SOMETIMES I FEEL like a sack of wet clay or a two-story brick house built at the bottom of the Dead Sea. By now, I consider it a common symptom of the encumbrance of being “a good [black] daughter.” Ergo, responsible Black/Brown womxn like I, are tired of being both our mothers’ blessings and their burdens. We’re tired of bending over backward to break the generational “curses” we’ve civilized as “defense mechanisms” or “survival tactics” or “tradition” without snapping in half — can’t let the world see you crack under the pressure of your first world problems because things are better now.
Maybe my great-great-grandmother was a slave and my great grandmother lived through segregation, but I, with all 3/5ths of my personage, can vote for the lesser evil. So I shouldn’t think too much about our lack of a childhood or how I knew racism before I knew how money worked. And how come we continue to be sexualized before we’re ever taught what sex actually is? I still don’t feel pretty for a Black girl most days. How many times will my mother feel the urgency to re-teach me how to navigate a world in which this Black/Brown female body is at risk simply because it is Black/Brown and female? How come many of us still become mothers before bearing children of our own? And why do so many of us find stairways to heaven in hospitals when birthing life?
Sometimes, I fear that the day I go into labor my partner will not be there and the doctor will not listen. It may seem irrational but who would believe you’ve been hurting for over 500 years when you’re only 25.
“And how come we continue to be sexualized before we’re ever taught what sex actually is?”
Hark, mental health is not solely a Caucasian concern. I can only hope that you would know this. But I find myself in a position of explanation yet again. No, I still haven’t gone to a therapist and here’s why: the active psychologists working in the U.S. are predominantly White. According to the American Psychological Association, out of the 16.4% of the racial/ethnic minority workforce, 5.3% of it is Black. And because we work more but make less, fewer of us can afford the insurance, or the schooling to get the help we need, or become the change we want to see. Also, despite all the progress we’ve made over the years, the Black and Brown communities still stigmatize mental health. I know that finding a therapist doesn’t make me any less of a strong Black woman. However, I also know that my dad will silently disagree. He will think to himself, “depression is a White people problem,” as he represses his own sadness — covering it with the character of a hard hustling manly-man and tattoos and dry whiskey. Now, should I be diagnosed properly and prescribed pills? He won’t tell me he’s scared or why but he will treat me differently without trying to.
I haven’t been professionally diagnosed, yet. My hesitation is simple. I am afraid that my self-analysis will be right and I am even more afraid that I’ll be wrong.
So, since nothing is ever as easy as it is said, I prefer this continuous return to myself as my own savior — my own muse. Wherein I lead my misgivings into my own restful arms. This is how I will love myself into someone healed: carefully, I will pull my shadow off the cold cement under my feet and I will hold her hands like she is human. I will make space for her to breathe and vent. I will listen intently. I’ll ask her about her hopes and needs and sincerely apologize for what I’ve blamed her for. All without letting go. Whenever I see her in my reflection, I will remind her that she is lovable and worthy and loved and beautiful and wonderful and more.
We, Black & Brown people; queer people; disabled people; immigrants and so on aren’t meant to be something this world can make a modern day slave of. Remember this: it costs you nothing to be kind to yourself. The government can’t take that away from you. ■