Someone Who Looks Like Me, Part III
As a young African American woman, I remember what it was like as a teenager to watch TV after school and see other young people going through some kind of pain, for example, abuse, drug addiction, depression or an eating disorder. I felt alienated and isolated because the people staring back at me on the TV screen did not look like me. I could not find anything that closely resembled my family nor my culture in print or on the big screen, unless they were negative stereotypes portrayed by the media. Growing up, I experienced serious trauma. Unfortunately, it took me twenty years to get help. I needed to be able to relate to someone who looked like me and was experiencing mental health issues like I was. I needed to see that there was hope and that with the right treatment, support and additional resources, that I could have a life worth living.
Today, I live a purpose-driven life that soothes my soul. I carry the message I learned to others, because it’s my duty to give it away so that I can keep it. I also do it to share my experience, strength and hope with others. I was once told that someone like me, with all of my issues, could not go to college. I took that negative message as a challenge. I proved her wrong during each semester in college, as I earned various awards, designations and recognition from the faculty and my peers. Now, I’m going into the mental health field as a career. I speak my truth everywhere I go; I want others who struggle silently to know they’re represented, they’re not alone and that recovery is possible.
Teena is a NAMI Ending the Silence presenter with NAMI Dallas, which serves four large urban and suburban counties that are home to hundreds of thousands of families from a wide variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.Teena’s story is the third installment of a three-part series during National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
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Note: This personal story was prepared by its author in his or her personal capacity. The opinions expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the views of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.