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  • Writer's pictureJustin Mendoza

My Mental Health Mixtape: Silent All These Years

'Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again'

Music can be a powerful way to access and process our emotions, explore and express our identities, relate and commune with others, and offer us a means of transcendence. It has always resonated with me but this raw, cathartic album was a revelation to me as a qurious young teen. From the opening lyric of the first track 'Crucify' which became my high school yearbook quote, to the penultimate track 'Me and a Gun', a haunting a capella recounting of a violent sexual assault then culminating with the title track 'Little Earthquakes', its impact on me was seismic.

The song that echoes most to this day though is 'Silent All These Years', especially understood within the context of these other references. As a survivor of childhood sexual and emotional abuse, I had learned implicitly and explicitly to be quiet and feel shame. And as a teen when others seemed less confused about my queerness than I was, what I did understand was that being other or effeminate was also less than. But as I started to find my voice typically through creative expression, I then became a target of verbal and physical abuse from my peers.

“...loving ourselves, feeling confident, being seen, taking up space, using our voice, and owning our stories..."

These formative experiences often have aftershocks that can be felt throughout our life. That voice that still says there's something wrong with you, you're a bad person, you're unworthy, you're unlovable, it's your fault, repent! Be good, be quiet, be likeable, be small but also do better, stay safe, fit in! As a queer person and therefore at higher risk for complex, or multiple and repeated trauma, this may also reinforce these beliefs and make loving ourselves, feeling confident, being seen, taking up space, using our voice, and owning our stories feel not only like radical acts, but dangerous.

Seemingly paradoxical for psychotherapists, professional and ethical training often stresses a 'tabula rasa' approach and implies that most self-disclosure risks being more self-serving. In supporting LGBTQ+ clients however, I have found a relational style to be highly appropriate and helpful to increase a sense of safety, decrease stigma and shame, and model a healthy balance of vulnerability and pride...similar to what Tori did for me. Though I may get frustrated still getting stuck at times in those survival ways of being, I know that using my voice and shining a light on the dark places helps me find deeper levels of healing, integration, and thriving.

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