Cures what? Cancer, common cold, cataract, claustrophobia? Well none of the above, but to chocolate – lovers it cures the blues, and puts a smile on our faces. Now that I have your attention, join me in reflecting on my family’s experience this past year, while enjoying a few pieces of my personal favorite dark chocolate treat, Green & Black’s Organic Maya Gold. Only three pieces at a time, otherwise it crosses over from health food into junk food.
Many of you know that I’m the Executive Director of CHAI, and have been addressing mental health issues in the South Asian community for many years now. This is my personal passion and my professional training. What most of you do not know is that at end of 2011 and the start of the 2012 year, my personal and professional lives intersected when a family member was hospitalized for attempted suicide.
In addition to the shock of coping with the seriousness of this issue, I found myself on the other side of the invisible wall that separates patient/professional. Others in the family turned to me to figure out what to do, I was personally grieving for what my family member was experiencing and angry at myself for not realizing what was happening. I had no shame or embarrassment in asking for help, I wanted my family member healthy and would do whatever was needed to make sure this person would never feel this low point again.
Others in the family told me not to talk to anyone outside the family because it would “give me a bad name”. I’ll leave that judgment to others; I only cared for helping a family member, who I love more than anything, and could not let a “bad name” for me get in the way.
I wanted to share this personal family experience with the CHAI community because, in reality, the “wall” between patient/professional is not only invisible, it’s fluid and any of us can find ourselves on either side of this dichotomy. We are human beings with emotions, feelings, varying body chemistries, and are living in circumstances which, at times, we may have little to no control over.
The reality I experienced and what I want to create with CHAI, is a community working in harmony towards healing and understanding. This weighed heavily on my mind as we worked to help the Oak Creek community after the shootings in their gurdwara, as we established a safe and nurturing space for women to come together in healing and strength in our Women’s Wellness Group and in our workshop at a local mosque on ‘Dignity and Respect Over Power and Control’.
So, in the course of the year, we worked towards healing, communicating, treatment and a year later, as our family reflected on what we had been through, we could see how far we have come. I also want to emphasize that we didn’t heal overnight and the course of treatment did require us to reflect and change when it wasn’t healthy for us as individuals or as a family. Some in our family chose not to change; many of us did change.
I am grateful for so many kind and wonderful people around me who surrounded me with understanding and support. This is really the strength in having a community of loving, caring friends and family, and truly one that promotes good mental health and wellness. Well, a caring community AND chocolate with hints of orange and spice will do wonders for your mood.