In Latin culture, learning differences are rarely talked about. They’re silenced and ignored out of fear that admitting these issues makes one seem “weak.” And in my household, my parents were no different.
For a long time, my mother didn’t want me to meet with a psychiatrist to find out why I was anxious all the time. It’s not that she didn’t want me to get help. But she worried what finding out would label me as. I battled with depression and my father couldn’t understand why. To him, my life was much better than his was as a child.
Still, I pushed to meet with a psychiatrist. And I’m glad that I did.
After a few meetings and some testing, I received a diagnosis. Turns out I was experiencing generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). And there was medication to help — though my mother didn’t want me to be on it forever. She worried about the effects it would have on me in the future, and she was concerned I wouldn’t be able to handle things on my own. Her worries, over time, made me worry. So much so that I was afraid to request an ADHD and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) evaluation.
I suffered throughout my undergraduate studies. I even struggled at my first job after college. And then I decided that enough was enough. So, without consulting my parents, I sought a referral to see a neuropsychologist.
When I finally told my parents, they sighed, wondering why I kept trying to find something wrong with me. My mother said, “Nothing is wrong with you. You’re unique. Look at how successful you have been, and you think something more is wrong with you?”
My parents know that I’m smart, and they’re proud of me. I have succeeded as a first-generation high school, college, and graduate student. They’re not concerned about the issues I have, but they are afraid of what our relatives think. Stigma still exists in our culture and in our family.
When I received my diagnoses for ADHD and ASD, my parents didn’t understand. I hadn’t shown signs of common symptoms for either disorder. I think that’s because I had mastered how to mask my challenges, overwork myself, and pretend to be “normal.” But I knew I couldn’t go on like this forever. And while it was difficult, I couldn’t take my parents’ reactions to heart.
Ironically, many of our relatives didn’t finish school in Mexico because of learning difficulties. I found out that as a child, my mom had struggled with focus and learning. And at the time, she thought this was common.
Then one day things changed.
My mom started to wonder more about her own challenges. She was working a full-time job and going to school at night. And it was becoming harder for her to focus on her tasks.
One night, she texted me, “What was that thing you had with the attention?” My mom was finally wondering what she should do about her struggles with focus. I replied, “Do you want to hear some strategies that I use to help make life a little easier?”