Like Anzaldua I have attempted carrying home on my back but sometimes carrying home includes carrying a lot more, to the point that it becomes overbearing. I have been divulging in the words of Eden E. Torres the Chicana academic who brought us Chicana Without Apology; however, her words struck me when she began talking about the difficulty in maintaining mental health. And I wondered, what happens when home becomes a threat to your mental health?
I’d like to start with a quote by Friedrich Nietzche—“the most spiritual human beings, assuming they are the most courageous, also experience by far the most painful tragedies; but it is precisely for this reason that they honor life, because it brings against them its most formidable weapons” And what does that mean to a queer Chicana who has struggled with mental health issues from a young age?
Let me take you back. I suffer from a history of mental health issues and I have to protect myself in a way that I am able to maintain my wellbeing not only for myself, but for those who share a home with me too. It is our responsibility to hold ourselves accountable first to stop ourselves from perpetuating trauma within our home through conscious acts of healing. That we must learn to heal to make good use of our pain and our coraje in order to continue fostering loving relationships within the home and for our community.
It is difficult to live within a home where situations or persons continuously harms us through their actions—actions that create a hostile and dehumanizing environment within our home. A part of healing includes being able to set boundaries for our own protection—away from pain. Unfortunately, we have become accepting of pain enough to live with it and re-create it even within our own home. A part of healing and allowing others to heal is a part of setting boundaries to protect ourselves even from the ones we love and the ones that say they love us but do not show it through their actions.
Like Eden Torres states, it is crucial to protect ourselves against overwhelming pain. We would rather become numb to pain—separating us from that experience that brings us so much trauma.
Through these years of pain and suffering I have found music and art to be healing. But I have noticed that I have been coping in ways that numb that pain within me, ways I would prefer not to engage in but because I more than often find myself unable to reach out I’d rather maintain that grief within me. But like Eden states, grief held within is a wound that will not heal and more so now that a normal mourning process has been interrupted by the ordinary need to survive. And thus I push my grieving behind, thus I push my mental health to the side because I would rather not talk about these issues. Thus I now come out with my story to reach out to other women of color who also struggle with maintaining mental health while striving to construct loving homes and maintain family.
As a graduate student of color in a white-dominant university, I have to maintain my mental health to make sure I wake up everyday to put on my warrior mascara, a mascara that yells CHINGONA as I walk through those halls knowing that people assume I do not belong there. That mascara along with my warrior botas give me strength. Although there are days I would rather not show up to lecture and instead I would rather rage, yell, and scream, which is in itself a form of healing, but I also need to make sure I show-up to work in order to pay my way through graduate school. I do not want to go back to being the person I used to be before a series of years of intense therapy and counseling. I do not want to go back to being that depressed and suicidal person that believes running away from her problems is an easier route.
So I ask you all to be mindful of your mental well-being as well as of others. To those who have attempted to foster a loving home for me, I am not running away from you or our familia, but I need to define those boundaries for my own well being, for my mental health, and simply so I can continue striving rather than just surviving.
Know that I am not pushing anyone away. If anything I hope this serves as a lesson that pushing away the people you love will not create any meaningful change, but if that is your only option then by all means do what is best for your situation. However, I would like to point out that it is not fair to push people that we once loved away from our corazon. That if we are to create family and community we need to accept that people are within their own journeys. That we are not here to judge (which is different from holding someone accountable) but embrace one another for our fortaleza acknowledging that living and waking up everyday is strength passed down from our ancestors. And that the legacies within us, the histories we have endured are not meant to harm one another.
Let us celebrate our existence; look at the strength it has taken us to survive this history and our current situation(s). Look at the strength it has taken people struggling with mental health to continue being here, living. If anything our ancestors embraced both life and death, but we more than often forget to embrace being alive and we would rather continue living as dead, but let us not forget about one another, let us not work against one another. Let us begin to embrace one another through conscious ways of healing. And as Anzaldua states, may we continue dancing in the face of our fears.