There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. There is a lot of pain in the world right now. It can be overwhelming at times. I have seen a lot of posts about how if you are silent right now with everything going on with the riots and people of color being killed that you are betraying the black community. This is different than my normal posts, but I feel like I need to get something off my chest that I’ve been holding in.
In times like this, I curl into myself, and I become silent. I become how I felt for years, voiceless. So I wanted to write something that I haven’t spoken about too much. People will often ask me to speak about mental health with the lens of being an African American female. The idea has always felt strangely uncomfortable to me. Growing up, I lived in a white neighborhood. Hanging out with white kids was all I ever knew. My parents would tell me that I should be grateful to have the opportunity to play with kids who didn’t look like me, an opportunity my parents did not get to have until they got older. They told me their stories about racism, they told me their run-ins with the KKK, and they told me the discrimination and segregation they faced. All of it felt distant, almost. It felt that the world’s problems around racism had been solved because I got to play with kids who didn’t look like me quite freely and frequently. All through middle school and high school, I was bullied for not being “black enough”, which meant to me that I was not good enough, so I tried to change everything about me so that I could be “black enough”. I think that statement of not being black enough, is something that has kept me from feeling that I ever would be the right person to talk about the mental health experience being black because my experience was different.
I didn’t experience a lot of racism and discrimination myself until later years in my life. But I am realizing how much these terrible moments in our lives, where several people of color are wrongfully charged, wrongfully killed, and wrongfully disrespected, have such a huge impact on me and my mental health. And then I hear things like “silence is betrayal” and I immediately get brought back to how I felt when I was in middle school, uncomfortable, not enough, feeling like I should change how I react to situations. But reflecting on my silent response to what is happening, is a reminder to me that we all grieve differently. Some of us get angry and jump immediately into action. Others need time to cry. Others feel too tired to ever take action at all. I just want to remind all of you that it is okay to be wherever you are. Whether you are sick and tired of everything happening in our world, or something else is going on. It’s okay if you need some time before you can open up and act. I always say that speaking up is something that can help you so much in beginning to heal. But it takes time, it takes patience, it takes self-love.
I have had this weighing heavy on my mind for some time, this feeling that my experiences as a black female are “not good enough”, but I am realizing a lot of things and constantly reminding myself of what I already know. And one of those things is exactly what I preach all of the time, that my story is good enough, not only because it was my experience, but that it was someone else’s experience too, somewhere in the world. And so, for the person out there who has always felt strangely uncomfortable because society has tried to box you into a category, it’s okay, and I see you. The other thing that I am realizing is that sometimes talking about things that make us uncomfortable, can set us free. I hope we all respect each other’s way of grieving, and know that for some, that means taking action, and for others, that means taking a mental break.
My goal is to always provide hope, positivity, love, and so much more. And my only hope for the world is that one of you goes off and shows hope, positivity, and love to someone else. Even if you don’t understand their experience. Even if you don’t agree with them. I hope that we can all be more kind to one another, and by doing that, I believe that more of us will be able to see that our stories and backgrounds, and histories matter.
Some parts of us we might hold onto, for the fact that they are uncomfortable to let out. When you’re ready, let them out. Let them go, set yourself free of the chains trying to hold you back. You deserve so much more than that.