Bass Connections Student Stories: Ayesha Syed
My first day of expressive writing required a great leap of faith: for two hours, my Bass Connections teammates and I wrote about our lives’ most traumatic experiences, exploring our most vulnerable moments and describing them from different perspectives. I came away from that afternoon having framed a difficult time from my past as a story to take with me into the future.
In the weeks that followed, we wrote poetry, practiced active listening and even took an acting class! Gradually, I found myself incorporating these lessons into my daily life. Writing the occasional haiku as a centering practice, asking specific questions to make someone feel heard and being present and open as if I were acting in an improvised scene, I felt myself becoming a more reflective and mindful person.
After a semester of careful study of the practice of expressive writing, my teammates and I led our own writing sessions to gain certification as facilitators. We also read primary research about expressive writing’s effects on specific populations. Through this, I learned about its beneficial effects on patients and healthcare providers and its usefulness as a part of the practice of personal wellness. As an aspiring physician, I hope to continue writing in the future as a means of centering and reflection.
Bass Connections also connected me to another program related to my future goals. Program leaders John Evans and Ray Barfield opened the door to learning about the role of the arts and humanities in healthcare by introducing the team to the Reimagine Medicine program (ReMed). I had the opportunity to participate as a fellow in the 2019 cohort, where I assisted Dr. Evans in facilitating expressive writing and active listening sessions among my peers. In Summer 2020, I was able to return as a facilitator for expressive writing sessions in ReMed 2020.
This Bass Connections team’s purpose was to design and implement a writing intervention among cancer survivors, which took place as a one-day workshop in October 2019. I was able to participate in the follow-up interview process and data entry during the later phases of the project, learning more about RedCap and hearing directly from participants about their experiences with the intervention. Seeing the impact of the practices we had spent the year studying was deeply valuable and highlighted one of my favorite parts of expressive writing: sharing the practice with others.
Hearing about others’ experience with expressive writing through discussions has reminded me of how personal and meaningful writing can be. I am so thankful for the chance to have worked with my teammates and team leaders to share these practices with the community.