Third year completed!
Today marks the third year anniversary of CandleX. Instead of an article specifically written for the audience, it seems to be more like one of my journal entries: I decided to just let my thoughts flow.
The CandleX media platform is for public education, raising awareness, and publishing newsletters regarding recent events or outstanding achievements. I am truly grateful and proud that we’ve been running for 3 years, with programs that make meaningful changes to people’s lives. Celebrations are usually devoted to achievements; this article, however, is about our challenges- something behind the curtains.
As Maya Angelo once said, “Maybe the hardest part is, if you teach, you have to live your teaching”. We promote being honest with our feelings, acknowledging them all, and accepting them. One of my personal advocacies have always been allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Now this journal is my effort in embracing my own learnings and teachings.
Three years ago, when I first had this thought of promoting mental health in Beijing, I felt my life had finally aligned with the universe. There’s no formula to know what the best job for you is, and what the meaning of life is. But I trusted this- you know it when you know it.
In that moment, I was so certain. Without hesitation, on 1st April 2015, a few days after that thought emerged, I founded CandleX. In these three years, four major programs kicked off, one after another. We are on the media, and in people’s daily conversation. The founding of CandleX was like travelling in a rock that I wasn’t even aware that I was boarding.
I’ll figure it out along the way, I thought.
The first ‘figuring out’ was the Mental Health Peer Support Meeting. When CandleX first started out, we were mostly doing public education on depression and bipolar, in schools and communities. Half a year in, after the first program became stable, I started thinking about setting up a peer support group for people going through depression. Why? Because I was looking for one during a major episode I was going through, and I couldn’t find community support with the culture that was the most suitable for me. I had to go through that alone, and I don’t want others to go through the same thing.
I remember going through a round of consultation with people of different backgrounds regarding this idea. One important question was raised: what if a suicidal participant joined the group to seek for support, but still took their own life; it puts the organization at such high risks. I know the risks are real: I volunteered at a NGO in Thailand that provide services to people with alcohol and depression issues. They’ve had many issues being in close contact with the group, and one did took his own life.
The unfortunate truth is, for some others, getting just support group help is not enough. Was I fearful of running into this risk? I was. I was afraid that if someone died, people would say: “But they came to the support group. It mustn’t have been helpful!” Or even having the responsibility fall onto the group: “Did something happen in the group?”
Without clarification and understanding, outsiders may have this impression. Should I just play it safe and not go through with this idea?
But when I sat down, in the silence of it, I heard another voice: it came from me, the old me who was in despair and sunken in hopelessness. If someone is on the fence about their life and death, we should taken upon the responsibility of placing some more meaning and weight on ‘life.’ With compassion and empathy, they will lean towards life. There will be many lives saved
I cannot give into fear. Some fear is toxic, and we won’t be able to live free and full. With toxic fear, lives that could have been saved will be lost.
Without knowing how many would actually use this service, in Oct 2015, the first CandleX mental health meeting was posted online. I waited in the meeting room by myself. To my surprise, seven of us came together for the first meeting. Since then, I’ve facilitated countless meetings on this very sofa that sat many who needed love and support.
Behind this closed door, tears are shed and stories are told: some cry during our opening meditation, and some even step in and find their friend or acquaintance that are already here. I would hear people say “It’s a relief to know X came to the support group too. I always admire X.” Being in the support group free us from the pain of feeling like a failure. We all sometimes feel like a failure. You don’t have to be alone on this.
My job as a facilitator of the support group is to create a place for people to listen- listen with our minds and our hearts, and listen without judgement. Just listen, for real. How easy is that!
I want to create a safe space. That’s why there’s the screening process ensure the intention of the participants. Come here to heal, not to prey, not to give advice and not just to simply “help others”. Sometimes, these meetings make me slightly anxious. Even with the screening, you don’t know whether there would be someone there with a personal, hidden agenda. Over the last 3 years, there were many bumps along the way. There have been many moments when I felt stressed out, disappointed and frustrated, as well as many moments I felt proud, grateful and truly happy to be running CandleX, because it gives me a sense of direction and meaning. It was, after all, the path I chose for myself.
This is my three-year letter to CandleX for holding me true to what I teach the public. “Be honest with our feelings; it’s okay to be vulnerable.” That has made me a better version of myself.
“Maybe the hardest part is,
if you teach,
you have to live your teaching.”
- Maya Angelo.
Happy 3rd Year Anniversary, CandleX.