This Is How I Cope With My Anxiety As A DACAmented Latina Living Under A Trump Administration
About 40 million adults in the U.S. live with anxiety, an intense feeling of worry and fear that’s difficult to control. I’m one of these people. I’m also one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who calls this country home and one of the 689,800 active recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era policy that shielded young people like me from deportation.
Under the Trump administration, where DACA’s fate is uncertain and immigrants are under constant attack, my anxiety has intensified. I feel like I can’t make career plans or set any goals because I don’t know what is going to happen next. I can’t just have a Plan B, but also need a Plan C and D. Ideally, I want to further my education by either going to graduate school or law school. Although I know that pursuing these goals are possible without DACA, it is the fear of not being able to legally work afterwards that makes me hesitant. If DACA is terminated, what kind of employment opportunities will be available to me and what are my options?
A life after DACA is possible, I know this, but not knowing what it would look like, for me, has been daunting.
Even more, while some people victimize us, others continue to criminalize us, cherry-picking our narratives instead of actually listening to us. In his speech about ending DACA, Jeff Sessions stated that DACA recipients are not “bad people,” but that the laws need to be imposed because “enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering. Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism.” Here, he — and by extension our government — once again criminalizes immigrants as if we have not been saving lives, forming part of many communities, contributing to the economy and bringing joy and culture to this country.
All of this is becoming very overwhelming.
My anxiety used to come up under circumstances I could identify and prepare for — when I had a big test coming up or when I was trying something for the first time — but now things are different. My anxiety seems to find new ways of manifesting itself. I’ve suddenly become terrified to drive more than five miles. I feel trapped and not in control. My hands begin to sweat, and I can’t wait to get home. There, even making small talk with people feels like a nightmare, including with family and friends. I get nervous and sometimes stutter. It’s come to a point that I’m avoiding social interactions altogether.
Then there are the attacks that have occured for no particular reason. On one occasion, I went to the emergency room because I was convinced that my difficulty breathing meant that I was going to die. On my worst nights, I also deal with insomnia. My heart races and my breaths become short right as I’m about to fall asleep. Thoughts of everything that could go wrong in my life speed through my mind.
I feel like I’m becoming someone I don’t want to be, someone afraid to live her life.
I can’t say that I have found a permanent solution to my anxiety, but I have found ways to cope. While I was in college, I had access to counseling on campus, and my therapist helped me process a lot. But now that I have graduated and this service is not something I can afford, I have had to find alternative ways to tend to my mental health. Hearing other people share their experiences with anxiety has helped me a lot. It’s amazing the community you are able to cultivate through social media. I follow accounts that post positive affirmations, self-care tips and everyday people who are honest about their lives with anxiety and how they cope. I have found many inspirations and methods that have been extremely beneficial.
One of my favorite things to do after a hectic day is light a candle, make some lavender honey tea and put on a face mask, but I have learned that self care goes beyond that. Self care also includes checking in with yourself and finding the root of whatever is causing your current emotional distress. I also take walks and disconnect from technology sometimes or I make sure I’m eating right, even when my anxiety makes me lose my appetite. Self care isn’t always pretty and Instagram-worthy. Sometimes it’s letting yourself cry in front of someone you love because you should not have to carry whatever is heavy on your heart alone.
I’m still working on creating daily habits that help with my anxiety because it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. Meditating has allowed me to really be in the present. Anxiety often comes from worrying about the future, so making sure I’m living in the present can alleviate that stress. I like to use the guided meditation on the “Insight” app, and even five minutes a day is helpful. Journaling allows me to put down on paper whatever it is I am feeling. Through writing, I can usually find the solution to whatever is making me angst or realize that it’s not as terrible as it seems. Watching shows that make me laugh is also very therapeutic. Currently, my favorite is The Office. I’m able to take a break from any negativity and have a good laugh that ends up putting me in a positive mood. There are also habits, things and people that I have removed from my life. For instance, I no longer waste my energy on people who are narrow-minded, because I’ve learned it is unproductive, and at times unhealthy, trying to convince someone who hates you of your own humanity. I know our worth and I will fight for it, but I won’t interact with someone who aims to invalidate what we deserve.
On the good days, I am able to drive from point A to point B, have conversations with people I know and don’t know and get better sleep. I still get anxious, but I have found that, for me, the only thing worse than doing the things that make me anxious is not doing them at all, because avoiding these things is the equivalent to missing out on life. By avoiding the things that make you anxious, you feed your anxiety and give it more power. I now force myself to drive a little further, talk to that person for a little longer, go to that party with all those people and live my best life.
There is no shame in having anxiety, but I refuse to let it dictate my life.
To keep my anxiety at bay, I have realized that it is important to allow myself to feel. There are days when I need to cry, and that is OK. There is strength in acknowledging and accepting what I’m feeling.
The uncertainty about my future remains, but it no longer affects me the way it did before. I’ve learned that DACA plays a crucial role in my life, but it does not define me or my worth. Among the unpredictability of this political time, there is one thing I am actually certain of: I will overcome whatever obstacle comes next.
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