I apologize to those of you who were steadily following my mental health month series. It ended abruptly as a result of the necessary civil unrest spanning the 50 states and select countries worldwide. I have been participating in protests, going to work, and trying to figure out how to take care of my mental health in all of this.
What I’ve learned in this personal process is that much of my childhood silence, my fear of people, my feeling of being small, unimportant, invisible, unwanted, does not only stem from a childhood living with a parent prone to aggressive outbursts while drunk or on drugs, but also from growing up mixed race, African-American, and not really understanding what that means.
I live in a predominantly white and Hispanic town. In all of my years of school (from pre-school into this current year of college–i’m 24) I have had two African-American mixed classmates. I have had no dark-skinned classmates.
I have felt alone my entire life. My father, who is dark, grew up with many siblings and in a predominately black neighborhood. He was subject to a lot of trauma, struggled in his relationship with his own alcoholic father, and in his early adulthood was stabbed six times and jailed for a year on a robbery charge that was later proven to be a false claim; he almost spent his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. This is real. I cannot make this stuff up, and it’s happening everywhere. I’m thankful police have never shot him or kneed on his neck.
His trauma becomes mine. His mother’s trauma became his and mine. Her mother’s picking of cotton trauma became her daughter’s trauma, my father’s trauma, and my trauma. HER mother’s mother’s mother’s trauma of being forced down the Trail of Tears became all of our trauma. We are African-American and Native American. This trauma spans over 400 years.
What I notice when I talk to Caucasian people about this is that they logically understand the progression of history and genuinely want to abolish a system that is naturally oppressive against people of color. But they don’t have the same emotional connection. They saw the pain in George Floyd’s eyes in the video, are outraged about the life visibly leaving his body on camera. Their spirits ache at this tragedy. Ours do too, but differently. Together, as a collective, we are feeling each other’s pain. We grieve as if this is a death of a loved one, not just another stranger who deserved to live. This man was family. Breonna Taylor was family. Ahmaud Arbery was family. All of the others in the news were family.
This is a deep-seeded spiritual connection that goes back to the tribes of Africa, that includes those of us with Native history, and when that spirit is in pain, we know. Many of us are still up night spontaneously crying, fatigued, tired, scared, hurting, and for people in a similar environmental situation as me–well, we don’t have anyone to talk to.
On my linked-in this morning, an article shared by the American Psychological Association reminded me that my mental health must be looked at from a particular perspective. So I wanted to share it with all of you in hopes someone may find it useful for themselves, or useful for a friend.
This article was posted on Women’s Health, but this is suitable for all genders of color. The author is a person of color who has had a similar experience to me: restless nights, no sleep, anxious mornings, tense muscles, consistent social media usage, and fear of death. They suggest a few points I’ll summarize below:
- Get in contact with therapists who are culturally aware and trained in racial trauma. They put a link to the website Therapy for Black Girls. I checked it out. They have a search bar you can use to find ethnic therapists near you. Every therapist I’ve ever had (6) have been white and only one even touched on generational trauma and how that has perpetuated my feeling silenced. They list some social media pages of black therapists, like @askdrjess, @dr.thema, and @dr.nataliejones, all on Instagram.
- They suggest practicing meditation to help maintain a lower level of excitement in your nervous system. They suggest meditating on powerful female ancestors in history. I don’t know how helpful meditating on thoughts of any one person will be, but I do know there are select times in my life where meditation has helped me feel all of my feelings, sit with them, and really absorb their raw juices. Remember, you are healing generations, not just yourself. I’m sorry we are burdened with this. But our ancestors are with us, and if we couldn’t handle it, we wouldn’t be alive right now.
- Bring some joy into your life. It’s important to balance reform/social justice work with the rest of your life. Smiles keep us alive. Remember that you’re allowed to be happy. You’re allowed to laugh during this time of pain. It’s a way to heal yourself, too.
- Hug people, except that COVID is still rampant so maybe don’t?
- Space out time for relaxation and time for working on advocacy. I’ve struggled with this and beat myself up today when my body was so fatigued that I passed out on the couch instead of getting up to go to my forth protest. I want to be involved, I want to be an instrument for change too. I want to make an impact, share my story, have my voice heard, and hopefully inspire others to do the same. But I can’t do everything all the time. I still work four days a week at an emotionally demanding job. Be patient and kind to yourself.
- Exercise! I went for a walk with some friends today. It helped.
We don’t often talk about mental health in black families. Many ethnic families don’t. Some cultures across the world still see it as internal weakness. This is a harmful mindset. We cannot heal as a people if we do not address raw feelings. If we do not share with our kids our pain, our knowledge, our past, our present.
Please, if you are a person of color, especially in America at this time, and you are struggling internally with what is going on, you are angry, you are sad, scared, hurt, bleeding, talk to someone. Email me. have a discussion with family, with friends, participate where you can. Educate where you can. We are carrying so much pain on our backs.
So much pain.
If no one’s told you yet: you are allowed to express that.
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3 thoughts on “A Mental Health Resource for African-Americans”
Well done for addressing this, and I’ll add it to a blog post either today or tomorrow 🙂 In the meantime, look after you and yours, Caz x
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Thank you 🙂 hope you are doing well.
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All’s good thanks and I hope it’s all good for you too 🙂 x
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