Posted in Blog, Mental Health

What Makes A Good Therapist?

I came to a bit of blows with my therapist this week, where during our session I felt that she accused me of being judgemental and bossy, which is not me at all.

We were talking about my mum; My mum and I are talking again. On Sunday she left me a heartfelt voicemail, apologising for having not been there for me when I was younger and for letting me down. So on Monday I called her and we had a heart-to-heart about our relationship. She’s asking me to forgive her, but my heart has been broken so many times by her that I’m reluctant to trust her. Plus she still has a lot of issues of her own to work through, which she will not care to admit to. In building a barrier for myself, I am protecting myself, because I’ve known my mother for almost 32 years now – I know what damage she can do to me. Also, we’ve always had a problem with communicating with each other, which causes me significant mental stress, and also triggers seizures, so I’ve decided to take charge, meaning that the relationship is on my terms. I believe in being honest and open, because it’s healthy.

This is all advice I also received from my tarot reader, Leona Nichole Black, who pretty much confirmed my gut instincts: before I’d seen her, I’d decided that if I was going to have a relationship with my mum, it wouldn’t be the same as it used to be, it would be on my terms and my tarot reading confirmed all of this for me, which you can read about here.

However, my therapist disagrees, and think that instead of judging my mother on her past mistakes, I should just learn to enjoy being in her presence and get to know her again.

But my stance is, why does there have to be an either or? Why can I not do both?

My therapist also accused me of being quite domineering, because of what I said about things being on my terms, so she asked me to role play, where she was my mum and I was me and we had a conversation about planning to meet up. However, during the role play, it became evident to her that when I say that I want things on my terms, what I mean is that I want open communication. Anybody who knows me in real life, knows that I’m not a controlling person!

So at the end of the session, I came away feeling shitty, because nobody likes to be called judgemental or controlling, least of all me. She did end the session by saying that she feels protective over me and doesn’t want to see me get hurt again, which is why I cannot understand why she cannot see that my approach is the best, if we’re both of the same opinion of protecting myself?

From what I’ve been learning in my MSc about therapists, I understood that a good therapist doesn’t give their opinion – particularly personal ones – about the patient, especially because the patient is the vulnerable one out of the two and will take it to heart…. This is regardless of the type of therapy it is that the therapist is practicing too. Even if the patient is causing harm to themselves, there are ways of conveying concern without expressing a personal opinion.  And this is not the first time that she’s done this either. I just sweep it under the carpet because she pays me so many compliments. This is also not the first therapist I’ve seen, who’s gotten a little too personal either (which you can read about here).

All of this are things I’m taking on board for my own personal learning, for when I eventually go into therapy myself.

Not insulting your patient is definitely a good starting point.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

David Lammy’s Article, Gangs, & A Scathing Review of My Childhood…

Reading David Lammy’s article in the Guardian today really hit home, not only drawing attention to how politically and culturally isolated Black youths are today because of our Government’s continued cognitive dissonance, but it also reminded me that this has been going on for years and years and years and no Government has every improved the situation for young people.

This excerpt especially resonated with me:

The first thing Lammy wants us to understand is the blameless ease with which a child who goes home to an empty council estate flat because his mum can’t afford childcare while she’s at work, can become a gang member. All it takes is a gift of new trainers, he says, for which in return the child is soon asked to carry a little package round the corner, and before long, the 12-year-old is earning more in one week than his parents make in a year.

I didn’t grow up on a council estate, however I did grow up in a single parent family and was responsible for looking after my sister while my mum had to work in full-time employment. Luckily for my mum I was a geek, but unfortunately my sister got mixed up with some bad people and did some bad things and I had to save her. We used to call them “pikeys” in my days. When she told me that she had a boyfriend, my antenna went up, but when her friends told me that he was in a gang of white pikeys, I went round to his house and told him to stay the fuck away from my sister. For some reason he listened. People just did in those days. I don’t think my sister has every appreciated the fact that she could’ve been dead if it wasn’t for me. And she soon admitted to me that he didn’t treat her well either. My mum still knows nothing of this… until now.

Parentification is an unfortunate generation cycle in Black culture, and I’ve spoken about this before on my blog which you can read here. Children are forced into adult roles within their families, mostly because one parent has walked out, forcing the older child to take on that parental role. This has a detrimental effect upon mental health, during adolescence and especially in adulthood. The worse thing is, as Black people we are never offered therapy (I will provide you with examples below). Usually the child is at shown some gratitude in older years from their parent or siblings, however I’ve never been shown any. I didn’t rebel until I was 17 – I snuck out a couple of times with some friends while my mum worked the night shift – my sister would have friends round so she wasn’t home alone, but other than that, I made sure I looked after my sister. I did most of the chores at home, because my mum made me, which I had to balance with homework, unlike my sister who wasn’t doing any chores or any homework because she wasn’t interested in pursuing further education like me and therefore didn’t see the point in home studying. I also had to balance this with Church, which we went to at least three times a week. All while hiding my father’s abuse. As a teenager, I had a lot on my plate.

Everybody on the outside of our family saw us as this tight, united trio of a mother and two daughters, but we were far from it. I had nobody to talk to and felt extremely isolated. It only got worse when I went to University.

At 24 when I went travelling and came to the Australia part of my trip, I suffered from aggressive, verbal racism from the locals. They would say stuff to my face and then laugh, as if I was supposed to be in on the joke. The next leg of my trip I planned to be New Zealand, but I just couldn’t face it, but I couldn’t afford to come home early. My only option was to call home and ask my mum for a loan to change my ticket so that I could come home early. I cried down the phone, begging for the loan, but I didn’t tell her about the racism, because I couldn’t. When I got home, she would retell the story about the phone call and laugh about how I cried, which I found an incredibly insensitive thing to do.

I sunk into a deep depression, fell in love with a drummer who used me for sex, became further depressed and so went to see the GP, who instead of referring me for counselling “told me to get over it” and then prescribed me anti-depressants. By now, I was drinking heavily so I just carried on to the point to excess, which the GP knew.

I got a job at a GP surgery, where at the Christmas party, the Practice Manager tried to sexually assault me, because I was off my face on drugs and alcohol and could take advantage and I had to call my sister and her boyfriend to come and pick me up. I think this is finally when the GP referred me for counselling. However, my sister was angry at me. She knew that I had been battling with the GP to receive proper help about my mental health, but not once had she offered to come and visit the GP with me, she just blamed me instead.

And the lack of care from the GP, this is because I’m Black. If I’d been a white girl with Blonde hair, screaming in agony, you bet your arse I would’ve been referred to see a Therapist at my very first GP appointment.

This happens to thousands of young Black girls and women today.

In my late twenties, I was finally diagnosed with Unstable Emotional Personality Disorder (formerly known as Borderline Personality Disorder) and the psychologist explained that all of the impulsive behaviour I had displayed in early twenties – the high and the low moods, the excessive drinking, the impulsive spending, the impulsive sex – was all because of this disorder. And now that I’m studying an MSc in Mental Health and Psychology, I’m finally able to research more about this condition because even though I’ve been diagnosed, I’m still not being treated. The NHS are still failing me as a Black woman today; I was recently rejected from the Personality Assessment Services for being too high-functioning, even though I struggle every day and I’m having to medicate myself.

And as for my family: after I was diagnosed with Epilepsy in 2014, my sister rejected me for being too much of a burden and still refuses to speak to me now. My cousin Dee recently said to me that she wishes that she’d had me as an older sister growing up and those words meant the world to me, and I do see her as a younger sister, even though we’ve only recently gotten back in touch. No request is too much.

My mother, who I recently got back in touch with, I’m not quite sure knows how to be a mother. She’s shown me no gratitude for the years of love I’ve shown. On Mother’s Day this year, she was supposed to call me and didn’t and offered no explanation for this. Her excuses for her constant failings are that nobody showed her how to be a mother, yet you’re doing a great job to your other daughter, just consistently failing me, so there must be a reason why?

She still hasn’t called and it’s because she expects me to be the parent, when I’m the child. And this is why I’m so thankful for the other adults in my life at the moment who allow me to be the child I finally deserve to be, because my childhood was stolen from me. My family are the dark clouds over my sunshine, they don’t build build me up like others around me do, they knock me down and it took me years of searching to realise that.

Furthermore, nobody showed me how to be a daughter, yet I’m doing it. My door is always open for my mum, when she decides that she wants to be one.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Social Media: Counterfeit Reality?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we interact with each other, especially online, and there’s definitely a dissonance, which I think that people think is excusable because we are online.

Some of my most stressful interactions with people over the past year have been via social media, probably because I’ve retreated from reality out of fear. This is a genuine and logical reaction following a traumatic experience, to develop fears and phobia. However, the problem with the online ethnography is that people become cocky, and forgetful of who they really are; they forget to mind other’s feelings and emotions and there’s this saying we used to chant as kids:

sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me

Bullshit. You can mute and block people, however the words live forever online. Furthermore, they live for as long as they can in your mind. For me, words are like a broken record player on loop in my mind.

Now instead of talking in parables and riddles, I’ll finally relate my theories to examples: the more exposed I’m becoming on social media, the more hype I’m getting, but also negativity, which if I’m not careful will have a negative impact upon my mental health and Epilepsy. Words do hurt. And these people don’t know me; they just see a version of me that they don’t like and therefore attack it.

The week before last it was members of a Facebook group attacking me for a recent blog post. Last week, in another Facebook group I was (I feel), singled out by the host for promoting my blog posts in the group. I wasn’t the only person in the group who was doing this, yet I was targeted by name and told not to do it by the host. This made me feel incredibly small. And it also made me feel attacked. Furthermore, when I looked back, I’d seen that I’d only posted two updates. Anyway, I was reprimanded for using the group “inappropriately”, because it was only for networking not sharing blog posts. But there’s a way of relaying information to one another and singling one person out for something many people do, feels like an attack.

I don’t care what we’re going through in our realities, it’s no excuse to single somebody out for an attack. You may be the Queen of fucking Sheba – just because you host a group, it doesn’t mean you stop being respectful to others. Furthermore, you don’t know what that person you’re picking on is going through in their own reality. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried and struggled to sleep that night, because in my mind I’m thinking why did she pick on me? even after I apologised and challenged her, and the following morning I had a seizure, which has taken me days to recover from. Some of you might think that I overreacted. Well, we’re just different people aren’t we? And that’s how I felt about the situation.

I did try mindfulness, but it really doesn’t work in the dead of night in situations like this either.

I’m not going to lie, it hurt even more that this was a sista too and I’ve had issues with her in the past (which I won’t even get into on here), and this is all on social media! We are yet to meet in real life….

And this is where I feel the cognitive dissonance is. If I were to meet her in real life, would she be this brash to my face? I very much doubt it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Introduction to Personality Theory (Being Black is AWESOME)

personalities

(Image source)

Since starting my MSc, I’ve been thinking A LOT about labels and diagnoses, particularly when you’re Black.

When I was 28 I was diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (formally known as Borderline Personality Disorder). However, this diagnosis was based upon my past behaviour where I had no sense of self; I was unstable, impulsive, my moods would go from high to low and I could be extremely unsociable one day to belle of the ball to the next.  However, as a young, Black woman growing up in the UK amongst mostly white girls of course I was confused about my identity and therefore, had no sense of self. But now that I’m “woke” and I’ve finally found a sense of “Blackness”, does that mean that I no longer have mental health issues? Of course it doesn’t. But because I finally do have a sense of self, I was rejected from the NHS Mental Health services assessment team for being too “high functioning” and even though I’ve complained, it’s made no difference. I may get a meeting with a psychologist regarding a further explanation on my diagnosis as per my request, but that’s it, so I’ll have to continue to pay for private therapy. To be fair, my Therapist is awesome, she’s a beautiful Black woman, so woke, and she’s highly intelligent.

My current module is on Individual Differences, Personality and Intelligence. I’m only a week in and so far, it’s proving incredibly insightful: psychologists like to throw around the words “normal” and “abnormal” quite a lot, which doesn’t surprise me, therefore when they’re creating a hypothesis for behaviour, you can imagine why they look at a Black person and find our behaviour “abnormal” when their theories are based upon “normal [white] populations”. It also makes sense as to why they’re so frequently diagnosing Black women with Personality disorders and Black men with Schizophrenia. Go figure.

A term I’ve discovered is: Unconditional positive regard, which is where an individual becomes less reliant upon the opinions of others and becomes more confident in their own opinion of themselves, therefore having a more positive opinion of oneself. This is a construct which I feel that my generation of Black people are lovingly embracing and something older generations were never taught – in fact, they were taught to hate themselves. Black people were never taught about the concept of self, not in this way, in fact I know in Caribbean culture it was very selfish to be introspective. However, what the older generation didn’t realise was that not allowing themselves to be free of white opinions was a mental shackle.

My final thought is something I read which proves something I’ve thought for awhile: some people create a self-construct (image) as a crutch, which is not actually a true representation of themselves or the way they can behave all the time, so when a distortion takes place, they become aggressive because they’re suddenly unsure of how to behave. I’ve found this in situations when [white] people are pretending that they are intelligent in conversations, but I show them up (not on purpose), so they become aggressive towards me. When these situations initially used to happen, I would become upset because in my mind I’m thinking all we’re doing is having a conversation, and now you’re shouting at me and calling me stupid wtf! when actually I’m saying something intelligent and you’re the stupid one, however now I’m confident enough to know that they are the insecure one and they are the one who is lashing out because of their insecurities. Their behaviour is a reflection of their own insecurities and a denial of any incongruence between their self-image and own behaviour.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

My Twitter Ban

helen-1-sept-2012-566

Earlier in the month I called Helen Grant a cunt on Twitter and today my account was suspended for twelve hours. Twitter told me that if I deleted the tweet, I’d be able to use my account again straightaway, but I refused to delete it. The reason why I said what I said, is because she’s a terf, a racist and a bully, and I stand by what I said. Furthermore, Black women are called cunts on Twitter all the time – just because Helen Grant is a an MP with a blue tick by her name, Twitter are protecting her, while we are left to rot in the abuse we face from racist right-wingers every single day. I know this, because I live it and I live it with my Black sisters every single day. Now however, instead of reporting the abuse directly to Twitter support, we just block the abusers because that’s more effective.

This is the tweet I sent:

Screenshot_20180323-120911

This is the reason why I sent the tweet: Grant instigated a hateful campaign against Bergdorf, following her appointment as Labour’s LGBTQ+ advisor. Grant did this because Bergdorf is an intelligent, confident, Black, Transgender woman and as a Conservative MP, Grant decided to not only write to Dawn Butler, the Labour MP who had appointed Bergdorf, demanding that she be removed from her position, but she also took to the media to cast a tornado of racist and transphobic abuse which created a backlash on social media for Bergdorf, leaving her no choice but forcing her to step down from her position.

When I sent that tweet, I was standing in the street and I was sobbing. I’m not a hateful person, however when I see something wrong I speak with conviction and I’m not afraid to speak.

I myself, was aggressively forced out of my job and I know exactly how it feels to be ganged up against. And I also know exactly how it feels to not have anybody speak up on your behalf. When you’re a Black woman, people scatter to the shadows – it creates a psychological isolation like no other, which is why I knew that no matter the consequences for myself and my public image, I had to speak up for this injustice, and I’ll gladly do it again.

There is also a category of violence as Black women that we suffer called misogynoir – the intersection of racism, anti-Blackness, and misogyny that Black women experience however as a trans woman, Bergdorf falls into the another intersection of violence: Transmisogynoir. 

I first came across misogynoir when I stumbled upon Moya Bailey.

“I needed a word to describe the particular f***ery Black women face in popular culture.” 

Bailey first used the term in an essay titled, ‘They Aren’t Talking About Me’ for the Crunk Feminist Collective, which she coined in reaction to violence against Black women – particularly that she was witnessing in the streets, as well as on social media juxtaposed with the rejection of our culture by white people.

Transmisogynoir is a term I’ve only recently come across, and a violence that of course, only Transgender women of colour will face, such as Bergdorf. Henceforth, the negative impacts of her transphobic oppression is heightened because her oppressors are white supremacists, which people constantly forget, and which is why I had to speak up.

I have to admit though, twelve hours without Twitter has been hell LOL… I’ve got the shakes and everything LOL.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Learning to Self-Care and Share My Pain

On Saturday 24 February 2018, I attended a Mental Health and Healing day, organised by Guilaine Kinouani. I discovered her after I lost my job last year, and as a Black, female, highly-educated woman – educated in cultural psychology – she was the first person to validate my feelings of pain and anger towards the traumatic experiences of racism I had suffered during my Teacher Training and the detrimental impacts these had had upon my mental health and Epilepsy, as a Black woman in Britain. Guilaine specialises in radical therapy – specifically for recovering from the effects of racism. Her workshops are incredibly difficult to get onto! Because there are so many women like me suffering from the long-term impacts; there are people – especially white people, who expect me to be able to get over what has happened to me, however if I had been sexually assaulted, they wouldn’t be saying this to me and I expect the same empathy. A group of people ganged up on me, tortured me for almost a year – both physically (if you count my Epilepsy) and mentally, and then a month before I was due to qualify, made up reasons to have me suspended so that I couldn’t qualify, and I lost my job. All of this is because of the colour of my skin. All the while, I was gaslighted to the point of insanity, where I very nearly didn’t even believe my own self.

Even though I lost my job in May last year, I only stopped having nightmares about my employers a few months ago. I did not know that what I was suffering were real effects of trauma and oppression, until I discovered Guilaine on Twitter and her blog, which you can also read here. And this is also why it was so important for me to attend this SCAR4Black Women Self-Care event on 24/02. She’d been a huge part of my own self-care journey, therefore it was an honour to finally meet her in real life, but I also wanted to speak to other Black women – women I’d met on social media too.

The morning began with experiencing silence together, as Guilaine led us in a quick session of mindfulness. Now, although I’ve been to a meditation session before, this mindfulness session was different (I realise that I’m using these terms interchangeably here, but just bear with me), because we were a room full of vulnerable women, sharing slices of vulnerability with each other. I had never felt so connected while simultaneously naked with strangers before, unlike the meditation session I went to at the beginning of the month, and I believe that this is to do with the room containing only women and only Black women.

Healing Words

We then had spoken words by Hodan Yusuf, again, a woman I “know” from social media. She read the following poems: Generational Traumas, When Your Options Are Limited, I’m Not My Brother’s Keeper, Bring A Scoop of Yourself To My Table, My Brain & My Words, When My Heart When My Heart,

The Sentience of A Woman: 

I read both people and books

That quote as a fellow observer myself, as well as a Cancerian, stood out to me!

Hodan also gave us a debut of SCAR for Black Women Hashtag (Unfinished):

each time you remind yourself that you are human, is a destination/stop…

…who told us that Black women were the carers and not the cared for?

…Healing is not linear…

…I finally see me for who I am, for where I’ve come from and where I’m headed

Blow Up & Explode

I wish that more people know that no is a full sentence

This line for me, as a Black woman, really stood out.

Lullaby (beautifully sang by Hodan):

Don’t hush… you’ve been silenced for too long in an oppressive world… 

This line was the refrain from the poem, such a beautiful line, again for me as a Black woman who personally has just recently found her voice after being silenced for so long.

How Does the Law See Me? The Legal Visibility of Black Women, Intersectionality & the Law 

The next session was on Law, intersectionality and visibility, led by Kemi Labinjo, who I’d not met before. I think that this was the session that triggered my tonic seizure days afterwards (!), because it forced me to face up to the fact as a Black woman, the law will never protect me and I learnt the brutal way that equal opportunity is a myth. Social theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw reminds us that the law does not recognise intersectionality, so as a Queer, Disabled, Black Woman, I’m screwed in the world of employment. This hit me really hard. I already knew this, but when Kemi said to us:

Don’t think of of the law of being your saviour

… I went into a stupor, because Kemi specialises in discrimination law and sits on Employment Tribunal cases and she was still saying this to us. A room of Black women. And instead of imparting useless legal advice, she was advising us on what to do to protect ourselves mentally:

  • self-care
  • self-education
  • Implementation Intention, for approaching conversations about inequality at work

You have to be your own saviour. 

It was also incredible to meet women who had suffered the same/similar experiences to me, where some are too frightened to return to work. Like me. I also have my Epilepsy to contend with, however I have massive fears that I’m struggling with presently, and I’m dealing with those through private therapy because the NHS deemed me as too high-functioning; some women at this event weren’t even offered therapy – it’s disgusting.

You have to be your own saviour. 

Self-care, Religion & Spirituality

The next session was on Self-care, Religion & Spirituality, led by Samara Linton. I follow her on Twitter and I’ve also submitted a piece for her anthology on Black Mental Health: The Colour of Madness, which I’m hoping will make the final print!!! Samara is incredibly spiritual, grew up in a Christian Pentecostal home (as did I). She’s currently studying a PhD in Psychology, therefore she battles this internal turmoil between spirituality and religion. Her benefits for religion upon psychology are:

  1. Community and support
  2. Promotion of positive co-mentoring
  3. Promotion of positive well-being and there being somebody else in control at the helm (during my meltdowns, I can see the benefits!)

Her points for detrimental impacts upon psychology:

  1. Belief in a punitive god
  2. Negative encounters with peers/ leaders

However, prayer has given her a sense of practice and empowerment, teaching her that her voice matters. This is in fact, what identity through my colour has given me. Samara does identify that prayer, on the other hand has also been used to attack and belittle and degrade. This has been done over thousands of years to Black people, to disabled people, which is eventually why I had to severe my relationship with God.

When I was listening to Samara speaking about her relationship so romantically, part of me did wonder if I could possibly redefine a relationship with God?

Can I redefine religion? Punitivejust… can I redefine these words?

Can I redefine the pronouns?

Can I worship a white man

And the answer to all of these questions are… no. 

If you’re new to my blog (https://thewallflowerinwonderland.com/), then you won’t know that I was born and raised a Catholic, before my family then became born-again Pentecostal Christians, where we worshipped in Black-African churches. I then chose to worship in white-Evangelical Christian churches in my twenties. Then, before I started working for a Catholic school, I had a personal relationship with God, where I wasn’t worshipping anywhere at all. My point is, I’ve tried to redefine religion and I’ve tried to redefine “God”.

So although I respect those who continue in their faith, my answer is still no. I live a spiritual life, in tune with my surroundings and my mind. As a Christian, I was always drawn to Buddhism (it always felt like I was cheating), so it’s nice to just finally be living this way of life.

Lifting for Wellness & Healing: A Personal Testimony

This session was led by Andrea Corbett, who used to be a teacher – in fact, the Head of her Department, who then suffered a mental breakdown. She went to her GP for answers. Her GP gave her a doctors’ note and a prescription for antidepressants. She was signed off work for almost a year and was never referred for therapy. Andrea found her own therapy – changing her diet, exercising (both of which, have a profound effect upon mental health) and lifting weights.

This is not the first time I have heard a testimony from a Black woman who has gone to her GP about mental health issues and hasn’t been offered talking therapies and this is an issue with Black men in particular. Unfortunately Black people suffer racial biases when it comes to our healthcare. Racial stereotypes claim that we carry a higher pain threshold and Clinicians are more likely to diagnose Black patients with a mental health condition from the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), which is the product of white euro-centric symptoms. From this, we are diagnosed, prescribed antidepressants, rather than actually treated for symptoms, which is what talking therapies does. Thankfully, Andrea was able to find that exercise helped her mental health significantly and she never went back to teaching (I don’t blame her). She now coaches people and performs in professional body building competitions. She also recommends Five Ways to Wellbeing.

Self-compassion & Blackness Centred Self-Compassion

This session was led by the host Guiliane herself, who described self-kindness as a revolutionary act, which at first does sound hyperbolic. But when you think about the emotion of compassion, you need to be moved to act with empathy. Therefore, self-compassion is the action of taking away our own pain. However, as Black women, it is something we naturally do not do, or even think about. Even in our anger, we forget that we are feeling pain. In fact, in a room full of Black women we disassociated ourselves from the emotion of pain when talking about experiencing trauma and oppression. It was quite an ah-ha moment.

I remember when I lost my job and I was listening to Drake and Kendrick. I was so angry and in my head, I thought, “well I’m finally that angry Black woman they told me I was”. At first, I didn’t want to let the lyrics penetrate me because I didn’t want to let myself feel anything but anger, but I remember the night in the shower in our flat on Eden Grove, just off of Holloway Road, I finally decided to allow myself to feel pain and it was a different type of crying. To be self-compassionate, you need to notice when you feel pain and you also need to notice what it is doing to your body, because contrary to what Kendrick preaches (LOL), Black does crack on the inside, which is such a powerful statement because from a mental health aspect, we are decaying quicker than our white peers. Guilaine’s advice for the room was to find what brings you joy; What is going to keep you well, and practice self-care in being wise with your battles (you cannot fight everything), because:

Black joy is your liberation. 

Guilaine reminds us that not allowing ourselves as Black women to experience pain is cultural, as well as generational, because we are taught to be givers. But studies show that people who are kinder to themselves are less impulsive, have healthier relationships and are more successful.

Black Excellence Panel

The final part of the event was a panel session with the following participants:  Kiri Kankhwende, journalist, Marai Larasi, Black Feminist Activist Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, co-founder and Director of UK Black Pride (I worship this woman!), and Marsha Gosho-Oakes, a freelance writer, editor and consultant (& my new fave Black Feminist).

The panel were in agreement that Black excellence is about having the space to fail, community and accountability.

Someone in the room asked the panel to define success, and Marsha answered:

When you look around you, there is always somebody better than you. 

This is especially true when you suffer from mental health issues, which is why it’s so important to live your own life and to live your best life.

When the panel discussed excellence, they shattered my assumptions when they told us:

Excellence should not be something that we should aspire to.

Marsha added that excellence is a white standard and a white burden, which therefore doesn’t belong to us. I remember striving for excellence during my teacher training and it was a standard that I could never EVER achieve, because my employers and tutors were constantly moving the goal posts in order to dehumanise me. The panel then went on to suggest that the opposite of dehumanisation is not Black Excellence, but to set our own goals, which as a community we will then be held accountable to.

The day ended emotionally, with me hugging Guilaine and speaking one-to-one with Marsha about my family situation, because I have professional/ educational goals, which I also want to utilise to create a better care situation for my Grandmother, however due to generational barriers (my Uncles and Aunt) which are stopping this, she’s currently living in relational poverty and although my cousins and I are trying our utmost to overturn the situation, the older generation are blocking our efforts. Although I have the skills, I do not have the stamina like my cousins and this is where the issues lay. Last week, during therapy I had a tonic clonic seizure (my first one since May last year). Marsha’s words of advice reminded me that there are women of colour dropping out of Psychology due to ill health, when we need to be taking pains to preserve our own mental health.

I’m a postgraduate Mental Health and Psychology student; my own therapist is a Black woman and it is truly awesome to be able to share my darkest thoughts with a Black woman, to be able to make references to “Get Out” and she gets it! I want that for other women.  We need relatable relationships in therapy for other Black women. I’ve been to therapy before, however having been in therapy with white therapists, I’ve been forced to compartmentalise.

My uncles and aunt will be held accountable, however I need to show myself some compassion and as self-care I do not need to have these conversations with them anymore when they are harmful to me. I can still help my Grandmother from afar.

The Future

We did get homework! Which I’ve yet to complete… It’s an activity scheduling diary. However, I have downloaded the Calm app for future mindfulness sessions (which I’ve already used a few times) AND I have been actively trying to be a revolutionary joymaker for myself. When I lost my job in teaching, I also lost my joy for poetry. Now, I’m writing again and using all of the influences I gained from reading mama Maya Angelou and papa James Baldwin while I was grieving, to create brand new art.

The next #SCAR4WOC event is in April and I highly recommend it.