Often adversities feel like little open heart surgeries, in which our feelings forcefully resurface. In order to heal, your body should undergo a period of recovery, lasting a few weeks. Throughout this time your body readjusts to old activities and gradually replenishes. 

Emotional suffering, has a similar approach. If we don’t tend to our emotional wounds and give ourselves space and time to recover, the hardship continues and the pain becomes unbearable.

@allherwords

Therefore, today as we head toward uncertain circumstances, I encourage everyone to take a moment and think of those wounds that need healing by scrolling through this small piece of writing with an open heart. It’s important that we understand that in order to feel strong we must first feel weak and that your feelings should never be stigmatized. On this special month, mental health awareness month, let’s take a moment to acknowledge and cater to our mental health.

On my journey to reduce mental health stigma, today I join you as I share what has been my emotional recovery story. With all hesitations and insecurities set aside, I’d like to dedicate this piece to my dad, who passed away 9 years ago this month, and to my dear friend Mike. Your memories will always remain deeply in everybody’s heart.

My story begins with my dad. Every morning he woke up at about 5:00 am, ran his many miles, and began his daily routine as he worked hard to offer us a worthy lifestyle. We all idolized him and held him as our prime example of good health. He held on to these healthy routines for as long as I can remember. Yet, sadly, they were not sufficient.

His death has taken me many years to unravel. But, today I understand that his physical persona was standing in the way of his deepest fears, shielding the mental health deteriorating inside of him. For many days and years, he quietly carried on his shoulder what is known as depression. It seemed surreal, but whom we thought was the “healthiest man alive” was suffering from mental illness.

I was a young teenager going through the infamous obstacles of high school and did not truly grasp the importance of a mental illness. But in retrospect, perhaps none of us truly understood, nor did we push to understand. Don’t get me wrong, we never

stigmatized him, we never marginalized him. But, that’s the thing, stigma cultivates from a world not speaking up and not understanding. So, it is probable that in my dad’s mind he had to live up to his societal standards, which dictated that he should be the breadwinner of the family and that he should remain tough.

I recognize this today, because, after my dad’s passing, I too came face to face with mental illness. I also had to fight my own battle with the mental health stigma that kept me from fully recovering. However, fortunately, unlike my father, I have won that battle and for that reason today I share this story with you guys.

Mental illness has affected every aspect of my life and everyone in it. As I perceive this from the other side of the bridge, it’s inevitable to recognize that this has brought immense suffering to myself and to those who have fought relentlessly by my side. But it is that effort which has allowed me to persevere and has allowed me to view my vulnerabilities as my personal superpower. This superpower has flickered the light back inside of me and, more importantly, has taught me to fall in love with myself.

However, this hasn’t occurred easily; for many years I’ve had to confront the many monsters of society. Throughout college, I had to constantly step over the agonizing and degrading words of my supposedly friends telling me “you’re crazy”, “you need more medication”. I had to defeat the thoughts that echoed in my head saying that because of my condition I would never be able to have a valuable career. I eventually realized that this was simply a false image of myself creeping into my mind and I wasn’t going to allow it to keep on invading without my authority. From then on, I have never again allowed society to label me nor define my future.

My mental illness has also given me the ability to be humble and empathetic toward those undergoing their own adversities. For that reason, today, I tell you that you too can put down that baggage, which society has time after time told you that defines you. Don’t listen to society telling you to suppress your emotions and accept and acknowledge that they are an essential part of our human process. Our mind is a powerful machine; therefore, we must learn to constantly dissect it and appreciate the authentic content inside of it.

For the first time, on this year, on this month, and on this difficult event, from the comfort of my home, I celebrate with my family and with you guys a month in which we are capable of contemplating our feelings, a month to sit down and have open hearted conversations, a month to be authentic, a month to understand one another, and, most of all, a month in which we have the opportunity to acknowledge and embrace our own mental health.

Written by: Daniela Hernandez

Edits by: Maria Camila Hernandez

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