My name is Maria Guadalupe Zaragoza Barajas, and I am an immigrant from Mexico. In 2010, my family moved to California, to escape a world of poverty, violence, and no education. I have lived in all parts of the Bay Area like many others that face high rents and evictions. I am passionate about healing and undocumented rights.
In the past few years, I have faced evictions, unsafe housing situations, and family facing drug-related issues, while trying to pursue higher education and taking care of my two younger siblings. As the older daughter, there is a lot of responsibility and pressure in this role. I was facing deep depression, anxiety, and burnout as I was trying to keep my family and education afloat. I ended up falling out of college, and had to find ways to numb the pain in order to survive everyday. I no longer recognized who I was. I grew quiet and angry, and my thoughts moved faster than I could ever move physically. I was facing all of this while trying to support family members whose mental health and physical safety were at risk. I often wonder how I avoided reaching a point of no return.
While facing these struggles and mental health issues, I had the support of the community. I am thankful to have found a community that supported me in finding housing, jobs, healing centers, and just support. I think mental health services and support cannot work if there are no intentions and love behind it. I think we are in a generation where many think healing looks beautiful, while in reality healing is ugly and painful; It’s breaking down, being the ugliest form of yourself as you are purging out those toxic parts and mechanisms that no longer work to keep you alive. For mental health to work those resources and support systems must allow for growth, breakdowns, failure, and bring non judgment, and no disposal of individuals through canceled culture. I had people in my life who kept me accountable for moving forward. This experience differed from person to person;the healing process with some challenged me and put me in uncomfortable situations, whereas others felt good and comforting. These experiences ranged from sharing a meal to a conversation, to get my mind out of what was going on and allowed me to heal. Others were forcing me to have uncomfortable and painful conversations about boundaries, decisions of moving out, and reaching out to rehab-like organizations. They also reminded me to simply be forgiving, show love and affection, and not allow anger and depression to make me bitter. I also tapped into mental health therapy and spiritual healing, and believe it or not, hope and faith are key to mental health success.
Currently, I have a positive and growing relationship with my family. I am learning to communicate. I think my perspective of life and present circumstances still are a roller coaster and my response and mental health are not perfect, which they will never be. I allow myself to be forgiving and learn from my experiences with mental health, and how I can just try and apply myself better. I see now that I have control of myself, from my breath that controls my body, to what direction I am going; I might not be where I want, but I do know that I am doing good. I have accomplished, and I am healing my family lineage in many ways. I see how my actions and changes have made positive consequences on my family’s own mental health and safety such as that of my younger siblings and the little ones that I am a role model to. One of the most important things is, I have found my people. As an immigrant in this country, that can be challenging, especially from a cultural background where the community is in every aspect of our lives. Community is what holds me up when I cannot do that for myself.