Pamela Maria Rodriguez
Don’t speak about your pain; others have it worse.
Why are you depressed?
You have a home. A family. Food.
Why are you so anxious? Just Relax.
A ti no se te puede decir nada, todo te hace llorar, todo te lastima.
Deja de ser dramática.
Phrases loudly sounded off throughout my upbringing.
There’s no grudge lodged in your heart against them (and by them, you mean those who loved you but failed to understand you). Because how can you condemn people for not knowing better; they weren’t permitted to process what they felt? The overly sensitive dramatica in you wishes someone did allow them to feel; it would’ve made your hurt a bit lighter. You come from a place of love: your family loved you and supported you at their bandwidth. All that love, though, doesn’t justify that those who loved you made you feel weak for feeling more than the rest.
In the Hispanic community, mental health is taboo, a myth; mental health means “being dramática.” It’s being ungrateful, not being in tune with your blessings and what God has done for you. A society that deems mental health taboo never explores self-awareness because that would mean accepting that we aren’t perfect, that your parents could’ve been wrong, aunque ellos siempre sabían todo y tu nunca sabias nada.
Mami didn’t know you were in agony; she almost arrived home to find her daughter not breathing. You looked her in the eyes and said, “Mami, necesito ir a terapia.” Tears terrorized your throat as you uttered these words. You feared disappointing her and making her feel as though she’d done something wrong. Mami was startled. She stuttered in disbelief, “Pero Pamela, qué te pasa. Puedes hablar conmigo, yo soy tu mama.” She refused to accept that you needed something she could never give, even if she tried.
For so long, it was “why do I complain?” Tearing yourself apart for excessively crying and possessing too many feelings. You’d succumb to the powerlessness of an anxiety attack.
“Tu no vas a llorar lágrimas de sangre.” You would hear through your crying and breathing.
Your fear was that you would collapse and s t o p b r e a t h i n g—or maybe you hoped you would.
“There’s no reason to throw up every time you cry, deja el drama.”
A broken record repeating what you were told over and over all those years, so embedded in you that you convinced yourself what you felt wasn’t real or worth understanding. With no understanding of mental health, your culture led you to believe que tu eras loca o demasiado dramática o peor mala agradecida con todo lo que dios te ha dado.
Pam, you knew at 12 that you had a chemical imbalance before a therapist confirmed the diagnosis. But it wasn’t until you were on the floor losing your breath in early January of 2021, having to be rescued, that you sought the courage to come face to face with la dramatica and acknowledge that it was, in fact, an illness.
Depression and anxiety are your batches of honor that you carry so gracefully. The strength to hide your sadness is long gone. For the more significant part of your life, you convinced yourself you could be happy, all while experiencing massive anxiety and suppressing your emotions so as not to disappoint—to avoid being labeled a malagradecida because other people had it worse.
At 27, after a year and a half of therapy, you understand that you threw up every time you cried because your body was experiencing anxiety 8 out of 10 times. Your body was pleading to “LISTEN.” If there’s anything you’ve learned in the last year and a half, two things can be true: you can be depressed and still love life. You can be anxious and also find pockets of peace throughout your days.
You’ve learned to resist the urge to roar at people about their lack of understanding. Instead, you've implemented writing and speaking tools to educate your family, friends, and, truthfully, whoever listens. Little Pam sometimes feels angry because now, as a self-aware adult, you can’t comprehend how no one ever tried being this self-aware for you.
La dramatica now raises her voice, ella es una mujer empoderada; a veces ansiosa, aveces un poco triste pero prometí no callar. That's the silver lining of working on your self-awareness and mental health; it makes you question everything.
No lo hago por mi, porque ya yo lo sufri, lo estoy viviendo y lo estoy superando. Lo hago por Amelia, por Laura, por una futura Penelope. Para que ellas sepan que sentir mucho, amar en abundancia, pensar interminablemente no te hace débil, te hace una mariposa.
La dramática se convierte en una mariposa voladora que aprecia su tiempo en el cacoon—moldeando sus sentimientos para un dia expresarlos con voz fuerte y decirle al mundo: “Yo soy sensible, yo soy ansiosa, yo tengo depresión pero nada de eso me define, la única que define quien soy—soy yo.
I'll tell you one thing… you’re going to be okay.
Keep writing because I am listening. Keep speaking on mental illness because there's a little Pam, a little Ari, and a little Bri that needs to hear your words. Someone out there needs to find the strength to tell their mami they are depressed and get the help they deserve before it is too late.
You are worth breathing for; you are worth fighting for; you are worth speaking up for even when it feels like a full-time job; those days, fight harder.
With love, hope & grace
Pamela Maria Rodriguez is a Dominican-born writer. She leads a life with love and kindness, striving to reach at least one person daily through her daily cafecitoconpam post on Instagram. When not consumed with work, she spends time with family, traveling, or writing in her collection of notebooks. Pamela is working on her first collection of essays and poems where she reminds readers to Aceptar: el proceso de dejar ir la idea de lo que crees querer.