Bustelo With a Side of Mental Health, Please

by Jenni Ruiza
Jenni Ruiza

Mental Health Awareness is not a topic that the Latinx community easily embraces. But we’ll embrace everything else: the cookie tin that houses a sewing kit, “Vaporu” aka VapoRub as a trusted remedy for anything, and that “cousin” who just came out of prison and needs a place to live even though no one knows why he was in prison in the first place.

But mental health? It’s a taboo topic that our ancestors have taught generations to mask with food, gossip, liquor, or a simple wave of the hand.

My childhood was full of sadness. My dad was an alcoholic; my uncles all faltered to drug addiction; and my mom suffered from Lupus, multiple miscarriages, and stillbirths. These were also all things my family hid from me for many years until I was old enough to realize what had been going on. Grief was a constant expression that was ignored in our family. I have no idea how these people hid all of their issues for decades so well. I guess it’s true—food really is a good ass distraction!

I’m doing what my mom would yell at me for doing—giving away too much personal information about my life, but over my 34 years of living, I’ve realized this is how I remedy my problems. I overshare.

Sometimes I go to therapy. Therapy helped me analyze and break generational traumas that had been so deeply ingrained in my DNA. It helped me realize: my parents were strong AF. My mom is a Lupus survivor living a normal life after a kidney transplant and my dad dedicated his life to being sober (which kind of sucked, because I always wanted to share a beer with him). Essentially, I realized—their tragedies weren’t mine. I had full control of my life, how I chose to live it, and how I’d become a driving force in my own environment, not a product of it.

My family and the greater Latinx community should go to therapy more often—it changes lives for the better AND we can still enjoy a good old ribbing over some bomb food.

My positive attitude was thriving until I lost the most important man in my life last year to colon cancer. My dad was a strong man. He loved to laugh, make others feel good, and had a beautiful skill of sarcasm in his back pocket. He made sure he told me he loved me and how proud he was of me. When he died, years of therapy would either go to waste or have to kick into high gear.

The road to grief isn’t easy but it’s clear that had I not addressed my mental health early on, I wouldn’t be able to share this with you. And sure, there are tears falling as I write this but I’m proud to showcase my emotions— something that I wouldn’t have been able to do had I not placed importance on my mental health.

And that’s the other thing. Crying. Can we talk about that for a second? Crying is the single most exhausting human emotion one can exude.

It’s not so much because of the mental strain, although, that certainly adds to it. Have you ever gotten a headache from crying? Talk about trauma. When I cry, it’s a full body-convulsing experience—not the good kind either (orgasms, in case that went over your head). My entire body goes into an uncontrollable shock and the next morning I wake up feeling like I’ve got a new pair of six-pack abs. Only I don’t and that’s the most upsetting part.

I guess I’m dancing around the issue here. I’m not the kind of person who likes to cry in front of others. My best friend calls me out on it all the time. I’m supposed to be a tough bitch who doesn’t let anything bother her and carries the weight of the world effortlessly. Right? Well, I’m 34 years old and let me tell you, after losing my grandma and dad in the span of a few weeks, crying is the best kind of therapy one can opt into. And it’s free. But it’s also uncomfortable for me. I hate it.

A big part of my mental health journey has been allowing myself to feel feelings and emotions, albeit a rollercoaster ride because of how fucked up this last year has been.

But, as much as my childhood was rooted in sadness, it was also rooted in strength. My parents took their tragedies and raised a woman who is aware of herself, her energy, and the fact that she’s talking about herself in the third person. Gross. But, they also raised me as someone who genuinely wants to give back to the world whether it’s through my humor or through my own experiences that I’ve just shared with you today.

I have a lot to be thankful for. And I hope that this Hispanic Heritage Month, I can encourage you to break the generational curse and put your mental health first.

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