I sat in silence for so long. And that’s the last thing I want anyone else to do
After being adopted from Guatemala into a loving home in the United States, the separation from her birth mother caused Marina an underlying feeling of loss and insecurity. It did not help that as early as elementary school, other kids bullied her.
I realized early on that my mom and I didn’t look alike—I’m Hispanic, and she’s of Irish descent. Kids would point that out and say, ‘You’re so dirty, you need to take a shower.’ I remember one time, I took nail polish remover and rubbed it against my skin because this one girl would just constantly pick on me. She would also call me fat. It caused a lot of insecurity.
Marina can link the depression and anorexia nervosa she developed in adolescence to these adverse experiences she had at an early age.
The bullying increased by the time Marina was in middle school. Her peers continued to torment her about her appearance and her behavior. In 2015, when she was 13 years old, a classmate sexually assaulted her.
I had a lot of anger built up against people, and specifically, this one male because he sexually assaulted me in the classroom. My school told me to just move on from it. My anger really progressed from that situation.
I started getting into drugs and drinking and doing things that normal 13-year-olds wouldn’t do. I’d be very impulsive. I ran in front of a car. I clenched things, threw things, and tore a door off the wall. I lashed out at people for no reason—especially my mom.
Fearing judgment and further bullying, Marina refused to go to school, which led to fights with her mother. She internalized her classmates’ negative comments about her body and began to restrict her eating.
I ruined every friendship or relationship I had because I was constantly angry. My depression only deepened. I had insecurities about my body, and I developed anorexia.
Marina attempted suicide that year—she was in sixth grade. The experience was devastating for her and for her mom, but it was also a turning point. During the crisis, Marina’s doctors treated her with compassion and connected her with a wonderful therapist.
My therapist literally saved me. I tell her that all the time. Her understanding of why I had all these issues and didn’t want to go to school was a relief. While I would just spit out all the things that I hated about myself, she would point out the good things. She really changed my perspective on life.
In treatment, Marina also realized the enormous impact her mental health challenges and suicide attempt had on her mom.
Everything changed for me when I realized it’s not just my life that I was affecting but also my mom’s. One thing she said to me was that I’m her world. And obviously, my mom is very important to me. That really changed my whole perspective. My mom has been a huge support system for getting me where I am today.
Marina and her mother realized it was important for Marina to change schools. She left the public middle school where she had been bullied to attend Walker Beacon, a therapeutic school where teachers, staff, and fellow students were supportive. She felt much more comfortable in her new environment and the anger she carried for several years quickly went away.
Marina is now a student at Simmons University, where she is training to become a social worker. She has a passion for understanding and helping others. She was inspired by the mental health professionals who helped her through her journey.
As a mental health advocate, she has given presentations at her church and at schools and talks openly about her mental health experiences when the opportunity arises.
Through her own struggles, and having lost three friends to suicide, Marina knows the danger of stigma and the importance of reaching out for help.
I don’t want anyone to be ashamed to ask for help. I sat in silence for so long. And that’s the last thing I want anyone else to do. For the longest time, I saw myself as someone broken. If someone is feeling broken, I would want them to look at me and see a face that has survived a bunch of things.
I want people to see me and see someone who doesn’t let their battles define them, but who instead turns them into something good.