Mental health is a topic that has been popping up all over television lately. There are prescription drug advertisements about it, reality TV stars are meeting with therapists on their shows, and there are even a few reality shows designated to watching people go through the therapeutic process. This is sort of the norm in the white community, but recently it is becoming a new trend in the black community as well. And I will be the first to admit that I'm glad mental health has finally began to scratch the surface as an issue in black families, and it's time that we address it and be real about it. My willingness to seek therapy has changed my life, which is also what inspired me to began my blog.
Growing up, I lived in a two-parent household, something that was kind of rare in my neighborhood. Most of my friends didn't live with their mother and father in the same household, so they would tease my about my "perfect" family; if only it really was. My dad (God rest his soul) was an alcohol and drug abuser. My mom worked at night so she wouldn't have to be around him because he would get drunk and high, then argue with her and call her names. My sister and I never knew this sort of relationship was a problem because that is all we knew. But now as adults in our 30s, were both like "what the f**k!" Who knew that as a 35-year-old, I could finally figure out why I stayed stuck in a crappy marriage for 12 years? Who knew that my parents taught me how to stay in a bad marriage? That was all I knew. But what I never imagined is scheduling my first therapy session with a black female therapist for the first time in my life at 35-years-old was all that needed to be done, years ago.
Growing up, I always wanted to talk about the problems and issues that I was having with friends at school, in the neighborhood, boys, and even teachers. Unfortunately, whenever I did, I would get a cut and dry answer like, "you worry too much," "girl just get over it," or "just stop thinking about it." No one ever took the time to listen and tried to offer guidance and support. As black people, I'm sure you all know, we were pretty much told to "mind our business and stay out of other folks business." But I have an issue with this because black folks can be real nosy and messy when it comes to household issues or relationship issues, however, when it comes to individual issues, things get real hush-hush. What I'm trying to say is that people assume what they see to be reasoning without trying to get to the core of the problem. For example, you don't have failed relationships repeatedly because of him or her, your relationships have failed because of you! Not being able to tolerate your mother is not simply because she "talks too much" or she "is always trying to tell you what to do." These types of problems occur because there is an underlying issue somewhere that needs to be addressed, and it is one issue that black people fail to confront. Now we have a cycle of repeat behaviors being passed down from generation to generation.
Relationships in the black community aren't failing because of society per say, society wants to keep us down relatively speaking, but by keep us down, they don't promote the need for psychology to us because they know that we have a history of not speaking on our issues. As quiet is kept, a phrase commonly used in the black community in attempt to not spread rumors and speculations, has done us more harm than good. It seems easier to gossip and discuss things among ourselves rather than offer support. We would rather tear down and shame another sister for our own personal gain. But what is even more frustrating is that we struggle to work together in our community as a whole. Black men disrespecting black women. Black women shaming other black women. Black parents offering extreme discipline to their children as opposed to talking to them, our lacking any sort of discipline at all because there is no attempt to parent. These are just some of the issues in the black community that we need to work on. Now I'm not saying take a page from the white community's book. But we do need to develop ways to offer success to one another in our community for the sake of our youth, because regardless to what you want to believe, we only know what we see.
When you look at black-on-black crime, you have to ask yourself, what is the purpose? I mean really, how comfortable are we to just kill one another? Jealousy, envy, the unwillingness to agree to disagree? Is it that a lot of fathers were alcoholics or drug abusers, like mine? Is it that we grew up in a household with anger and hostility? Were mothers running the streets instead of being at home nurturing their children? Thanks to therapy, I am starting to question these things. I have three children of my own and for their sake, the best decision I made was to divorce. My children witnessed anger and hostility. They saw a father in the house physically, but not mentally. Thank God I made the decision to break that cycle. But there are so many women and men like me in this situation, that don't even view this as a problem because they were always told that things are okay. As long as he's still there, then it's okay. This is why so many black people, specifically women, sit in silence. These problems we have are not problems in our community [sarcastically speaking]. No one wants to hear that because you're just complaining at this point. Now we have all of these bottled issues that get poured out into the streets because we are silenced among ourselves. Frustration builds over time and we were never taught to workout our problems. There is poor communication or no communication in the black community, which then results to abuse and hostility, that often results to death and murder.
Killings in areas like south side Chicago and Compton is a result of gang activity no doubt, but why do these kinds of organizations and crimes happen in our neighborhoods? My theory is that we have no real sense of family, belonging, acceptance, and support in our community. We're so busy trying to survive on a day-to-day basis, we don't have the mental capacity to deal with our issues. The government threw all of us into one area where we are forced to fight for survival with almost nothing offered. No hope, no opportunity. The Feds declared a war on drugs in an effort to incarcerate the black man, and leave the black family without male presence. Black men struggle to find work in order to provide an adequate living for their families. Let's face it, we just weren't dealt the same cards as the white community. So not only are we at a loss of support from one another, the government has no interest vested in the black community either; therefore leading to more anger and viewing each other as the enemy.
Now comes religion, which is the staple of the black community. Christian, Baptists, Catholic, Jehovah, Muslim, anything but Atheists is all you need to be well off in the black community. Find a church, grab a Bible, scream, shout, and pray your worries away. "Just pray about it." While I am a firm believer in praying and building a relationship with God, I do think that having someone to talk to without judgement and condemnation is important to the black community. Pastor's and ministries should open their doors to people in the community seeking someone to just talk too. Religious organizations in the black community have to reach out to the masses in an attempt to help black families and individuals find a calming balance in their lives, regardless of the pressures and oppression's we face in our daily lives. Prayer is good, don't get me wrong. I pray all day everyday. I pray while walking, driving, watching TV, eating lunch, whenever I see something or a thought crosses my mind, I talk to God about it. And with the help of my black female therapist, I have learned to spend time with myself AND God.
Spirituality, in addition to religion, is a balance that we need. We must learn to connect with ourselves on a spiritual level. Church is good. Congregations are great for the social aspects of joining in unity with a specific religion. But what about your individual understanding of God and all living things? This is another hurdle that black people are struggling to jump. We have been programmed to join the church and listen to the pastor, memorize Bible scriptures and sing-a-long to all of the hymns and Negro Spirituals. Again, I have no problem with these things either, but it's almost like saying just hum and quote your worries away; however, this has not been proven helpful. Many women in the black community feel shamed when something happens to them. If their marriage failed, the pressure is on the woman and she feels the burden; therefore on the outside she's fine and "just praying about it," but truthfully, she suffers silently because she knows no one can offer her the mental support she needs because black people haven't been taught that. If a black woman is sexually assaulted, she says nothing because she does not want to be blamed for it. She does not want to viewed as a "hoe that put herself into that situation." These are the things we have been taught to believe; another example of the lack of support from the black community. It's okay that we rape and shame our women. It's okay if a black man is struggling to find work and keep their family together due to incarceration or lack of opportunity. If only we could convince ourselves that we must seek mental health in order to restore the black community. The only time we seem to come together is when we are torn apart by injustice, yet we continue to let systematic oppression rule our judgement of one another.
After about 10 months of therapy, reading, writing, research, and self-help assessments, I decided to create a tranquil home environment. After my divorce, I decided to move me and my kids out of our neighborhood of 10 years and into a new home in a different area. I knew that I wanted to start over physically, but I also knew that physical relocation was only a band-aid. I had to work on this transition mentally as well. I turned to aromatherapy to help stimulate and nurture my mind, in addition to the other work I had to do. It has helped me to inhale mental peace, and exhale creativity and positivity. When I was a kid, people that loved incense and earthly fragrances were "weird" or "crazy," which was a stigma in the black neighborhood. Those kind of people practiced voodoo and were gypsies or fortune-tellers of some sort. The things taught to the black community decades ago, have somewhat hindered our progress today. I have a 19-year-old brother who I practically raised, and for the first time in almost 10 years, he actually looks forward to visiting my house. Without asking him, I know that the air in my home is different and all negative spirits and tensions are gone. Unfortunately it took my marriage to finally crumble for this to happen, but it did help me realize that my life wasn't as "peachy" what I thought.
After my parents divorce, I watched my mother try to replenish that void by dating different men, further neglecting the impact of her divorcing from my father, and looking back, she didn't make things better. She never sought counseling of any kind, nor thought that my sister and I needed it. I vowed not to do that to my children, but more importantly, I vowed not to let another man into my life without knowing myself so that I can have more to offer. I felt compelled to share with you today how serious it is to lack support from our own community. I want mental health awareness to become more of a trend in the black community, and less of a shame. Misogynistic lyrics in rap music has led the black community down a path of disrespect, neglect, and lack of intellect. The white community is now entertained by our music and fashion, without living that life, because this is our reality. It is not a trend. It is not a Grammy. It is not 10 million subscribers on YouTube and 3 million Likes. Black culture is our life and our struggle, and it is real. We are suffering as a community and have somehow made suffering look cool instead of addressing the problem head-on.
I want to get into more of my life and struggles for the past 35-years, which I plan to do throughout my blog over time. I didn't come to preach today, but I did plan on raising awareness about the underlying issue in the black community, the silence of suffering and what can be done about it. I look to my therapist, Dr. Valjean Whitlow, and women such as Iyanla Vanzant to continue to stress the importance of being important and deserving of much more. We have to lose this stigma that everything will be just fine. Pray about it AND work on it. I will be sharing more on my life struggles in weeks to come so look out for that. There is so much plaguing the black community that I don't have time to really reflect on what is most important; therefore I'm just jotting down issues as they come. If you want to discuss a topic that is frustrating to you or anything that you would like to vent about, please leave it in the comments below. I would love to hear from you so we can get through it together. Please click on the links below for more insight. Be Blessed!