Read the story of the mother and daughter featured in our 70th Anniversary video and how they’re now leading healthy, happy lives and advocating for mental health in their community…
To say that Mia and her mom, Araceli, are now thriving would be an understatement.
Araceli describes 9-year-old Mia, an avid video-gamer, as independent, brave, fearless, and outspoken, but also sensitive and always ready to help others in need. Mia is extremely self-motivated, and is already laying the foundation to pursue a Master’s degree in Game Design at USC someday.
Mia excels at math, plays the violin, and sings in her school’s choral group. She even ran for student council recently and won. No doubt it was because her classmates wanted a peer to stand up to bullying the way Mia did in her campaign speech.
Mia describes her mom as her best friend. She says they’re like peanut butter and jelly. They’re both passionate about videography, and enjoy documenting their adventures together – even broadcasting over Facebook Live so their friends and family can join in on the fun. Araceli is finishing her degree and working as a computer assistant teacher at Long Beach Community College. During her first semester back at school, Araceli earned a 4.0 grade average.
But not that long ago, life wasn’t as bright or promising. There were days when Araceli found it hard to eat, shower or sleep. She had grown up with four brothers, and was taught that she needed to be strong and not express her feelings. As an adult and single mom, she struggled to maintain this façade.
Then, Araceli ran into a CalWORKs social worker who told her, “I know a place where you can go. I think you’ll find what you’re looking for there.”
Araceli found solace and hope through her struggles with depression and anxiety at The Guidance Center. She credits her therapists for helping her learn how to balance her emotions – especially how to manage the impact of external and internal energy – and have the courage to walk back on a college campus to finish her degree. With time and support, Araceli gained the confidence to pursue her dreams and be the mom she wants to be to Mia and her older daughter.
Seeing how her mom was helped at The Guidance Center, Araceli’s older daughter asked for help dealing with the negative feelings she was experiencing, too. She met with Gloria, a Clinical Therapist in our Long Beach Outpatient Program, and began her own journey toward healing.
Several years later, when Mia was about 7 years old, she withdrew from the world, and Araceli didn’t recognize her daughter. Araceli began to see in Mia something that had plagued Araceli for most of her life: anxiety.
Mia began to feel fearful about leaving the house. Where were they going exactly? How long would they be there? Were they going to eat while they were out? What were they going to eat? She needed her mom to lay out all of their plans in very specific detail. Food prepared outside of their home often made Mia feel sick. Even when they were at home for meals, the food choices Mia felt comfortable eating were limited.
Araceli took Mia to the doctor. They took blood samples and ran all sorts of tests, but they could not find a reason why Mia was feeling this way. Once physical ailments were ruled out, Araceli knew exactly where she needed to take Mia for help.
Mia was a little nervous when she arrived at The Guidance Center for the first time. But, that nervous feeling soon disappeared as she began to connect with Gloria, the same therapist that helped her older sister heal. Together, they spent sessions getting to know each other, talking about what triggered Mia’s anxiety, and practicing coping skills.
“When I came in, I was feeling okay, but when I left to go home, I felt very happy,” said Mia.
Gloria even gave Mia one of her most beloved items, a rubber duck. This duck is no bath toy, but a therapeutic tool that Mia can hold or squeeze to help her feel calm whenever she’s feeling nervous, scared or has anxious feelings.
Since graduating treatment, Mia has blossomed. Not only is she now unafraid to leave the house, but she’s also become a mental health stigma fighter – starting conversations with her friends at school about what it’s like to have anxiety and spreading the message that it’s okay to ask for help.
And, while she still experiences the stressors of getting good grades and making friends at school, she now knows how to cope with those feelings and stand up for herself when necessary. Araceli says Mia has found her voice and knows who she is now – something Araceli works hard to reinforce whenever she can.
Today, Araceli and Mia are still using the skills they learned in therapy and don’t allow anxiety to have power over their lives anymore.
Beyond leading happy, healthy lives of their own, Araceli and Mia have become mental health advocates in their community. They take every opportunity to talk to their friends and family about the importance of mental health and how treatment can heal.
Araceli encourages fellow parents to seek help for themselves and their kids, too. She talks to Mia’s teachers and principals about integrating a better understanding of and sensitivity to students struggling with anxiety into teaching and school activities. They post videos on Araceli’s Facebook page to further spread the word. Mia is even inspired to start her own YouTube channel to help other kids (Mom says when she’s a little older). No barrier holds them back.
“I tell everyone about how people in that building rebuilt me, rebuilt us,” said Araceli.
Mia on her 9th birthday wearing her favorite shirt that says “Think Happy, Be Happy.”