By: Dior Vargas
Morning. I wake up and hope that this will be a good day. Sometimes it depends on if I’ve been regularly taking my damn medication. Like a vieja with her pastillas. Most mornings it takes me at least 3 alarms to wake up. I feel this tremendous weight on my body as I drag myself out of bed. Sometimes it physically hurts. As I stumble into the bathroom I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Ugh. Eres tan gorda. But I keep it moving. I gotta hurry up and get to work. I choose what I’ll wear that day, another reminder of how much weight I’ve gained, and how much prettier I would be if I had stayed slim. Again, I see that the longer I take to get myself together, the later I will arrive to work. I remind myself that at least I have a job. Others are not so lucky. This is just one version of what I tell myself everyday so I won’t be viewed as malcriada or malagradecida.
On my way to work, I see the gentrification and the White bodies that fill this once Brown part of the city. It angers me, which then depresses me. But I keep it moving. So many things go through my head on the way to work. I wish I didn’t think so much. I don’t want to think of the racism I’ve experienced and still do. I don’t want to think of the ignorant or extremely stupid views of others who take their privilege for granted. I can go on and on. Relajate, Por Dios!
Before entering the office, I get coffee and breakfast. I never wake up early enough to take care of that at home. I know that the coffee will keep me up and maintain my productivity so I don’t feel like a complete failure at being a competent adult. There is a saying, that if we spoke to others like we speak to ourselves we would have no friends. Ha! There are times when I can’t stand being me. If I weren’t me I wouldn’t be my friend. There are times when my job can get my mind off of things. Things get so busy that I don’t have time to dwell on what’s going on in my life. However, it doesn’t remove the innate feeling of discontentment inside. There are times when my depression has affected my job performance. It takes away the excitement of everything. For years, I saw this hovering cloud like Eeyore or a bell jar trapping me. Yes, Sylvia Plath was a White woman. But who could I look to who actually looks like me to find commonality in this suffering? It took years for me to find out that I wasn’t the only Latina suffering from this. But when you don’t talk about this stuff, or are only told about the family member who committed suicide, it is painted as something rare, or that there was something wrong, weak about him.
I’m not sure if being a feminist contributes to my depression only in that I have this as a lens through which I view everything. Therefore, I dissect every little thing and how it connects to my being a woman, Latina, and growing up in a lower class family. Nothing can ever be taken at face value, at least not for me. However, I would rather be aware of all the injustices and inequalities in this world than be naïve. This makes me who I am. I’m reminded of when I came out as a feminist to my mom. The first thing she asked was, are you a lesbian? Even with feminism, there is some sort of stigma. However, mental health stigma in my community is far more hurtful. Like my feminism, queer identity, and depression, she thought it was a phase. I cannot pick and choose my identity.
After work, when I see my mom and vent I’m told to pray to God. This way I can find peace in the pain. It wasn’t always like this, though. I remember my mother telling me to snap out of it and stop being a cry baby. Crying was a sign of weakness in her eyes. Maybe it’s because she’s older that she has become more religious. Either way, I try not to pay her much attention. Easier said than done. When you’re constantly reminded of how your biological father didn’t care to stay around or deal with your mierda (crying, complaining, any symptom of depression at all, to be honest), you can’t help but feel bad about yourself. But mainly, you feel indebted and a complete burden to the parent that stayed and put up with you. Unfortunately, my mom’s thoughts are extremely influential to me. In terms of toughening up, anyhow. Apparently, depression is weakness and the way to combat it is to toughen up. You’re obviously too immature and not strong enough to get better.
I remember my mom telling me that before my father left, I was a spunky, sassy little thing. I was always so happy and laughing all the time. Whatever happened to that Dior? She is still in there. I just am in constant work to pull her out and show her off. I have my good days when she decides to sneak out, but I also have my bad days. Those days will always come back. I just have to learn to take care of myself and to tell myself that this will pass. I preach about self-care in my activism but I’m the last one to practice it. I need to honor my emotions, no matter how annoying they can be. I remember my therapist telling me all of this and all I could think of is, que pendejada. It’s not stupid. If I am to be a support for others like me I need to acknowledge the importance of this.
Monday, July 11, 1995
“My life is over
My mother says no,
my life is not over
Well I think so”
Written in pencil
Pressing so hard
The paper began to bubble and welt like a burn that I had inflicted upon myself
The dark charcoal of the lead
Reminiscent of the charcoal they used to detox my body
Just another one of my attempts
Yet that was the one that almost took
Now everyday you’re looking for reasons
Anything to say it was worth NOT dying for
I hear my mother’s words
Ya está bueno!
It is really enough?
As if this is a phase that I will slowly
Never truly having a place to call home
I don’t want to dwell in a sorrow that is my own
I want to reside in someone else’s
In order to feel something,
other than myself
But I need to feel
I need this experience
in order to do this work that
terrifies me so
Yet finally gives sense to what’s been all along
July 14, 2014:
“My life is NOT over
and I smile
my life continues
in order to help others,
mis hermanas, feel the same”
Sigue y Sigue is the first of a series of pieces encouraging Puerto Ricans to share with us their unique take on their Puerto Rican identities, and the identities and aspects of their life that intersect with it to bring a fuller, more nuanced context to what it means to be Puerto Rican.
Dior Vargas is a Latina feminist, mental health activist, and suicide survivor. She lives in New York City.