Latinas Rising would like to honor the following amazing Latinx creating social change and de-stigmatizing mental illness in Latinx communities. Allilsa Fernandez personal story has resonated with so many locally, internationally, and on social media outlets. Allilsa’s willingness to be vulnerable about speaking on the issues of stigma associated with mental illness in our communities and academia is brace beyond measure. Allilsa is the epitome of a what a social change agent looks like and with intentionality helping marginalized communities to end the stigma.
Thank you, Allilsa for allowing Latinas Rising HTX the opportunity to share your story!
In 2011, after becoming severely ill and entering recovery, I asked a therapist “will I be able to return to school and finish my bachelors?” And she looked at me with pity and said “I think you should focus on therapy right now”. I insisted, “yes, but what about down the line?”. She continued to look at me with pity and this time she said “look….your condition just won’t allow it. You need to focus on getting SSI. You may never work again nor go to school and that is ok”. I felt so horrible!!!. I then was assigned another therapist and a psychiatrist and I asked them the same question, “would I ever be able to go back to school?”. They both told me no and the psychiatrist went as far as telling me “you are going to have to mourn this loss. Eventually you will have to let go of this idea, of this dream. It just isn’t for you given your condition”. I felt so little, so worthless, and I began to process the loss of my dream to go back to school. Therapy offices closed, some therapists moved, and for various reasons I switched therapists, psychiatrists and psychologist and every single time I asked the same question because there was this longing in my heart to go back to school. Each time I was told to forget about it and settle for less. Against all odds I entered school again. The first semester was my worst!. I had a break down and no therapy. When I asked my advisor for help she looked me in the eye and said “fill out this form”. I asked “what is this?”. She said “it’s a form to drop out of school. People like you, people with your condition, just can’t make it in a highly academic school like this one”. I was so offended but I believed her. I believed all the professionals and I felt like a total failure at that moment.
Crying I went to my professor and asked him to sign my paper so that I could drop out. That professor saved my life!!!. He chose to believe in me!. He said “get that paper out of my face!. You are going to go to a counselor on campus, you will get accommodations via the disability department and the deans of students. You are one of my best students!. I am telling you, you are not allowed to quit!!”. It took one person to change my life forever in a positive way. From there on I learned my rights on disability, I sought help and found an amazing therapist who I have almost 4 years with, I found how to study and work with my condition and today….wow!!!….today I accomplished this!. Today, I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology, Magna Cum Laude, from Stony Brook University.