My mental health has taken a backseat as I try to find my way through what I'm feeling. It seems so funny to think I thought I had a grasp on it before because now it feels like I'm at the end of a rope and only so much is left to hold onto.
Besides the weight of having to grow up and leave a part of myself behind, a lot around me has changed. My friends that I once would be so excited to see now seem more and more like strangers every time we get together. My parents finally divorced after years of so much anger and pain. When it started getting real, I felt relieved, but as time went on, the house began to feel so empty, and it was hard to call it home.
“I tell myself to not think about it too much — that I’m just in my head — but this feeling leaves me wondering, then aching, then hopeless. This person I was just a few years ago is a stranger even to myself. It all accumulated as I can’t help but keep my pain to myself.”
In a way, I can’t seem to let go of the past because of how I’m feeling now. I keep trying to trace my life back to a happy memory, but they flee from me. I know a version of me is in my memories, who hasn’t been through what I have, and I wish it stopped there.
The last few months have been filled with schoolwork and a lot of thought processing. Trying to see where I’ll end up in my head is draining at times, but I know I need a plan. As I grow, I feel more distant from my family than before — I guess from everyone I’m around. I tell myself it’s not fair to them that I feel how I do, and even if they asked me, I might never have the capability to truly explain how I feel.
One thing that helped me avoid my pain was substances like weed and psychedelics, which I used to drown out the noise. It was like lying in a pool where all I felt in my chest was warmness. But eventually, that warmness turned into numbness, and the battle I have with letting it go is still going on. It's one of the few things keeping me in this cycle and letting it go feels like letting go of someone who truly understands what I feel.
The subjects I’m learning at Contra Costa College have had a pretty good effect on me, despite how I feel overall. Taking La Raza Studies and learning the history of people like me evoked strong emotions. All the pain that had to be endured for someone like me to have a shot in this country leaves me feeling so angry by the time class is over.
But it also gets my mind off of what I’m feeling inside and directs my energy toward wanting to change the unspoken rules we live by. I think most of my pain was brought on by learning how much pain this country was built on and how deceitful those in power can be to their own people. Learning about myself has caused me to shut myself in because I feel like I have to do it on my own. If I told my friends everything I learned, I'd just ruin the vibe. The truth is so much uglier than we know.
A creative outlet I’ve been trying is poetry. When I try to explain myself, it always comes out jumbled, and it's hardly ever what I really want to say. Trying to explain me makes me feel so defeated because I can’t actually do it, but with poetry, I feel free to speak in metaphors and use as many or as few words as I want. I used to write often and be with my friends often and want to go places more often, but every morning for the past few months, I think of ways to just lie in bed forever.
My parents didn’t raise me to be the way I am now; I think I did this to myself. But since they aren’t around for me like they were when I was younger, I have to be the one to parent myself out of this. I have to comfort myself even when I feel helpless. I have to put in the work to make a difference. I’ve been battling for so long and to give up — even thinking about it makes me feel emptier than before.
I’d say the major force in my life that’s keeping me driven is love. I so believe in love and its ability to heal and nurture and I have the luck to be in love with my girlfriend of almost three years. She’s the hand I reach for when I feel like I’m drowning, and she lifts me, tells me it's OK and that it's normal to feel. She helps me remind myself that I don’t have to do this alone. I don't have to battle with myself every day, and I can confide in another person and trust them to be there for me. I believe love will be that force that pushes me away from the negative in my life. I think it has that kind of power.
This story was produced by Richmond Pulse and is part of a collaborative project “You’re Not Alone” that includes content from young journalists from Boyle Heights Beat, Coachella Unincorporated, The kNOw, Richmond Pulse, Voices of Monterey Bay, We’Ced and YR Media.