Ten years ago, I should have been dead.
I tried not once, not twice, I tried more times than I️ care to remember. Since I was about 8 years old I remember having symptoms of depression and feelings of despair.
In Latino households, mental health is not openly talked about. The general consensus is se te va a pasar, you’ll get over it.
For a few years I went to a counselor at school, but that quickly ended. For years I was confused as why I was so sad or angry all the time. Then came puberty and everything was just symptoms of a dramatic girl. By the time I reached high school, I was vulnerable and it was too late.
I was 14 years old when I met a boy who would feed off of my mental illness and insecurities. I didn’t know any better and I fell into his trap, all the while he knew what he was doing. This relationship was where I really found out about mental illness. Between hospitalizations and abuse at the hands of my ex-partner, my life for many years was not my own.
I was first diagnosed with Bipolar disorder (which happened to be a misdiagnosis), but my master manipulator held this against me. “Loca, did you take your pills today,” he would ask. He would use this diagnosis against me for years to come. Especially when he would cheat and I would get angry, and upset. “You’re crazy,” he would say “Bipolar bitch,” if I got mad. But what did I do? I stayed.
Over the course of 8 years, I lost count how many times I hurt myself (not to mention the times he hurt me). I self-harmed, I stopped eating, I missed school and work and tried to kill myself. All I could think was why was I not good enough for this life, and why should I want to go on? If I wasn’t good enough for him, why would anyone else want me? I was in a deep, dark hole that I never imagined climbing out of. I would go weeks at a time without leaving my bedroom, without a shower, and a proper meal.
Then one day, a friend invited me on a girls trip to the Dominican Republic and Panama. It was the first time I’d travel out of the United States since I arrived, and the first time traveling without family. To be honest, I almost didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to leave the horrible relationship I was in, I also knew he would cheat on me while I was away. Crazy looking back how I put someone else before myself.
I ended up going, and while I stayed with the guy for a few more years, it was the beginning of my new life…
I vividly remember feeling this sort of awakening on that first trip. Think La Rosa de Guadalupe when that white rose appears. I was experiencing things on this trip that I just never realized were possible. Four months after that, I was on my way to Spain where I really got hit with the travel bug. I had traveled with family, but I explored the city alone. It was here that I realized soy fuerte, I can do this.
It still took me time to realize this. Two years after my first international trip, with 5 countries under my belt, bote ese pendejo. I slowly began to realize that life was so much more than my barrio. Life was more than the suffering I had survived. I may not have realized this if I hadn’t begun to travel. Who knows if I would have stayed in that toxic situation. Once I began to travel, I began to see what my mind and my body was capable of. What situations I could thrive in, and how to truly be myself.
I write this as I book my 6th country for 2018, 18th in total. A moment I truly did not expect to happen. I was 17 years old and I tried to die. I would never have experienced connecting with family in Cuba, a world wonder (Machu Picchu), Madrid, the sea of seven colors, returning to my birthplace, hiking mountains, and eating delicious food all over the world.
Later on, after years of treatment, pills, and hospitalizations I was correctly diagnosed with depression and anxiety. After years of domestic violence at the hands of my partner, and a very scary incident, I was diagnosed with PTSD. I will never sit here and pretend like my life is perfect now, it’s not. I have plenty of days where my anxiety gets the best of me and it’s hard to leave the house. What pushes me is that desire to learn about life. I feel as if I got a second chance to experience the beauty and wonders of this world. I will spend all the moments that I am allowed to continue exploring all the blessings of my day.
Remember: Mental illness is no laughing matter. Many if no most people will not show signs or symptoms of what they are internally processing. Please check in on your friends. Remind them life is more than this moment of despair. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7: 1-800-273-8255