Cracks of Sunshine
By Francis Gutierrez
This piece is about my struggle with depression and mental health.
Tiny. An ant trapped at the feet of giants. Lost. Confused. Fragile. Scared to get stomped on, constantly trying to scurry away. It seems much of life has been spent this way, feeling so small. Feeling as though I would never be as big as the mob of giants above me, their heads towering over me from the clouds. At some point, I started feeling mentally fried, so much so that my body stopped complying. My world felt like it was crumbling around me, and I didn’t even flinch. Instead, I lay in my ruins. I gave up. I didn’t lift a finger. I stopped caring about anything that used to matter, yet I still had to put up a front. No one noticed. I lost my sense of purpose and soon after, my friends. “Only babies cry” and “people who are depressed should just be happy.” These were things I had heard for a lifetime. Instead of telling anyone how I felt, I cried myself to sleep every single night.
I was that tiny ant and no one understood. I grew up in a Hispanic household where no one spoke about what was going on in their minds or shared much. It didn’t help that I was their golden girl, their angel, the way to success. I didn’t want to let them down so I swallowed my tears and held onto the pain. I tried to keep moving. That’s the thing about depression, it eats you alive and spits you right back out. Numbness and pain at the very same time. I would look at the roof above my head and ask God why I was alive. I didn’t understand how I was supposed to live like this. Truthfully, sometimes I still don’t.
Even then, I was scared to admit I was alone. So I smiled and was the loudest laugh in the room. I became the girl who everyone associated with a ray of sun when in reality I was shadows. I needed help. It took me a while to admit I wasn’t okay. My therapy sessions were hard and uncomfortable. Yet it felt so good to let it out. And that’s when I discovered writing, I wasn’t alone. I had my words and my thoughts.
When people finally found out they asked me, “Francis, why didn’t you say anything?” I stayed silent. Why would I expose myself in that sense? It hurt so much to see my loved ones cry over me, to feel as though I hurt them. Because this couldn’t be happening to their little girl. This couldn’t be happening to the little girl who had a roof above her head, to the little girl who had a family and friends. To the one who had excelled, the one “destined” for great things. But it was happening, and it felt as though I had betrayed them. They loved me, and although this was all new to them, they stuck through it with me. I had support. I had just been too ashamed to ask for it, to go to them. I was too preoccupied with being perfect. But here I am standing tall, on most days at least. I let my passions in and let them consume me and slowly the sun started coming out again. Still, I am not always sunny, I have days where I turn into that same tiny ant scurrying away. Yet I force myself out of bed, and I tell myself it is time for another day. Another day where I can keep my mind tuned to all the things I love. Some might say it is shameful, and I remind myself it is where I came from. It is part of my past and may be even my future. That I have been able to break free from such a stigmatized illness reminds me that we are all stronger than we seem, that we can all rise.
Francis Gutierrez is a Manhattan-raised, young Latina writer with a passion for activism. Her work ranges from self-reflective poetry to informative and analytical journalistic pieces. She hopes to make a difference with her writing and to help others.