In May 1989, a stranger named Aida came to visit me in the hospital and forever changed my life. She was my friend Karen’s mother’s friend who was visiting my hometown Portland from Los Angeles. Having heard about my struggles with depression and the recent hospitalization, she had insisted on visiting me. Although I was ashamed to meet her in a psychiatric ward, her very presence was healing. Aida was an Armenian woman in her fifties, an elegant blend of Jackie Kennedy and Mother Teresa. In the thirty-minutes she spent with me, Aida shared the story of her struggles with depression and her eventual recovery. Having never met a person who had struggled and recovered from depression, I remember staring at Aida in utter disbelief. Over the years, when medications, therapy, electric shock treatments, and the love and prayers of my family had failed to heal me, I had given up hope of ever recovering. “Gayathri, I promise you will get better” Aida had said, “It won’t be easy. But, one day, one step at a time, you will recover and rebuild your life.” “Believe me, you have the strength within.” Although my family and physicians had insisted I would get better, I had never believed them. But, I trusted Aida. Because, unlike others, Aida had journeyed through the dark abyss of depression, and emerged into the light. Although Aida’s visit was short, the gift of hope she gave me that day transformed my life and continues to transform the lives of those we serve through ASHA International. It is a gift that keeps on giving.
There is a quote that says, “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.” That day, Aida taught me that while depression has no barriers-not of age, gender, nationality, religion, or socioeconomic status–hope has no boundaries. Hope has the power to heal and make us whole again.
Each day, I thank Aida for the gift of hope she gave me, and look forward to sharing it with those in need.
Wishing you wellness,