For years, I would contemplate on just how vulnerable I could allow myself to be. My mother and grandmother, 2 beautiful black women, were built tough. If they were ever going through anything internally, you couldn’t tell. Being a black woman in America has always been hard. You would think by now, we would be celebrated or even accepted as women, and not just by race. Unfortunately, that’s still not the case. We must work 3x as hard as others, we must wear a smile while carrying out our corporate America personality at work, and carry the weight of whatever we have going on at home. Doing this all without showing any signs of weakness. As a black woman, we know that showing weakness is ammunition for those who wish us ill will. We can’t let that happen! Or can we?
When you read about suicides, most of the time the race of that person is white. Little do we know, that African and American Indians are more likely to attempt and commit suicide than whites. Per NAMI statistics, 28.3% of American Indians, 18.6% of blacks, 16.3% of Hispanics, and 13.9% of Asians live with a mental illness and don’t know it.
To date back in time, the black generation was built to overcome adversity and maintain strength throughout life’s courses. We were told to never tell anyone our family business, especially those outside the home or of another ethnicity. I’ve always questioned why we can’t trust someone else other than family (who more than likely will lead you astray faster than a random person), your preacher if you’re raised religious or even a non–biological family member your parent(s) approved you to trust.
Being raised in a Black home, my parents made it clear that we were not to speak on our issues to outsiders. I always wondered why we couldn’t talk to our closest friends about things. While in high school, I learned quickly that blacks must maintain constant toughness. If you didn’t you would have the hardest time getting through life. I tend to digress. It wasn’t until situations happened where I’d shut down, that I realized there was a problem. It wasn’t just when major life events or when deaths occurred, it was for smaller issues. I heard from family and friends that I was not capable of having a meltdown. They told me it was because “we are better than that nor are we weak in any aspect of the word.” How? How the fuck am I not good enough to shut down? Why is it not okay to not be okay? We are human.
I’ve had my own experience with depression and anxiety. Accepting it was harder than speaking on it. I was more embarrassed to have a mental health issue, than I was to talk about it. Crazy, right? After years, have passed, I realized you define who you are. Not people, a career, a man, your children or a mental issue. YOU define YOU.
Once I found my trigger points, I made sure to stay away from people and things that would offset my depression. It’s a slight struggle, in comparison to the years before, where it was a constant struggle. But I’m okay with that. My goal is for other people to be okay with it as well. Being strong 24/7 is exhausting! I feel a hell of a lot better after I release what’s wrong, even when there is no solution. It may feel as if your life is over and you won’t ever find someone to accept you for you, flaws and all. That’s just simply not true. I have and you surely will too.
I’ve come to realize it is okay to not be okay. What’s not okay is sitting in those feelings and letting it take over who you were before. Tell that mental shit we are bonded for life, but you don’t run me. I do.
All that those who are suffering from a mental illness/disease want, is someone to hear us out and genuinely care. You may not know what to do but that’s perfectly okay. Most of the time it’s not expected that you have a solution. More so, it is letting us know that there is someone that gives a damn and feels our life is worthy. When you easily walk away and don’t talk it out and gain understanding of the problem, that does more harm than good. I am a Black woman who suffers from major depressive anxiety. Do not define me by this diagnosis, for it does not run my life. Define me by my character, and how I’ve persevered through life’s circumstances while being a great mom to my number one priority; my son. I used to think vulnerability was a form of weakness when it’s a true form of strength.
Please keep in mind, September 10-16 is Suicide Awareness. Regardless of awareness dates, if you feel you may know someone suffering, be their ear and help them. Or text RESIST to 50409
BY PATRICIA HOLLIS