Dear Gris.

September 2nd, 2022

Last day of 6 Week Intensive Outpatient Program

Dear Gris.,

Hey look at you, 5 years ago you were training for a marathon running 3-4xs a week, running close 75 to 100 miles a month. You were in the best shape of your life and you thought that crossing that finish line was the most challenging thing in the world next to earning your degrees. You did it and only a small percentage of people in the world can say they’ve ran a marathon. Earning that medal and crossing that finish line you decided you could go back to teaching and face the stressful demanding career that you worked so hard for. Something you had been focusing on since the age of 16.

Just when you were getting into the groove of things in the classroom, being back in your comfort zone, happy and thrilled to be making a positive difference in children’s lives again, a higher power threw the entire world a curve ball with a pandemic. 

You kept at it teaching remotely trying to keep it together and initially you were fine because you knew it wasn’t you this time. Most other teachers out there were having similar struggles as you. 

When you came back in the Fall of 2020 the anxiety was getting stronger and teaching was getting more stressful so you decided to start relying on alcohol to calm your inner demons those nagging thoughts that restarted telling you couldn’t do this and you started doubting yourself even though you had over 12 years of experience and countless hours of working with children. You believed those negative thoughts instead of believing the facts. Everyone around you reassured you that you were doing a great job and that you had the skills to do your job, yet you doubted yourself and even your support system couldn’t reassure you. 

Initially the alcohol calmed your worries and you were able to manage work, your mental and physical health while aiding your parents manage their affairs. Those beers at night weren’t enough though. 

You started spiking your coffee with hard liquor and it was okay in your book because you were teaching from your kitchen and well how else would you keep it together for hours on end trying to keep 5 year olds engaged and motivated about reading, math, etc.? You became more tech savvy than you thought possible, working and translating with your Dual Language teachers most everything for your students and their parents so they could understand it in Spanish and log their child in on their tablets.

It wasn’t easy for you, nor the parents and much less for those 5 year olds in front of you. You had to focus part of your day on their social emotional learning through a screen, you had to get creative.  

When you realized it was all just too much you took a leave of absence to focus on your mental health. When you couldn’t go back you decided you were a failure and the world and your family was better off without you. 

You weren’t scared of dying but you couldn’t stop crying because you felt so awful for the pain this would cause mom and dad. 

It wasn’t their fault nor was it yours how things got to this point. No one in particular is to blame because each generation did their best. 

‘Ama didn’t have her mom at all, she was just a baby who only got to know her through pictures and stories from her grandparents. She doubted herself growing up because of the color of her skin and trying to fit in, seeing herself as the stepdaughter and stepsister. Maybe she felt like me at times, like an outsider because you know you’re different.

‘Apá didn’t have a choice about going to school or helping abuelito since he was the 2nd oldest son, that decision was made for him at the age of 9. He’s smart I know he would have loved to have finished school even if just to 6th grade.

Mom, dad, your siblings, and you are examples of what parentification looks like. The term is new to you but the description sums up a great deal of your childhood. It helps you see a bit of why you are the way you are as an adult now. 

It answers why as the oldest of 4 women from a young age you saw yourself as a caregiver for both your siblings and your mom, babysitter, helper, translator, and the list goes on. 

Parentification answers why you decided to go into education working with children in low income communities who were just like you as a child, trying to navigate school with 2 languages. It answers why you prefer a fun job and why your inner child needs structure, play and freedom and it explains why you like finding ways to connect with others that share the same values with you and who you can be yourself with. 

You aren’t a lost cause Gris. For the 1st time in a long time you are sober and that wasn’t easy! Give yourself the credit you deserve. You have taken a different path than the rest and that’s completely fine. Take your time figuring out your next step. 

This is a new beginning, you admitted you had a problem and you took action. You are here for a reason. Continue making your mental and physical health and sobriety a priority. Continue to advocate for yourself as well as those who can’t advocate for themselves. Continue writing, because this coping strategy has helped you through the good and the bad plus it makes you happy. That creative side of you comes alive when you share your thoughts. Share your story with others as well as the stories of your parents and grandparents.

You are impulsive with your actions but when you put your words down on paper you are better about taking the time to communicate your thoughts clearly. 

It may all be overwhelming and scary as hell, but it’s exciting as well. What is to follow from this new perspective is hope, happiness, finding yourself, and new beginnings.

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