazook (I no longer remember what that is) and Nutmeg cake. The blog was doing okay, then after about three years of lurking around I shared it on my social media. People could not’ve been kinder, they said incredibly kind things and shared it with their friends and family and the blog grew overnight. There was only one problem, I simply couldn’t write anymore.

This is what happened. I couldn’t believe the nice things people told me, I was convinced that I was getting away with something and if that blog had continued to live people were going to  figure out that I was a fraud and a fake. So I left it at that point where the people still liked me. Maybe that is a feeling all of us have at some point in our lives to varying degrees.

That was about five years ago, a lot of things have changed in this time, now I have the luxury of walking into a grocery store and buying a tub of Mascerpone but I no longer bake, my beloved camera died and I am much more cynical but it turns out the imposter syndrome still remains the same.

The last few posts have been the ones most close to my heart but it seems like the more honest I get with my writing the lesser and lesser engagement the posts get. Some of you have openly expressed your dislike about the last posts and I am incredibly grateful for that, that is exactly how it should be.  I don’t want you to have my back no matter what. But there is also that part of me that wants to be liked and keep all of you around.

The solution in this case of course was starting another blog and another secret internet life which I have been doing since Feb but that is also going to have the same fate, its just a matter of time. So here I am trying to keep this going. Trying to get a thicker skin and trying to believe there would be a few people around even when I let the guard down. Let’s see how far it goes.

Love,

Jo

PS: Some people who are reading this blog are absolutely not allowed to hate me, you know who you are!

Rest in peace Amy Bleuel: The Semicolon Project

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” A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life. ”

It is heartbreaking to think that Amy is no longer here with us. She has been out in the world constantly trying to raise awareness and educating people about the importance of overcoming the deep rooted mental health stigma. Whenever I have tried finding some resources online, I have read a story or two about how this project saved someone’s life and gave them hope.

Thanks for all that you did Amy. We know there is long way to go, but your efforts will not go in vain because your story isn’t over;

Rest in Peace. Love ‚̧

“Your daughter is having a lot of sex”

After the first monsoon rains are over, me and mom go foraging for mushrooms in our backyard which seem to blossom overnight, similarly when a girl or boy comes of age in India there are a lot of people who seem to appear in their lives like these monsoon mushrooms. It is almost like you are graduating in life from a learner’s license to a real one and you are somehow starting to figure out which way to go but suddenly one day, you are shoved off in a hurry from the driver’s seat and they take over and drive off seemingly having discussions and arguments among themselves. You just end up being a spectator of this strange dance.

Back home we collectively call them uncles and aunts, not that our parents have so many siblings, its just a polite way of addressing a disparate group of people united by the single most aim of getting you into that wedding dress. ¬†They include real uncles and aunts, neighbors, your friends’ parents, your postman, the person who comes to read the electricity meter at your home and in a lot of the cases an astrologer.

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An astrologer and I have a lot in common, we both are keenly interested in the motion of the moon and the planets. While my interest is more curiosity driven and includes a lot of Python programming, an astrologer gives out more of a Prof. Trelawney vibe. “You have the GRIM Harry arghhh”, not exactly that, but you get the picture, right?

Depending on where your parents stand on the atheist-religious-theist scale, a visit to an astrologer can have lasting effects on one’s ¬†life. A lot of my friends were married off at the age of 21 because otherwise their planets aligned only when they were 32 which is of course code for too old to to be in the wedding market.

When it comes to matters related to religion my father is a firm believer in everything and my mother is also somewhere around that ball park. Since I am 28 and as single as a person can be, they decided to take my horoscope to our family astrologer (yes we have one). He told my mom outright that “your daughter is having a lot of sex”.

Now, this is no joke for my parents and a lot of Indian parents for that matter. When you look beyond the glitz and glamour of westernized big urban Indian cities there are a lot of places where dating is still not part of the vocabulary, where talks about sex is always done in hushed tones and sex before marriage is still a taboo. Virginity is a measure of a girl’s honor and worthiness. Almost all religions celebrate delayed gratification and in this case a girl who can’t wait to have a husband for sex is deemed loose and if she has had more then one sexual partners then by all definitions of that word a ‘whore’.

My mom didn’t even ask me if I was in a sexual relationship with someone, she just assumed I was not. Because I was raised to be a good girl and good girls never dare do anything out of the behavioral checklist that society shoves on them.

Should I tell her that I stopped being a good girl a while ago?

Love,

Jo

Mental health over every damn thing

Do you know that ideal image of a ‘self made person’ ? How about we stop celebrating that?

We talk a lot about mental health stigma these days, but isn’t an important piece missing in those discussions? The stigma inside our heads? The voice that keeps us from reaching out for help? The voice that tells us constantly to be an adult and get over it? To try a bit harder?

One of the hardest challenges I have faced in the past seven months of organizing a support group is convincing people that it is okay to get some help. No one, not one person who showed up believed that they deserved ¬†help. The discussions¬†always went in the direction of ‘there are so many people in the world that have it worse, maybe I should stop complaining’.¬†This involved a girl who wanted to die at the age of seven because her alcoholic parents threw her out of her home, not that you need such a reason to feel bad, just so you get an idea of how far the stigma goes!

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Found here

May be you are right, things aren’t so bad for you now. But does that mean you should wait until it gets worse? ¬†If you were having a flu would you feel guilty for taking a day off? ¬†Would you feel guilty going to a doctor if the flu doesn’t get better after a few days? Imagine that you mind had a small flu if it helps.

May be it is not that you are not trying hard enough, may be you are not getting the right kind of help.

Let me tell you a story, there was a time when self harm was my answer to pain. I found refuge in that. I didn’t know it was something other people also did. I felt ashamed, and ¬†told myself a million times not to do it, it didn’t work, people told me not to do it, it didn’t work. Then I went to the clinic and there they asked¬†me to try holding an ice pack, or to try drawing on my body¬†with a red pen, or to put a cream on my skin that gives a burning sensation but doesn’t do any ¬†real damage, and some of those things worked and they still help me when I get that urge again.Do you see what I am trying to say? There are a lot of resources out there that you might not know of.

Don’t get me wrong, we all have strengths within us to do every fucking thing, but does that mean we always have to do things alone?

I cannot think of many things that are important than your health and that involves your mental health as well. Please put it above every damn thing!

Love ,

Jo

 

 

Beginner’s tips to be more sustainable

A major portion of a remote sensing researcher’s job involves looking at the images of earth taken from outer space, and then somehow¬†it is impossible not to care about our one and only home (yet, because Elon Musk is on it). A few months ago a couple of us started a local meetup called swap this for that,¬†we were all¬†book hoaders and ¬†wanted a place to simply hoard more of it. But that also got us thinking and talking more about¬†the subject of sustainability in general. Here are a few simple things that we have been trying to practice for sometime now. This might only be useful for people who are beginners in this area.

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Recycle, Reuse and Repair– As much as you can. There are enough videos online that teaches us how to convert an old rug into a magnificient throw. Repairing may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It definitely wasn’t mine. But, there are repair cafes in most cities that lets you walk in with your broken stuff and get it repaired. They are also always more than happy to hold ‘Repairing for dummies’ sort of workshops. If you are in an adventrous mood open up your broken CD player and a wikihow page and go wild.

Meatless days-  Or reducing the meat intake in general.

Reducing use of plastic bags/ Carrying a shopping bag always-  This would help reduce the piling up of plastic bags in unknown corners of our homes

Buying second hand stuff– It might be icky for some people to use second hand clothes but you can still buy used books, furniture, jewellery etc

Reusable travel mug-  reusable travel mug, a good waterbottle and a lunch box (steel or glass if you feel hipstery)

Plan ahead on what you eat– Looking into your refrigarator and planning your meals ahead. Trying to use things that spoil first, although this is common sense most of us have difficulty following it on a daily basis.

Being careful of your water usage– This can be while washing dishes, taking a shower, or doing laundry.

Reusing plastic bags as much as possible without discarding it after a single  use

Love,

Jo

A week in sketching

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Because Patronus takes time

What scares you the most? Does it help to make fun of it?

Doodles
Charcoal on paper

Trying to loosen up and let go of the need to be perfect all the time.

Tadpole
The Tadpole Nebula: Acrylic on paper

Because The Hubble telescope is the coolest and every image it takes is magical

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Tiny moon: Acrylic on canvas

I don’t know if I have mentioned it here but I am a space researcher and a ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†lover of everything Apollo and Gemini.

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Aurora Boreolis: Acrylic on paper

Northern lights are gorgeous, aren’t they?

 

Hope you all are having a good Sunday

Love,

Jo