Each of us has our own unique set of intersecting identities that make us who we are! Read below to get to know Peer Educator, Reil, and learn about her identities and how they intersect with her mental health!
My Identities & Mental Health
by Sareil Brookins
Who is Sareil? I’ve got many identities (racial, sexual, gender, able, etc.). But the most salient are my Black [African descended], Mexican, bisexual, cis-gender, woman, able-bodied and anxious-filled (hope that makes sense), identities.
I am still working on loving myself to my fullest potential of course, nobody is perfect. We have our flaws, but learning to love myself for me, is something constant in my life. Nevertheless, each identity has its own impacts on me, as well as intersecting impacts on me. For example, yes, I am Black and Mexican. However! The way in which I am phenotypically presenting, I am perceived as primarily, or solely Black. Thus, this has a lot to do with how I can and do move throughout the world—from the personal interactions with other people, to the ways in which I am represented in media.
Now, in regards to my mental health…
My identities intersect in various ways. I won’t outline those all of course. But I will highlight some I find to be at the forefront of my mind when thinking about this. Soooo, as mentioned before, I have many identities and they have everything to do with how I do certain things, say certain things, present myself, etc. I think one of the larger roles my identities have to do with my mental health is the fact that because of some of the identities I hold, I deal with microaggressions revolving around sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and many other –isms and –phobias.
When these sorts of things are occurring on a daily basis it is so very exhausting because I am bottling in my reactions, feelings, thoughts, etc. It might all begin as a small fog over my head, and then the next minute I have a huge dark cloud over me. The interactions replay in my head, and I use my energy thinking about it all. It becomes quite draining when my energy goes towards these interactions. A few examples of these interactions are: 1) being told to calm down and relax when I am in no way shape or form upset or mad when explaining something [angry Black woman] 2) being told I am “so articulate” and it sounding like a surprise [Being a Black student of color at a PWI is not too common, so for me to be smart? Holy moly wow] 3) Hearing comments about bisexual folks and the LGBTQ+ community in general [homophobia and transphobia are a no in my life, stay away from me]. Bottling up things is not good and that’s based on personal experience because I get headaches, I get anxious, and overthink and think and think and think. It truly is not worth it, but I can’t help myself in remembering such interactions. I like to think of microaggressions as mosquito bites (credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDd3bzA7450). Imagine getting so many you can’t stop itching. This sort of thinking takes a toll on my mental health. Subsequently, in my CAPS appointments, I am usually spending time on discussing my interactions and how it affected me throughout the week. One thing I can say it helps with is my… resilience!
I love the fact that I can bounce back at any time. Sometimes the negative interactions don’t impact me immediately—at times I have to let it go and maybe the realization of it comes later. Regardless, I get past it, there is tomorrow, I talk with my Dad, mentors, counselor and friends about this stuff all the time because they get it. Finding people who just get it and will listen to me without judgment is one of the best freaking feelings ever. My identities have made seeking mental health help both easy and hard. I don’t see myself talking with people who don’t get it for an hour at CAPS because I don’t want sympathy or apologies; I want someone who gets it. This is where representation comes in. I need to see myself represented in spaces I go to for help. At UCSC we actually do have that and I am sooo grateful we do! But I can say that seeking help has just been hard in general because mental health in both the Black and Mexican community is not really a thing that is praised… it’s sort of treated as a religious healing treatment type of thing (at least in my experience). I’ve been told to pray on it many times…but sometimes we need to talk with folks, get a better understanding of ourselves, recognize our identities and make sure the help we do get works. Self-care is key.