Written by: Maricruz Herrera-Cruz, RSS (she/her/they/them)
As a child of immigrants, the biggest thing I hold dear to my heart is community. When my parents came to America, the way they were able to make it was by connecting with people with similar experiences of being immigrant in America. I feel at my most self when I am helping people, I would say that is my lifelong coping skills and that is why I choose to be a Peer Support Specialist.
I was 9 years old when I was first diagnosed with ADHD and a few years later I was hospitalized for the first time due to panic attacks. At 12 I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Panic Disorder. These labels made me feel I was unworthy of ever getting help, I had already tasted alcohol at the ripe age of 5 but began drinking heavy at 13. I started depending on substances and alcohol to numb myself. I was a kid seeking something nobody could understand, or at least that’s what I perceived from the constant rejection from society.
I clearly remember when I turned 20 and thinking “I made it past 18. I don’t have anything planned for this. I was supposed to not be here.” It wasn’t till I had a near death experience, I prayed so hard in hopes that I could be saved. I remember calling my ancestors because I felt lonely, the moment I asked for another chance, a rush of air filled my lungs and I screamed. As I struggled to scream and catch my breath, my body slowly shutting down because there was no oxygen flow going to my brain. All I could think of was “I want another chance; I want to be worthy of another chance.”
Connecting with my roots, Curanderismo and ancient Mesoamerican shaman literature helped me understand the worth I carry. I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams; I am what my ancestors would say “mejorando la raza” through peer support. Peer Support and the connection to my indigenous roots traces back to a rite called platica, heart straightening talks. That is what peer support is, connecting with someone heart to heart, pain to pain, and experience to experience. I am a Xicana curandera and Peer Support Specialist.
“Mejorando la raza”: bettering the raza, also phrased used by modern day Latine individuals to perpetrate colorism within ethnicity/race. Asking their color skin relative to marry someone white to “better the race.”
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