The day after my birthday final yr, I started taking treatment after being identified with nervousness and dysthymia (a type of long-term melancholy). It was a troublesome resolution not solely as a result of I come from a household tradition the place psychological well being points are exhausting to handle, but additionally as a result of the holistic life-style I have been making an attempt to dwell by has robust critiques of Western medication. In keeping with the Facilities For Illness Management and Prevention, from 2015 to 2018, 13.2 % of Individuals ages 18 and over reported taking antidepressant treatment prior to now 30 days. Studies discovered that antidepressant use was additionally increased amongst girls than males in all ages group. And but motivational audio system and holistic healers usually convey a message that alludes to, “We now have to be stronger, dig deeper, and discover the answer inside us” — and never by taking meds. Too usually, myths surrounding melancholy are tied to a “unfavourable” mindset somewhat than chemical imbalances, leaving these of us who’ve been identified with emotions of disgrace. Listening to mentors and mates alike perpetuate this mentality made me afraid to hunt out psychiatric assist.
For me, the reply was dug deeply in locations that have been exhausting to succeed in, buried in my physique product of trauma that had me residing in fixed survival mode. Opening up about my story helped me dig out these truths about myself — permitting me to proceed on a therapeutic journey by embracing these truths overtly as an alternative of hiding and searching for exterior validation. I shared paragraphs from my psychiatric analysis in my most up-to-date e book, “How I Turned a Mermaid,” a narrative about selecting to change into a mermaid with the intention to heal. The e book is my trustworthy, magical, and at occasions gut-wrenching manifesto, about liberating myself from society’s conservative requirements of womanhood by letting myself embrace my fact as somebody scuffling with psychological well being points. It explores suicide, demise and rebirth, psychological well being points, nationalism, and belonging by means of a magical-realism lens.
And whereas I even have many reservations relating to Western medication, being open about taking treatment in my poetry helped me keep in mind to be tender with myself as I search stability.
As a substitute of hiding, I sought to have a good time my delusions and darkish cases. In a single a part of a poem about dancing the evening away on my own with a cup of wine and jazz enjoying, I ask myself, “I’m wondering if the neighbors can hear me / I’m wondering if I am la loca de la cuadra” — it was a method of claiming I used to be shamelessly embracing delirium. And whereas I even have many reservations relating to Western medication, being open about taking treatment in my poetry helped me keep in mind to be tender with myself as I search stability.
Placing my coronary heart and truths and darkest ideas on my sleeve on this method additionally felt like a method of uplifting myself amid a society that needs to shove psychological well being points below the rug. It felt like a method of reminding myself that I should not have to cover with the intention to be deserving of affection and softness. Being overtly delicate was essential in my therapeutic journey and find solutions to my interior turmoil — I used to be giving myself permission to really feel and love myself by means of these emotions.
Sharing photographs of my metaphorical transformation right into a mermaid on social media as a web based exhibit felt like I used to be shedding my pores and skin in a really actual sense past the pictures. It felt like I used to be exposing myself and subsequently pushing myself to recollect and really imagine I’m worthy regardless of what labels others may place on me — like “loopy,” “unwell,” or “rash.”
As somebody who works in media and depends on gigs I get on-line, I initially felt strain to censor myself, afraid that nobody would need to rent me. However by not censoring myself, I not solely defied these expectations but additionally redefined who I’m for me and any future employers. I used to be saying, you need to rent me not regardless of this however as a result of of this. As a result of I’m daring and I’m complicated and I’m standing in my fact. The story in “How I Turned a Mermaid” is about how I acquired to that place of darkness — from being a survivor of sexual assault and sexual harassment to residing in concern due to on-line harassment. It provides a critique of nationalism and Dominicanidad (my ethnic background) as somebody who was focused for writing about immigration points. The story within the e book is about how I grew uninterested in what was anticipated of me from a really younger age: I used to be anticipated to be dainty, to be nice, to be pleasing, to be servile, to get married, and to have youngsters. Because the saying goes, “Calladita te ves mas bonita.”
Turning into a mermaid and leaning into magical realism allowed me to think about one other sort of womanhood, one which I might outline for myself.
My father lately instructed me that he knew it could be exhausting for me to discover a husband as a result of I used to be impartial and males like girls who they’ll management — however that he nonetheless had hope. I used to be fed up and wished to imagine that I did not want a person to validate me as a human of value. Turning into a mermaid and leaning into magical realism allowed me to think about one other sort of womanhood, one which I might outline for myself. In science fiction, people have lengthy leaned into myths with the intention to face truths about themselves, utilizing transformation as a metaphor. Relating to mermaids, there are whole on-line communities of cis girls who establish with this archetype due to their affinity for water. Many trans girls additionally establish with mermaids and present out throughout events, festivals, and important occasions just like the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in NYC.
I’ve at all times felt a deep reference to water and its method of embracing us, so it is as if the mermaid archetype selected me. And I am not solely outlined by that archetype however by many others like fairies, aliens, and even beasts.
The web visuals along with the e book “How I Turned a Mermaid” have been a type of me saying, “I am bizarre, and that is OK.” Mockingly, in leaning deeply into my mermaidhood, I really felt my conviction as a girl rising and standing by myself two toes. I’m girl, one who’s sensible and one who additionally has her darkish moments, and through each cases, I’m greater than sufficient.
Picture Supply: Laura Peña