What *Really* Breaks Your Heart?

Posted by Anuj Pandey on Feb 9, 2018
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[Last Wednesday's beautiful opening by our former summer intern!]

Hi, my name is Priya. When I first read the passage, I wanted to make sure that it was something that a 21 year old could kind of speak to all of you who have been through much more than I have. As I was reading the article, sitting with my mom and my siblings in the living room, I decided to read it out loud. I kept nodding along even vocally saying like, yeah, that really makes sense. It was really resonating. But then, when I went upstairs later, my Dad and I started talking about it article and we ended up kind of disagreeing about what the article means.

What breaks your heart? There are so many injustices in the world, whether it's about education system or universal healthcare foreign policy or whatever it is -- so many things that break our heart. But after discussing this for a while, what my Dad and I finally came up with was to add a little carrot top into the title. Instead of what breaks your heart, what really breaks your heart? The distinction there would be what really kind of touches you on the inside, what really moves you to want to do something about it.

Unfortunately, I found about what breaks my heart -- the hard way. In college, one afternoon. Sophomore year. In fact, I still remember the exact date. Friday afternoon, September 25, 2015.

I was in my biology lab classrooms, it was a really hot afternoon, and I just fainted out of my seat! I was really stressed by a lot of the exams and deadlines and stuff in the week ahead. I wasn't eating well, wasn't taking care of myself. When I fainted, luckily, they were able to nurse me back to health just by feeding me some sugar and stuff like that, to raise my blood sugar. But that was really a wake-up call for me. I realized that how badly that could have gone -- I could've gotten a concussion from hitting my head on the floor, could have fallen forward onto some glass (we work with firing glass on the lab table).

Fortunately, I had been brought up with practices like meditation and gratitude, so I had the strategies to be able to regain balance in my life and refocus on self care. But then, I started seeing the pattern everywhere -- sort of like how you watch a documentary and you start noticing that everywhere.

So, then, as I was having conversations with my peers for the rest of that school year, I was stunned to realize how people at this top notch institution were struggling to even, you know, go to class or participate in class properly because of all of these mental health issues that they're dealing with. Depression, anxiety, panic attacks. They didn't know how to find that self care in that balance.

That really broke my heart too. To hear about all these things that my peers are going through, and to realize that they didn't have the strategies and resources to deal with it. So I decided to do something about it and I started a course around these different science-backed practices. Like even just meditating for five minutes at the beginning of the day can help you really refocus yourself; or expressing your gratitude to others can improve your resiliency; doing kind acts can boost your immunity. Things like that. We wrote a syllabus and developed lesson plans to share this with others -- particularly because it was something that really kind of touched me, something that I had gone through myself, and will carry forward with me into field of medicine. Actually, that's another thing that really fuels me -- we spend millions of dollars in training healthcare professionals to care for the people in our country, and yet we don't give them the time and resources to be able to care for themselves. You know, physician suicide rates are almost double that of the general population, which is something that really truly breaks my heart and moving forward will fuel my focus on mental health.

So reading bring up two questions. As the author says, the first step is to realize that your heart is broken or has been broken in the past. So what breaks your heart? And should everyone really go after what breaks their heart or are there disadvantages to that? It can be really hard to be spending all your time working with something that really breaks your heart. So then, how has that awareness fueled your purpose?

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Comments (3)

  • Trupti Pandya wrote ...

    Wow , building a curriculum on self care in the midst of a super hectic yearly schedule is so amazing and inspiring. Thank you for sharing it with us :-)

  • Richard Whittaker wrote ...

    beautiful reflections...

  • Jane Murphy wrote ...

    How wonderful that you started such a powerful practice among your peers...expressing gratitude, doing random acts of kindness...meditation...the ripples of this work do unfold!