In early 2017, I finally had something to be excited about. I was finally going to start college.
After graduating from Animo South Los Angeles Charter High School in 2016, I was supposed to enroll at the University of California, Riverside. My dream school, a place I’d fallen completely enamored with after a couple of school field trips.
Unfortunately, those plans fell through. I was denied any financial aid, and I had no other way of paying for my education. As an 18-year-old, I felt it was too soon to take up a considerable amount of debt caused by school loans.
When I found out I wouldn’t be enrolling, it was already late in the summer, and I’d be lucky to find any community college classes that could squeeze me in, let alone come up with an education plan for myself.
It felt like a big blow to the gut when I realized I had no backup plan. I’d stepped up to the plate and struck out.
UC Riverside was my only option. And for the fall 2016 semester, I had no further options, so I sat out the semester, away from classes.
No doubt, I was hurt by my shortcomings. My turmoil, my demons — anxiety and depression — were resurging.
At that point, I had suffered from mental disorders since I was 14. The fear of missing out (FOMO) was the main thing I attributed my torment to.
For a vast chunk of the year, I was distraught. My dreams would not be coming true. As an incoming first-generation Latino college student from South Central Los Angeles, I felt I had become nothing more than a negative statistic for my community despite Latinx enrollment increasing throughout the decade.
But through my turmoil, there was one thing that kept me going: Dodger baseball.
In October 2016, I attended my first MLB postseason game at Dodger Stadium. The ambiance was amazing. That night ignited what would become a real passion for me. I was hooked.
That following January, I enrolled at Cerritos College. It wasn’t my first choice, but I had a free ride there every day and looked forward to finding myself back inside a classroom and listening to lectures. I enrolled in 16 units, five courses, thinking I could handle it.
I’ll admit, through 2017, I wasn’t focusing on the Dodgers very much. How could I? I was on the verge of flunking out of Cerritos College in the spring.
I couldn’t bring myself to focus at a school where I felt like a flop. I needed to be somewhere closer to home to gain a sense of familiarity. Eventually, I decided to enroll at El Camino College for the fall semester.
This time, I was only taking a single class. I almost flunked out again. I had never felt so disappointed at myself; I had given up on just about everything at that point, even life itself.
My failures led me to so much despair that I couldn’t even rejoice in a legendary moment at Dodger Stadium.
It was a postseason game again. This time, the Dodgers were in the midst of one of their greatest seasons ever. They had put the Cubs away in Game 1 the night before and were looking to do it again that hot Sunday evening.
But I couldn’t enjoy the game.
Then came the bottom of the ninth inning. The game was even, 1-1. My favorite player, Justin Turner, came up to the plate. And on just the second pitch of the at-bat, he ended it.
The crowd went wild. The place was insane. The stadium was rocking; it seemed to be the loudest it’s ever been.
Turner’s three-run walk-off home run meant the Dodgers would go up 2-0 in the series. Only two more wins, and they’d be on their way to the World Series for the first time since 1988.
As everyone around me celebrated, waving their arms in the air, yelling at the top of their lungs, I suddenly froze. I can only remember shedding a couple of tears.
I was so mentally worn — I could not process what I had just experienced.
I didn’t know it then, but at the time, I was dissociating.
According to Verywell, a website dedicated to providing health and wellness information from professionals, “dissociation related to anxiety may occur during a stressful, anxiety-inducing event or during or after a period of intense worry.”
I always felt that I suffered from a mental disorder, and I thought it could be something I could overcome alone and in silence because I come from a traditional, old-school Mexican family.
I would always catch some flack from family when I’d want to speak to them about my feelings. Whether it revolved around me being bullied for my weight or wanting to express my insecurities, I’d always get the same response.
“Be a man,” my family said.
After countless talks like this, I continued to bottle up my emotions without knowing that pent up frustration and worrying would be so dire for my health.
But much like at the stadium, I was not alone.
It is estimated that approximately half the population has experienced dissociation in their lives, but only about two percent are diagnosed with a dissociative disorder, according to Verywell.
It took a legendary moment, one I couldn’t mentally grasp, to fully comprehend what I was going through.
Feeling like a failure, a negative statistic who kept letting himself down, all amassed into a clump of chagrin and mental uncertainty.
I wasn’t who I wanted to be. And thankfully, that night helped me realize that.
I started to push back against my anxiety. Not in a repressive way. I wanted to embrace what I’d been through. I wanted to enjoy and remember what it’s like to live in a moment.
I’ve been a true diehard fan of the Dodgers and Justin Turner since that night. I’ve watched more baseball than anything else in the past few years and have enjoyed doing so.
In every win, loss, home run, strikeout, rain-out and doubleheader, there is a moment. And, while I wish I could remember them all, it’s nice to know that I can enjoy them for a change.
By no means am I doing perfect now. There are always new things to process and experience. And that is fine. To make a mistake or fail is in our nature. To be me is perfectly fine.
At 22, I’m still growing. I’m still learning. And that is fine.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, the ECC Student Health Services center provides six sessions of counseling for those who have paid their student health fee and are registered in at least one for-credit class. You can schedule an appointment with a psychologist here.