Tai Nunes is attending Ventura Community College with a major in General Engineering. She will be transferring to a four-year university to study Industrial Engineering.
What is your passion and mission in life?
I am passionate about the impact of diet and physical exercise on mental health. I have personally experienced how running and stretching can help you deal with depression. It is when I am on the track, one foot after the other, challenging my body, breathing in and out rhythmically that I let go of anxiety and sadness. When it is time to return home, I feel lighter and accomplished. I wish my mom knew what I know now.
What is your biggest hardship and how did you overcome it?
My mom developed severe depression after finding out she was pregnant with my brother. I was only three months old, and my mom was not planning to have another baby. Fortunately, she carried on with the pregnancy, and eventually, she seemed happy again. That did not last long though. Three years after having my little brother, my mom started to have suicidal thoughts. She became a different person. Sadly, after months of trying to end her life, she eventually did. I will never forget her warm hug and sweet voice asking me to take care of my brother for her before she took her own life in front of us; I was only five.
My life after my mom’s passing was full of sadness and confusion. And, for some reason, my dad has never really talked about my mom’s death. I still do not know much about my mom whatsoever. Now that I am a mom myself, it is even harder to understand how she could look my brother and me in the eyes and say goodbye forever. I guess I will never know.
Mental illness has been a constant battle in my family. My dad has developed bipolar disorder, and recently my brother was also diagnosed with the same illness. Sometimes, I wonder if I am the next in line. Unfortunately, there is not much I can do about that other than pay attention to my feelings, take care of my body, and be grateful for my beautiful daughter.
How has this adversity affected raising children?
Growing up without a mom taught me to strive to become the best version of myself every day. I want to be physically and psychologically available for my daughter. By working on my own happiness, I will be able to show up as a better parent. And that is one of the reasons why I am going back to college. I want to show my daughter that you get to decide who you are going to be and you can always work on yourself to become a better person, regardless of your circumstances.