By June Alexander
If your life balance is out of kilter due to the time you are spending caring for a loved one, Bharati’s workbook is for you. This heartfelt book provides practical and welcome guidance to help you reclaim your balance by staying in the now.
When Bharati Lall attended a parent workshop at the eating disorder treatment centre where her daughter was admitted, she was surprised to feel relief. She felt relief despite the workshop being so intense that everyone was feeling overwhelmed with trying to learn about the effects of the illness on their families.
The thing that gave Bharati a glimmer of peace and sanity was the connection she felt with the other parents and caregivers. She was able to express herself with gut wrenching honesty and began to feel understood. It was through words that this healing feeling began to arise.
The parents and caregivers stayed in touch after the workshop through texts and email messages, and occasional phone calls. Over time, Bharati noticed a theme in this communication.
Within the content, which included scripture readings and reflections from life experiences, these word-driven thoughts somehow magically created a space for healing and understanding for both the reader and sender of the message.
From this experience, Bharati has published Growth Amidst the Darkness, a guided workbook for parents and caregivers of loved ones suffering from an eating disorder.
If you are a parent or a caregiver, or know somebody who is, this book is for you. Often when we are caring for others, especially someone we love, we put our own self-care and wellbeing on hold. We might feel guilty if every second of every day is not devoted to helping our loved one in facing their challenges. But eventually we feel worn out and possibly even resentful. Sound familiar? The first major message in this book is that taking care of oneself first and foremost is vital to sustain our own health so that we are in the best position to help our loved one. The second message is that the caregiver often needs to heal as well as the patient, and a third message is that recognition of this offers great opportunity for self-growth and improved relationships with others.
Bharati and I ‘met’ in early 2017 when I presented an online narrative workshop for parents and other caregivers at Western New York Comprehensive Care Center for Eating Disorders. I live in Australia and Bharati lives in the USA yet, when Bharati emailed after the workshop, our friendship blossomed immediately over the Internet. We shared a strong rapport. We both had experience of illness, Bharati as a caregiver and myself as a patient; we both loved nature, and family and friends, and both were passionate about writing as a reflective, self-nurturing and healing tool.
Writing had been a coping tool for each of us during life’s challenges, and I felt excited when Bharati shared her dream of creating a guided journal for caregivers and invited me to be her writing mentor. She had learned many lessons about life and had learned a lot about her own self, as a result of digging deep and reaching out, while facing the challenges of caring for her child who developed an eating disorder. Initially, Bharati shared, she had not only put her own life on hold, she had put her relationships with other family members and with her friends on hold as well. She became isolated and lonely, and experienced a range of emotions that were foreign to her and often unpleasant. Recognizing that other caregivers might feel as confused and out of their comfort zones as much as she did, Bharati shared her idea for the journal with me.
I said ‘yes’ to being her mentor, immediately, because I could see the need for this book, and because I am always encouraging people to write, reflect and keep a journal. Less than a year later, I felt honoured in accepting another invitation from Bharati, this time to write this foreword to her book.
On several occasions during the comparative short time that Bharati has taken to write her book, I invited her to expand on her reflections for my Dear Diary blog, and each time the reader response was heartening and positive – providing testimony that Bharati’s guidance offers hope and self-help healing to others.
As you work your way through this book, I am sure you will feel Bharati’s heart and soul coming through her pen. Her candidness and generosity in sharing her experience and hard-won wisdom in offering reflections to ease your journey is evident on every page.
Thank you, Bharati, for sharing your inspiring love of life and family. Your caring and courageous nature, your generosity of heart and your wisdom are preserved in this book, which is thoughtfully illustrated with photography by your friend Mary, and will live on for others to embrace, make their own, and be inspired by for generations to come.
“Bharati has produced a remarkable opportunity for parents and loved ones to focus on the present. Having been-there and done-that, she suggests specific things that parents and loved ones can do to focus on what is happening right-here, right-now.” – Richard Kreipe MD, FAAP, FSAHM, FAED