Choosing Life: On Depression, Silence, & Trauma

 

Some days I force myself to sleep so I don’t have to feel the emotions rushing through me. Some days I drink too much. Some days I stuff my mouth until my cheeks get sore from chewing. Some days I start to cry and have no idea why.

When I was diagnosed with clinical depression a few years ago, I was not surprised. As a Puerto Rican, I am aware of the higher rates of depression in the Puerto Rican community in the United States. “First-and second-generation Hispanics/Latinos were significantly more likely to have symptoms of depression than those born outside the U.S. mainland.” [i] According to the study, despite the increase in symptoms, Puerto Ricans are less likely to use antidepressants. When you take my ethnicity and sexual orientation into account, I belong to two marginalized groups that are underrepresented and under researched in the mental health profession. Too often mi gente have relied on the Church to help them heal but prayer alone isn’t enough to mend the brokenness.

I grew up in a household where we never discussed our problems. When my ex-stepdad turned our living room into a junkyard whenever he got angry and started breaking things, we simply cleaned up and pretended it didn’t happen. We never discussed it; instead we were forced to normalize the situation as if somehow adopting the new normal would make the experience any less traumatic. Our silence about our pain and trauma keeps us imprisoned and quite frankly I am tired of feeling like a prisoner in my own life.

If I want freedom then I have to heal the broken little boy within me who struggles with the fact that he was molested by multiple relatives. My use of sex to numb is just my way of trying to take ownership over my own body again. But I know that isn’t healthy or productive—I am more than my body, no matter how much my weigh fluctuates. If I want freedom then I have to heal the broken little boy in me who struggles with abandonment issues that stem from the absence of my father. I’m tired of trying to fill the void that my dad created and I know I need to forgive him for not knowing how to be a parent to me.

Coping with my depression for me means using antidepressants, talk therapy, and cultivating a strong support system. Maybe you don’t have access to medicine or therapy or even a strong support system but I urge you to remember that you are not alone. It is easy to allow depression to control our thoughts, often dark thoughts that make us feel less than or unworthy of being alive.

But you and I are worthy of being here, alive. After the senseless violence that took place in Orlando, we can not take life for granted. Our silence will not protect us or spare us the agony of our suffering. So today and every day, I choose to live.

[i] (Source: http://www.einstein.yu.edu/news/releases/1047/largest-study-of-hispanics-latinos-finds-depression-and-anxiety-rates-vary-widely-among-groups/#sthash.Mdp6Ldsv.dpuf)

Featured Photo by Texas Isaiah

 

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