I’ve thought a lot about ways to make money; maybe get a second job, complete online surveys, or by scoring big on lotto tickets. You see I don’t have a bad job, meaning I make okay money, but not enough to buy a house or move forward with my dreams.
My parents came here as immigrants, eventually met, and had me and my six siblings. Proudly I can say I’m the first to graduate high school, graduate college, and get a masters degree. Sometime I look back and although I’m proud of myself I wish I would’ve listened to my parents, they wanted me to become a doctor, a lawyer, or even a nurse, but instead I became a substance abuse therapist who makes crap money. I obviously didn’t go into the field for the money, but money would be nice.
You see like everyone I have a story, I don’t like to tell it because I don’t want people’s pitty or to fall into victim mode, but I think it’s important to tell it. Anyway, I was ten when I lost my childhood; my mom had a stroke and became non-verbal and somehow being the youngest meant being the caregiver. I began to take care of my mom at the age of ten; we’d take cabs to her doctor appointments and I’d do all the speaking because she couldn’t, in a way I became the voice she never gained back. As the years passed I felt more and more out of place because you see the world didn’t stop spinning just because I was going through this nightmare. Throughout high school my days, weeks, and months were filled with doctor appointments and hospital visits as well as school, homework at 2 am, and counting pills at Rite Aid as a job. I thought I was unstoppable and that I’d never break, but once I got to college I found out that I was not a machine, but instead a lost, depressed, parentless teenager. The panic attacks started and I felt like I was drowning between being a full time student, working long hours at Victoria’s Secret, and taking care of my mom. Somehow I made it to graduation and graduated with a 3.7 GPA, but it didn’t matter because mentally I was gone. My panic attacks had impacted me so severely that I didn’t even walk for graduation although I was so proud that I was the first and only person in my family to ever graduate from college.
I’ll never forget the day I took a step back and realized that if I wanted to live I had to get help. I found a therapist and worked on managing my depression and panic attacks and after two years of painful work I was mentally ready to go back to school. During this time I continued to deal with caring for my mother and verbal abuse from my brother who to this day is an alcoholic. Looking back I realize that my career chose me, I know that counseling is what saved me and being a counselor myself is my way of giving back. You see I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor and 20 years later I continue its to survive as I continue to care for my mother and myself. The only difference today is that I know that I too matter and that I too deserve to start my own life, separate from the one that I’ve lived for so long. There are so many things I’m proud of, but the thing that I’m most proud of is learning to be vulnerable and ask for help.