"I'm not weak!" I remember yelling this so clearly to my therapist. We had just uncovered trauma that I'd buried for decades. I had been molested at the age of 6 and the memories came rushing back, memories I had blocked out for decades. While crying hysterically I remembered my Mayan princess brown girl roots, the lessons I'd learned that "Latina women do not cry…it shows weakness." What my therapist said changed my life forever: "But crying and showing your emotions is far from weakness. Think of how strong and brave a person it takes to face the hurt and face what has been hidden. The weak are those who bottle it up and never let go." Mind. Blown.
I was 26 years old and in my last year of graduate school. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to save the world. Yet at that moment, the pain I experienced, the feeling of being cheated from a "normal life," the anger—emotions so new and so raw—made me crawl home and lie in bed. For the next couple of weeks I mourned; I avoided everyone and any kind of human interaction as I tried to make sense of it all. No one ever told me that when you experience hurt like this, you go through something similar to the stages of grief.
What burned through my soul most was how my cultural beliefs were challenged. What do you mean emotions aren't weakness? So you mean all those talks from abuela and tia (grandma and aunt, respectively for non-Spanish-speaking folks) were not entirely true? I'm a brown girl who was raised in a full-fledged Latino household but was born and raised in American culture.