Week 36: Women and Mental Health

October 10 is celebrated as World Mental Health Day. Even though it has been around since 1992, we are only now waking up and smelling the proverbial coffee. We are only now realising that taking care of our minds is as important as taking care of our bodies. The devastating virus that has completely incapacitated us has also rudely shaken us from our torpor, awakening us to the fact that we can no longer ignore the inner dialogue. And yes, we all have an inner dialogue. Some of us choose to ignore it, some of us hear it more than others and some of us live in denial for a greater part of their lives. But it is there and the sooner we address it, the better.

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Historically, people, and the bias has been towards women (because let’s face it, women are Patriarchy’s favourite punching bag) have been regarded as the ones who are ‘soft in the head’. Women have been categorised as the ‘nurturer’ and over centuries, the word has become ugly because essentially, what Patriarchy has done is to relegate women to be nothing but ovaries.

Women are only bodies for male consumption. They are meant to be devoured, ogled at, leered at, raped, torn into pieces, burnt alive, drowned, throttled. They are only to be seen (and in some cases, not even that), but never heard. So when a woman screams with the frustration and agony of not being heard, then she is a witch, a banshee, a crazy person. Throw her in the asylum.

So, Mental Health has predominantly (and sadly) been considered the feminine domain. Women are crazy because they ‘feel too much’. But, God forbid, if they ever express their feelings. Keep all your feelings bottled up, woman. No one is interested because what you are feeling is all untrue. Illogical. Imaginary. It is all in your head. Even more because YOU are a nobody. Your feelings don’t matter. Your feelings do not fit into the larger scheme of things. Women, unfortunately, internalize this negative discourse. They start believing that something must be wrong with them. It is the society which has created all these barbed wire fences around our hearts and minds. There is no shame. That is where mental health comes in.

A decade ago, I would have resisted the idea that mental health is for the weak-hearted. But today, I am wiser. I do not resist. Let the fools wag their silly tongues. If someone thinks that taking care of one’s mental health is feminine, and therefore, weak, then, more power to women! We are tough as nails mentally because we are women. We endure much more than men. If ours is the soft power, then so be it.

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Women and self-care go hand in hand because there is no one else who will take care of you, woman. You are the creator and ruler of your destiny. You control your mind. You decide what you put in it and what you cull out of it. You need to do what you must to stay afloat because, at the end of the day, the dishes will not be done on their own. So, why not do something that makes you happy before you can tackle those dishes? Don’t be a martyr. Be a warrior.

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Your thoughts make you who you are. Cleanse your thoughts. Or hire someone to help you clean out the mental cobwebs. It is okay if you can’t do it yourself. Seek the help you need. There is no shame. Let me repeat. There is no shame. Find your power and harness it because no matter how ‘soft’ your power, remember that even water can carve out a canyon. Be the water.

Do not listen to the naysayers and the critics. Go for a run, take your long shower, spend a day at the spa, watch a movie, read a book, drink some wine, meditate, play the guitar, get a piercing, grow some roses, climb a mountain, swim with the dolphins, cook up a mean Boeuf Bourguignon, get a tattoo, code your own app, run your company, call your mother, paint your nails, journal, drive into the sunset, carve your own armchair, break a sweat, break a leg, lift some weights, pop into a handstand, walk a mile, build an origami menagerie, write a play, act in one, sleep, make someone laugh, or simply sit and gaze at nothing. In short, take charge of your mind because when you do, you take charge of your life. After all, no one else can.

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