Taking on Food and Festivities

Tis the season to be jolly, isn’t it? The lights, the revelry, the joyous air and the endless delicacies define the holiday season. The sheer excess is a welcoming bliss for most of us, to flag off yet another hectic year. Everything, from the bright advertisements to the sweet rom-coms to the upbeat music, tells us that this is the most magical time of the year and we should be extremely excited about it. But it is also an undeniable fact that this excess comes with plenty of baggage. It pressures one to look happy, put-together and be sociable- a fair trade-off for the average person. Unfortunately, many individuals, specifically those battling eating disorders cannot afford that luxury.

While food has always been a central aspect of social festivities, the consumerism of the holiday season has further accentuated this. One cannot waft past Diwali, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years without stumbling upon some signature dishes. Thus, from the stress associated with the holiday season, to the food centrism of it, the whole thing is a terrifying affair for those with eating disorders. In an article by Deseret News, personal experiences of eating disorder patients during the holidays were chronicled (Click here to see the article). One patient summarized the troubles of the holiday season-

I always hated it when the holiday season would roll around. It meant that I would have to face my two worst enemies – food and people – and a lot of them.”

There is a plethora of eating disorders, each characterized by very specific behaviours. The most well-known disorders are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Let us explore them in greater detail. 

According to The National Eating Disorder Association , Anorexia Nervosa is “a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self starvation and excessive weight loss”

(https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/what-are-eating-disorders). These behaviors are guided by an intense fear of gaining weight, or of becoming fat, and an accompanying need to look thin. Similar goals steer the behaviors of those with Bulimia Nervosa, which is characterized by “a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors, such as self-induced vomiting, designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating” 

Besides the guiding principles, many symptoms are common to both disorders. They include continuous weight checking; regularly surveying how some clothes fit; comparison of one’s own body to that of others; having unrealistic and far-reaching benchmarks; body dysmorphia and so on. Such disorders are triggered by much more than the desire to look thin and feel empty. Emotional upheavals and downward spirals also contribute to eating disorders, since the adoption of such eating routines give one a sense of control over their body, as observed by Dr. Hilde Burch (Click here to learn more about her observations). Furthermore, disordered eating habits also sometimes make for routes of escape from a tumultuous reality. Such coping mechanisms, however, end up being counter-productive, as they intensify feelings of guilt and self-hatred (sci-hub.se/10.1037/h0079241).

How do the holidays pose a threat to those with eating disorders? The food centrism of holidays ensures that such occasions are filled with stressors and triggers. Having anorexia, on one hand, can make one feel cornered at the idea of consuming any food, especially in the presence of other people. Dr. Randy Hardman, a doctor at Center for Change, offered some perspective (https://journals.psu.edu/ne/article/view/59255/58982, pp.8)-

I have had patients describe that they would rather jump off a cliff without a parachute than to have somebody watch them eat food.”

Those with bulimia may have ample opportunity to indulge in binge sessions. One patient told Deseret News-

“So much food, so much love and so much joy, but I could not feel the love or joy, so I indulged in the food as a replacement.”

Thus, fear sets in- those with anorexia find themselves trying to avoid food without raising eyebrows; those with bulimia find themselves surrounded by opportunities to binge eat. Such scenarios end up emotionally wrecking one’s state of mind. Shame, guilt and self-loathe sets in.

While most of us casually speak of “packing on holiday weight”, this looms as a matter of life and death for someone with an eating disorder. Festivities may derail them from their usual routine of maintaining strict vigil on their food intake and weight. This in turn may lead compensatory behaviors such as over-exercising, purging and so on to take  a whole new significance in their lives. In this context, Dr. Timothy Walsh points out that “For people with eating disorders, guilt feelings become so distorted they lose all perspective” (https://journals.psu.edu/ne/article/view/59255/58982, pp.8). To illustrate this point, Kaitlin Dannibale explains, “The destructive thoughts consume every inch of their brain and the meal becomes the only thing they can obsess over for a fixed period of time. This is when the compensatory behaviors will most likely begin. For those with anorexia, they may restrict dramatically over the next day, week or month. Those who over exercise will try to compensate by participating in vigorous physical activity. People with bulimia will attempt to purge their meals immediately after completion” (https://journals.psu.edu/ne/article/view/59255/58982, pp.8)  

Another key trigger during the holidays can be resurfacing of negative emotions and trauma, particularly with respect to family. Oftentimes, unsupportive familial environments are where eating disorders begin. This is particularly significant in the Indian context, where weight shaming is common. In a blogpost, Gwen details into how the weight shaming culture proved to be detrimental for her body-image-

I know calling someone “fat” in India is not the same as in the US. But it doesn’t change years of baggage I am carrying with me.” (read the full blog-post here)

Thus, the rehashing of past trauma may intensify the need to use disordered eating habits as a coping mechanism. This is further accentuated by the lack of understanding or awareness on part of the family about eating disorders.

Dr. Hardman explains, “most family members think it is about food and weight, but it is about self-rejection”(https://journals.psu.edu/ne/article/view/59255/58982, pp.9).  Hence, the family environment isn’t conducive for one to feel secure in the midst of a stress-filled situation. Oftentimes, the family isn’t even aware of one’s eating disorder.

Unfortunately, such obstacles make even survivors of eating disorders stumble. As Ginean Crawford explains, eating disorders are different from other addictive disorders, in that one cannot completely abstain from food, as can be done in the case of alcohol (https://journals.psu.edu/ne/article/view/59255/58982, pp. 8) . Thus, they encounter stressors and triggers on the daily, more so during the holidays.

How can one help someone cope with an eating disorder during the holidays?

  • Make sure that the person battling such a disorder has a support group. This ensures that they are able to communicate how they feel about the triggers around them, and can help alleviate feelings of guilt. A supportive family setting would be ideal. If the individual has even a single friend or family member to rely on during arduous festivities, it would make a huge difference.
  • Restrict the disruption of routine as much as possible. If meal times can be close to that of the individual’s schedule, it will be less stressful for them.
  • It is also worth noting that celebrations with few loved ones won’t be as overwhelming as large gatherings.

Overall, helping the sufferer of the eating disorder to plan ahead, encouraging them to voice their concerns, letting them indulge in the festivities at their own pace will help them tackle the holidays.

A pivotal concern specific to the Indian context, is the startling lack of discourse and awareness, which has further fuelled the ‘weight-shaming’ culture. Oftentimes, remarks about appearance and weight are hardly driven by malicious intent, given the lack of understanding about body image. There are very few studies documenting the prevalence of eating disorders in India, most of them confined to relatively small regions. The larger picture is unknown. Moreover, the scanty discourse that does exist, purports the notion that it is mainly a result of ‘western import’. In one study in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry, it is said that “The process of admixture of western attitudes and behaviour now occurring at a rapid rate in India may soon lead to emergence of severe eating disorders in the vulnerable populations” (sci-hub.se/10.1177/002076409804400305, pp. 196).

This brings to the forefront, the individual responsibility of each and every one of us, to educate ourselves as well as those around us. We can take it upon ourselves to contribute to the scanty discourse and mend the environment which enables eating disorders. Let us all strive to inspire such conversations and be more mindful of the not-so-jolly aspects of the holiday season.

Navigating Intense Emotions

Try as we might to always have a Zen state of mind, we fail miserably when emotions rise to the surface and sometimes boil over. We can feel overwhelmed by them if we do not learn how to manage them correctly. As a result, we might end up being plunged in sadness, anger, or even in the best of cases, intense euphoria that can leave us feeling as if something were missing after it subsides. It is important to learn to identify, process, and navigate through intense emotions.

Emotions are valid

Different people feel different emotions even when they are put in the exact same situation. Emotions stem from thoughts and sometimes, preconceived notions. For instance, the Holidays can make some people happy, while others feel sad, angry, or even afraid. These feelings cumulatively influence our thoughts, enabling us to form split-second opinions about various situations and guide our decision making through intuition. 

Even though emotions form the cornerstone of the eventual development of intuition and gut instinct, they get a bad rep and people who carry their emotions right on the surface are often viewed as somehow inferior. In men, this social conditioning can cause toxic masculinity, where men tend to project a stoic personality and suppress their emotions to meet the expectations from society. 

“…Teach him there is no shame in tears…” -Abraham Lincoln

We need to collectively realize that we mustn’t censor emotions within us or others. Instead, we must hone and develop this tool that evolution has bestowed upon us into a life skill.

Processing Intense Emotions

As we go through life, we might face situations which can stir emotions stronger than we are generally used to. The untrained response to such situations can be a complete shutdown or feeling overwhelmed. Though most of us recover quickly and completely after the situation passes, it might still leave a lasting adverse impact if it was improperly processed. These events can seed a negative connotation to the experience itself, which almost always never stops with the experience itself but goes on to chip away at our self-confidence.

In order to learn to navigate intense emotions, we must first practice identifying our emotions with focussed intention and mindfulness. Some experiences can leave us feeling a lot of mixed emotions and as a result can sometimes impair our critical thinking. A useful practice can be to maintain a journal and track the emotions that one goes through throughout the day. Each entry can contain an event and how this event inspired a specific emotion or a group of emotions. If you cannot find words to describe the emotion, you can even use emojis or caricatures to identify them. This exercise is to consciously connect the dots between thought, feeling, and back to thought as a result of the feelings. Identifying emotions as we go through a ‘normal’ day can sharpen our ability to swiftly discern specific emotions in case of a sudden outburst of intense emotions. 

Once we identify our emotions, the task is to mindfully allow it to run its course without hindering or intensifying it based on our snap judgement. A personal tip is to use breathing as a focal point from which we shift our attention to the emotion and back to the breathing, the moment we realize our interference. Some things that you can notice are physical manifestations (for example, sweating, flushing or tearing up) or change in mental state (maybe, memories and thoughts that surface and how this affects our current actions). Emotions often play a crucial role in helping us through an experience and it is our mind’s response which in turn triggers a wide variety of bodily functions. So, it is important that we don’t shirk away even as they build up to a hot white intensity.

Finally, as the emotions subside, take your time to retreat within yourself and sit with the thoughts and feelings and consciously bring them to a close. Some might feel that reacting quickly is of the essence, however, more often than not, actions taken when we aren’t thinking straight are regrettable when we look back at them. So, it is wiser to be patient when coming up with a decision or response, verbal, or otherwise. 

Shifting our Locus

It is important to reiterate again and again that we needn’t be rigid in our thoughts and must broaden our perspective to the possibilities. Our views regarding an experience can change and will change for the better, if we learn to process our emotions in a healthier way . We must make a sincere attempt to refrain from consciously or subconsciously passing blanket statements, such as, “I can never learn to socialize properly.”, “I will always have a short temper.” or “No one will ever love me for me.” This can always change. We only need to shift our locus. 

We might also consider talking about these experiences and feelings with close friends and family. They can offer a different perspective to the situation and can even help transform your thought process completely. It might be helpful to preface this conversation by communicating your expectations and that this is a serious discussion so that you can avoid judgement for opening up.

Emotions are a part of our minds and might even have provided an evolutionary advantage to building strong social bonds. They are vital to living a mentally healthy life and there are no good or bad emotions since each and every one of these complex feelings help us navigate life on a constant basis. So, instead of fearing or hiding them, we must embrace them. 

Establishing Boundaries and sticking to them

The Holidays can be a great opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends but what happens when this is forced on you? How do you navigate this tricky conversation with people who love you and genuinely care about you and let them know that you need your personal space and time, without hurting their feelings? I had the same questions and miserably failed at communicating my needs and having them respected for many years before learning to successfully establish boundaries and sticking to them. 

Knowing when you’ve hit your limit

The first problem was understanding my own limits. I am an introverted person and I tend to feel exhausted after spending time with a group of friends or family. But, for fear of offending loved ones, I have stifled my yawns and rubbed my eyes red to be ‘present’ through long conversations. Afterwards, I feel drained and need a nap to invigorate myself back into action. Not knowing when to say ‘No’ or ‘Enough’ is another way in which I have often over-committed myself and end up feeling overwhelmed. I cannot count the number of times I’ve got a stomach ache because of overeating at a relative’s place because I didn’t want to disappoint them. Mental health is no different. The impact, though less acutely pronounced, is on a long-term, chronic basis.

The key is to identify symptoms and patterns of exhaustion in yourself and over time become a better judge of your limits. People might try to make you feel guilty, saying that you’re too rigid and boxed in, but you should never feel bad about respecting yourself and your mental health. One way in which I have learnt to enforce this limit to myself, is through my smartphone. I have set it to automatically turn on sleep mode at bedtime. This silences notifications and provides a gentle nudge to wind down. Yes, I have spent time surfing YouTube and Instagram, after it is my bedtime, but providing this hard physical limit, means that you are now explicitly aware that you’ve crossed your own limits.

Communicating your boundaries

The view on being in your comfort zone is a two-faced one. On one hand, we need to respect ourselves enough to say, “Enough is enough”, but on the other, if we don’t force ourselves into unfamiliar territory, how will we ever grow? This is a slippery slope and only you can be a good judge and honest evaluator of when you are recognizing that the situation is beyond your ability and when you’re just being lazy. And, you only need to be honest with yourself and mindful about these mannerisms, because only through conscious recognition will you be able to even begin to communicate your limits effectively to others. That is because most people can tell when you lie, this might not even be conscious, but they might make this judgement about you and use this as a basis to subconsciously mark your words to be lies every other time.

Once this fact sinks in, next comes the more difficult part – being polite but firm. This is a skill that is so useful in life that there must be complete courses on this taught at school. But alas! Where our school curriculum falls short, the school of life must step in. I am not great at this skill but I have seen people who are particularly well versed in effective but courteous communication. One of my recollections takes me back to the Resident Services at my apartments. I was there only for the latter part of the conversation, so, I didn’t know what the resident’s issue was. This was part of what the agent said to the resident,

“I understand that the maintenance team had missed the appointment at your place. The email must’ve slipped through our notice. I am sorry about that. But, we cannot reschedule your appointment on the coming Thursday. It is a Holiday and we don’t work that day. I can always look into my calendar and see which time after the Holidays works for both of us, but that is the best I can do right now.”

Delivered without a pause, this effectively conveyed that the service agent was sincerely apologetic, was willing to work towards a solution while also firmly denying the resident’s demand to work during a holiday. It takes a little bit of knack and patience to convey our limits and personal boundaries to people who aren’t the most understanding but this saves us a lot of pain in the future if we’re being open right up front.

Respecting your boundaries – yourself!

This could be the most difficult and yet the most important step in your journey to set proper boundaries and enforce them – respecting your boundaries yourself. The reason why this is so important might not be what you’re thinking. It is the most crucial step, primarily because humans are generally narcissistic (not to be confused with Narcissistic Personality disorder). Most people are so in their own heads that your own convictions and beliefs about yourself, might become the yardstick by which we measure how others perceive us. 

Simply put, you are either your biggest cheerleader or your harshest critic. Once we become aware of our limits, and have communicated them to others, we must learn to enforce them. This does not come naturally to us. Ironically, we are often left feeling guilty or sometimes too strict when we are on our own side. The trick (or not really) to moving through the guilt is to go back to the foundation, the reasons why you started this journey and reinforce the bitter memories of when you were a pushover and allowed people to walk all over you. While the current situation might not be as serious as your original foundational memories, you must always use them as a big red warning sign to what it might turn into. So, through this repeated process of reinforcement of ‘why’ and ‘what’ your limits are, you can begin to see a world of difference in how other people treat you.

Finally, sometimes, even after taking the necessary steps to communicate and enforce your boundaries to others, this could be a hard pill for them to swallow. For instance, a friend might be constantly dumping their troubles on you, while you are already enervated and are having a rough time. In this scenario, it feels wrong to ask them to stop complaining and even if we had previously communicated this to that person, we end up making excuses for them and do not respect the fact that trying to heal them is eating away at yourself. In my personal experience, this generally happens when there is an inherent imbalance in the dynamic of the relationship. One is always playing the role of the listener, the healer and the giver while the other always complains, is the only one with issues and constantly consumes. Due to non-verbal communication, this dynamic slowly crystallizes into permanency and becomes the norm. And the earlier you try to wean the other off this feeling, the better. But even after years of knowing someone, it is never too late to completely re-evaluate your relationship and communicate your boundaries to them.

Coming back to the most jolly time of the year – the Holidays, it can be particularly tricky to enforce these limits. This can be of greater significance to someone going through a serious mental health issue, like depression, anorexia or bulimia. Forcing yourself to conform to the society’s dictation of the “correct” way of spending your Holidays might mean that you might have to undergo some seriously stressful situations and for some, it might be the final straw that shoves them deeper into their crisis. For many of us, things might not be as serious but having this thought at the back of your mind might help you be on the watch for stress in your loved ones. You can be that person who would respect their boundaries and allow them to flourish without reservations in your company. 

The Lessons that the Men’s Mental Health Movement can Learn from Feminism

In recent years, many women and men have increasingly rallied behind the feminist movement, which fights for equality in opportunities and rights between men and women. The idea is to eradicate gender stereotypes, the age-old argument that ‘men and women are not the same’, at its rotten core. Being ‘same’ is not the same as being ‘equal’. Proponents of the women’s rights movement have made progress in finding the words to convey this stance and drive the wider public to their cause. This is apparent from the growing attendance at marches and protests across the world that mark important milestones in the movement.

Destigmatisation through dialogue and demonstrations

An intentional yet subtle outcome of the movement has been the growing change in perspective and the consequent destigmatisation of conventionally taboo topics of rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence. The normalization of discussion of these issues in the widespread media through the sharing of stories by influencers and stars (the ‘Me Too’ movement is a prime example) has given strength to the common public to come forth with their own life stories. As the dialogue surrounding these topics grows louder, awareness increases, allowing development of sensitization to these issues.

This outcome is exactly what is expected when it comes to men’s mental health. We need to shatter the stigma surrounding the issue and engage the media, thus reinforcing the fact that it is okay to discuss these issues which are also considered taboo. The measures that were effective in the Feminist movement can help the men’s mental health movement too. November is men’s health month, also called Movember, as men grow mustaches to raise awareness for issues such as prostate and testicular cancer and also mental health of men. While on one hand, men dominate professionally and politically, they’re also more susceptible to suffering from a wide range of mental health issues such as suicide. This article by the American Psychological Association outlines the guidelines for psychological practice with men and boys. Organizing events surrounding this month’s theme and engagement by widespread media can grow the movement by leaps and bounds. 

Enemy Number One

The women’s movement has a clear Enemy Number One – The Patriarchy. So protests and marches were led targeting this common foe. There is no single person who represents this enemy – it is rather the idea that there is something to fight against, which inspires people to rally and come together. It lifts the haze of incoherence and provides a focal point around which the entire ideal can be constructed. In terms of men’s mental health, such an adversary is absent, which is because clarity can be scarcely afforded on a deeper investigation of the subject. This should be a primary goal of the movement as it is stories which instill passion in the public rather than just a bulletin of goals. We need to ask the question, ‘What is stopping men from discussing their mental health?’ and we might find our rallying cry in its answer.

Equity not Equality

Finally, the solution to women’s rights being equity rather than equality to the whole cacophony of ‘men are not the same as women’ has a profound lesson for the men’s mental health sphere. We are all different and unique in our own way. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to destigmatizing men’s mental health issues. We need to approach the problem in a different way, by creating additional opportunity for the severely-disadvantaged in a disproportionate fashion so as to bring them on equal footing. This might mean that we need to research heavily on what bolsters chances of men seeking therapy and what undermines these efforts. We may also come up with innovative and unique therapeutic methodologies to sensitively address the issues so as to build trust in male patients. 

We need innovative solutions to tackling the difficult challenge of destigmatizing men’s mental health and inspiration is abundant for those who look for it. We may need to look no further than to women in their fight and learn from their struggles and victories to build a better tomorrow for men, too.

Grow Up, Or Don’t

When I was a kid, there were;

Purple skies and pink rivers,

Paper cranes and wooden toys.

The world was only as big as,

The candy shop around the corner.

The big blue ocean,

Fit itself into the sound of a seashell, 

And hide and seek was only a game. 

But today, I hide behind the solace of my words,

As the same big blue ocean threatens to sink me.

My skies and rivers are both blue, too. 

There are no cranes or toys. 

And my world hasn’t grown any bigger. 

It all fits into a tiny smartphone. 

I realise it’s all a hoax;

To grow up.

So today, maybe;

I didn’t walk around the puddle, 

I remembered to colour outside the lines, 

And all my little paper boats,

Slowly sailed back to me.

Journeys of Hope – Part 2 – A Poem

Breaking Free

What is it like to be fourteen going twenty-five?

Put your life on pause and frozen alive.

You feel it rushing past you, sometimes through.

But at heart, you’re still a kid with issues.


You know the lines, have the script by heart,

Wear the smiles and play the part.

Impeccable performance and invisible pain,

Patch the holes and back up again.


What is it like to be fourteen going twenty-five?

Watched, as my teenage flew by.

I’m all smiles, laughter bursting at the seams,

Hoping to be someone’s teenage dream.


But life’s a bully, unforgiving and unkind.

It’s a test and unfair by design.

I played by its rules, or by ‘their’ rules,

And it played us all, for fools.


What is it like to be fourteen going twenty-five?

I realize, I need more than just survive,

I want to be happy and grow up to live my truth,

Strike out of this eerie vortex of youth.


I am terrified but alive, melted and moulded anew,

Imperfect but with a new point of view.

My vigour for life charges through like electricity,

To face the trials and cut out toxicity.


What is it like to be fourteen going twenty-five?

I knew once but am no longer that guy.

Stripped off self-made shackles, Breaking free,

Home again with my chosen family.


Fourteen in my heart, doe-eyed, brimming with hope.

Endless possibilities, a kaleidoscope.

Untainted by guilt or remorse, flawed but whole,

Forever young, growing old.

Dissociative Identity Disorder: An Overview

What is DID?

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), also known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), is a severe manifestation of the group of psychological disorders known as Dissociation. DID is characterized by an individual experiencing a splitting or fragmenting of their original personality into two or more different ones.

This leads to a lack of clarity in a person’s thought, emotions, memories and actions.

What causes it?

Extensive research by organisations such as the American Psychiatric Association shows that DID is more often than not caused by severe emotional, physical or environmental trauma in a person’s past. These causes include physical, sexual, and mental abuse, the loss of a loved one, and life-threatening or near-death incidents, usually occurring around the age of 6.

Who does it affect?

DID occurs very rarely; studies show that it affects 0.1% to 1% of the general population. But when it does occur, there is no age bracket or cases of medical history within which patients fall. DID can affect anyone, living at any place, of any age, or with any background. The onset is commonly observed to be during childhood, but the symptoms may take years to manifest, making it very difficult to diagnose and treat the individuals.

However, it is also commonly agreed-upon by medical professionals that females are more susceptible to this disorder than men.

How can you recognize it?

The following symptoms have been recognized and grouped among individuals with DID:

  •       Eating and Sleeping disturbances
  •       Amnesia
  •       Hallucinations
  •       Self-injurious behavior
  •       Prolonged headaches and migraines due to irregular sleep patterns

One other symptom that is observed is an alternation of personalities; a radical shift in thoughts, behavior and emotions, due to the emergence of the different ‘alters’.

Methods of Treatment

  • Psychotherapy: Also called ‘talk therapy’, it is designed to work through whatever triggers the DID.
  •  Hypnotherapy: Clinical hypnosis can be used to help the person access and deal with repressed memories and feelings that are potential causes of DID.

Another effective form of therapy is encouraging the affected individual to indulge in the creative arts, music, or exercise; anything that can help to reduce stress in a positive way.

Misconceptions about DID

Multiple personality disorder, as DID is more commonly known, has been featured time and again in novels, television series, and movies, the most famous of them being the character of Gollum in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series, and Alfred Hitchcock’s blockbuster hit, Psycho (1960). While it makes a good premise for pop culture, the severity of this mental illness is often disregarded and misunderstood.

Though most fictitious characterizations show one or more of the personalities as being ‘good’ or ‘soft’, and some as being ‘violent’ or ‘psychopathic’, in reality, one can never predict the nature of the ‘alters’. So it is best to seek professional help when dealing with a person with DID. 

How can I help?

You can help the patient by recognizing the symptoms at the right time and taking immediate action. DID is a very serious condition that needs to be treated as soon as it is diagnosed.

You can find out more here:






LonePack Conversations – Discussing the ‘Meh’ with Bhairavi Prakash

When you don’t have words to describe the feeling of emptiness, anger, frustration, you just go ‘Meh’. It’s an emotion that says a lot without saying much.

In this episode of LonePack Conversations, we discuss this feeling and how to tackle it, among other initiatives from Mithra Trust with its founder Bhairavi Prakash, psychologist and public speaker.

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Karthik: Good morning, Good afternoon, Good night, whatever time it is, wherever you are listening to this episode of our podcast, LonePack Conversations, where we shine the light on mental health experts and organizations and give a voice to connect with all the impactful work they have been doing.

My name is Karthik and in this edition of LonePack Conversations, we are joined by Bhairavi Prakash, a Bangalore based psychologist, founder of the Mithra Trust and public speaker. Hello Bhairavi!


Bhairavi: Hi Karthik! And, I am from Chennai and Bangalore based by the way. Lockdown in Chennai but I am not in Lockdown in Bangalore.


Karthik: That’s interesting!

Alright, Can you give a brief introduction of yourself and the work that Mithra Trust does?


Bhairavi: Sure, I’m a psychologist as you said. I studied in Chennai. I went to Women’s Christian College here and I have been in this field for about ten years now. I have worked on everything from corporate mental health, setting up school mental health programs, to working on artificial intelligence in mental health and things like that. Then, I ended up founding Mithra as an NGO. 

The idea of Mithra is to give mental health information and tools and spread awareness in a way that a friend would. I found that everything around mental health was very scientific or it was very medical. It didn’t have that personal connection or personal impact. 

A lot of the work that I do is based on my own stories. So, mental health issues that I have faced myself or having lost a friend to suicide or just things that happen in life that impact you but you don’t realize at that time that it has impacted you.


Karthik: Wow! That is quite impactful to know.

So, I find that there are a lot of parallels and synergies between what LonePack does and also what Mithra Trust does. So, what was your inspiration to founding this organization? and, how is the work that Mithra Trust does unique?


Bhairavi: I’d done so much in mental health but Mithra is the first area that looks at it in a very friendly way. So, I am not talking as a psychologist to people. The tools that we provide are actually tools that I need for myself. So, Mithra just began as a way of looking at what are the things that I needed at different points in my life and making that accessible. 

One of the first things that we did when we launched Mithra was this series called ‘What to say’. It is such a simple concept. How many times have you been on the phone where somebody is crying or someone is really upset and you don’t know what to say to them? So, my whole thing was, How can I help you be a better friend and How can I help you be a better support system and that’s how ‘What to Say’ started.

We launched, ‘What to Say’ for somebody who wants to take their own life and we have done series covering so many things, anxiety, depression, grief, over-thinking, heart-break, how to apologize, all the way to abortion, miscarriage and sexual assault. I keep asking the Mithra community on Instagram, “What do you want help with?” and based on that we come up with a lot of the content.

Mithra is an organization that I have created basically to help me and is helping a lot of other people… So, I think, in that way, it is very unique.


Karthik: Yeah… What you say about, when you’re in a situation, you always misinterpret things or you have the right intentions in mind but you come out and say something that is hurtful to others. So, that series is really quite useful.

So, one of the signature initiatives of the Mithra Trust is The Meh Kit and it has been featured in The Hindu. For people who haven’t heard about this, What is the ‘Meh’ and how does this kit help people tackle this feeling?


Bhairavi: The Meh, again is so personal. The Meh, is what I used to say when I didn’t have words and somebody asks you, “How are you doing?” and I’d be in the middle of a depressive episode and I couldn’t explain what I was going through. For them, the Meh could have been anything from feeling overwhelmed to feeling bored, disinterested or very sad but at the end of it, you just know that the Meh means “Not Okay”. So, the minute says ‘Meh’ you know that they are not okay. The Meh is just that overall feeling of being not okay and you say it with a shrug and you feel it with your whole body and you are, ‘Meh’. So, that’s where the Meh came from. 

The Meh Kit, the first one that we have done is called “Riding out Depression” and the idea was how do you help somebody have the tools to understand their own lows and the tools to help them ride it out themselves, the tools to help somebody help themselves. It came from a friend of mine who wrote to me saying, he was a very very dark period and he wasn’t okay and he didn’t want to go to a therapist.

So, I told him that I can’t replace therapy and I am not going to do that but what I can do is that  get you ready if at all you decide to go to a therapist, to make you feel a little bit better and understand what you are going through. It was a series of conversations and all of this was through email. The minute I saw how well he did with that, I was, like, “How can I make this accessible to other people?”. So, basically the idea of the Meh Kit is to unpack different types of emotions that you go through different thoughts that you have and to understand that. 

So, the idea is to, one, give people information of what it really feels like and two, give them the space to understand it on their own time and three, give them the tools to deal with it when they are ready. It has everything, from the ‘What to Say’ statements to explaining this whole depressive episode through a series of comics. We used really warm colors, because when you are in that state of not feeling okay, you feel like you don’t deserve any kind of love, affection or warmth. So, the minute you see this kit, in itself is overwhelming love. Lot’s of people have written saying it’s like a hug for me.


Karthik: It is true that lot of us when we phase through this feeling of being stuck and not able to process our own thoughts, we get bombarded on Instagram with plain messages of happy, positive thoughts. There’s always this precise and surgical way of analyzing your thoughts and how to move forward in a very rational fashion, and this kit really does a good job of putting you through those steps and clearly explaining to yourself and moving yourself forward through this entire process. So, that’s great!

Let’s diverge for a bit and try to address the current situation with the Corona Virus, the quarantining and the lockdown. So, how do you think this feeling of ‘Meh’ exhibits itself in a person during this time and as a psychologist, what do you think will help people to get out this feeling.


Bhairavi: I’ll give you the answer to this question based on the conversations that I have been having with people.

People come in because they are feeling anxious, overwhelmed and they are really worried and dealing with uncertainty. There’s just a lot of fear. They are very tired. They want to be productive. Some of them are very grateful that they still have jobs but they are not able to do it. Others are very worried about parents and family being away from home, still others are very irritated about the fact that everybody is together all the time and they don’t get their own space. So, there’s all of this that is happening within one virtual space that we are holding.

What I saw is, four distinct phases, which kind of merge together. First, people kind of feel, at the start of the lockdown especially, they felt like, “What’s the big deal? They feel almost comfortable with it, almost like a summer holiday. Second, any small uncertainty gives you massive frustration. Any small thing that happens, you find yourself reacting in a very big way and not able to understand why. The third is when you feel that you are getting things back on track. You seem to have a plan. You’ve started working out and doing Yoga, have mindfulness and things seem to be a little bit in control. These three things people go through during hours or days. This constant cycle of “I’m not okay.”, “I don’t know what to do.”, “Oh my god! I am getting better.” and then again. That’s something that I saw very clearly.

The overarching thing in all of this was just feelings of guilt. “Why should I be feeling so bad when, the migrant workers, how much they are walking, how much they are being bullied by the police. They have it so much worse than me.” So, I am feeling bad that I am not feeling okay. So, this level of not allowing ourselves to feel. These are people who know it and have been doing the work, who’ve been part of therapy. Even they had trouble doing this.

We need to recognize that all of us are going to be impacted and we need to give ourselves the space to recognize that. But, understanding that it has an impact on us doesn’t take away from the very real pain that somebody else is going through. So, it is not about comparing pain. When you compare it to a physical pain, like a stubbed toe, it doesn’t make sense, “Please cry out. Of course, your toe is in pain. Is it bleeding? Does it need ice? You need to rest.”, you automatically figure out so much ways to support. 


Karthik: When something is right there in front of our eyes, we give it more attention whereas when it is something in our mind, we do not express it. We are not giving ourselves the permission to feel bad or take a moment and heal.


Bhairavi: So, for me as a psychologist, the only thing to everyone in this world right now is think of your own mental and emotional pain that you are going through, like that stubbed toe, try to identify what it is and give yourself that feeling and the permission to feel that pain. That’s the biggest thing you can do for yourself.


Karthik: It’s also the biggest step you can take towards healing.

On your website, there are so many useful resources, you can head to mithratrust.com for accessing those resources, I saw there were the ‘Virtual well-being’ sessions, the ‘What to Say’ series and the ‘Meh and me’ series. The last one, ‘Meh and me’ series, I was particularly intrigued by that because it talks about mental health issues in men which is scarcely addressed. Why do you think that is the case and what can men do, who are undergoing mental health issues or who just want to help, to get out of this cage of not being allowed to feel, not being allowed to have mental health issues?


Bhairavi: ‘The Meh and Me’ series started off in November. In November, you have health month for men, Movember, where men grow mustaches and that is what it’s known for. We thought, Let’s try to bring in an interesting concept, where we ask men to submit stories and keep it anonymous. We posted them on Instagram and a number of people said, “If you hadn’t told me this was a man, I would have just assumed it was a woman.” 

One, men don’t talk about it and you don’t acknowledge or associate men with having feelings like that, expressing them and going through pain. That is a huge part of our society, just the way that boys and girls are brought up. That is what you see right? You don’t see someone who is in tune with themselves. You don’t see someone questioning and understanding what’s happening, or even talking about it.

So, The whole point of the ‘Meh and Me’ series is to, (have a platform where you ask), “Tell us about a time where you weren’t feeling okay and were ‘Meh’. What did that feel like? And then what happened?” It’s just to show people that this is a simple format and we have men and boys of all ages to submit what they are going through. So, people started feeling so good about it that we extended it. It’s no longer for that month, November, but become a regular series that we do now.


Karthik: The stories were quite moving. I went through a few of them. To see that it is not only me, me in my four walls, We’re all in this together and the sense of community is quite liberating. 

Mithra Trust has done some great work in bringing awareness to mental health. So, what are some initiatives that we can expect to see in the future that you guys might do?


Bhairavi: Right now, with the lockdown, we did the whole thing about ‘Connect Within’ where we sent messages to people everyday on Instagram saying ‘Take a few moments to pause, to breathe and to think thoughts of kindness, hope, compassion and gratitude.’ We have taken it a step further now. This entire week is part of Mental Health Awareness week. The theme was kindness within you. So, we have been doing these activities around kindness. 

Going forward, we are doing a lot of work on building something for young people, something specifically (for them), because I think, school students, they have so much of uncertainty. Everything that they worked towards, all of their dreams, or they have gotten into college, and now, they don’t know what’s happening.

That feeling of how you deal with all these things, the things that you have been working towards and now don’t mean anything. To bring a framework and a sense around that, we are doing work on resilience, and within resilience engaging in this concept of gratitude, kindness and compassion. That is a series that we’ll be launching in June. It’s gonna be a webinar-discussion series. 

‘Let’s discuss the meh’, is primarily a discussion series. ‘Doodles for the meh’, is a series where you sit and you are provided a tool, you are taught how to doodle while you observe your thoughts, emotions, while you connect to your breathing and you kind of let out the emotions through the doodle and bringing in resilience for the meh, next.


Karthik: The second example, doodling is quite a favorite of mine and lot of us try to bring it out in a creative form of all our issues, we try to express them, and it’s important to have a platform to have that exposure and getting it out of your system.

It’s been a pleasure to have you in this edition of LonePack Conversations and as we close out this episode, what would be your message to leave our listeners with and where can they head to find more about the Mithra Trust.


Bhairavi: My message to everybody is to acknowledge the Meh, acknowledge when you are not feeling okay. There are so many great resources, the fact that they are listening to the LonePack Conversations, it means they are giving themselves the permission, the time and space to engage with these conversations. I think you guys have been doing an incredible job with this. Even with the letters of positivity, it is something nice to look forward to.

If you want to find out more about Mithra Trust, just jump on Instagram, @mithratrust. 


Karthik: Alright! Let’s close out this edition. Thank you for joining us and have a good day!


Bhairavi: Thank you so much Karthik!


One,Two and Three – A 3 step process to reboot your mind

If you want to change your actions, you have to change your thoughts. If you want to change your thoughts, then you have to change the way you perceive yourself. If you want to change your perception about yourself, you must change the experience.

Yes, an experience with your true self.


Often, we approach fixing problems like developing an algorithm. An algorithm has a few major components – the inputs, the processing logic/storage and the output. Quite frankly, that is analogous to how our mind works. It observes the actions, words and emotions of others in our environment, stores it in the database called the subconscious and we somehow adapt to these actions, thoughts, emotions without even realizing we are doing it.

But, often what we consider self-awareness is more of what we are NOT than what we really are. We tell ourselves things based on comparison with other people. After every task you complete, your mind automatically compares the same kind of task done by someone else in a different manner, hence implying you didn’t do your best.

This never ending fight with your self-image, leaves no room for growth.

The reality is the polar opposite of what we tell ourselves. No matter how disgusting our delusions are, how negative we think of ourselves, how we judge ourselves, we are human. We have infinite potential, to pause, refresh, and resume. The three step process.

It’s a 3 step process!

Every single time a notification pings in your mind that reads ‘ YOU CAN’T DO THIS ‘ , PAUSE.

Instead of berating yourself that you cannot do it, switch to ” I DEFINITELY CAN DO THIS GREAT” condition yourself to the opposite of what your irrational thoughts are telling you. Thus, you are refreshing your negative self-talk.

Finally, resume doing whatever you were doing with a bit more self-compassion, and a lot of love.


Constantly feeling the need to do something, to be occupied with work is the fear driven trap, sometimes based on experiences of previous trauma.  Our mind uses it as an escape mechanism to avoid dealing with inconvenient emotions.


Let’s do this affirmation, pause for a moment. And think of this beautiful word that the internet came up with, called “Sonder”. It’s not an actual word in the English dictionary, though “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows”, the website that created it, defines it as the realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

We share our world with 7.7 billion others like that. People lose their loved ones, their dream, their homes,  sometimes themselves and yet wake up the next morning and hustle. Some grieve about it for days and heal in isolation, Some grieve by destroying things, while some heal by creating new.

Each of us are finding ways to be happier, to seize the moment as it is, to love, to be loved.

We’re all so strong, even on the days when we feel like choking on sadness,

On the days we feel heavy, on the days we feel the void inside us, on the days we don’t feel like moving.

Why? Because we find a way – we keep going. No matter how many times we’ve told ourselves to give up. In reality we don’t really lose, we don’t really fail, we don’t actually give up.

We’re always told we will be where we want to be with whom we’re meant to be. But we are there right now, where we belong.

It warms my heart to know, to be around each and every one of you. You are so strong and you don’t even know that yet. Also, did I tell you that you did your best this week?


And it’s okay even if you do 0.001% more the upcoming week.



– Haniya Ahmed