Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
My name is Veronica Lombo. I am the daughter of two Filipino immigrants. My parents moved to the United States from the Philippines in the 1970s with hope for better opportunities. My parents worked hard, and although my family was not wealthy, we were comfortable. With the help of financial aid, my sisters and I all attended private Catholic school and graduated from college. We may have fought for time in the single bathroom of our small home, but we had a home, and it was full of love. There was a roof over our heads, and we had beds to sleep in. There was always, and I mean always, food on the table.
I am a recovering self-harm addict who continues to suffer from depression and anxiety. I started cutting myself when I was 15 as a way to “deal” with my problems by burying them internally. My parents had already sacrificed so much for me and my sisters that I felt responsible for handling my own issues, rather than burdening anyone else. Cutting became the most efficient way. I could lock the door of my bedroom, muffle my crying, and use a safety pin to inflict physical pain onto myself – pain that alchemized into release. I kept this ritual a secret for the next two and a half years.
To someone who has never experienced them first hand, it may seem like mental issues are a plague of the white, upper-middle class. But the truth is, these conditions don’t discriminate. It’s the validation of mental health and proper attention given to it that, unfortunately, is a privilege denied to many minorities.
The idea of seeing a therapist was unspoken of in my household, not necessarily because no one had dealt with depression or anxiety, but because it wasn't considered a problem worthy of discussion. My parents had faced and overcome, I believed, far greater adversities than the ones in my head. 1. My mom, the eldest of eight children, moved to the United States and helped most of her siblings obtain visas to move to the US, as well. 2. My dad was raised by a single mom, lost two sisters to the Bataan Death March of WWII, and left everything behind to make a better life in America. (Side note: my mom has casually reminisced about a time she hid from the ‘rebels’ in a hole in the ground under banana leaves.)
The fact that something has never been a problem before doesn't lessen its validity today. The past doesn't dictate the present or future. Once I opened up to my parents and asked for help, I was met with love and support. My mom helped find psychologists and psychiatrists covered under our insurance. She and my dad drove me to and from my appointments. They neither claimed to understand what I was going through nor accused me of imagining things. They were simply always there for me.
Help is a funny thing. It's always there, maybe not necessarily in ways we may think, but it's ever present. All you have to do is ask for it. For years I thought I could handle my problems alone. I thought I was strong enough. But strength takes different forms, and sometimes true strength and courage come from asking for help when you need it. They come from surrendering and being open to grace.
Regardless of skin color, mental health problems are real, and need not be measured against other more visible struggles. As minorities, we must understand that there is no hierarchy of trauma. A problem is a problem, and it must be acknowledged to be transcended. There is nothing to be gained from remaining silent.
Veronica Lombo is a California-born New Yorker, currently living in Austin, TX. She is dedicated to helping others face themselves and embrace their challenges as springboards for growth. By sharing her story, she hopes to bring awareness to the stigma surrounding basic human struggles. By teaching yoga and meditation, she wants to give others the tools to rewrite theirs. Veronica is a human, and she wants you to know that it’s ok to allow yourself to be #humanaf too