Culture

My Life Began When My Brother Took His

My brother took his life five years ago. I’d been ignorant to the pain of losing someone I deeply love until this happened. His death ransacked my soul and left me feeling defeated.

Death has been around me — a grandparent or childhood friend, a co-worker’s family member. But it was always at a safe distance. I knew death existed, but was immune until it hit home.

How had I not realized death is absolute?

I scoured the Internet for answers to my grief. I explored all the ways I could sneak into the cemetery, exhume my brother from his grave and bring him home. I was desperate for him to come back. I was angry I couldn’t change the devastating reality that my brother was in so much agony and pain that his only answer was to end his life. At the time, I understood the science behind chemical imbalances in the brain, lack of serotonin, how sleep deprivation can alter one’s thoughts and body deprivations, but I was furious that the mind could literally take over and my brother had no sense of control.

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Credit: Yolanda Lopez-Vega

At his funeral, a voice spoke to me which had no face and no direction and only said, “You’re going to be angry, and that’s okay.”

In an effort to organize my thoughts vomit feelings, I turned to writing a blog. The task was simple: be raw, be honest, be compassionate and share my grief. I hoped that I could turn back the page someday and understand myself and the person I was during the darkest days if my life. In fact, the darkest days turned into weeks, which turned into months, which turned into well over a year. I recorded every thought I had and every whim I felt. I cared only to free my heart of excruciating grief while freeing the beautiful soul that is my brother.

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Credit: Yolanda Lopez-Vega

What I never expected was that my pain would carry the pain of others and cradle their hearts in my own hands. I never knew that my blog would be read by thousands of folks who looked to me for solace and comfort. I had no idea I would capture their emotions and thoughts in my words. And I certainly wouldn’t imagine that losing my brother — and losing him to suicide — would inspire others to share their own stories of loss and love with me since I could “understand” them.

READ: I Didn’t Care About the Pope Until I Got to See Him

I don’t know whether it’s because I write what I feel or because loss and grief are universal experiences, but I had a reader message me: “When I read your blog, I feel like I’m reading my own feelings.” Another thanked me for helping “understand why I feel the way I do” and another wrote to me saying: “I’m so happy I can turn to your blog and find someone who feels the way I do”.

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Credit: Yolanda Lopez-Vega

When my brother died five years ago, I died with him. My soul joined his and I lost who I was. My soul was crushed for both losing my best friend to a pain I couldn’t take away for him and for gaining a new life without him. I hate living without my brother, but I simultaneously love living the life he always wanted for me. And for living the life he would live himself.


Check out Yolanda’s blog at lossandspirituallove.blogspot.com and don’t forget to click the share button below. 

Honduran Father Whose 13-Year-Old Daughter Committed Suicide After He Wasn’t Granted Asylum Wants Her To “Help Another Person Live”

Things That Matter

Honduran Father Whose 13-Year-Old Daughter Committed Suicide After He Wasn’t Granted Asylum Wants Her To “Help Another Person Live”

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Heydi Gámez García, 13, took her life on July 2nd after her father’s asylum request was denied for the third time. Heydi’s father, Manuel Gámez, sent her to the U.S. after his father was gunned down by MS-13 for refusing to pay a “war tax” to the gang. He didn’t expect that Heydi would be granted asylum, but that he would be deported.

Manuel certainly didn’t envision that his goodbye hug and kiss four years ago would be the last time he would hug and kiss his daughter while she was still alive.

The Gámaz family was broken by MS-13 and failed again by the U.S. immigration system.

Credit: @amy_baker22 / Twitter

Heydi’s mother walked out on her and her dad when she was less than two months old. By the time Heydi was a year old, Manuel left for New York as an undocumented immigrant to make money to send back home to his daughter. After his father was killed by MS-13, and his mother’s health started failing, he worried about who would care for Heydi and his younger sister, Zoila.

Manuel’s sister was granted asylum and cared for Heydi in his absence in New York.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

A year after his father’s death, he sent Heydi, Zoila and his brother to the U.S. Heydi and Zoila were granted asylum. Heydi learned English within a year and started teaching her father, via phone calls, how to correctly pronounce English words. They spoke every day, always asking when he’d come.

After two failed attempts to gain asylum, Heydi lost hope for being reunited and started cutting herself.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

He never wanted to make promises he couldn’t keep, like being there for her quinceañera. Heydi watched her classmates complain about their parents’ visiting their school and fell into a depression. In December, she was brought to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after cutting her wrist at school. She was seeing a therapist until two months before her suicide.

“Please forgive me for failing you,” Manuel wants to tell his daughter.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there… I never meant to leave you,” he says to her. Heydi was Manuel’s only child. Heydi’s aunt is coping with impossible guilt. She told CNN, “I was supposed to be protecting her. I would never send her to Honduras. But I never thought something bad would happen to her here.”

Manuel was released on a two week ‘humanitarian’ visit to release Heydi from life support.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

He finally got to hold her hand and comfort her as she left this life behind. “We love you,” he whispered to her. “Don’t leave us.”

The last thing Heydi told anyone was that she lost hope in being reunited with her father.

Credit: @MaryJaneKnows / Twitter

She was crying as she told her aunt that she feels hopeless and that one day, she’ll become a lawyer to help her dad’s case. She then said she wanted to be alone and was found two hours later in a closet. She didn’t leave a note.

She was declared brain dead a week later at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens.

Dr. Charles Schleien told CNN that she was in a “neurologically devastated state” upon arrival with “no hope for recovery.” He went on to disclose that the Gámaz family “chose to turn tragedy into the gift of life. Heydi is an organ donor and her final act will be to save others.”

The mental health impacts of family separation at our borders can only be told one story at a time.

Credit: @apbenven / Twitter

Every story is important. Every life lost to policies that don’t incorporate the most visceral human desires, like growing up with your father by your side, is one life too many. 

What on earth are we doing?

Credit: @JoeGould50 / Twitter

Update:

On July 18, Heydi was taken off life support. Her family told The New York Times they decided to donate her organs. “She was so young, so healthy, maybe she can live in another person, she can help another person live,” her father told The Times.

‘Jane The Virgin’ Actress Opens Up About How Anxiety Kept Her From Showing Up To Set

Entertainment

‘Jane The Virgin’ Actress Opens Up About How Anxiety Kept Her From Showing Up To Set

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Even though depression, anxiety, and mental health are becoming more publicly discussed, there is a stigma attached to it. It’s still seen as a weakness instead of a disease. Mental wellness is not regarded in the same way physical wellness is. It isn’t discussed at home or at schools — making the important topic all but taboo. That’s why it is so important that we talk publicly about our struggles with mental health.

It’s with that in mind that “Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez opened up about her own experiences.

Rodriguez has been open about her personal experience with her mental health in the past.

Twitter / @HuffPost

In 2017, in fact, she posted about her journey with anxiety in a very candid Instagram post.

She has now opened up even further in an emotional sitdown with NBC’s Kate Snow during the recent Kennedy Forum.

The actress explained:

“I think I started dealing with depression around sixteen. I started dealing with the idea of…everything is going to be better when I’m gone. Life will be easier. All the woes will be away, all the problems. Then I wouldn’t have to fail or succeed, right? Then all this surmounting pressure would go away.”

The pressure Rodriguez refers to includes the difficult time she had while filming the final season of “Jane the Virgin.”

Twitter / @enews

According to the star, she began suffering from panic-induced, debilitating anxiety attacks while on set.

“There was a point where I couldn’t, I couldn’t push through every single time anymore,” Rodriguez shared with Snow. “And I’m one of those human beings…I’m just like, ‘I’ll handle it later. I’ll deal with it later. I’ll figure it out later. I just have to do this now.’ All the while dealing with this, you know, your silent little dragon in your head.”

Rodriguez went on to explain that this struggle caused her to stop production on the series for the first time ever.

Twitter / NFINorth

“I had a really tumultuous season, she confessed. “I was unafraid for the first time to be like, ‘I can’t.'”

That courage motivated Rodriguez to get the help she needed and to take the time to prioritize herself. It’s a milestone that anyone who fights against their mental illness would recognize. We can only imagine the pressure Rodriguez faced in the midst of a busy production schedule.

Her ability to speak openly about mental health is motivated by the girls and women who look up to her.

Twitter / @savannaha006

“I can’t just tell them to go out and make their dreams come true and then to ignore everything else,” Rodriguez explained.

The actress has long been a mentor in the fields of art, body positivity, immigration rights, and feminism. In 2016, Rodriguez launched the We Will Foundation to promote young artists through education and scholarships. In 2018, she worked with P&G to start the Always Campaign to benefit Feeding America.

This candid conversation is another example of her commitment to being the sort of mentor the world needs most.

Poor mental health is often a side effect of other illnesses; which is the case with Rodriguez.

Twitter / @CrisisTextLine

Anxiety and depression are complications of her Hashimoto’s Disease. Rodriguez shared in a 2017 SELF interview that the medicine she takes for her thyroid causes heart palpitations. This disrupted rhythm sometimes triggers panic attacks.

The illness has forced the actress to reassess herself and become more self-aware. After adjusting her medication, she noticed improvements.

Still, Rodriguez had to face the bigger issue of her underlined mental health. That self-awareness has helped her and hopefully, her experience can help others struggling with the same issues.