Generational Trauma: Breaking The Cycle With Priscilla Gutiérrez


Today’s conversation is with Priscilla Gutierrez. She is a therapist in Florida and has also experienced generational trauma herself. We define what microaggression is and we provided some examples of what someone may experience. We also go over the importance of healing and self-care in order to break the cycle of generational trauma. Hi, welcome back to another episode of the Mindful Space. Today we have with us Priscilla Gutierrez, how are you today?

I’m doing well. Thank you, Michelle. Thank you. Thank you for coming with us and having an important conversation. Today our topic is going to be generational trauma specifically among the Latino community. Can you start by explaining to our audience what generational trauma is?

For sure. So essentially a real short explanation is it’s the behaviors and trauma-related stress that is passed down to subsequent generations. So that essentially means if it’s not a dress, I can be dealing and coping with trauma that originated with my grandparents or my great-grandparents. And so that trauma and the stress that comes with it so might be raised cortisol, it might be behaviors like substance dependency.

It will continue to circulate until there’s a cycle breaker that says, okay, this ends with me. And how does this specifically affect the Latino community? So I would say just looking at my own experience, there’s a lot of different variables at play. So one of them is taboo. You know, there’s a lot of social stigma around mental health and around speaking about things that happen in the house. There’s this saying in Spanish, I’m sure you’re aware of like you keep dirty laundry in the house and you clean it in the house.

You don’t leave it out to outside. And so if you have that type of mindset, then it pretty much discourages getting professional help. It also doesn’t allow for survivors of trauma to hold family members accountable for things they might have done. It also doesn’t allow for healing because you’re just allowing it to be insulated and to expand and to keep perpetuating because secrecy fuels maladaptive coping mechanisms. It enables predators in the family. It enables behaviors that don’t really serve our joy. And to add to that, systemically, there is a lot of systemic barriers such as accessibility to insurance, accessibility to transportation.

Language barrier. Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned you have your own experience with this generational trauma. Do you mind sharing your story with us? Not at all.

I love to and thanks for providing a safe space for that. There’s this fantastic book, I think I have it, by Mark Wallin and it didn’t start with you. And it’s all about generational trauma and how the effects of that are passed down at a cellular level to different generations. And when I read that, I felt very heard and seen because I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was about 17. And I always felt like something was missing because I’m very hardworking.

I put my all into my therapy. But there’s more to it than just my own experiences. I realized that I was carrying the traumas and the mindset that comes with certain traumas from my parents, from my grandparents.

I essentially inherited generational traumas that look like domestic violence, addiction, untreated mental illness. And so when that isn’t addressed, or even when family members aren’t aware of it, we just accept it often as, well, that’s just how the family is, that’s our culture, that’s just how we do things. So, you know, that, let’s say, the idea, that that’s just how she is. We don’t really question it.

And it’s like, well, why don’t we question it? Why don’t we look a little further and see what’s underneath that uncle that gets drunk at every party or that cousin that is very afraid of the world and things like that. So, looking at my personal background, my father is a refugee from Nicaragua. And so that comes with the trauma of witnessing violence, being the target of violence.

And then once he came to the States as a refugee, it was a lot of poverty, no father, just so many aces, you know, the ACE screening test, the adverse childhood experiences, he checks off most of them. And that was my mother. She also didn’t come voluntarily. She fled with my grandmother, except she didn’t know she was fleeing. My grandmother, essentially, it’s a case of parental kidnapping where she lied to everyone, including my mother and my aunt, saying, oh, we’re just going on vacation to Los Angeles, knowing for a while that she was gone, she was leaving and she never went back.

They never went back to live there. She came on a Friday, she was enrolled in school on a Monday. And so, and that’s just a percentage of trauma experiences. And so when you carry all that, I grew up, I grew up in the suburbs. I never lived in the hood, I never was experiencing food insecurity, but I still remember thinking, we need to watch what we’re spending because then we’re not going to have money to eat, or we need to save money because you never know. I always had that anxiety. And I’m like, that wasn’t necessarily because I grew up the way that my mom or dad did, but because that was the parenting that I received.

Those were the thoughts in the mindset. And so that looked like me being very uncomfortable with finances, very distrusting of the world, and things like that. When you said you’ve been seeking treatment since you were 17, so at what point did you realize your mental health was being affected by this generational trauma? So I started, literally the first time I went to therapy was 12.

It was one session, one family session. And then I would say being Latina, I was taught either explicitly or implicitly, implicitly depending on the relative, to play small and to shrink myself. And so I learned to keep so many things to myself. So when I went to therapy, it wasn’t necessarily because I had all these red flags. It was more because my brother had behavioral issues. And they were like, okay, if this one has behavioral issues, let’s be proactive and get this other one some help.

Yeah, so it wasn’t anything like that. But I was not opposed to going because I knew that I had some traumas that I needed to talk to someone about. How do you think the generational patterns of trauma or resilience show up in the Latino families? I think it can look like loyalty. So that is a value that I’ve always held on to until I started to be a bit more curious. And well, is it loyalty or is it codependency?

Is it loyalty or is it a measurement? And so I learned looking at some family dynamics that, wait a minute, why is there a clear lack of boundaries here? Why is it that when my father tried to move away and get married and live his own life, he was assaulted by a family member for abandoning them?

Just very extreme reactions to certain things. And so I would say loyalty is a big one because that’s pretty much a stereotype that, oh, Latinos are family oriented and that’s great. And in my case, I am very family oriented. But there’s a fine line between loyalty and codependency. And I think codependency is something that I see often.

And also look like, I mean, just so many things. If I look at my mother’s side of the family, there is a pathology of sexual abuse that has circulated for generations. And I’ve come to realize that two things can be true at once. So yes, this particular family member may have thought they were protecting me and they did it. So if you don’t have these open discussions on how to handle sexual abuse, how to handle abuse generally, then you have people pretty much ignorant on how to address it. So it might look like, okay, just lock your door at night. Or okay, don’t tell anyone and just, I won’t leave you alone with them anymore. And that ultimately doesn’t protect, but that’s their intention. Yeah, those are sort of maladaptive coping mechanisms, correct?

What are the big ones that you see? Maybe you saw in yourself or in your client. I would say mindset is the biggest thing. So that’s something that more recently I’ve started to focus on because I noticed I have clients from different racial backgrounds, careers, and it’s just like a common thread that once you get behind their professional mask and you get to know the person, the internal dialogue of many of the women that I work with is disheartening. It’s very negative, it’s very harsh, it’s very critical. And when you explore that voice and you ask, when did this start? Did you conceive this internal dialogue or did you receive it?

And if you received it from whom? And then when you do those, that curiosity, it’s like, oh, well, growing up, my mom used to put me down or my dad used to tell me this and that. And that voice, it stays with you well into adulthood. And so I think everything starts with mindset.

And I think specifically for the Latin community, that’s very important. Like I always, you know, the parents strict and the yelling. And I know we’ve all been guilty, right? Because we were raised that way. But it’s so important to keep in mind what you’re saying, you know, to your kids because it can be passed through generations, unless you address them, of course.

Yeah, absolutely. Now, when we talk about strategies, to cope with those maladaptive coping mechanisms or to fix the maladaptive copingism, what do you suggest? Like where can someone, somebody start to address those?

I would say the first step is to be curious, compassionately curious about yourself. And so there’s a reason psychiatrists and psychologists spend years training. This is not easy stuff. This is the brain, this is the mind. Trauma is an injury. And so it’s not our role to diagnose ourselves or to try to fix ourselves.

But it is our responsibility to be curious because no one knows Michelle better than Michelle or myself better than me. I am the expert. You are the expert of our own lived experiences. So who better than to be curious and say, okay, let’s look at my relationships.

Let’s take an inventory. What do my relationships like? And looking at myself as someone who has been diagnosed as borderline personality and having that disorder. I realize, wow, my relationships are not healthy and they’re very all over the place.

And so that in itself helped me to be curious. Okay, why do my relationships like this? Why do I view men like this?

Why do my friendships look like this? And from there, start to learn about yourself. So you might start reading, you might look on and search your zip code in your insurance company and maybe try out a therapist or a life coach. Or you might join an online support group. For example, if you are a black woman or a black non-binary person that is unsure if you have an alcohol dependency, you can check out sober black girls club.

They have weekly meetings for free. We talk about or you talk about communicating and how it’s important to talk about this with your family. Why do you think, like how do you think this can impact the generational trauma? Just having open communication.

Yeah, I think that it could unlock a lot of keys necessary to healing. So unfortunately, having access to your personal family history is a privilege. Whether it’s by war, maybe your family heirlooms and albums are destroyed or maybe certain people passed away already. But if you do have access, there still remains often that barrier of people don’t want to talk about these things.

So there’s, I know that what I know about my mom’s side of the family especially is just a tip of the iceberg. Okay. You know, you can keep your lived experiences to yourself. I just believe that if there’s some knowledge that could help someone else, try to share that even if it’s uncomfortable to an extent.

Just give that to someone else. If it’s possible to communicate with your relatives, I think that can be just so eye-opening. So it’s been very healing because growing up, I, a Harvard resentment towards different family members at different points in my life. But once I learned more about their stories and I came to find out that some of them experienced some of the very traumas that I experienced and they didn’t know how to handle it. It helped me to have more compassion for them and to have that healing. Yeah, to just have more empathy. Try to understand where they’re coming from and forgive them at the same time. Yeah.

Yeah. With the Latino community specifically, I know there’s a bunch of cultural societal factors. What are some of the highest ones that impact in regards to the generational trauma?

I would say education and awareness. So I was listening to something yesterday. I’m not sure who it was, but I’m pretty sure she was Latina. And she was saying something along the lines of, when you need to eat and survive, you don’t, oh, now I know where it’s from.

It’s from my end of day fiance, Annie from the Dominican Republic. She was basically saying that in her culture, therapy just isn’t a priority. Like we have other priorities and we don’t have money to waste on therapy. So I think just that mentality of therapy is a waste or it’s just not a necessity. He and I are back.

And so I’ve had members in my own family say things like, well, God is my therapist and I just need to pray and or there’s a lot of invalidation of mental illness. Oh, no, he doesn’t have anything. He’s just immature. Just gave him a few years to grow up, things like that. So I think the discussions or lack thereof that we have in our households, because as much as we want to put it on society, which is very valid and accurate, I think the real change needs to come from inside of our houses and the conversations we have.

So teaching our children that it’s okay to practice self care, that it’s okay to talk about sex, that it’s okay to set boundaries and listening. You know, there’s this joke that is online where it’s like telling immigrant parents that you’re depressed and they’re like depressed, like go back and clean. And so things like that, that’s invalid and that depression doesn’t go away. That that child just learns how to mask it and to secretly maybe self-medicate or seek support in the wrong places. Mm-hmm. Or as a child therapist, like when you tell the parent they have to do the therapy, they’re like, what?

Yeah, I brought the child, not myself. So accurate. Gotta love the memes. We talk about self care, right? How can someone with generational trauma start this process of self caring?

So I think it will depend on what trauma they’re trying to break and what cycle they’re trying to break. So for me, I really like the concept of reparenting, like your inner child. Because I look at my father especially, who didn’t have the luxury of having an adolescence.

He was a child and then he was an adult. And so when you yourself don’t experience adolescence, then you may not understand an adolescent in America and what they deal with. And so I didn’t know how to come to my parents about certain issues when I was a teenager or even younger than that. So I internalize a lot. So essentially my parents had wounded inner children and then I had, I came to have a wounded inner child. And so I really lean into the concept of reparenting that inner child. And so that looks like being my own inner child, my own inner cheerleader. So really minimizing a lot of critical voices I received growing up and amplifying this encouraging kind, compassionate voice that says, you’re doing enough.

It’s okay to take it easy. Things like that are really helpful. And I know often on social media and the media at large, when they talk about self care, it’s like, oh, do bubble baths or go get them. Go for a walk. Yeah, go go get a membership at Equinox or whatever.

But I’m all for free and easy self care. To me, that looks like taking a nap. It looks like dancing.

It looks like playing with your pet if you have one or volunteering. Doing something that just fills your soul. And I think that is not emphasized enough in society. Yeah, also something maybe that keeps you mindful and just staying in the present moment. Like taking a nap is self care for me.

Me too. I stay taking over work. And then I’m like, I’m going to take 30 minute nap. I need this.

Not only children take naps, I have to remind myself. So I completely agree and understand. Now, how can storytelling or sharing what we’re feeling, what we’re going through, help in regards to maybe seeking therapy or talking to your friends or family? What are some of the benefits of that? That has been the most influential component to my recovery has been community. Often when you have, so I have a history of binge drinking, eating disorders, mental illness, etc. And so when you’re in those types of circumstances, you can feel very isolated, very othered. And when you’re by yourself, pretty much have it in echo chamber of just your brain, you don’t have anyone to challenge that or say, Hey, maybe there’s another way to look at this. You just talking to yourself in one way or another, essentially. And so what helped me with the shame that often comes with certain traumas I’ve experienced is sharing it and realizing, Oh, people have not condemned me or people have even said like, like, I still care about you.

I don’t see you any differently. Or I’ve done something like that or worse. And it can be so such a beautiful experience when you share lived experiences. So I’ve met people from across around the world, different backgrounds that can still empathize with what it feels like to be molested, what it feels like to live with an eating disorder, what it feels like to be a social outcast at school. And when you hear that, it’s like, Oh, I’m not alone in this. I have someone that gets me.

I have someone that I can lean on that will validate what I’ve been through. You, you obviously seek therapy. Is that how you got into this field? Yeah, I’m not currently a therapist, but I’ve done therapy.

I’ve done support groups, rehab rehabilitation programs, wilderness program, community. It’s such a such an important factor. And for some people is easier than others, right, to reach out and share their story. So I love that you’re here sharing yours. And I know, or I’m assuming you self-disclose sometimes with your clients, is that helped with the report? Or do they, do you feel like they get more trust from you, the fact that you’ve been through all this?

Yeah, I think so. So on my website, I have links to articles of my story and things like that. So I don’t like to disclose unless they give me permission to disclose. I’m an open book, so I’ll disclose everything. But just my own experiences with therapists, I have found unwarranted disclosure to be a bit distracting. But I’m more than happy to share. And when I do share, they’re thankful. They’re like, OK, she gets it.

I don’t have to spell it out. She’s been there. And then what draws clients to me is after they’ve read my story or they’ve heard me speak and they’re like, oh, I heard you say this and like I’ve been through that or I’m going through that and I don’t know how to tell anyone. But since I’ve already experienced it or am experienced it, there’s an understanding that we don’t even need to establish.

OK, that makes complete sense. Same with rehab centers, I would assume, and the group therapy sessions. We’ve talked about the stigma and taboo, but are there any cultural traditions or practices that could harness healing in the Latino community, in your opinion? I think we can use that tradition for family gatherings and cohesion for our benefit.

So I’ve been blessed in that my parents actually went to therapy as young adults, which is very rare. I don’t know where they got them. Unheard of.

Yeah, unheard of. And they are cycle breakers. Everything I am is because of my parents and they’ve done so much for my brother and I.

Yes, they made mistakes. But so did I as a daughter. But I think what has really helped us is when we’re in those family gatherings and those cohesive spaces, just talking like, let’s let’s actually talk. Let’s express ourselves.

Let’s share what we have going on. And those are the types. So we already have that tradition of family gatherings, dinner, this and that, baptism. Now, I didn’t grow up with family drinking, but I know that’s common for many Latinos.

What if we minimized the drinking so that we’re more mindful? We’re actually present. We’re actually having heart to hearts and communication. I think if we increase actual connection, that can be so helpful for us. So we already have kind of like that custom of being around each other and talking so much. But let’s make sure we’re having conversations of substance and building trust.

Yeah. And it’s very important what you mentioned because alcohol is definitely part of my gatherings. And I think if not 99.9 percent of the families surrounding my family was also about alcohol gatherings.

So I think that that could be a great starter to minimize at least the quantity or maybe that have important conversations early in the reunions. Yeah. Not at four or five AM when they end. But definitely something, something to consider and really try to practice.

Right. I think the more the generation after generation, the cycle breakers do a little bit better. I’m not sure if it would be ever a hundred percent clear, but that would be the hopes. Do you feel that you have cleared all your generational trauma? No, I think my healing journey is very much ongoing. I think I’ve made stride since I was a teenager.

And you actually helped me. Well, I’ve known this, but to really identify that if you look at my grandparents and then my parents and then myself, there’s more healing with each generation. And so I mentioned that I didn’t grow up with alcohol and family gatherings like that. If that wasn’t by accident, it was because both my grandfathers were alcoholics. My mother grew up in a bar in Ecuador. Her home was. And so there was a lot of trauma surrounding that and alcohol.

And so neither one of my parents, they’re like, I’m not going to be a drinker like that. And so it skipped them. And then it hit my brother and I.

And because of their willingness to talk about certain things and to support my brother, Yvonne, and myself, we’re alive today. My brother should have died in a trigger warning, you know, from his brain injury in 2012. And I should have died when I was running around in very high risk situations for no reason. And so I’m very thankful that I’m here and even the eating disorder could have killed me. There’s a high mortality rate with that. But I credit my parents who were very supportive of us going to therapy and healing.

So I know when I have kids, if I’m blessed to be a mother, I’m going to, I’m going to start those conversations super early and I’m going to model sobriety and self care and things like that. Yeah. I mean, that’s the only thing you can do right at this point and then hope for the best. Yeah.

Your children take it. Yeah. Sure. Um, I know you can’t really share information, but can you like on clients personally, but are there any stories that come to your, to your head about like successful generational trauma here?

So I’m thinking of one client in particular. And I’m so proud of her because when you grow up in kind of an insular community and an insular household, you don’t even know what you’re missing or if it’s dysfunctional because that’s your normal. And so this person has a family history of mental illness, domestic violence, drug addiction, a whole lot of things. And so I’m so proud of who she’s becoming. Uh, just the other day when we had her session, she’s like, I stood up for myself.

I, I stood up for myself at work at home and like all these different ways. And for some people it’s like, you would think she won the lottery or something, but that is when that is so beautiful. And I get so excited when I see my clients have these victories in setting boundaries and being kind to themselves on taking themselves on a solo date on putting themselves first, things like that are not often taught to women, to Latinas. And so that, that’s the first thing that came to mind is just someone evolving into a version of themselves that they never thought was possible. Yeah. And for some of us, it might be easier to set a boundary and other people don’t realize that if you’ve gone through trauma, um, this case, generational trauma, it could be very difficult to stand up for yourself and just say, no, I don’t want to, especially, especially in the Latino community. Yes.

You do not understand a no. Yeah. I was actually having dinner this weekend and a friend of mine, Latina, was saying how she was told at work that she’s aggressive and she’s not aggressive. She’s a very assertive, very polite, well-mannered, but some people will perceive assertive Latinas as being aggressive, difficult, bossy. Attitude. Yeah. Spicy, yeah.

I, yeah. Spies that’s very retired because. I don’t know what they’re talking about, but. It’s just so invalidating. Like, oh, you’re starring, aren’t justified. You’re just, I don’t know, just having attitude. Like you said, I’m just assertive.

I’m sorry you get uncomfortable with my presence. Yeah. That’s a issue.

Not a me issue. Um, we mentioned, or you mentioned, um, that schools, schools has a big effect on generational trauma. How do you think, um, the school system can help with this issue? What can, what can the schools implement to help, um, the Latino community or honestly, any community?

Mm-hmm. So I want to recognize that there’s so much inequality across school system. So growing up where we lived was determined by the school system. My parents were very intentional about that. Even if we were living in an apartment, we’re going to go to this school district because they knew that schools with more resources have, those students have a better trajectory. Like your zip code has such a big influence on your life outcomes. And so for schools that have the resources, there needs to be more education around mental health, I think generally.

So, I mean, I just think about growing up. I can’t think of a single class or conversation where we talked about boundaries or we talked about mental health. I know there’s some advocates that want to teach children about safe touch, uh, harmful and some people don’t want that. And imagine how many children could be helped if they were taught the vocabulary to communicate what is happening to them. And so I would say overall training counselors to be culturally competent, training them and within that, that certain groups have certain customs and ideologies. So with Latinos, they need to be more sensitive about, okay, this student may not come, Hey, this is what’s happening because they’re taught not to do that.

Or they’re taught that’s just soil. So let me, let me listen to them and see how they’re going to communicate. So a student, yeah, say, I’m getting beat at home. They might say, I don’t really want to go home.

I wish I could stay at school forever. Like things like that, they need to learn how to pick up on that. And that can be the start of it. We have a more representation as much as possible. It really helps to have diversity in the staff so that students can feel more comfortable speaking to someone that looks like them.

And that gets it. I went to mostly predominantly white schools. And despite being pale, they very much knew that I was not, and I never tried to be white. Um, I emphasize that because it truly doesn’t matter. It’s, if you’re not white, you’re not white period. And so that looked like a lot of microaggressions from students, from, from counselors, from teachers.

And that’s painful. And since it’s a microaggression, it’s really hard to identify. I didn’t even know there was a word for that until I was like in college or law school. And so you’re dealt all this pain and all that pain compounds until finally, you’re like, just, I became enraged at one point.

Yeah. You know, when, when you talk about, um, these, um, kits or students, right, that are afraid to speak up. I’ve had multiple occasions where students would just tell me, I can’t tell you my mom would kill me, or they would tell me.

And then, you know, depending on what they told me, I’d be like, well, I have to talk to mom and they would be like horrified. Yeah. Like, what do you mean?

Wait, no. You know, um, and then it was kind of my job to be the mediator because sometimes parents from the Latino community, again, they, they just don’t know how therapy works. They don’t know how counseling works. Um, think we’re out to get them. So, but what I found is that after talking to them and explaining and, and really breaking it down to, I’m not here to get you.

I just want to help your daughter or your son. They actually were very grateful. Um, maybe they didn’t like the fact that I knew too much, but when I made it about the children and the mental health of the children, um, they’re very receptive. So comes down to, again, communication, speaking, speaking openly, you know, and not just assuming that everyone’s just going to think bad. Yeah.

That’s a great point. Um, and, and really hits close to home. So in my household, discipline looked a certain way. And so, uh, my brother received different discipline more intensely than I did. And he told me, he’s like, I, I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t, you know, counselors, cause he would get in fights and they’d be like, yo, what’s going on? Like, well, not like that, but they would be like, what’s happening at home?

And he’s like, I can’t tell them. So I, you know, when they would ask, like, does someone hit you or whatever. He’s like, and so there’s, uh, and I think of other occasions in the family where it’s, there is a fear of law enforcement. There is a fear, uh, depending on your family’s immigration status, a fear of deportation, a fear of a lot of things. And so I’m grateful that they were able to speak to you. So when it was also Latin and speaks Spanish and it probably felt safe for her like, okay, she’s on our side and she’s really just trying to help. Yeah.

I, I also, um, well, great. I was raised in Venezuela, but I did my high school in New Jersey and it was, predominantly white. Um, I think I’m lucky that the school, like I didn’t feel any microaggression or anything where I didn’t notice. Maybe I didn’t care, but I was, you know, received with open arms.

I think it was just me and maybe two more that were Latino. Um, but before that, like I didn’t even think about the differences. Like, I remember, um, when I was sent to Jersey, my mom said, well, if they mess with you, if you say this and that, and I’m like, why would anybody mess with anybody? Like I didn’t, I didn’t get the whole bullying concept. I didn’t get, you know, um, but thankfully that was not my experience. However, now being on the other side, um, I did school counseling for years, um, I was able to, to see the aggression and we’re in Florida. Well, I’m in Florida, Miami-Dade, and it’s not even that bad here because there’s so many different cultures, but I can’t imagine just going a little bit more of north.

Yes. You know, so in small town, Connecticut, I don’t know how I ended up there. I mean, uh, a town of 17,000 people and 97% white. It was an experience. Yeah. What are some, you know, some people might not understand what microaggression is.

What, can you give us some examples, um, so people get a better grasp of the difference between macro and macro? For sure. So when it comes to, and yeah, my parents have something similar, similarly, when they were in Ecuador, Nicaragua, it’s like, we weren’t so cognizant of race. Yes, there’s black people, there’s indigenous people, but once you hit the states, it’s like, wow, there’s a caste system. There’s a whole history that is so ingrained. And so I would say, so I say that to say that systemic racism has gone more to, it hasn’t disappeared. It’s just taken different forms. So it’s less institutionalized than previous eras.

But even if it’s less obvious, it’s still there. So microaggressions, instead of someone saying, you can’t come to the school because you’re Hispanic, they might call you different names or they might say inappropriate comments. So like in Connecticut, I remember students openly making racist comments about undocumented immigrants, about Mexicans, and the teachers didn’t do anything. I mean, making jokes about slavery, so many, I remember their Halloween parade, these individuals that did a whole presentation on tolerance on another date, on this date, came with pieces of fence and dressed in very stereotypical Mexican attire.

And it was, they were illegal aliens per concept. And I’m just like, wow. So things like that, I remember looking around and I’m like, am I the only one seeing this?

Like how distasteful and upsetting this is. And I’m so proud of myself because I was like 14 and I was super shy and very isolated. But after that, at the end of the school day, I went to the vice principal and I talked to him. I was like, that was wrong. That was not okay. You were the advocate.

Yeah, it was already in me. And I mean, I’ve been called a wetback. I’ve been called different things. I remember in seventh grade, a mutual friend telling me that, so a friend telling me that our mutual friend’s father didn’t want her to associate with me because I’m black. That’s when I learned when it comes to races, they don’t care. Are you white? Yes or no? Okay, then no.

Yeah. You’re in that category. And that’s just one of many examples where you start to internalize, well, what’s wrong with me? Like what’s wrong with being Latina?

What’s, why do these people think that we’re like the sum of the earth? And then I also live in Florida. And so, yeah, there’s a lot of messages that aren’t always inviting to Latino.

So that can be really painful. For the people that might be listening and are trying to look for resources or where to get help, what are some of the recommendations? So do you have any books? Well, you just mentioned the word book in the beginning of the interview.

I’m using some right now to hold up my computer. But aside this one, It Didn’t Start With You by Mark Wallin. That’s generational trauma and the science behind it. And he explains how, you know, when a woman is pregnant, there’s essentially three generations of DNA in her body at that time. And it’s just so fascinating how, yes, if that woman has elevated cortisol levels with a child in her womb, that’s going to affect the fetus and their life, even when they’re outside of the womb.

So very eye-opening. And then the body keeps the score is like very well. It’s Bessel van der Kolk. And he’s pretty much a pioneer of PTSD. And I really appreciated that book because it gives you the science behind what’s going on in your brain. And it really shows that when you experience PTSD and trauma, it changes your brain’s wiring. So I think of certain behaviors growing up like trauma reenactment or births of anger. And when you do things like that, it’s okay, you’re crazy.

You’re the crazy Latina or you are this and that. But he really breaks it down that that’s your brain reacting to perceived threat. And your nervous system is a bit hijacked when you haven’t resolved previous trauma.

So it’s like, it just needs a bit of regulating, but you’re okay. And then my grandmother’s hand by Resma Menachem is specifically for racial trauma. So for people of color and the pain we carry by Natalie Gutierrez is also about healing from complex trauma for people of color. But aside from that, yeah, I would recommend the National Alliance on Mental Illness, so

Look them up, see what chapter is closest to you and go to one of their meetings or go visit them. And they have so many different resources about what is bipolar disorder and what are reasons for that. And different groups were people that are loved ones or who are living with it can come together and receive support. There’s a lot of different online communities. So Solar Black Girls Club was one that I mentioned. There’s also smart recovery groups for those trying to reduce alcohol for BIPOC, myself.

And if you do have insurance, definitely check out and then putting your zip code and your insurance and search for providers in your area. Yeah, no, all great resources. And I loved all the books that you mentioned, by the way. I have to read two of them. I just have to find the time for our listeners that might be going through generational trauma.

What would be your last message? I would say that their pain and their feelings are valid. And please don’t let anyone tell you that they’re not. And so I say that as someone who has been told you haven’t been through anything. You lived in suburbs, you had mommy and daddy. And so I, for the longest time, wouldn’t validate myself. Like, how can I dare complain when I know what my family has been through? And boohoo, people are calling me a wetback or they’re, you know, whatever they’re saying. But no, that pain was valid in a never-won-away.

I’m 32 and I still think about things about when I was 13 that are hurtful. And so if your family is unwilling to do the work with you, you can find your own community. There’s so many people in the world have that abundance mindset. Know that, especially with the advent of social media, you can find your own group of people that will believe you, that will support you.

So please don’t give up on yourself. Yeah, social media is not all that bad. You can definitely find a lot of communities. It’s good to know how to use it.

Yeah, there’s, there’s good and bad. Well, thank you so much. I love this conversation. I know we can keep talking about it over and over, especially with our own experiences. But I think we’ve shared a lot of important information and I want to thank you again for having this conversation with me. Thank you, Michelle, for inviting me in and for having this platform. Thank you for watching. If you are listening in our podcast, please leave us a review. And if you’re watching us on YouTube, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel.

Experience Mental Health without the Stigma

Michelle Chaffardet hosts Mindfull—the podcast and channel creating a safe space for viewers exploring topics like addiction, recovery, mental illness, and resilience. Building relationships with local providers and diverse experts, Michelle brings her warmth, training, and curiosity as a therapist to every educational, engaging guest episode.

More and more, Americans seek answers to mental health trouble and treatment puzzles. Last year, billions of searches sought symptoms, local recovery, and wellness practices. People are ready to dig deep and find support. Through Mindfull, Michelle supports these seekers looking for help with real worries about themselves, their loved ones, and their community.

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