I hope you are doing well. I’m undocumented but I feel like I can’t talk to anyone about it. My family is no support, they act like I can just get up and make myself legal. I’ve told a few people and the friendships ended after that conversation. People act different toward you or stop talking to you. It hurts a lot that you’re going through such a thing and you can’t even express it. Being undocumented has gotten me depressed over the years. It’s to the point where I have panic attacks in public and it’s embarrassing. I avoid hanging out with people because I don’t want it to happen. I’ve been considering getting on xanax or something for anxiety but I’m scared of the side effects it will have on me. Also I’m not working so I don’t have much money to pay for the doctor visits. What do u think I should do? Do you know of any resources low cost or free that provide mental health services?
Thank you so much for your email and for your honesty and openness.
It’s so frustrating to have no one to talk to but I can assure you that there are people out there who do care and are willing to listen and help out to the best of their abilities.
I saw in your response to the form that you’re located in New York. I was wondering if you were within the 5 boroughs? If so, New York City offers municipal care to low income/unemployed folks including undocumented people. All you would need to bring in is an ID, proof of address, proof of income (or notarized unemployment letter you wrote) to get financial assistance. Many clinics offer all kinds of mental health services and it can come out to be only $15 per visit! I know this may still be a lot for many people, but it’s still cheaper than if one was to pay full price. Here is more information about these services.
I’m not sure if you’re a student, but often times, there are many services for students from mental health services to support groups on campus. While I know not all support groups address immigrant issues, I think surrounding yourself with other people who are in a space to listen and share, can help.
I’m not completely sure how Xanax works and if it is over the counter but I do suggest seeing a specialist before attempting to put yourself on any sort of medication. I think there are many ways to address depression and medication can be one of them when approached in a safe way. I’m sure a doctor or mental health professional will be able to talk to you more about different treatment options if you need them.
Dealing with depression is not easy at all. But here are some tips I found to be useful or at least helpful in some ways and that I use myself.
- Turn to trusted friends and family members.
Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust. Ask for the help and support you need.
- Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it.
Often when you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell, but being around other people will make you feel less depressed.
- Join a support group for depression.
Being with others dealing with depression can go a long way in reducing your sense of isolation. You can also encourage each other, give and receive advice on how to cope, and share your experiences.
I know that may sound really difficult to do but some ways of building relationships are: talking to one person about your feelings, helping someone else by volunteering, having lunch or coffee with a friend, asking a loved one to check in with you regularly, accompanying someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together, calling or emailing an old friend or a new friend, going for a walk with a workout buddy, scheduling a weekly dinner date, meeting new people by taking a class or joining a club, confiding in a counselor, therapist, or clergy member. Another idea is to set up cyber relationships with people who get it. This has helped me, here’s a awesome immigration list on twitter of people who share stuff related to immigration and/or are undocumented.
Challenge The Negative Thoughts
One can’t break out of a pessimistic mind frame by “just thinking positive.” Happy thoughts or wishful thinking won’t end depression. Rather, the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts.
Ask yourself if you’d say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else. If not, stop being so hard on yourself.
- Allow yourself to be less than perfect.
Did you know that depression tends to go hand in hand with perfectionism? It happens when we hold ourselves to impossibly high standards and then beat ourselves up when those standards aren’t met.
- Socialize with positive people.
Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.
- Keep a “negative thought log.”
Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook. Review your log when you’re in a good mood or don’t read them at all.
Do It For Yourself
This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning to manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits, and scheduling fun activities into your day. Aim for eight hours of sleep and eat healthy. Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Exercise regularly (and that can mean going up and down the stairs for 30 mins or walking around your neighborhood). Have your coffee outside, people-watch on a park bench. Keep stress in check. Stress examples include: work overload, unsupportive relationships, taking on too much, or health problems. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact. Practice relaxation techniques (try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation). Do things you enjoy (or used to).
- Develop a wellness toolbox
(I have something like this. even a wellness playlist full of songs that make me want to move!) Come up with a list of things that you can do for a quick mood boost. Include any strategies, activities, or skills that have helped in the past. The more “tools” for coping with depression, the better.
I hope this helped a little! Let me know how it goes.
Created on Oct 21, 2010. Ask Angy is the first undocumented youth advice column. It was born in the New York State Youth Leadership Council because there was no space to ask questions or seek advice. This blog is a space for youth to email their concerns, questions, stories or simply ask for help without being judged. Email them to Angy at Angy@nysylc.org or fill out this form.
This is a space to let it all out! You don’t have to bottle it up inside. Your stories and worries matter! You are not alone. Remember, the insecurities and fears you have, someone else is them having too. Don’t be afraid to speak out.
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