I am a college graduate

Well, it is now official, I am a college graduate. I may not have been able to have a proper graduation but I am able to hold my diploma in my hands, and it’s an amazing feeling, I worked so hard for this.  I struggled so much over the years and because of issues with my mental and physical health, I spent almost 15 years trying to just get a two-year degree. And given the trauma of my brother’s death in middle school and how difficult high school was, I never imagined in a million years that I would have a college degree. In fact, a few weeks before graduating high school at my alternative school, I talked with a counselor and she asked me what my plans were and I told her I just wanted to get a job somewhere and earn a paycheck. She shook her head and asked about me going to college and I told her that I wasn’t sure about it at the moment, she shrugged her shoulders that was the end of the conversation, like at that moment we both gave up on me, college was out of the question.

I took a year off of school and worked at a Grocery store, bagging groceries. A year later, I started college and took a few classes but I wasn’t ready, I was in bad shape emotionally and physically,  I had to get up several times to use the restroom, I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the other students, I felt stupid and I didn’t understand the lectures so, I quit after a few weeks,  feeling like a total failure.


I gave up and found a minimum wage job ( one of many over the years) and worked for about three years, just trying to earn any money I could, my emotional and physical problems got significantly worse and it affected my job performance and I was treated poorly at every job I worked at. Finally, my physical difficulties became so bad, that I could no longer work and I forced to stay at home. During that time, I wanted to learn something so I taught myself Spanish by watching Spanish language television, listening to the radio, and reading my dad’s old books in Spanish.

Eventually, I decided that I should take a Spanish class at my local community class and I signed up, I also signed for an English writing course, I took a test and I was required to take a remedial English course to get me up to speed to a credited English course.  I remember the Spanish class well; it was a beginner’s course and I had already learned most of the language concepts. On the very first day of class, I met my teacher, she was pretty with curly hair and she said she was Cuban. My family is Cuban and I excitedly told her my family was Cuban, she looked unimpressed as if I was trying to brown-nose her. And when she heard me speak Spanish, she told me that I didn’t belong there, I belonged in a more advanced class, I didn’t complain.

When I took the English course, they had us write simple compositions about our favorite vacation or just creative writing, I enjoyed it, I didn’t see myself as a writer or have a passion for it yet. One day the teacher told us we could write about any topic we liked but had to have a 3 to a 4-page minimum. Well, I decided to write about the counterculture of the 1960s, a topic I knew a lot about since I watched every documentary I could on the subject.  A few days before the due date, I hadn’t written anything. I sat on my couch and started writing in a notebook every idea that came to my head, it was page after page. Eventually, I was able to mold that into a paper that spanned 10 pages, I just couldn’t stop writing. I turned it in, a few days later the professor talked me and said the dean was concerned because he thought I had plagiarized it but couldn’t prove it, I said sincerely that I didn’t, I just loved to write. The teacher said “I believe you” and handed me back my paper and like the other class, moved me to a credited college course immediately, it was one of the proudest moments of my life up to that point, I felt really smart. After those classes, I took another semester with two classes, I continued the English writing and Spanish courses, I did quite well, I was proud of myself.  As I was taking this class, my family was planning to move out of state, so I have to stay with my Aunt for a few weeks to finish my courses.


I moved to another city and took another year off to just get settled, I found another low paying job that I hated but, in my heart, I wanted to be back in school. After a year, I signed for classes here at the local community classes, I now had a school counselor and a set number of classes I needed to take. I started to branch out, I took a communications class and some other class I can’t remember, I did well in those classes, considering I was also working a job that was stressing me out at the time.  During my last year at this job, I missed a few semesters and just lost interest in school, I think my mental health was really deteriorating at this point. Sadly, my job was affecting my mental health so bad that I had a breakdown, I quit after 3 years and I was so distraught that I didn’t know what to do, I came home upset that I lost a job and I also liked a co-worker but she wasn’t interested, I was a mess. I was at one of the lowest points in my life and feeling hopeless. I was on Facebook and I saw a post from an old friend and they were now working with people with disabilities, I was impressed and I was also angry because I had disabilities and I was treated so poorly in the workplace, I wanted to do something to make a difference. I found a book with college programs, I was outside chain-smoking and I saw a program called “Human services technology developmental disabilities” And immediately I pointed at it and said to myself “I can do that”  I didn’t even hesitate.

A few weeks later, I signed for a few classes and I entered the program. I met with the man who was the chair of the program and he became my school counselor, he was kind and really believed in me ( sadly he no longer is working for the school anymore) He was teaching a lot of the classes I was in and I was excited to be there, I excelled, I loved the curriculum and I got good grades without even reading much, I was just interested in the classes, I wrote papers and loved the discussions we had. I especially loved when I had assignments where I had to interview people in the disabilities field, I got so much out of that. I was just proud that I was doing so well. I  was required to take a counseling course, which was the hardest class of them all, everyone feared this professor, she was tough. She would get upset at me if I wouldn’t follow the format of writing she expected. She would tell me that she didn’t care about the content, I didn’t follow her directions and I could do better. But once I was able to follow her format, she started to really like what I turned in and I was one of the few person’s that got A’s on her hardest papers; both required us to write over 10 pages, it was hard work but I love to write. I ended up getting an A in her class, I just jumped for joy.


After that semester, I had some financial troubles and I wasn’t working, my parents were retired and couldn’t help me much with paying for classes. Again, I had to stop classes and after a few months. I applied for a Pell grant, which basically gives low-income students an opportunity to finish school without worrying about finances, they paid my tuition and books, I even got money back at the end of the semester, it was a godsend. So, I was finally able to go back and get closer to getting my degree.

I took a few classes and began an internship program at a large agency in the area, it was a day support center where they had classes and art time for disabled adults. I was working at the time, so it was hard at first to get my hours. I really loved the clients and they loved me and I also got to know the support workers there, we got along well. I, however, did not like my supervisor, I could tell from the moment I walked in that she did not like me. I am not sure what it was about me but she had this disdain, she looked annoyed every time I would ask her a question, she never gave me direction, so I ended not doing much except helping teach the classes and interacting with the students, I felt frustrated because I didn’t know what to do unless someone took the time to show me what they needed. I finished my first round of internship and passed but I wasn’t happy and neither was she, I questioned whether or not I belonged in this field.

As time went on, I continued my classes, I slowly but surely got closer to my degree, but one thing was bothering me, I have a learning disability in math and I had been avoiding it until the very end, I knew it would be difficult. I finally had to take a remedial math course and it was this large computer room ( like you see in a library) with a station with 5 or 6 computers attached. The course was done in class and online, I was not allowed to use a calculator and I got so frustrated, I’d go home and just want to scream, I didn’t get it. After a week, I walked out, totally distraught, and thinking that I could never pass. The next semester, I tried again and passed the first remedial course. Oh, and the course was only for 4 weeks at a time, which didn’t give me the time I needed to learn and that only added to the frustration.

Before I took this next math course, I talked to someone at the disability department about getting accommodations, I qualified and was able to have a student write their notes for me, I was able to have more test time and to take it at the learning center instead of the class, I felt like this could help me pass. I was also feeling like I could pass this next math course because I heard that I could use a calculator, that was my main issue, simple arithmetic was holding me back and I could figure everything out if I just had a calculator. It turned out that I could use a calculator only if I passed the first test.  When I attended my first class, I was so lost and I kept looking at the girl next to me, she was so much farther along than me and I felt so dumb, I’d asked the teacher assistant a question and she’d explain it and I still wouldn’t get it, I’d ask again and could tell she was annoyed. I had it, I was cursing underneath my breath, I angrily threw my stuff into my bag and walked out. I called my mom and told her that I couldn’t do this, I felt like an idiot and I was never going to pass, I felt so bad at that time and hopeless. I talked to my counselor after and she explained to me that the class required no calculators and there was nothing she could do about it.

At the time I had started volunteering at a Christian organization for adults with developmental disabilities and I was telling the woman in charge about the issues I was having and she offered to help, there was also a parent of one of the disabled adults and she would sit down with me and go over the math problems and explain it slowly so I could understand, she was kind.  Also being there had given me the confidence I had lost while I was at the internship, volunteering I felt valued and loved and knew that I was capable of being in this field if I had the right guidance and people who cared.

I ended up having my mom come with me and explain to the counselor the difficulties I was having and how I was at a disadvantage because the trauma of losing my brother really affected my education in high school ( and that was the truth)  I asked if I could waive the math course and she said that usually never happens unless it were extenuating circumstances. She mentioned that the school might offer the option of substituting a class but it would be in science, I was concerned since I was not good at science either and had dropped out of a few of those classes over the years. She said substitution was also rare and I shouldn’t get my hopes up. I walked out feeling somewhat disappointed because this was my last resort and I didn’t get a solid answer but we did request that the class be substituted, I was told that it would take some time for a decision to be made.


A few months passed and I heard nothing, I contacted the school several times and didn’t get an answer, I was ready to give up at this point. I finally got an email from my disability counselor and said that they were looking over the decision and I’d know soon, I knew in my heart that it would be denied, I’d never pass this course and get my degree, after all those years of hard work. I was thinking of trying to find another community college to finish up at and see if they could waive this math course, sadly, I was told that it was a state requirement. My last resort was to write a letter to the state board and keep going higher up until I got an answer. One day, I was checking my school email and I saw something from school with the subject “Class substitution ‘  I was nervous and opened the email, it stated that the substitution HAD been approved and they were offering astronomy. I literally screamed for joy and jumped out of my seat. I didn’t know a thing about astronomy but I knew that it was better than math and I had a chance of passing.


I quickly signed up and attended class in the fall. I was concerned though that I might not do well but the first class, I enjoyed the lecture and the teacher was really cool. It was both an in-class lecture and online work, that was ok with me. But the best part was yet to come, the professor mentioned that we did have in-class quizzes and exams. When the exams came, he surprised us and said that the exam was online with open notes, everyone was relieved. I ended up passing with flying colors, my heart soared because I knew that I was going to do good in this class. The next exam came and I studied so hard, I made flashcards, I got notes from the professor ( like in the math class), I just focused on that one class. And to my surprise, the next exam was online as well. Most classes never allow exams online so I was ecstatic. It turned out all the work online and I was able to eventually pass.  The last day of class, I was on top of the world, I knew I passed and it was like a huge boulder had been lifted off my shoulders and I could finally rest easy, it was over, I had gotten my degree

After struggling on and off for 15 years and when I saw that I got an A, that was the proudest moment of my life. Me, someone who struggled so much in his life, someone who made to feel he was stupid and not good enough, finally got a college degree, I was a college graduate at last. I never thought this would happen. I never thought it would happen when I was an 18-year-old kid in that class with that counselor, I was just happy to be out of high school. I didn’t think it would happen when I was working low paying jobs, treated like garbage every day, and sick to my stomach. I didn’t think it would happen when I couldn’t solve a simple math problem ( that a child could solve) and I felt so stupid. But it did happen and it could happen to me, I could happen to anyone. If you want something in your life, you have to work hard with every fiber of your being for it, you have to picture it in your mind and never stop until you reach that goal. You can struggle but never ever give up, that is one thing I learned from this whole experience. I am a walking miracle and I hope somebody can read this and be inspired to achieve their dreams just like I did.


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Looking at those old photos

Looking at old photos of myself past the age of 14, I have a vacant unemotional stare, smiling seems to be an impossible task, I’m completely broken, a shell of my former self, a lost sheep in a herd of tigers, I gave up on life.

I can’t look at these photos without feeling shards of emotional glass, ripping my heart into a million pieces.

These were my lost years, blurred memories; who was I? What was I feeling?

Hope had evaporated for me and I went wherever the wind took me.

I took so long for me to genuinely smile; to allow myself to be photographed.

Last night I cried, a mixture of sadness and joy, I thought of the many friends I had and how they cared, I thought about how much better I felt these days, I thought about the opportunities I had to help others. I thought of all the reasons I had to smile and that made me cry, healing tears streaming down my cheeks, no shame in that.

It’s been a long road but I can finally say that the hope is slowly coming back, so is the joy. And I can love and be loved. I have no other words to describe it except now I feel I can finally move on. 💜


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Flood of healing

Memories flood back but I won’t run away from them, I’ll let them rise to the surface, I can manage the heavy rainfalls, even if it leads me to an ocean of tears. I have a boat and an oar, I can weather the storm.

It’s a distance away but I can see the shore, I can see the beam from the lighthouse guide me to land, shine the light on me, lead me to shore and to safety from this treacherous journey. If I keep moving, I know I’ll get there, even if it takes every bit of strength I have left, I’ll get there, believe that. 🚤 🌊

Facing the past

About ten years ago, I had just created a Facebook account and I only had a few friends ( about 10 or 15 people from work and that was it) and I rarely talked to them online. Suddenly I got a friend request from some people in my past and I hadn’t spoken to them in a very long time. I accepted the request and I found myself adding everyone I knew from my childhood and I realized, they weren’t kids anymore, they were adults with families of their own, living their own lives, it made sense logically but not emotionally, like I wanted them to be same as I left them all those years ago. I felt inadequate because I was still struggling with disabilities and mental health issues, I thought back to how I always compared myself negatively to them, the memories flooded backed.

I added people I knew from 12 steps and a lot them were people that I didn’t want to think about ( I had a terrible experience being there) but I added them because I curious to see how their lives turned out and maybe we could reconnect in a positive way. I could feel my anxiety rise and as I saw these long-forgotten faces, I thought to myself “Would they accept me? What would I say to them?” I knew that I had to come to terms with the past that I had tried to bury in my own mind, I wasn’t ready.

I felt scared in front of my computer, knots in my stomach, I got comments and messages from all these people asking how I was after such a long time, it may have meant little to them but it meant a whole lot to me, I actually felt my whole world crashing on me in instant. I messaged a woman I barely knew in 12 steps but she was happy to hear from me, I think she was a waitress somewhere close to where my grandparents had lived when I was a kid and I talked to another old friend who I had known in an alternative school that I later saw in 12 steps, he was about to get married and I remember him saying at the time that he known my brother ( maybe it was through 12 steps) but he was a good guy and a friend,

As I’m talking to all of these people from the past, I kept thinking “What have I done, I’m scared of them” I was listening to music, it was George Harrison, I just lay on the floor, feeling all these intense emotions coming back to the surface; buried feelings, feelings of fear, sadness, trauma, regret that I missed so much. But in that instant ( I didn’t realize it) I began to heal, I couldn’t run away anymore. I had to face my past, in order to move forward. Fear is not the answer, sometimes we gain strength in our most painful moments.


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Trama, no one cares

A few years later after my brother died, I was online and found a poem that someone I grew up had written about my brother, It kind of pissed me off and I am not sure why I had that reaction maybe because I didn’t want to face what happened and someone had posted this online, an event that affected me so deeply and was so personal.. Years later, I tried to friend them on social media and they never responded and as stupid as it sounds, it fucking stung, really bad. Trauma never leaves you and you can be triggered any second.. Oh, who gives a fuck anyways, 😥

Social media, the anxious trap

I feel really overwhelmed with social media right now, I’m not feeling ignored, in fact, I’m getting love and support than ever and it’s much appreciated, it’s surreal actually to feel like my words and thoughts are resonating with so many people in a such a positive way.

But with all that, it’s tiring, maybe it’s me sharing my brother’s story about suicide live or maybe it’s me posting too much and relying too much on the validation of other’s ( it’s so easy to get hung up on likes and comment and then place your self-worth on that) Maybe it’s seeing post after post where everyone seems happier and more productive than I ( Who isn’t running a group and making live videos these days?) And I know it’s a facade but it still causes anxiety. I also have my own successes but I still can’t help but compare to others in a negative light, I’m never good enough despite my best efforts. Maybe it’s the fact that I never see the posts from the people I care about the most and they never see mine ( or so they say, they most likely skipped through my posts on their newsfeed). Maybe it’s desperately wanting to reconnect with people who don’t want to reconnect with me ( that hurts,)

And some of this is my anxious thinking, it’s hard to tell what is anxiety and reality at times. I just know social media is getting old and very frustrating. I am focusing on my groups at the moment but not on posting or scrolling through my newsfeed ( what an awful waste of time that is), maybe this will help my anxiety. But the worst part is very few people will bother to read this whole post, they make skim it but not absorb the message.

It seems to be that the more connected we are online, the more truly disconnected we are in person, life is funny that way. Sometimes I wish I could throw my computer and phone in the ocean, move to a tropical island and liberate myself from this digital prison, it’s a trap, a crutch and it’s doing harm to us all. 📱😥😒

The car accident

It must have been the early 90’s, my family and I were somewhere, maybe shopping and in the parking lot we got into a car accident, it wasn’t serious and no one was hurt but it was the first accident I had ever been in, I was about 8 or 9, for some reason I was deeply affected, it really shifted my mood to a dark place. Like the mere face that we COULD have been hurt and it was as easy as getting in the car for a drive, life changes in a blink of an eye.

As a kid I listened to a lot of oldies and I knew most of the song and I remember hearing “California dreaming” by the Mama’s and the Papas and I don’t know what it was but it filled me with so much sadness, it seemed to encapsulate my mood, I mean it was a sad song to begin with and I think it was raining the day or two after this car accident, which meant I was already in a sad mood.

Every time I hear that song, it takes me back to that place as a kid when I realized life wasn’t always predictable and we have to deal with crashes here and there, it’s a part of life. I tended to be affected deeply by things that may have seemed like nothing to someone else but to me shattered my world, like the idea of safety and predictability. All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey……


God saved my life

I want to tell a story. Around 2002, I was a new driver and I was following a friend and I failed to stop at a left turn signal, as soon as I turned, I had no time to react and a car smashed into to me at about 45 mph from the drivers side. My car spun and I end up on the median, the car was completely totaled but for some miraculous reason, I didn’t lose consciousness or have any injuries, aside from a sore neck and the shock of the accident.


I was in the hospital and I was really dazed and out of it. But I remember talking to the doctor and him telling me how lucky I was to make it out of there, without a scratch, in fact, if my foot had been a few inches closer, I could have lost it and been disabled for life.


I truly believe God saved my life that night, I don’t know why he did, because I should have been seriously injured, given how fast the other driver was going and the fact that I ran a red light during heavy traffic. Yet for some reason I was spared harm. I believe God spared me because he had a purpose me, to help others, spread compassion, help the disabled, and try to make a difference.


At the time, I didn’t believe in God and it just hit me as I was commenting on someone else’s status. But it shows to power of God and how much he loves me. I can’t tell you how many situations I have been able to escape from by the grace of God, there’s just no other explanation beside God’s grace.


Sometimes if I’m laying in bed, that feeling of that car speeding towards me will hit me and I will jump in fear, like my body never forgot that moment. I am grateful of God’s love for me and am so happy I have him in my life again.


Just wanted to share that with all of you 🙏 ❤

Here comes the sun



I woke up this morning and it was rainy outside, in fact it had been raining since last night and I was kind of in gloomy mood and stressed out about a lot of things happening in my life. So, I have been in touch with a lot of life coaches and counselors online and it has really been helpful because I learn different methods of how to better cope with anxiety and depression.  This woman who I have communicated with a lot before offered to give me a free 7-day session, where we talk one on one through video online.   I was very nervous at first because my social anxiety makes it difficult to talk to people on video but so far, I have found her to be really kind and understanding. She’s a life coach and not a therapist, so she has a different approach then my previous experience with therapists.  A lot of what she seems to be do is action oriented, it’s not about merely talking about problems but focusing on negative thought patterns and the feelings associated with them, a lot of it is new to me but I find it helpful. Due to financial issues, I can’t continue past these initial 7 days but I will get as much as I can, use it as a base and maybe in the future when my finances are better, start talking to a life coach because I really like their approach.

So, you know how I mentioned that I tried to make a podcast and had a panic attack, well, I told her about it and she asked me what specifically made me the most anxious, I told her. She instructed me to write about how I was feeling both emotionally and physiologically and then she told me write down the memory that caused the panic attack.   I wrote it down and I am not going to explain in detail but had to do with feeling rejected and humiliated, interestingly enough as I wrote, I didn’t have an anxious reaction ( maybe since I’ve written about it before a few times).  So today we talked about it and I told her to the story more in detail and she noted that I didn’t seem anxious while I relaying the story and assured me that what happened and how I felt were normal and that a lot of people felt that way, that made me better.  And amazingly she asked me to go back further and find another memory that was similar and we actually went back to when I was a kid and the feelings associated with this memory, I hadn’t thought about it in years and never really dealt with it, it was just kind of stored in my memory, totally unresolved.  She kind of took me back and I was in that memory for a few minutes and it was very intense but it was healing, I kind of lost myself in the moment because she told me to close my eyes and she was guiding through this memory, it was powerful and I don’t think anyone has tried that approach with me before.  So, once I opened my eyes, I told her that I connected that earlier memory to what happened years later, like I was triggered as an 18-year-old as something that happened when I was 9 years. I had never put two and two together, just an amazing breakthrough.


So, after the session, I was stressed because I had to deal with some tax stuff and I was not any place to deal with that. I needed time to process what had happened. So, as I usually do, I felt angry and lashed out at the person I was dealing with because they didn’t understand or really respect that I needed the space to process the counseling session.  Oh, this is important to note.  So, this life coach had made a post about rainy weather and how it affects our emotions, she tagged me in the post.  So, after the tax things, I looked out the window and realized the sun had come out and the ground was dry.   So, after the storm, there is always sunshine.  And I don’t believe coincidences, everything happens for a reason. Just something I wanted to share with you today.


Note:  As I am posting this, the clouds are dark and it’s thundering again.  I am so confused lol



The danger of reliving past trauma

Right now at this moment, I am in the midst of an anxiety attack and I wanted take note of that to explain why I am choosing to write this now. I mentioned in one my previous posts that I had created an audio podcast where I would discuss mental health advocacy and I have been excited about it.  I hadn’t made a podcast in a few weeks and I hadn’t gotten around to discussing some of the issues I faced with mental health so tonight I decided to make a podcast about it. I wrote down some talking points and I sat on the couch and just talked into my phone.  I decided to go through my history of mental illness from my childhood to teenage years to my adult years including the present.  I just recounted everything chronologically and was relaying some painful moments but I didn’t feel anxious. I am having issues with allergies so I was coughing in between and sniffling, which was irritating and made it more difficult to make the podcast but I continued. I just spoke about some traumatic stuff and was honest and raw ( more so than I usually am) I pretty much said everything and it was 40 minutes or so, of just me talking about most of the issues I faced in detail.  When I ended the podcast I was ready to publish it and share it online as part of my advocacy, my followers know about the podcast because I have mentioned it.

So before I publish, I always listen to the whole podcast, just to see how it sounded. Again I noticed a lot of coughing and sniffing and I was not as focused as I wanted to be, I repeated myself and rambled and obviously I am self conscious about that. But what bothered me the most was hearing such personal things publicly, things that are probably left unsaid or in less detail. So as I was listening, I felt anxious, hearing myself speak about that trauma, things that I have never shared outside of a therapists office. Even after listening to it, I shared it to my social media and sent the link a few people.  I immediately felt regret and fear, I felt I would be judged if I shared this and that created more anxiety.  I eventually deleted the episode.

I  plan on making another podcast but reliving that trauma was not helpful and that is not how I want to approach mental health advocacy because I don’t think it’s beneficial me or anyone else.  I feel like the best approach would be to give a little history about my mental health struggles I had ( not specific events) and talk about how I have overcome them and used to those experiences to help others. Focusing on trauma is negative, talking about overcoming your struggles is positive.  As I write this, I feel calmer and realize I made the right decision. It’s going to take time to figure this out and I  thank everyone for their support and understanding