Mental health is something that is highly stigmatized in our Latino community. Generations of trauma and toxic behaviors have caused our parents to believe that our mental health and emotions are not important.
We are told to “suck it up” and simply move forward with our household chores, school, and work responsibilities. They don’t understand that we need to take care of ourselves, not only physically but also mentally, to thrive.
From their ignorance comes probably some of the most hurtful things a parent can say to a child. All because they don’t acknowledge that these behaviors are a product of generational trauma.
Thankfully, I have learned to set boundaries and just know how to keep a distance. While this can feel lonely and empty at times, my logical side knows that this is for the best.
At this point, all the therapists I have seen probably have a large section in my client notes regarding my mom.
Here are some things my mom used to say that have cost me thousands of dollars in therapy.
‘El más amigo es traidor y el más verdadero miente’
Growing up, my mom would always say, “the most friendly is a traitor, and the most truthful is a liar,” to my sister and me. It was meant to teach us not to be so trusting and be vigilant at all times. Its purpose was to have you believe that even those closest to you can be hurtful and deceitful (oh, the irony).
To be honest, it was only until recently that I realized this is not a saying that all Latina moms use. Latinos are known for having hundreds of refranes, so you can imagine my shock when I realized this is a product of my own mom’s toxic tendencies.
This was when I started to see that is not something you should be saying to children.
While I can understand the desire for my mom to protect me from people that mean harm, she was raising children that ended up being closed off, did not express their emotions, could not stand up for themselves, and had commitment issues when it came to relationships and friendships.
‘Cuando yo me muera quiero que me cremen’
What is it with our parents’ hyper fixation with death? While it is important as adults to have all our affairs in order because you never know what can happen, I don’t think having a lengthy and detailed conversation with your 5-year-old about how you want your funeral arrangements is necessary.
My mom would always quote biblical verses about how from ashes we all came and to dust we all return. This had me contemplating the intricacies of death from a very young age without even needing to.
But then we can’t hang up a skull decoration for Halloween or read Harry Potter books because they imply witchcraft? The hypocrisy.
‘Tu vida no ha sido tan horrible como la mía’
This is probably one of the things I have talked about with my therapist the most. My mom had this gift of somehow turning every situation about her. Whenever I would complain, one way or the other, the conversation took a sharp turn towards all of her hardships.
It’s almost forbidden to have any obstacle because hers were always the worst, leaving me feeling diminished and unimportant. Like a competition.
‘¡Vas a ver cuando lleguemos a la casa!’
Ah, the constant threats. While I was never really a troublemaker growing up, whenever I spoke out of turn or misbehaved around my mom, she would threaten me with some type of verbal or physical retaliation when we were in private.
Again, this added even more irrational fear and anxiety to my already fragile psyche, feeling as if life should be lived as if you’re walking on eggshells, which still affects me well into adulthood.
‘Solo me tienes a mi’
My mom raised me to believe I only had her to rely on. Similar to “no se que van a hacer cuando yo me muera”, some Latina moms raise us to believe that the world is a terrible place.
Therefore, I grew up sheltered underneath my mom’s command.
The consequences of this have been almost no relationships with my family members, as I never had the chance to bond with them. And obviously, as an adult, I choose to keep a healthy distance from my mom.
It may take years of soul searching to truly find ways to cope and heal, but the first step is always asking for help from a professional. You’d be surprised just how much insight a therapist can offer you.