In the wilds of motherhood, professional work, and various other creative endeavors, as an Indigenous/Mexican/Spanish/German woman, I find the spaces shrinking in which I feel intuitively understood. In the ongoing pandemic integration into real-life realities, paired with friction-filled sociopolitical conversations and an ever-emerging mental health crisis, I often “turtle,” or go inward.
A few weeks ago, I heard a story in my professional circles of a serious suicide attempt, and then recently I was jolted from a meeting by a text from a dear friend: “I don’t want to scare you, but you should know. Call me.” I did. Her words were few, but spoke of the death of a classmate of my youngest son.
A sweet, young child lost his life in the middle of this meddling mental health crisis. I didn’t respond. I listened and didn’t cry. I checked in with a couple of other friends, tried to research the internet for additional information, and resigned myself that I will not know more than these few, brief conversations. Unable to sit still, I called my husband and sent him to pick up our son. I needed to know my fifth grader was safe. With us. Breathing. Playing.
My anger is like a low, rumbling boil—just enough to turn up the heat, and just enough that with the right amount of pressure, a full, rolling boil is predictable.
I long for human connection—not the kind on a screen, but the real-life skin of another in my presence, laughing, crying, interested, dreaming. I imagine this young child needed the same. Yet, I am often alone. I text and share calls and Zoom screens for the majority of my days, but I feel piecemeal, like I am a bag of ingredients and can only show some in some spaces, and other pieces of me in other spaces.
I am lost.
I am orphaned amidst the worst collective mental health crisis in my memory.
Nights ago, my son came home after a really good day. He exploded in anger, shaking and crying. I sat in front of him, slowly encouraging him to breathe. Tears streamed down my face as panic, anxiety, and so many emotions coursed through his small body. The emotion he carried in that moment mirrored the intensity of my own. I recognized the fear, anger, misunderstandings, confusion, and yes, the need to comfort.
That evening, I sat, with tears streaming, collecting in my glasses. He started belly crying and collapsed on my chest. He was apologizing and saying that he felt so angry. And I said, “I know. I know. I feel the same.”
He said, “I feel alone.” And I cried more, not big tears, just streams of water from my eyes.
I hugged him a bit tighter and said, “I know. It is so lonely.”
How did we get here? I ask myself. May there be a sense, dear son, that your loneliness is met with deep understanding.
Danielle S. Castillejo grew up in the swirl of a mixed identity, with a German father and a Mexican mother. With her four children in school full time, she applied to graduate school at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. Before her second year of graduate school, she was invited to explore her story through a Story Workshop at The Allender Center. She went on to complete Levels 1 and 2 of the Certificate in Narrative Focused Trauma Care and the Externship. Since our culture has experienced such an intense ripping and cultural identity crisis, Danielle addresses internalized racism and its effects personally, in her family, and in her community. She encourages other healing practitioners to do the same. Danielle began this process with her MA in Counseling Psychology and studies at The Allender Center. Danielle loves the anticipation of spring and summer in the Pacific Northwest, with the return of long days and sunlight absent in the dark winters. You can easily find Danielle out on a trail or working in her yard. You can also find her online at www.daniellescastillejo.com.
Danielle, My heart goes out to you and your young son. While I carry no degrees that would tell me this, I do believe we are not meant to “social distance” and that doing so creates in us a wall of loneliness, alienation, and a shutting down of our healthy emotions. Like the experiments done on babies in orphanages who were not held , we fail to thrive. I love that your son feels safe with you and can tell you how he is feeling and that you acknowledged that you feel the same. What a safe and loving mama you are for him. Blessings to you this day, Danielle.