Yvonne Castañeda, a part-time faculty member in Boston College’s School of Social Work (BCSSW), said she hopes her new memoir will start conversations about mental health, addiction, and eating disorders.
“There’s so much stigma with mental health or with an eating disorder, especially, or any kind of substance use,” Castañeda said. “It’s not talked about. I felt like I needed to be brave and really just put it out there. … My hope is that it facilitates conversations.”
In her new memoir, Pork Belly Tacos with a Side of Anxiety, released on Feb. 22, Castañeda recounts her prolonged struggle with depression, addiction, anxiety, and bulimia.
While she was studying at the BCSSW, Castañeda said she noticed a need for a memoir like this within the Latinx community.
“I realized [that] there are a lot of challenges within my community, the Latinx community, with mental health,” Castañeda said. “I recognized that there wasn’t really a lot that approached mental health from the Latinx perspective.”
Rocío Calvo, the founding director of the Latinx Leadership Initiative at BCSSW, said she spoke with Castañeda about writing the book back when Castañeda was her student.
“When Yvonne was my student we talked about her writing this book,” Calvo said. “She wanted to help other Latinxs that may struggle with mental health issues. I’m so glad she did!”
Although she said anyone can relate to her memoir, Castañeda said she wrote it specifically for Latinx teenagers.
“It’s specifically written for young adults, ages 15 to 18, and more specifically for Latinx young adults … I think definitely 15 to 18 [year olds] will relate a lot because so much of the book is about that part of my life,” she said.
But, the themes of the book can still connect with people of all ages, Castañeda said. Though the book covers her youth, it also spans into Castañeda’s life as an adult.
“I think the themes in the book cover a lot of issues that people that are a little bit older can absolutely connect with—a lot of life purpose, existential crisis kind of questions,” she said. “In my book, because it’s a memoir, it’s adolescent heavy, but at the same time this is spanning my life until I was 35 years old.”
Calvo said the memoir is a compassionate account of a very complex topic that Castañeda made easily accessible to everyone.
“Yvonne’s book is a must-read for anyone that wants to understand mental health from within,” she said. “Her wit and vivid narrative transported me to her childhood experiences as the daughter of Latinx immigrants.”
Castañeda said she thinks that schools can do more to facilitate conversations about these topics as well, providing even more resources for students.
“Do I think schools can do more? A thousand percent,” she said. “And do I think schools need more resources just for mental health? A thousand percent.”
In addition to school support, Castañeda said familial support for young adults going through these challenges is just as important.
“I think it needs to be a collaborative effort with their parents or their families,” she said. “It’s great if the student gets support [in school], but if the parents are still kind of stuck in the ‘oh this is shameful we don’t talk about this,’ then the student is not fully supported.”
Although she said she does not believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to these issues, Castañeda mentions the things that helped her and how they could be beneficial for anyone struggling with similar challenges. Instead of focusing solely on her behavior, Castañeda said it helped her to look at the cause of her challenges.
“I think identifying what the driver is doing is a really great place to start,” she said. “I think a much more meaningful and impactful approach might be ‘What is actually driving this behavior?”
For Castañeda, it was important to recognize the fears that were driving her behavior.
“I think it took me a while to get to that point and realize ‘wow, it was this all along,’” she said. “It’s not that I need to change the behavior, I just need to figure out why the heck I’m so afraid.”
Castañeda said she hopes to continue writing and exploring these difficult topics.
“I definitely feel like there’s another book and a lot to write about—I’m just kind of waiting for it to find me,” Castañeda said. “I definitely don’t want to just stop with a memoir. I would love to write more on, even, just relationships, like how [anxiety and addiction] manifest and how they hurt families and relationships.”
Featured Image by Ben Schultz / Heights Staff