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Assimilating in America: My Teenage Depression

Stanislav Payziyev's story posted on August 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm. Stanislav emigrated from Tashkent, Uzbekistan to New York, United States in 2000

         Immigration to America has been happening for many centuries and most people who immigrate here are in search of a better life. Each person has a unique immigration story; some of them are happy and some are traumatic. Unfortunately, my immigration story is filled with depression and confusion, which caused a struggle which lasted several years as I tried assimilate to my new country.

         My mother, my sister and I immigrated to America (New York City) in 2000 from Tashkent, Uzbekistan. When we arrived at JFK Airport, many of our relatives were waiting there to greet us. Though my father lived in NYC, we did not see him until a month later. We were happy to see all of them, but we were happiest to see my grandma whom we hadn’t seen for many years. My mother had decided that we would stay at my grandparents’ apartment because we didn’t have enough money to afford our own apartment. So, we lived together in Queens, though it was kind of hard for five people to live in a one bedroom apartment.

         After two weeks of living in America, my sister and I started school. My sister assimilated to the American life in a couple of weeks; however, I couldn’t assimilate at all. At that time, I was only fourteen years old, and this age can be a very hard age for a person to live through. I went through an adolescent crisis because I couldn’t accept American culture. For example, I couldn’t understand why people were always smiling at each other. Moreover, I didn’t have any friends in school, so I felt alone. At high school, there were many bullies, and I was one of their victims. I clearly remember walking through the hallway of my school looking for my classroom when three strong African American boys were coming toward me. They suddenly began pushing me, beating me, and saying, “You’re dumb!” I was a weak and shy kid, so I couldn’t defend myself. Later that day, I cried at home, and I told my mom that I wasn’t going back to school. Every day I sat at home doing nothing because I was so depressed. I had lived without my father since early childhood, so nobody had taught me how to be a strong man.

         I always wanted to have a father figure, but I never really did. My father left our family when I was seven years old. He immigrated to America in 1994, and until the year my mother, my sister, and I immigrated to America, he had only called us five or six times, and he had never sent us gifts. When we did come to America, we met him a couple of times. My father knew that we were struggling financially, and that we needed support from someone. At that time he had a stable job with a high salary, but he didn’t want to support us because he, as he said, “I need to support my current family.” What about us? I guess we were not his family anymore. Moreover, when my mother called my father and told him, “ Your son is depressed and he does not want to go to school,” my father responded, “It is not my problem because I don’t live with him, so you should take care of him.” Hearing this from my father, I was shocked. Since that conversation between my mother and him, I never saw my father again.

         Unfortunately, my family and I couldn’t move to a new apartment because of a lack of money, so we continued to stay at my grandparents’ house for our first six months. It was extremely stressful for me to live with my grandfather, who is an alcoholic. He had been consuming alcohol for 40 years. I understand now that this is a serious disorder, and it is not easy to recover from. However, when I used to live with him, I didn’t understand this because I wasn’t mature enough. When my grandfather was drunk, he would become aggressive. His behavior was bizarre and he would scream at my sister and me without reason. Living with an alcoholic person can be very stressful and depressing for a young teenager. Unfortunately, added to the trauma I had experienced at school, my grandfather’s verbal abuse made my depression worse.

         Finally, we got financial support from Welfare. They helped us by paying our rent. My mom, my sister, and I moved to a new apartment in Brooklyn. From that moment on, I told myself that my life would change; however, I was completely wrong. I went to a new school for one year, but the whole year in school was a struggle. Boys were continuously harassing me, and I still didn’t have any friends. My depression was progressing more each day that I was in America. I told my mom, “I hate America, I hate the people around me, and I want to go back to Tashkent.” My mom could see that my depression was getting worse, and that after two years in America, her son still could not assimilate to a new country. She decided to take a vacation and went back to visit Tashkent with me. When we were in Tashkent for three months, my mom was surprised that her son’s behavior changed completely. I began to have many friends, I smiled all the time, and my depression disappeared completely. I felt happy and I didn’t want to go back to America. My mom worried about my health, so she decided to leave me there with my uncles, so I could finish high school. I stayed in Tashkent for almost two years, and I graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA.

         Later, when I was 18 years old, I began to understand that in Tashkent there are no future prospects: people were suffering because they could not find jobs, even with a higher education, and many were not earning enough to live a quality life. I knew that I should go back to America, but I was scared because of my previous experience. However, Tashkent made me a stronger person and my worldview changed completely. I had become more mature psychologically and emotionally. When I went back to America, I suddenly saw it in a different way. I started college, made many friends, and got a good job at pharmacy. Every weekend, my friends and I went to the city to chill out. I felt support from my friends, and I was no longer alone in America.

         Now, I have graduated from Touro College with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and have  just been accepted into the Graduate School of Social Work. I now realize that the reason for my existence is based on my desire and capacity to be of help to others. Given my own battles in life so far, I have developed appreciation and optimism. I have had a chance to look at the world and to gain perspective on the complexities and messes in people’s lives. Now is my time to focus on the hearts that need to be touched and the lives that need to be transformed. I intend to focus on children and adolescents, who I believe are the most neglected individuals. Being in their shoes when I was their age, I know I can easily identify with them and their problems. It is not difficult for me to decipher and understand their concerns.

         My adolescent years and personal crisis when I first came to America were incredibly hard for me to handle. In addition, the father who should have emotionally supported  his son and been a physical presence was absent, which brought me a lot of pain. Although I have been able to gain understanding toward my grandfather’s alcoholism, I have not been able to accept my father’s neglect. The moment that saved me was when my mom made the decision to leave me in Tashkent as she could see that I felt much better staying there. I think living in Tashkent for a couple of years was like having psychotherapy. I may have struggled during my younger years and failed to make the most out of it, but this is the same thing that taught me to appreciate my ability and youth. Now, I am happy that I came back to America eight years ago, and I can say that I love America, and I would never leave this country again.


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Galina B.:

you are a brave guy --great story!

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