Written by C. Nikole
As black women, we are denied the luxury of identity. More often than not we are birthed into roles of responsibility that do not directly benefit our growth and development. We are born into roles of caregiver and motherhood before we have the opportunity to create families of our own. Often we adopt these tasks, titles, and expectations before we are issued a school supply list. We then are expected to live and evolve into healthy functioning members of a very needy society. An even more overwhelming fact being that we accomplish it! Even with these burdensome worries and responsibilities many of us manage to rise to the top of our desired fields, industries, and endeavors we prosper effortlessly.
However, every black woman has faced that dreaded moment of not so clear clarity where we ask ourselves “Who am I?” or “What am I doing?” You are not validated by your degrees, you no longer feel connected to your career, hell, you may not even know if you like your husband and children for real! If you are a woman who prides herself on the things around her representing her satisfaction with life then these realizations can cause you to panic. The revelations vary but the realization remains that none of what you did or are doing is for you. Your whole life, for lack of better wording, becomes a crisis.
However, the ever resilient Black woman can combat these crossroads of identity with three simple steps. These actions will only cost you time, and for the average woman that’s less dispensable than money. I challenge you to view these small lifestyle alterations as vital and as lucrative as monetary investments to one’s estate. Below are the three things I have done, and recommend you do, to help foster a renewed sense of self:
- Devote Time to Meditation.
I’d bet my next paycheck that in the year 2016 someone has led a crusade for the vitality of meditation in your own life. There are tons of chants, breathing techniques, and poses recommended in order to facilitate this level of enlightenment. This section is not that. I will simply state this alone time for anyone, is very rare but also extremely important. Alone time with intent is life changing, and that is meditation in its most simplistic form. As a Black woman, we become our obligations. We are siblings, children, aunts, spouses, students, bosses before we ever get the chance to be ourselves. We know what role these obligations play in our lives but rarely are we afforded the space and opportunity to sit and assess the role we play in these situations. This is where even five minutes of meditation is key. When you allot time to abandon worldly responsibilities you allow The Creator to slowly reveal who you are to yourself.
- Recall, Reclaim and Accomplish a Forgotten Childhood Dream
We were at our purest form as children and despite societies rhetoric we were at our most aware as well. Even those of us with traumatic or unconventional upbringings can recall a time of conscience before life got the best of us. Where our dreams were limitless and time was infinite. We knew were going to be doctors, lawyers, chefs, pianists, actresses, singers and mothers, all at the same time. Sadly, life destroyed a lot of who were as children requiring us to trade in hope, imagination, and determination for practicality and responsibility. I challenge you to resurrect your childhood self. Thru meditation or rummaging through childhood trinkets try and recall a dream or goal you once had, big or small, and fight to accomplish that as you would a goal set as an adult. If you wanted to sing, join a neighborhood or church choir. Interested in acting, seek out some small auditions. Wanted to run your own lemonade stand, get that cardboard and markers, and start experimenting on that money making recipe. In the process of achieving said goal you will begin to unlock feelings and emotions of freedom. Hopefully stirring up the memories of a life you lived only for yourself.
- Say No.
That’s it. No explanation is needed. Saying yes has been programmed into a lot of our beings. We feel obligated to do all we can in a way that we can for everyone except ourselves. Yes is a commitment, no is an option. When we say yes to even the smallest gesture we obligate our energy to said situation. Redefine the role ‘no’ plays in your life and use it liberally. Since we are afforded the luxury as humans to change our minds, ‘no’ does not have to completely void you of responsibility, it gives you the option of delegating your own contribution to any circumstance.
I pray these practices elevate you as they have me, no matter where you are in this journey called life. Peace and love.
Similar to many other working, moving, shaking and heart-breaking women, I deal with the pressures of my daily responsibilities, bills, keeping track of life and everything else that comes along with adulting. Like millions of other adults in America, I also suffer from mental health issues that are exacerbated by stress and overwhelming situations. The one thing that has saved me from completely going bonkers is purposefully practicing self-care.
Self-care is not a buzzword. Self-care is not a suggestion. Self-care is not a trend. Self-care is an absolute must. Self-care helps to maintain physical and mental health, relieve stress, concentrate and focus on maintaining health relationships. When we take care of ourselves we are able to take better care of those around us and of the obligations of our lives. Not one of us is immune to stress or pressure. Therefore, not one of us shall be excused from taking good care of ourselves.
Self-care is for everyone. You may be a student, mother, career-driven business maven, high schooler or anything in between. If you are living, breathing person, self-care is for you. There is no certain level or threshold of stress or pressure that you have to meet to engage in caring for your mind, body and soul. Due to the many responsibilities that we take on or are put on us, it is almost impossible to avoid times of stress. Practicing self-care allows you to cope with and relieve stress, anxiety, depression and other overwhelming and energy-stealing feelings.
The 10 Self-Care Commandments
Thou Shalt Know Herself. Whether you keep a health journal or simply make mental notes, begin keeping track of the ebbs and flows of your mental, physical and spiritual health. Do you find that certain times of the year bring more stress than others? Perhaps you feel down more often right before you menstruate. Maybe you notice that certain people, places or duties trigger you. Learn your body. Begin to figure out when something mentally or physically does not feel right so that you can seek treatment if it persists. Keep a record of headaches that come when you are entering a high time at work. Know what is and is not right inside of you so that you can begin taking care of yourself right away.
Thou shall not let anyone else determine her feelings. Unlike those cool clear house phones from the 90’s, our insides are closed off to the outside world. So, while the people around you can see your facial expressions, view your output and hear your words, they cannot see what is going on inside of you. How is it, then, that they are somehow experts on your feelings, mental health and overall wellness? Oh, that’s right. They aren’t! When you are creating ways to take care of yourself, there will undoubtedly be folks all up in your business telling you what you do and don’t need; how you do or don’t feel. And yes, of course, you will have those few that love to remind you that “it’s not that bad” or “it could be worse.” I have choice words for those types of people but I digress. Your feelings, your stress, your mind, your body; they belong to you and only you. There is not another person on this earth that has the ability to tell you how you feel. So, when they try, politely ask them to remain in their own lane, or brush them off. But, do not let anyone make you feel bad for being true to your own feelings.
Thou shall care for herself early and often. Do not slack on taking care of yourself when you need to. We often feel guilt when we take time away from work, family or friends but think of it this way: take a short reprieve now, to avoid a long breakdown later. Self-care should be so ingrained into your daily life that you are taking care of yourself even when you are not thinking about it purposefully. Remember, self-care is not just about coloring pages and yoga. Self-care includes all the things that you do to make your quality of life better: eating well, sleeping enough, exercise, etc.
Thou shall determine what works best for herself. What works for one does not always work for the other. Sometimes you have to try a bunch of different methods before you find the one, two or few that fit best for your life and personality. When you mention to someone that you are stress, overwhelmed, depressed or feeling pressure, the suggestions will flow. Well, this is my one and only suggestion: Find something that works for you and do not give up if an activity does not help, something will.
Thou shall SELF care. You do not need to include anyone else in your self-care and you certainly do not have to feel obligated to take care of anyone else while you are trying to take care of yourself. Self-care is not something that you indulge in, like a pedicure once a month. Because it is essential to ensuring your life is improved and your mind is healthy, it is important to treat it like an obligation. Like C3 says, do it often. This also means that you may have to take time away from others in order to take care of yourself. Now, I am not saying that you should run away for a couple of weeks when you know there is no one else to handle your business for you. But, I am saying that it is important to have time to yourself. Even if that only includes 15 minutes of reading a good book with the door shut before the kids wake up. Take care of yourself so that when you are taking care of others, you can do it as well as you intend to.
Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.” – Deborah Day
Thou shall make self-care a habit. Build your methods of self-care into habits that you do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Add it to your calendar, to-do lists and personal agenda. Make regular doctor and dentist appointments, add gym days to your schedule, pencil in face masks and manicures. Whatever it is that you are doing to maintain your care, record it so that you can hold yourself accountable. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you will forget to do it as soon as you finish saying that you are going to. When you think of self-care methods, make them as regular as teeth brushing.
Thou shall engage in health care. Your mental health is tied very closely to your physical health. If you do not take care of your mind, your body will likely suffer. Include physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, even financial exercises and practices into your routine so that you are taking care of every area of your life.
Thou shall be proactive and reactive. If you are not currently stressed out or anxious, I am quite sure you can recall a time when your mind was rife with anxiety. Do not wait to dive into self-care practices. Do it regularly so that when high stress times come, you will be prepared. Think of it as supplementary health insurance. On the other hand, stress may creep up on you when you least expect it. When that happens, be armed with methods of care that will help you to get over the hump. Make a note to record what methods work or don’t work for different types of pressures you face so that you can reference it if those times return.
Thou shall reach out. When you are most in need of self-care, what do you do? Do you retreat or do you go out and get active or social? If you’re anything like me, you hermit up like a recluse in a dark cave. While this may feel good for a while, it may also worsen your feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. During those times where you are most in need of relief, reach out to someone else. Perhaps you have a girl’s night or your make an appointment with that therapist that you’ve been meaning to call for the last six months. Maybe you invite your lover over for movie night or hang out with your family for the weekend. Either way, get around other people.
Thou shall not believe she is burdensome. When you are feeling stressed, stretched or depressed, it is easy to feel like talking to other people may cause you to be a burden. But, if your friends or family truly care for you, you will find that they are willing and able to handle what you throw at them. Then again, you may find that the people closest to you do not understand or are not able to give you the level of help that you need. In these cases, contact a doctor, counselor, therapist or spiritual counselor who is trained to assist you with these matters. Remember that the things bringing your mind pain and pressure may be symptoms of more serious mental or physical health issues that require professional assistance and treatment.
If you or anyone that you know is dealing with mental health issues and is in need of help, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 800-950-6264
If it’s an emergency in which you or someone you know is suicidal, you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room.
November 25, 2014, I welcomed into the world my pride and joy. I knew my life would change, but what I was not aware of was how much I would change.
I didn’t notice it right away.
Slowly, I began to notice that something just wasn’t right with me. I didn’t want to be around others;I constantly felt overwhelmed by my circumstances, loneliness smothered me daily, and there were just times that I didn’t feel anything.
But, how could this be? I had my daughter that I was over the moon for and this should be the happiest part of my life right? Why was I not happy?
Postpartum depression is very common. However, as with many other mental health issues, it’s not discussed enough in a healthy context. And in the Black community, it’s even more taboo to talk about. People don’t have a true understanding of what depression is.
What’s worse, are the people closest to you, think they’re helping and being supportive but in actuality say some of the most harmful things to you. You have no idea how hurtful it is to be told, “Happiness is a choice and you’re choosing to be unhappy,” until you’ve been in this space. Also, depression isn’t just sadness. Most of the time, there’s just an emptiness that can’t be explained. You feel as if you’re always being watched and judged. “Am I smiling enough? Do I seem happy? I don’t want to go to this event, but if I don’t, they’re going to think I’m being shifty.” These are the thoughts that plague you on a daily basis when having to interact socially while depressed. You become overwhelmed with how your issues are impacting those around you. Instead of reaching out, you withdraw because you don’t want to feel like a bother to anyone. Or, you felt that if you did reach out, they wouldn’t understand and treat you differently because of your issues.
There were times where I really contemplated death. I never wanted to hurt my child, but life felt so cumbersome and the unknown of my future felt so scary that I just wanted to escape it all. Further reflection, led me to the truth that I am, in my heart of hearts, too much of a punk to actually go through with suicide. My next solution was to run away. When my next paycheck came, I would just pick up my baby and drive my car to some undetermined destination and begin my life anew. The only thing wrong with that plan was that I would be taking my daughter away from her dad. So logically, I planned to just leave on one of the days that she stayed with him.
The only thing that made me decide against all of those options, was thinking about what people would say about me. Think about that for a moment. I did not stay because I wanted to live. Nor did I stay because I felt the will to push on. I stayed because I cared so much about what other people thought of me that I would endure this emptiness to prove that I was strong and a good mother. That was the breaking point for me. When I realized that my love and concern for everyone else around me was stronger than the love of myself, I knew it was time to seek help.
That was 9 months ago. The journey back to me has been an interesting one filled with highs and lows. What I have learned through this is that:
- What people think of me is not my problem. Why am I worrying about how others’ perceive me? If I’m not happy at that moment, there is no reason for me to pretend to be. Me pretending to be happy for other people’s satisfaction serves me no purpose at all.
- It is okay to not have a good day. Everyday is not going to be filled with hearts and rainbows and that’s OKAY. What’s important is knowing that I can HANDLE a bad day. I used to feel that I couldn’t make it through, but now I’m learning that I can.
- Depression does not end in one day, it takes work. It takes getting up when you don’t feel like it and making yourself do the things that you know make you happy. For me, that was getting up in the morning and making myself feel pretty.
- I have to make time for me. As a new mom, it’s natural to feel as if you’re somehow neglecting your child if you’re not with them 24/7. But taking the time to do things that remind you of who you were when you were happy makes a huge difference in how you feel. Going to happy hour with friends, buying that cute shirt you saw in the store window, or taking that extra long bath. Do not lose you in becoming a mom.
- Owning my problems and facing them is the only way to combat them. Deep reflection and talking with a counselor to truly address the issues in my life that I avoided in the past has helped me love myself, flaws and all.
If you are feeling as if you are experiencing postpartum depression, please do not do what I did. Get help as soon as you realize that you are not feeling right. Do not suffer in silence. It does not serve your child to have a mom who is not the best them that they can be. Nor does it serve you to go through this alone.
If you or someone you know is suffering from or believe they may be suffering from Postpartum depression, you can call Postpartum Support International (PSI): 1-800-944-4PPD (4773).
What’s up! What’s up! What’s up! (In my Martin voice)
I am so excited to be a part of this fabulous team of go-getters and achievers for My Melanin Rocks! I have always wanted to be a part of social media platform geared towards empowerment and change so I’m extremely excited. This will be my first time contributing to an online magazine. I am anxious and excited but ready for the challenge!
Now lets get to this introduction shall we……
I’m Aieshia but most people call me Sheesh. I am 26 yrs old going on 30 in my head. I am from Atlanta, GA, the home of the Braves, JR Crickets (best wings ever), trap music and ratchet black Hollywood.
I have pretty much been an athlete since birth; I came out the womb running, literally. I am a former track and field collegiate student athlete for Tulane University in New Orleans, LA … ROLLWAVE, GREENWAVE ALL DAY. Unfortunately I acquired an injury that forced me to stop running competitively. During that time, I suffered a lot of mental distress. With the platform that I have been given, I plan on discussing mental health and athletics since this issue does not get the proper attention it currently deserves.
On another note, I am extremely health conscious. I have a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Public Health. I am all about living healthy and making sure everyone around me is somewhat adopting the lifestyle. Spiritual, mental and physical health is all very important in life. So, I will be giving my tips on living healthy which include but are not limited to: reading edifying material, exercising, eating healthy, journaling and mental health awareness.
I encourage everyone to be comfortable in his or her own skin. Being a light to the world, humble, understanding and forever unique!
Peace and Blessings