Part 5 of this series has a special dedication to For Brown Girls and #DarkSkinRedLips creator Karyn Washington. May you rest peacefully. May your light, love, insight, beauty and revolutionary ways continue to inspire the writers before, with and after me.
I remember a bundle of nerves dancing in the pit of my stomach as I pulled onto Texas State Highway 75 while driving to see my then-therapist Margret. My right hand clutched the steering wheel as my cell phone sat cradled in between my right shoulder and ear. I decided that day would be the day I told my mother I was seeing a therapist.
I can’t recall the exact words I blurted out, but I remember how difficult it was to explain to my mother why I could not just pray my problems away, as she advised. At that time I had a tough time connecting the dots and realizing that my experience–a black millennial woman swallowing a giant pill of jitters as she confesses to her baby boomer mother that she sees a therapist every other week–was not unique. I did not understand that my compulsion to seem infallible and not let the world “see me sweat” was a plight plaguing many other black women. I did not understand that I was not alone in my journey to better mental, emotional and spiritual health.
For so long, too long, I assumed I should be admired and revered for seeming so bulletproof. I remember a sense of pride swelling inside of me during my adolescence and early adulthood because I was the kind of young woman who suppressed my tears. I refused to cry in front of other people. I wanted to be seen as strictly business. I tried so hard to disjoint my head from my heart and emotions from logic. I wanted to be rational and ice-cold. I never realized that none of those things were at my true core. But, life has a way of knocking us to our knees. That was what happened during the summer of 2011 when a close friend of mine committed suicide less than a month after I was raped. Suddenly, life seemed a lot less black-and white and more gray, and appearing “strictly business” became too exhausting a facade to keep up with. I was cracking quickly, so upon the recommendation of a friend, I began seeing a therapist.
It has been a long and continuous healing journey since then, one that never stops. But, I credit some of my life’s beautiful disasters with helping me to become who I am now, someone who no longer sees “emotional” as a taboo label, lets myself cry when I know I need it and feels every feeling fully and unapologetically. Now I pride myself on the opposite things I once held on a pedestal–vulnerability, transparency and a heart that responds freely and fully to the world around it.
Part 5 of The War on Black Women’s Bodies represents a crucial discussion as we take a closer look at the state of mental and spiritual health for black women. I recognize the urgency of this discussion at this moment in history.
“Black America is really struggling right now,” said Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, licensed psychologist and founder of Therapy for Black Girls. “There is collective trauma that feels more palpable than it has felt in recent years.”
In this part of the series, we’ll tackle:
- how to erase the myth of the “Strong Black Woman” and why there is a stigma around mental health for black women depression and suicide
- what mental health resources are available and how to find the right therapist to fit your needs
- cultivating a spiritual journey aligned with who you are and where you want to go, and social media’s detrimental effects on mental health.