I’m Afro-Latina, And Battling Anxiety Has Taught Me to Destigmatize Mental Wellness In My Community – Jenay Wright

I pull out my chair at the dinner table. You can hear the stirring of the goya rice scratching against the bottom of the pot. In the back of my mind, I know that concon is going to hit the spot with the slap of ketchup on top. That usual savoring smell of well seasoned sazon chicken. My taste buds were definitely tingling at this point. I was ready to eat well. Just a typical day in the hood and pretty much a repetitive routine during dinner. There were always talks and discussions about school days or a favorite television show. We laughed so loud over the hyperventilating chest at the end table. 

Her heart pumped swiftly and no one noticed because she hid it so well. She played a game of hiding and seek with her anxiety because that was instilled in her. It was all new. The shaking of her hands and the heaviness on her chest remained silent during her panic attacks. If there was a cry for help or even a weep  she was told to just pray about it and God will take control. Her depression, anxiety, stressed and suicidal thoughts carried over the years and were never truly addressed. What is there really left to do she asked herself? Nothing, she just suffocated those issues and kept it bottled inside which just worsened by the days. 

Growing up in the boogie down amongst the Black and Latinx communities, admitting you had any mental health condition you were considered crazy. Having panic attacks or depression you were consistently looked down upon or severely isolated. This stigma still exists within mostly ethnic minority groups.  Neglecting mental health is a serious matter and this mindset has been passed down from generations before us. As a Black Latina who constantly battles with anxiety and depression, I want to say this is a problem and we must break this barrier. There are so many lives that can be saved and there so many people who can get the right help they need with their situation. Many people like myself have lived in denial for so long. If I sought help I would be judged or treated less than. The most vital factor was as each day passed on my mental health was getting worse. I knew I wasn’t the only negrita in the world who needed deep healing and the space to open up and speak about my problems.

For both the Black and Latinx communities. it was imperative to find a community for like-minded individuals. Tia, I am sorry but I will need more than the rosary and the Sagrado Corazon De Jesus candle for my anxiety and depression. Yes! Jesus can help and fix things but it also takes that person to put the work in. Through acceptance and taking steps towards wellness and challenging the ostracization that was drilled into us. We are going to work on educating abuelitas, tias, aunts, and uncles who think therapy doesn’t work and is for the “locos”. We begin with older generations and work our way down to millennials. This was the only way to break the chain and begin raising awareness of mental health. If we don’t do it ourselves who else will.

The lack of resources in urban and inner-city neighborhoods plays a role in why many don’t seek help while battling with mental health. However, I do take ownership and full responsibility abandoning my anxiety for so long. It went from having panic attacks once or twice a year to every other week. It became unmanageable and intensified which was a huge mistake. 

A double whammy of stress and anxiety hit me. I cried. I prayed. I held it in. I drank tequila. I did everything I thought was best for me that would help get over this feeling. It was blatant that wasn’t the way to go. I encourage my reinas to seek therapy and talk to someone. Therapy is an essential tool that can be used to help you get through your dark times. It will provide the coping skills that can be utilized to help you manage whatever you are battling. 

So let’s begin the conversation about the importance of mental health and shed light on this topic that is impacting so many lives. It doesn’t make you a “nut case” or someone who belongs in a “mental institution”. It actually makes you stronger and five steps ahead. You are evolving, progressing, and working towards feeling and being better. Try to sway away from the negative sentiments because this will not help you grow emotionally. Sis, I am a living example! 

I want this to be your wake up call and a movement we address collectively. Let’s change our minds and protect the hearts of our future sisters. There are so many outlets and professionals that have the skillset to set you free. People who look like me and you. You deserve the same access and resources. We are not overly dramatic hermanita we are healing! 


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