My Mental Health
During this pandemic, I had to really look at my mental state and my overall mental health. I am a very social person and having to go through over a year of a pandemic and isolation really took a toll on me.
I feel that I am a very strong and confident person but even I sometimes struggle with mental health. During the height of the pandemic, I was not able to be social with coworkers, friends, or with family which really affected my mental state.
The pandemic's impact on socializing
I started feeling like I did not have many people to talk to because the times I would talk to people were when I saw them out at a bar or a club on the weekends. Having my weekends to go out with friends and meet new people was something I looked forward to towards the end of my work week.
At my job, I was also able to have open discussions with people while I was facilitating men’s workshops which provided an outlet for me to be social. Due to the pandemic, all the workshops that I facilitated had to stop to align with social distancing guidelines.
For most of the pandemic, my family did not want to gather around one another which made me feel alone at times. I live on my own so not being able to go and visit my family and talk to them and hug them in person was a very lonely feeling.
I can agree that people sometimes keep their mental health struggles pent up inside due to a variety of reasons. I, for one, was one of those individuals.
Therapy to address suppressed feelings
Prior to the pandemic, I started to see a therapist because I felt like I was holding a lot of things in especially around the death of my grandmother and past traumas with relationships.
Now thinking back on it, these are both things that I did not want to deal with in my life at the time which is why I may have suppressed them so much. I realized that I wanted to speak to someone about what was going on in my head so I decided to seek therapy.
I went to a few therapy sessions before stopping due to a busy work schedule, school, and COVID-19. It wasn’t until almost a year into the pandemic when I realized that I really did need to speak to someone again.
My history with mental health care
I feel that as a person of color, I was never taught to put mental health at the forefront of my health. I remember growing up and barely getting a routine check-up every few years. To me, seeing a therapist wasn’t on my mind, but what was on my mind were all the issues I had going on and how I was not really dealing with them.
I realized that part of my job was counseling individuals who looked and loved just like me, but I wasn’t taking the steps to seek counseling for myself.
How I felt when my 2 sisters went to therapy
I remember having 2 smaller sisters who had to go to therapy because of issues with their father when we were younger, but no one ever asked me if I needed therapy. My mother would take my 2 sisters with her weekly to speak to someone.
As a teen, I remember holding inside the urge to tell my mother that I wanted to go with them to express my own feelings. The reasoning behind my mother not taking me was that my 2 sisters had a different father than I did. I always felt that I also needed the therapy when I was younger because, for a very long time, he was the only father figure I knew because my own father was not in the picture.
I felt, being the only boy in a Latinx family, that I was not able to show my weakness because my mother always told me to be strong and a man for her and my sisters.
Why I kept my issues pent up inside
I can only speak from experience when I say that the reason I kept my mental health issues pent up inside is because I did not want to face them straight on. It was much easier putting it on the back burner rather than really trying to understand where the feelings were coming from.
I was the only man in my home growing up, so I wanted to make sure I stayed strong and confident in the eyes of my mother and 2 sisters. It was not until I graduated that I knew I had my own issues around my father who I did not talk to.
My initial push to go to therapy was when my grandmother - who was like a father figure to me - passed away. Her passing brought back old and new issues around my father removing himself from my life. It felt as if I lost a father all over again.
Mental health for people living with HIV
The pandemic really put into perspective how much I may have suppressed my feelings towards seeking therapy especially because I felt like I did not have anyone to speak to. It is very important to take a holistic approach to our health; even though I may have been working on my physical health, I also had to start focusing on my mental health.
I now know that it is very important to seek mental health care because we need to be able to pinpoint the root of our traumas. We are all human - full of emotions, triggers, and pride. How we deal with all those things is how we differ from one another.
Being Latinx, gay, and HIV-positive in the community today can still be a struggle. I must continue to make sure that I am taking care of mental health because it will push me every day to thrive and do the work that I am passionate about. Seeking mental health services will also continue to teach me to put myself first.
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