Dealing With Mental Issues and Substance Addiction While Undocumented

As an Undocumented Immigrant, access to healthcare is a struggle.  However, obtaining mental health resources AND assistance with substance addiction without selling your soul is nearly impossible.  Not even under SB 10 are those resources affordable or even reachable.  So, as an Undocumented immigrant with mental, emotional, and addiction problems…ought to do? Truth is…I have no idea.

My sibling was diagnosed as a child with ADHD, and although my parents had no money we took him to a special school, classes and even therapists to help with his issue.  Over the years, it seemed that his problem was completely under control and it was swept under the rug and a blip on his record, but now that I am older and reminiscence, my brother had more underlying conditions that we couldn’t recognize. 

My brother once told me that he saw an alien, a headless ghost, that there was a woman in the closet, that malignant spirits or energies were trying to harm him.  He was a child at the time, so I always believed it was his imagination, but as he grew older he sometimes exclaimed that there was a woman in the closet.  For an unfathomable reason, I mostly ignored it, convinced that he just watched too many scary films, or that he was just attempting to make me uneasy.  

I was wrong

The thing with mental illness is that it might be under control for years, but something triggers you and what you believe is swepted away under the cloud of oblivion, but it comes back with a force that takes your breath and your grip on reality away. 

It started with constant nightmares, he used to wake up screaming, sweating and with an irrational fear that couldn’t possibly be of a 20-year-old young man.  Then arrived the anxiety, the paranoia of pharmaceutical Companies, thus refusing to take medication.  The inevitable self medication with weed, because although I am a believer that an occassional blunt can’t hurt anyone, for those with anxiety that is the worst plant you can inhale, he also started drinking heavily, attempting to “relax”.  My brother refuses to believe that he has an issue, and although we tell him, try to educate him, beg to him, he refuses to visit a therapist, or a psychologist or any doctor to deal with his problem.  

Then came the hard drugs, Cocaine, Crystal, to the degree that he lies, cheats and even takes our money or attempts to take the little Gold necklaces we owe in order to buy illicit substances.  He left the house for various weeks, and we use to search for him day and night, to find him on the street, dirty, skinny, and high.  We deal with this everyday, to the point that my parents have become somewhat immune to his hurtful words, and I find myself caring less and less about my little brother. 

It is hard

I feel guilty.  Sometimes I feel like I hate him, I find myself not caring when my parents tell me about yet another arrest or criminal activity.  I was relieved when he finally left the house because my parents were going to rest from his nonsense.  I know that I love him, I suffer, I cry, but I am also filled with impotency, and anger towards him.  Why doesn’t he let us help him? Why can’t he see he has a problem? Why is there no help for him? 

The situation was so bleak, to the point that we believed it was going to be the end of my sibling, that we considered putting him in a hospital against his will to get sober.  We found all the doors closed, some said we could not because he was an adult, others said that if he didn’t want help the treatment was useless, others were so heartbreaking expensive that I would have to sell my soul to the devil and then some in order to afford it.  All the programs I researched regarding not only addiction but mental health clinics were expensive if the recipient does not have Medi-Cal, and although we now have access to health insurance, that does not cover mental health insurance.  We are trapped. My brother keeps falling in his own delusion and addiction, and we can’t do anything about it. 

We, as a family, do not ask for handouts or free resources, we just want to be able to access them with some type of affordability.  We pay taxes, we work, we try, and yet we have to endure observing my brother slowly kill himself due to lack of available resources.  This is not only an Undocumented folks issues, but those that are USC and LPR’s as well, I am aware of that, but as an Undocumented family, it is harder for us, we are trapped.  

We have considered returning to Mexico and try to get him treated, but the only Psychologist we have been able to converse with advised us against it, because my brother will be disoriented.  He arrived to the U.S at the age of 9 months, he grew up here, has his friends here, the language and education and if we take him out of his environment, a different culture, he can further sink lower than he already is at the moment.  I observe everything with incredible frustration, we can’t help him because he isn’t from here or there.

The media loves to portray the struggles of Undocumented youth as told by the “DREAMER” narrative.  A high functioning undocumented student with a 4.0 GPA with aspirations of going to University or graduating from College and become the next doctor/lawyer.  But what about the “other” ones? Those that never went to college, that have a record, that don’t fit in that narrative? Are those less important? The reason why I say this is because even SB 10 was catered to the “good immigrant” narrative, and those that fit the story.  My brother’s illness is not physical, but mental that has taken its toll in the physical realm.  Where is the help? 

As an Undocumented immigrant that has no means to help her only brother through his illness and addiction, on top of seeing how her family falls apart and dies a little every time my brother says he would rather die.  I find that the organizers often forget those that are in the margins.  We have no help, we are alone.  That does not mean we will give up on my brother, it just means that it will take months, perhaps years, to pull him out of the black hole he is buried in, and perhaps we will never have my old brother back.  

It is important to realize that the fight is not over, we have DACA, we have somewhat reachable health insurance, but we still need to work on issues that are not seen physically. We must focus on mental issues as well, because those get left behind, and thus commit acts that disqualifies them from the “DREAMER”narrative that many are very fond of because they, themselves fit in the story.



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