The Anxiety I Can’t Express
Mental health talk has been taboo among Latinx people for too long
My anxiety is basically this: scared when my husband goes to work, apprehensive to read the morning news, distressed and angered by White people who constantly question my place of birth and feeling hopeless over the handling of asylum seekers. Anxiety looms, but I have no other choice but to keep going. While this issue for Latinx people can vary between the undocumented and documented, it is still there, persistent and constant.
I’ve had two major anxiety attacks. The first (senior year of college) was a sheer panic that I experienced at a movie theater. I had no idea what was happening to me. The second attack came when I was in my 20s, and that felt completely different. I felt a sharp sensation of vertigo that prevented me from once again being in an enclosed space. That last attack drove me to see a therapist for the first time. After years of talking things out, it became clear that I, and all of my siblings, suffer from deep anxiety related to fear of abandonment.
My parents did do a lot for us. They worked damn hard their entire lives, whether by cleaning up after people or working in a factory. But all of that work led to neglectfulness, and we were the result of that.
Speaking with a therapist about my anxiety and speaking to my parents about my mental health issues are two different things. The notion of paying to talk to someone about your feelings is absurd to the majority of older Latinx people. Mental health isn’t a priority to them and certainly not something you discuss openly — let alone to a stranger. To them, even going to a regular doctor for serious reasons is a last resort.
If I were to express that vulnerability to my parents, it would most likely lead to an “after all we’ve done for you” sort of argument, or hurt feelings. Maybe both. And my parents did do a lot for us. They worked damn hard their entire lives…