When I first started thinking of doing an AAPI campaign, one of the first people who I reached out to was Sassia Nelson. As an Occupational Therapist, Sassia has first-hand experience with how mental health and physical health are intrinsically connected and cannot be separated. Through her work, Sassia shows how mental health is something we all have to face and how taking care of ourselves is therapeutic even when traditional counseling is not involved.
Neshia Alaovae (NA): How do you like to introduce yourself to new friends?
Sassia Nelson (SN): Hi, I’m Sassia! I love to learn, be outside, rock climb, play with tarot, and cook! I am a newer momma to a variety of house plants and have recently been exploring herbs and plants to create my own kombuchas, tinctures, and elixirs. I grew up in Seattle and love rain just as much as I love sun.
NA: What does your work involve?
SN: I’m an Occupational Therapist that has a private practice in South Seattle and works at an outpatient clinic in Issaquah. I work with children and adults with a variety of diagnoses including traumatic brain injury, autism, stroke, pain, ADHD, anxiety, cerebral palsy and more. I collaborate with my clients in guiding them to resolve pain and dysfunction and creating a new, healthier, more functional way of being. We work on functional skills from fine motor skills to get dressed or play to expanding on interoception awareness (sensations in the body that relate to feelings), sensory modulation (how our sensory systems process sensory information from our environment and respond to that input), and self-care practices to providing bodywork and Tensegrity Medicine to aid in alignment and muscle re-education. I love the variety and complexities that humans bring me in my practice!
NA: What is something that you want people to know about mental health? About AAPI mental health?
SN: Our physical bodies are impacted by our mental health state. Our mental health state is affected by our bodies. It is important to take care of our whole being so that we don't get stuck into physical or mental patterns that cause us long lasting pain and suffering.
It's important for us as AAPI to keep talking openly about mental health because culturally, there is such a stigma around it. We as AAPI, have endured a lot of trauma due to things like: the Chinese Exclusion Act, Anti-Asian Riots, Alien Land Laws, Japanese Incarceration, Vietnam and Korean Wars, Anti-Muslim Ban or made fun of for our skin, eye shape, and food differences. There is a lot of shame around "looking weak" and we are taught to be quiet and small but also work the hardest and be the best aka the Model Minority. It's a lot of pressure and still AAPI are 3 times less likely to seek out mental health care especially if they are feeling no physical symptoms.
NA: What are your go-to's for taking care of your own mental health?
SN: Meditation, baths, tea, being outdoors near water and mountains and movement like yoga and dancing. My newest ritual is cooking some of my favorite meals, freezing them, and writing myself love/motivating notes for my “off” days.
NA: What about your cultural or ethnic identity do you appreciate the most?
SN: I am Japanese and Chinese. I love how we celebrate! Chinese New Year is my favorite holiday! We come together to enjoy each other’s company, engage in many rituals and eat great food that represent health, wealth, and love into the new year.
Thank you, Sassia, for inviting us all to be more authentic and well! Sassia’s website is coming soon and in the meantime you can reach her at Sassian.OT@gmail.com.