This year has been very hard for many people. The coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath have taken a heavy toll on people’s mental health. Some have found the help they needed in therapists and support groups.
Today, October 27th 2020, marks the 5th anniversary of CandleX’s support group, which since its inception has helped dozens of people in the Beijing expat community find light in darkness. On this occasion, we would like to share with our readers the experience of one of its most recent attendees.
SJ came to China from the US almost three years ago, and has been living in Beijing ever since. The reason why she decided to move to the Chinese capital was that she was looking for a change in her life and wanted to try something different. She is now enjoying her work as a teacher, while at the same time struggling with the situation created by the pandemic.
- How did you hear about CandleX’s support group? What made you decide to join its meetings?
During the quarantine I was having a difficult time, and I felt that I needed to talk to somebody I could share my feelings with apart from the people close to me. A friend who had attended the support group told me about it and suggested me to join the meetings, and so after some time I finally decided to go.
I’ve attended four or five meetings so far, and I plan to attend more in the near future. I’ve also led two of them I’ve always done a lot of introspection work on myself and I have a lot of experience in support groups back home, although I’m not a therapist or a counselor.
- How was the experience? Were the meetings helpful? If so, how?
Yes, I think the meetings were helpful in many ways. They have a good structure, with some time for meditation at the beginning, which is a very nice way to start, and also helps you to focus on your feelings before sharing them with other people. Instead of a crosstalk, it’s just a chance to open your heart and talk to each other in an honest way.
I strongly believe that speaking the truth is powerful, and talking openly about your feelings with other people can be very healing. This is why I think these meetings are so helpful: they set a stage where you can express yourself without fearof judgment. I’d say the best thing I got out of the meetings was finding people who could listen to me and understand what I was going through.
Another thing I liked about the meetings is their confidentiality – it’s beautiful that we have the chance to share in such a comfortable atmosphere.
- How did you feel about expressing your feelings with other people? Were you scared or nervous about that?
I’m a very open person, and I’ve always felt comfortable about sharing my feelings with others.
I also like listening to other people’s stories, because it helps me realize that I’m not the only one who’s struggling, that we’re all on the same boat. For example, two of my family members back home are having a hard time because of the pandemic – not being able to be with them makes me feel helpless sometimes, and this is a source of stress for me. Many other people are living in similar situations, and having the opportunity to talk about the experiences we’re going through can help everyone share the burden.
- How have things changed for you since you joined the peer support group?
I think I’m doing better. I’d say that, on a scale from 1 to 10, I’m now at 7 – as opposed to when I started going to the meetings, when I was at 1.
I think I’m doing better. I’d say that, on a scale from 1 to 10, I’m now at 7 – as opposed to when I started going to the meetings when I was at 1.
- You have also taken part in CandleX’s support group hangouts. How was the experience?
I enjoyed the opportunity of hanging out with some of the people I had met at the support group in a different environment. I feel that in the hangouts I can share and enjoy other people’s company, instead of our pain, and this has helped me establish new friendships.
It’s very nice to have a community that shares understanding and with which one can do things together, especially in a situation of uncertainty such as the one we are living through right now.
- Looking back at your experience, what advice would you give people who might be struggling with depression or other issues?
I’d tell people that there’s no shame in being human, that we all have issues even if our society has made us internalize the idea that it’s wrong to talk about them. We need to accept the fact that we have weaknesses, and that there’s nothing wrong with sharing them with others. As I just said, speaking the truth is powerful, and having a safe place to be honest with oneself and with others and talk about one’s feelings without any judgment or prejudice is a good way to start doing that.
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