Thanks so much for tuning in. Right now, it's a rainy day in NYC, and we're so happy Mental Health Awareness Month is coming to a halt.
Seems backwards, eh? Well, it's not. For us, Mental Health Awareness Month (super prevalent on Instagram) adds an overwhelming amount of urgency toward exploring the topic. And honestly, this month felt like three steps backward on our own mental health (read about Latiana's trials with anxiety and PTSD at that link!). More on that in the next post,
If you're feeling bored of the watered-down Instagram inspo, keep scrolling for Kayla's post! Below, Kayla writes about their relationship to childhood trauma, self-harm, anti-depressants, and reclaiming their self-worth.
I’ve always been sensitive to my environment.
My mother once called me impressionable; I soaked up everything around me like a sponge. At a young age, I lost my father for reasons my child brain couldn’t understand. Three-year-old me developed a story that he died from a spoiled carton of Minute Maid Fruit Punch. That was the last image I had of him.
I'd absorbed the tension in my home prior to his death. When three-year-old me learned what death was, she blamed herself for laughing when her mother couldn’t wake her dad up. I absorbed my mother's pain as she grieved for her husband, who was also a father to her two young daughters. When anyone asked me where my father was, and I said, “He’s dead,” I absorbed the grief of strangers for a father I barely knew.
I can feel others' wants, desires, and pains. I can tell when someone is holding back either by the tone of their voice or the look on their face. I try to create an environment where those I love—or seek to love—will feel comfortable enough to let their guard down and know that they’re valued and important.
Often times, this compassion is to my detriment. I fear being wrong, not doing what’s right, or being a source of pain for others. I've been in situations where I reduced myself by the hands of people who didn’t cherish me enough. I didn’t cherish myself enough, either. I didn’t cherish myself enough to recognize my truths.
I wish that I could open myself up and allow others to see the journey occurring inside of me. My emotions can extend past my bloodstream, exceeding nerve endings and stretching through my pores. In these moments, I am no longer a body: I am love. I am passion. I am anger.
The letters “ange” are faintly marked on the top of my left thigh, stretching horizontally towards the curve of my knee. Of the many scars I have, this one is the most surreal. I remember where I was when I carved it; I remember what sparked it, and I remember who I was when I experienced that emotion.
My body and emotions represent a living, breathing vulnerability, and they are a vital component to my self-expression. I've used Tumblr to create a foundation for myself, documenting words I could never say out loud, what I could never feel without shame, and what I never envisioned as my future. I suppose anyone who's used (or still uses) Tumblr recognizes the intimate difference in engagement that no other social media platform seems to generate. Over the past few years, I’ve become very cautious about what I share, how I share it, and who I share it with. Still, I strive to push past my own shame, and I encourage a similar possibility for others.
A large part of recognizing my value and maintaining stability is due to years of therapy and continued antidepressant medication.
In disclosing my use of antidepressants, I often get responses of scrutiny or surprise. Antidepressants haven’t worked for some, and others believe medication isn’t useful. As for me, I believe therapy or time alone would not be enough to keep me alive.
I continue to take my regular doses to maintain everything I've worked hard for. I've had a .9 GPA and have been academically dismissed. I've been hospitalized twice, and I've sat in bed for weeks doing nothing but crying. But with antidepressants, I don’t crumble in the ways I once did. I don’t imagine my death, nor do I desire it.
Being an artist helps me step outside of my body and recognize my emotions. Today, I'm a graduate student studying Women’s and Gender Studies because there are questions I have for my existence and for others. My research allows me to explore this.
I am a friend, I am a lover, I am a daughter, I am a sister. I have people in my life who continuously pour love back into me, and I into them.
Kayla Rodriguez is an Afro-Latinx artist, feminist scholar, and writer. Rodriguez is a recent NYC transplant pursuing an MA degree in Women’s and Gender Studies at CUNY Graduate Center. Further work and writings are available at kmrodriguez.com