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Lo Que No Decimos

by Estel Arias

My parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic for what they believed would be a better life, but instead developed NYC-bred anxiety, which I then inherited.

Hustle and survival mentality, an undiagnosed disease, has caused silent depression inside the bodies of those who wanted an out. Yearning for rest and ways to distress, you don't realize you're struggling until you sit alone long enough to sense yourself decomposing.

In 2020, the pandemic—and the uncertainty of where the world stood—crept into our lives. For the first time in a long time, I sat long enough with my thoughts. Discovering how unhealthy my inner dialogue was, I sought a specialist, was diagnosed with severe depression by my primary physician, and was prescribed antidepressants for the first time.

Pero, what was mami going to say when she discovered my prescription in our medicine cabinet? How would I convey to mami que su hija is not of sound mind and, at this moment, requires support?

As I sit with her, consuming the typical meal, la Bandera, she notices the medication.

¿Y eso?

Instantly, I felt a knot in my throat, and my eyes watered. Mortified. Vulnerable. Weak.

¿Cómo le digo a mami que necesito ayuda?

As I opened my mouth to explain, tears cascaded down my cheeks, yet no words slipped past my lips. How do I tell my mother que su hija is taking antidepressants? While I believe God heals, I take steps toward healing myself. Getting medication was my way of moving my feet. So, how do I avoid her suggestion to simply pray it away?

Reflecting on how papi's machismo and mami's orgullo won't let them succumb to these same tears. I decided to offload the unspoken and eradicate the stigma, looking for strength inward to find release. Our elders, parents, and children deserve to be free from the shackles of generational silences.

However conflicted I may be, I wish for my children and grandchildren to be spared of this burden, of the guilt inherited from their elders. This anxiety forbids them from expressing themselves or reaching out for help. Our community needs transparency, vulnerability, and love.

A pivotal moment for us, during cafecito time with mami, we reflected on how the silence of our emotions perpetuated and instilled harm in our community and us.

¿Y porque no, verdad?


Estel Arias is a first-generation Dominican-American writer born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Her lust for the written word stemmed from reading LatinX memoirs and novels; she hungers to document her life experiences, womanhood, and Dominican identity through the art of storytelling. Estel is a Smith College graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Education. She is passionate about eradicating mental health stigma within the Dominican community. When she's not coaching BIPOC youth and leveraging upward mobility for their families, she enjoys dancing and exploring the city.

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