Ep#51: Empowering People Of Color With Mental Health (w/ Kriselle Gabriel)

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Kriselle Gabriel
Find Kriselle at : https://www.instagram.com/empoweredincolor.

In this episode, I talk with Kriselle Gabriel the founder of Empowered In Color, and host of the podcast by the same name. We discussed her mental health journey as a person of color. Expressing her initial hesitation of opening up to people about going to therapy because of stigma. 

Kriselle explores the cultural and familial nuances she uncovered in therapy. Sharing how to talk about mental health with Asian families, and the struggle to let go of toxic cultural values as a person of color.

Here Are Some Quotes From Kriselle In This Weeks Episode:

Talking Openly About Mental Health As A Person of Colour

It takes some emotional intelligence to be able to recognize, okay, this is how I’m feeling right in this moment and controlling it, especially  in terms of anger. 

I think that’s what it means at the end of the day is just being able to recognize how you’re feeling and being able to assess how to process it. How to react and what to do next. Rather than lashing out or bursting out hysterically. A lot of it is about self awareness.

“When I started going to therapy in college, it was something that I didn’t really tell people about. I kind of tried to keep it to myself. And then over the years, started to really, really, publicly encourage it and tell people about it.”

Mental health is something that I’ve really come to embrace and really choose to be open with especially being Asian American. This is not something that we talk about in our cultures, it’s very taboo.

I think growing up I remember hearing family members talking about therapy being for quote unquote crazy people and people who are severely mentally unstable. Instead of it just being something for everybody or as a maintenance thing. 

 I started really exploring my mental health in college because my university offered free therapy to students. So I started going to therapy regularly and was able to explore some of my traumas. 

A Lot of it stems from my family and that also has affected how I approach my life and my career now. Always feeling pressured to, do well and fit a certain measure of success. 

My mom grew up in a poor rural community in the Philippines. All she ever wanted was for my sister and I to have a better life. My dad wanted us to have a better life because my parents divorced when I was so young. 

When I started going to therapy in college, it was something that I didn’t really tell people about. I kind of tried to keep it to myself. And then over the years, started to really, really, publicly encourage it and tell people about it.

I think in terms of mental health there’s  value in being a little bit more public. Like you don’t need to air out your dirty laundry. I think  just kind of saying, hey, like I’m not doing well. You don’t have to give any sensitive details or information. Just saying like, I’m not doing well. I’m getting help. Or maybe I need someone to help me.

When people commit suicide and things like that, you know, we always say, Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A lot of people don’t actually do anything about that until it has already happened.

 I think we need to actually just do it and ask for help.  Let’s not wait for something tragic to really tell people to ask for help and to start talking about how they feel. 

Therapy Is For Everyone  

“No matter who you are, you have something that you need to work through. And I say this is someone who’s quite self aware.”

I had to be made self aware of a lot of things from a very young age because my parents had a very ugly divorce. I had to be conscious of everything that I was doing. I decided to be conscious of everything I was doing and why I was doing it because I never wanted to be in the wrong. I didn’t want the divorce to be my fault. I didn’t want anything To be my fault.  So I would kind of overanalyze how I acted so that I can point out my flaws before someone else could. So it was like a defence mechanism.

So What more does someone who lives life and doesn’t really think about the deeper subconscious impact or intentions behind what they do? Then I think even more so they need to unpack it and it doesn’t need to be some horrible thing.

Recognizing and Addressing Cultural Toxicity

“just because people say it’s part of your culture does not make it healthy and does not make it okay.”

Coming from an immigrant collectivistic culture. You’re raised to value family over everything, no matter what. Yeah. But for me, that was at the expense of myself.I’ve been expanding the last few years really working to not allow that, and it’s been hard.

 I know that my family doesn’t understand. I know my mom doesn’t understand. My dad doesn’t understand but it’s been the best thing that I could do for myself mentally and emotionally. 

Like I said, it’s been so difficult but I’m very thankful to have had my husband by my side. My in-laws have been extremely supportive of me and really just welcomed me with open arms in a way that I always was yearning for, but I never got.

For me my own mental health journey has been a lot of unlearning very toxic cultural values. Really unlearning the idea that just because people say it’s part of your culture does not make it healthy and does not make it okay. That was really hard for me.

I really love my family, but I could never ever ever feel at peace. I was always anxious, always stressed. 

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I was actually living in Australia that I started to really think I don’t need to put up with this. I don’t need to deal with toxicity for the sake of family. For the sake of quote unquote, being Filipino or, you know, whatever it is. I think that’s something that’s important for people to remember, especially if you come from an immigrant background, or if you’re a person of color.

There’s a lot of things in history and in life that used to be normal at one point, but that doesn’t make it okay. I think that’s something that’s really important to remember. In terms of culture for other people who might be listening, that are people of color or whose parents are immigrants. Culture is fluid culture changes. 

Just because people say this one thing is part of your culture. That doesn’t make it right. That doesn’t mean that you need to accept that just as is and just kind of wave your white flag so to speak.

I do think things with mental health have always been important. Only Now are we starting to be able to put words to it. And really, start to prioritize it because even just talking to my cousins again, who are a lot older than me. they just say, Oh, well you just suck it up. 

I was actually watching this YouTube video from Jubilee media. It was about baby boomers, you know, it was like do all baby boomers think the same. And one of the prompts so it’s like an agreed disagree type of video. 

One of the prompts in that video was something along the lines about mental health. One of the ladies was an older black woman in her late 60s and she said, yeah, we were told to suck it up, but at the cost of passing on generational trauma to our kids and and you know, all these unhealthy habits because we did not process it. 

So I think Those things have always been important like today and even for our parents’ generation. Now we’re in a place where we’re finally starting to acknowledge it, and do something about it

Emotional Intelligence

“I think emotional intelligence has a lot to do with being aware of yourself. It’s knowing why you do what you do, and being able to conduct yourself in a way where you’re not just acting off of impulse.”

It takes some emotional intelligence to be able to recognize, okay, this is how I’m feeling right in this moment and controlling it, especially  in terms of anger. 

I think that’s what it means at the end of the day is just being able to recognize how you’re feeling and being able to assess how to process it. How to react and what to do next. Rather than lashing out or bursting out hysterically. A lot of it is about self awareness.

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Resources:

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