I recently started reading ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. I’m only a hundred pages through it, so while I don’t have a full opinion yet, I’m definitely sensing a theme. ‘On Writing’ is designed to…
Growing up Mexican-American, I didn’t learn how to manage or talk about my emotions and internal chaos. I didn’t even know it was okay to experience and express those things.
There’s a strong stigma around mental health issues within my culture.
To struggle with your mental health is often looked down upon, especially by older generations. It can be seen as inappropriate to talk about it, or weak and dramatic. A personal fault.
This means I heard negative perspectives about things like depression and suicide. To be depressed doesn’t make sense. Everyone’s life is hard. Get over it.
Suicide? How could anyone even think of doing that to their family? What’s wrong with them? How selfish.
There was a lack of understanding and empathy.
This made me always feel too unsafe to talk about my own struggles with my family, or to even show any sign that I was struggling.
The machismo so deeply rooted in my culture didn’t help either.
I have four brothers, no sisters. Between them, my boy cousins, and uncles, I couldn’t escape the notions of being “manly” and strong.
I overheard all the typical phrases: “be a man” and “don’t cry, you’re not a girl.” These comments were directed at the boys, but I was constantly internalizing them, too.
The messages were clear:
To express your emotions is weak.
To struggle is weak.
As a teenager, I bottled myself up. I didn’t want to be seen as weak. I wanted to be as tough as the boys that surrounded me.
But I wasn’t.
This made me feel ashamed of myself.
I became embarrassed about crying, or feeling sad.
I’ve always been sensitive, and for years, I hated that about myself. Sensitivity wasn’t a thing to be celebrated in my home, much less feeling heavy emotions and thoughts.
As I found myself increasingly struggling with my mental health, I only felt more and more ashamed about the thoughts and feelings buried within me.
I had no healthy way to navigate or manage what was going on in my internal world. There was no one in my family that I felt safe enough to talk to, and the fear kept me from talking to anyone else about these struggles.
It made me feel deeply alone.
Becoming a volunteer crisis counselor as an adult, showed me I wasn’t.
I’ve had conversations with people of so many different ages and backgrounds who are battling their own inner demons. People managing everything from Depression, to Schizophrenia, and so many working through suicidal thoughts.
People who, like me, don’t feel safe to talk to their family, and are afraid to burden their friends or be judged.
I’d try to give them hope and help them feel less alone. Through their willingness to be vulnerable about their struggles, I was able to feel hope and less alone, too.
These conversations showed me not only how much pain other people often hide, but how empowering it is when they have the ability to open up to someone about the heaviness they carry. I needed that, too.
Therapy made sense, but it scared me.
I felt embarrassed that I needed someone to talk to, and being vulnerable with people terrified me. I didn’t want to be judged. On top of that, just thinking about the overwhelming process of finding a therapist discouraged me.
I couldn’t do it, so I never did.
Over the years, I witnessed more and more of my female friends going to therapy. It helped me see that it was okay for me to do it, too.
Eventually, I decided I didn’t want to put it off anymore. Some friends encouraged me to consider what I wanted and needed in a therapist. It was important to me to find a BIPOC therapist or preferably, someone Latin or Mexican. I wanted someone who could understand the cultural context and nuances of my life.
However, there were so many things to take into consideration with therapy.
I had to find an online therapist who wasn’t a white person, or man, and was accepting new clients and my insurance, or offering a sliding scale since I had no job.
My insurance sent me a long list. Names and numbers. It was daunting and unhelpful. I picked one place, and called their number. I was on hold for over an hour and gave up. I felt discouraged.
Thankfully, a friend recommended “Latinx Therapy.” On their website, there was only one person who met my criteria. I lucked out.
Having a Mexican therapist made a difference. I didn’t have to waste time trying to explain or justify the things in my life surrounding my cultural background, and felt comfortable talking to them about cultural issues because they understood them firsthand.
Therapy gave me the opportunity to finally say out loud the things I couldn’t share with others. I didn’t have to worry about being judged, or made to feel guilty, and ashamed.
To have a space where I could openly express my thoughts and emotions was freeing and empowering. It made me feel seen.
Being vulnerable is still terrifying to me.
I don’t know if it ever stops feeling that way. But I do know there is nothing wrong or weak about struggling and expressing your emotions, and pain.
It isn’t worth it to silence what makes you human, when there’s so much power in embracing your vulnerablity and choosing to be heard, and seen.
Each Alphabet has its own Page. All Pages are in Color. No Transliterations (Pronunciations). You (the Parent) should be helping your child learn how to pronounce.
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