It is often hard for we Asians to articulate it when we suffer from depression or low self-esteem. Who would think that a book could help us heal? Meera Lee Patel did, and had the brilliant idea to help us heal ourselves with her second book; a journal that we can write in, called Made out of Stars.
She talked to us about why she did it.
“I wrote Made Out of Stars because I wanted people to realize their honest selves—who they are when the world isn’t telling them who to be. Our world is busy, distracting, and overwhelming. Despair is felt when a person no longer feels connected to the core of who they are—when the motions in their days and the way they spend their time feels meaningless. I wrote this book because I want people to recognize themselves—to see themselves when the expectations of society and culture are pulled away—and to nurture the connection they have with themselves. My wish is that when someone does the work of seeking to understand who they are, they will begin seeing themselves in everything around them—in the people, animals, and plants that surround them. When this happens, it becomes impossible to feel disconnected from the world—it becomes impossible to not have a sense of belonging.”
Many readers, like me, suffer from depression at times. Meera’s work speaks to us all. She says, “Made Out of Stars” seeks to dismantle the anxieties and fears we have about not living up to the expectations of others or ourselves. It asks readers to look inside themselves and answer questions that are much easier to avoid or ignore. It asks readers to gauge progress and personal growth: How have you changed for the better in the past year? What do you hope to learn about yourself a year from now? It asks readers to remember self-care and to nurture themselves: Think of something you’ve felt unsure of for a long time. What would help you have more faith in yourself? It also asks readers to practice gratitude: Write about three fulfilling aspects of your life that you tend to overlook. These questions seem simple but answering requires thought, courage, and awareness. It also asks readers to find meaning in unexpected places: in the smiles from strangers on the street, in the quiet time we have during our commutes, in the ability to read a book or listen to a song and escape into an unknown world. These moments are what make up our lives—and if we can find purpose and meaning in them, even the difficult periods of struggle and heartbreak become more manageable.”
Meera has interesting thoughts on mental health in the Asian Community.
“In the Asian community, there is little emphasis on emotional intelligence or mental health. This is paired with expectations and often, the hope for second-generation children to fulfill and carry the expectations of their immigrant families. In an effort to make our parents, relatives, and communities proud, we run away from ourselves—from who we are, how we feel, and what we want to accomplish in this world. I’ve felt the responsibility of fulfilling my parents’ dreams and carried a weight for years because the life I envision for myself is different from the one they had imagined for me. The weight of living inside two worlds is difficult and often leads to increased anxiety and depression.”
Meera Lee Patel also has ideas on what else we can do to help ourselves, those of us with inconsistent mental health.
“I’ve written Made Out of Stars and My Friend Fear because I know there are people like me who suffer from depression and want to change the way they feel but don’t know how. I’ve learned to neutralize my fear by walking alongside it, instead of turning away from it. My hope is that readers will use my books for self-exploration and realization on a journey to becoming a more honest version of themselves. I’ve found that therapy, meditation, developing interests outside of work and family are all additional methods to living a healthier and more balanced life. There is no shame in taking time for yourself. There is no better use of time than to spend it in a way that feels meaningful to you.”
Finally, this author gave us a clue as to her next project and what she wants to do next.
“I will begin working on my third journal, which will deal with practical methods for reducing anxiety, within the next year. I’ve spent a number of years helping others overcome their fears and anxieties, and I’ve dedicated to spending the next year asking myself what I need.
Meera Lee Patel’s book Made Out of Stars is published by Particular Books.