UndocuBlack Network Launches Mental Wellness Initiative
Today, on World Mental Health Day, the UndocuBlack Network hosted the first of what we hope are many discussions around mental wellness within the Black undocumented community.
We chose World Mental Health Day on purpose. It is a day of raising awareness and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health and wellness.
UndocuBlack Network believes that, in order for our community to survive and thrive, we must bring focus to mental health and wellness. This initiative and its work are centered on healing justice and our liberation, and therefore stemmed from being experts on our own experiences and steeped in intentionality and reality. We are honest when we say "Our Wellness is Resistance."
To coincide with the launch of the Mental Wellness Initiative, we asked members of our community to share with us their mental health journeys. Their stories are below.
On Finding New Ways to Breathe
By Vanessa Cruz
I have been spending a lot of time around children to allow my imagination be as wild as theirs. I have created new ways to keep my sanity and mental health balanced. Most people don’t know this, but I suffer from anxiety. What people also don’t know is having anxiety is not as simple as turning it on and off. It doesn’t work that way. So I am putting a lot more time and effort into keeping myself sane. I have many identities as of late that have been adding weight to my burden. I am undocumented, a person who survived trauma and who also suffers from anxiety. I am many things, too. A writer, want-to-be artist and gardener, too.
But, lately, I feel like I cannot breathe. When you are having a panic attack, your thoughts race, but you get a deep sense of being unable to breathe. I have had numerous panic attacks following the announcement that DACA will fade out if not saved by legislators. I feel I cannot breathe most of the times. My saving grace has been getting an opportunity to help look after infants and toddlers. It is that experience that alone carries me through my day. I believe in children, and seeing them develop is a magical process I like to see. Children once again have saved me from despair and the little meaning I feel life has. Maybe for them it is that I go on every day even with my uncertain future looming over me.
Finding Solace in Community
By **Kiesha Bennett
For years, I was in a dark place. Isolation combined with lack of opportunity that you can actually use can do that to you. You see, I received a good education — a bachelor’s degree with honors — in the United States. I even got some good professional experience while still on my work permit. But the minute my immigration status fell, so did my worth, my income and accessible opportunities. What ensued were months of depression as I couldn’t find work and the jobs I did find couldn’t hire me (bureaucracy and fear of being fined by USCIS).
I started working under the table, sporadically, as a telemarketer, home health aid, babysitter, nanny, house cleaner, tutor. Between travelling 4 hours on public transportation on the days that I found work and eating cheap fast food or copious amounts of seasoned rice, my health deteriorated as did my interpersonal relationships. Sleep and food became my comforts, my escape from my life of hell. I would stay in my room or on my couch for days at a time in between jobs, hoping to wake up from my nightmare.
**Name changed upon request
UndocuBlack saved my life. I made friends who finally understood my life and did not judge me for it. I learned not only to cope but to thrive. Sharing my experiences with people who looked like me and who were going through what I go through made me safe to be my full, undocumented, Black, immigrant self. I am grateful for the UndocuBlack Network.
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