The day after my birthday final 12 months, I started taking remedy after being identified with nervousness and dysthymia (a type of long-term despair). It was a tricky resolution not solely as a result of I come from a household tradition the place psychological well being points are exhausting to deal with, but in addition as a result of the holistic way of life I have been attempting to dwell by has sturdy critiques of Western medication. In response to the Facilities For Illness Management and Prevention, from 2015 to 2018, 13.2 % of Individuals ages 18 and over reported taking antidepressant remedy up to now 30 days. Reviews 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’ve to be stronger, dig deeper, and discover the answer inside us” — and never by taking meds. Too usually, myths surrounding despair are tied to a “detrimental” mindset quite 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 achieve, buried in my physique manufactured from trauma that had me dwelling 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 a substitute of hiding and in search of 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 develop into a mermaid with a purpose to heal. The e book is my sincere, magical, and at instances gut-wrenching manifesto, about liberating myself from society’s conservative requirements of womanhood by letting myself embrace my reality as somebody battling psychological well being points. It explores suicide, loss of life and rebirth, psychological well being points, nationalism, and belonging via a magical-realism lens.
And whereas I even have many reservations relating to Western medication, being open about taking remedy in my poetry helped me keep in mind to be tender with myself as I search stability.
As an alternative of hiding, I sought to rejoice my delusions and darkish situations. In a single a part of a poem about dancing the night time away on my own with a cup of wine and jazz taking part in, I ask myself, “I ponder if the neighbors can hear me / I ponder if I am la loca de la cuadra” — it was a means of claiming I used to be shamelessly embracing delirium. And whereas I even have many reservations relating to Western medication, being open about taking remedy 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 means additionally felt like a means of uplifting myself amid a society that needs to shove psychological well being points underneath the rug. It felt like a means of reminding myself that I should not have to cover with a purpose to be deserving of affection and softness. Being overtly gentle was essential in my therapeutic journey and to find solutions to my interior turmoil — I used to be giving myself permission to really feel and love myself via these emotions.
Sharing photos 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 due to this fact pushing myself to recollect and actually imagine I’m worthy regardless of what labels others would possibly 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 in addition 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 advanced and I’m standing in my reality. The story in “How I Turned a Mermaid” is about how I received to that place of darkness — from being a survivor of sexual assault and sexual harassment to dwelling in worry due to on-line harassment. It presents 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 bored with 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 children. Because the saying goes, “Calladita te ves mas bonita.”
Changing 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 not too long ago 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 will management — however that he nonetheless had hope. I used to be fed up and needed to imagine that I did not want a person to validate me as a human of value. Changing 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 a purpose to face truths about themselves, utilizing transformation as a metaphor. In relation to mermaids, there are complete 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 vital occasions just like the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in NYC.
I’ve at all times felt a deep reference to water and its means 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 net 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.” Satirically, in leaning deeply into my mermaidhood, I truly felt my conviction as a girl rising and standing by myself two ft. I’m girl, one who’s sensible and one who additionally has her darkish moments, and through each situations, I’m greater than sufficient.
Picture Supply: Laura Peña