It is crazy how long it takes to undo all of the shame and learned stigma around mental health.
I started my journey with therapy two years ago shortly after my brother went missing, presumably dead. I was having a lot of anxiety and depression with everything that came from his disappearance. My family and I are Mexican, born, and raised in Guadalajara. The conversation around him always revolved around him being missing but not necessarily him being dead. This constant walking on eggshells particularly for my mother’s sake was really taking a toll on me mentally. At this time I had started my clinical counseling grad program, wanting to particularly focus on helping undocumented individuals or first-gen children/adults.
After my first session, I promised myself I would never go back. The vulnerability that it took to open up wore me out. And at first, I felt worse. I was ashamed that I was struggling so hard and that I was “crying about it”. I could hear a voice in my head telling me to “suck it up”. I have great friends and mentors who I trust and they kept pushing me to keep going back to therapy. After two months I was sure that I was “cured” since my depression has significantly decreased. And I stopped going. Little did I realize that I had opened up Pandora’s box and my brother’s loss had brought up unhealthy coping with childhood trauma. I have an amazing therapist who I opened up to and let her know the way that I was feeling, the hesitation that I felt coming to therapy week after week, and the shame and self-deprecation that I put myself through every time I had an appointment. As I said, it has been two years and it has completely changed my life. I went into therapy thinking I was a very self-aware individual only to find multiple blind spots that have definitely hindered my personal growth. Particularly this constant struggle that comes with being Mexican- American. This work ethic is ingrained in us, to push through hardships because that is how life is. As well as the struggle to recognize when you need help, and realizing that mental health is not just for white people. I am grateful for the fact that I can go to therapy and learn more about myself and have an active role in my healing so that I can then turn around and help others.