Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Like A Phoenix

On 1st September 2018, I got my fifth tattoo.

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Like a phoenix, I rise from the ashes.

2018 has been an incredible year of ups, downs, struggles, celebrations, births and deaths.

Like owls, phoenixes have been a symbolic bird to me because of their ability to rebirth; they burst into flames after living for centuries and then from the ashes, they rebirth into renewed youth, to live for another cycle of life.

I feel like in 2017, I finally succumbed to  everything that had aged me and died a metaphorical death. Then in 2018, I used those ashes to recreate a new me, more youthful, wiser and with renewed energy, to begin life anew.

I’m laughing more, I’m dancing more, I’m flying and soaring. And when things have weighed me down such as family, relationship problems, falling under the pressures of academia and battling with the DWP, I’ve carried on fighting. Hence the tattoo.

Each time I look at it, I feel like a mother gazing down at her new baby (LOL); I forget all of the pain I’ve gone through, because now all I see whenever I look at this tattoo is beauty and love.

2018 has also been a symbolic year for me, because I’ve been published (again)!! This time in an anthology raising awareness for Black and minority mental health in the UK. The anthology is called “The Colour of Madness” featuring artwork, poetry and short stories, including mine called “Matriarchal Dreams“, a story birthed from my mental breakdown last year and recurring nightmares about my mother and the member of staff who tormented me during my teacher training year. It’s now available to buy on Amazon so make sure you grab a copy ASAP!!!

Peace and love.

XOXO

XOXO

 

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Focus

It’s been a minute since I’ve been able to update you! As I mentioned in Friday’s post, I was intending for this to be my first post since my hiatus, but of course shit happened which I had to talk about! Anyhoo, many apologies for my lack of writing! I’ve been caught up with assignments and trying to get healthy around that.

So where do I start??

I’ve had a hair cut!

New Profile Pic 2

And I fuckin’ LOVE IT! I’ve wanted to do it for years, but I’ve always been too scared. This is when I realised that I attached waaaay too much of my beauty and confidence to my hair, so I finally decided to have it cut before my birthday in July.

 

My yoga classes took a break over summer, so in the interim I’ve been going to the gym; I’ve found a great one local to me, part of the Energie Fitness chain. Membership is really cheap and you’re not bound to a contract either so you can cancel any time. I’ve always been a little bit petrified of gyms; full of super fit people, I often felt like as soon as I walked in, people would be staring in shock at how unfit I am (not caring that I haven’t always been like this), especially when I get on the crosstrainer LOL. But of course it’s not like that; everybody’’s in the zone, doing their own thaaang and I’ve actually become quite addicted to it! It’s not only great for physiology, it’s also great for mental well-being. Plus it gets me out of the house so I’m winning on all fronts.

 

My body is also getting to used to my new AEDs (anti-epileptic drugs), Lacosamide. So I’m only on 100mg twice a day at the moment, finally off Keppra (wooooooo). But, when I first started on Lacosaminde, I developed a strange side-effect of urinary incontinence. Imagine my horror at the age of 32, suddenly leaking and having to purchase incontinence pads! I’m not ashamed to admit that I did cry a little and the only advice my Epilepsy Nurse could give was go to the internet, while my GP advised me to go to the toilet more. The latter only helped with the fact that as well as leaking, I was always bursting to go. It didn’t help with the leaking in between go’s. However, it seems to have finally settled down… until my next dose increase I guess….

Other than that, my epilepsy seems to be responding to the medication. I’ve had four seizures in almost two months which is INCREDIBLE!

 

Don’t get stressed

Another piece of advice my GP gave me was “to not get stressed” in order to reduce the seizures; people do not seem to realise who fucking annoying it is to hear that, as if we look for stress. For fuck sake.

 

However the GP did give me some good advice in terms of what I focus my energy on. At first what she actually said was that I didn’t have a focus and when I challenged her on that considering it was only the first time we’d ever met, she then rephrased: be careful what you focus your energy on. With this in mind, on Tuesday I saw my therapist and she said something very similar. She noticed that I tend to focus a lot of my energy on what other people are thinking about me and what they’re doing, very futile things. Instead of doing this, what I should be doing is focusing on myself: my journey of self-discovery, and what I’m doing now, in the present (Gestalt therapy is great for this, focusing on the present, being in the present).

Guilt and shame

I also don’t give myself enough credit for what I’m doing or who I’ve become: I’m a highly intelligent and incredibly creative woman. When I put my mind to something, I do whatever it takes to get there and I think that sometimes I give the people around me more credit for that than myself. My therapist told me that she’s observed that I carry a lot of guilt and shame, which is why I don’t like admitting the positive things that I’ve accomplished. And I think she’s bang in with that observation considering the psychological abuse I was subjected to all of my life. As a child and adolescent, although I was ambitious I was also very submissive and scared to rock the boat because I would be second-guessed and put down, so I would bend and sway to the music of others. A lot of this was also in seeking approval and validation from the people around me, whether they be on social media or real life, be they white, black and my family in particular.

 

Furthermore, guilt and shame is generational: many Black women before me have been prohibited from speaking out, speaking up and drawing attention to themselves, for fear of being shamed or bringing shame to the people around them. They’ve been forced to retreat into themselves which is a behaviour they’ve passed onto us, their daughters and granddaughters.

 

Now I’m going out on my own, drawing a lot of attention to myself and although at times I’m soaring high, I also doubt myself and look down at the ground beneath me, looking for reassurance but also scaring myself shitless. When what I should be doing is focusing on what I am doing, not what is happening around me.

 

I felt like I needed to share this epiphany with you all, because I’ve been trialling this new mindset since my therapy session and although at times it’s incredibly difficult, it is also incredibly liberating. In a way, I had already started the process when I stopped making YouTube videos a few months ago; I was responding to every single negative comment especially and with all the negative I get on Twitter sometimes, I was really taking the opinions to heart, allowing them to beat myself up. When I first decided to stop, it was to protect my mental health, but now I realise it’s about me focusing on what’s important: me and what I’m doing. My videos were not only a critique on the institution and society; they were a celebration of the person that I’ve finally learnt to embrace. I’ve also learnt not to respond to everything on Twitter, because it’s not only taking the focus away from what I do on social media, it’s also taking my focus away from myself.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

What Do I Want, Like, Really REALLY Want?

Even though my sister and I haven’t spoken for just over four years, not a day goes by where I don’t think about her; sometimes it’s a song or film that reminds me of her and all of the memories connected to that come flooding back, overwhelming me with grief. For example, over the weekend I was making my girlfriend watch the “Twilight” film: for her it was the first time; for me it was the God knows what-teenth time. The Twilight saga literally took over me and my sister’s lives! We were both obsessed with Edward Cullen, while my best friend at the time was infatuated with Jacob Black, so my sister and I would cackle at how anybody could choose a smelly werewolf over an oppressively loving vampire (of course I realise now that Edward’s behaviour was borderline sociopathic, and he and Bella deffo had an unhealthy relationship…) and we would obsessively watch the films over and over again. There’s a particular song at the end of Twilight by Iron & Wine which my sister absolutely loved and hearing it on Saturday absolutely broke me.

 

Probably also because I’m forever reminded of her in my dreams, which could be why hearing this song affected me so. Sometimes I dream that I’m apologising to my sister for abandoning her; my mother in these dreams is crazy to the point of feral, while my sister is so stressed she’s become severely underweight. In most of my dreams I’m chasing her for her forgiveness while she ignores me, until recently actually: last week I dreamt that she wanted to come to my birthday party (my birthday was recently) and I told her no, because I only wanted true family there (my friends). This was the first time I’d shown any authority towards her subconsciously, which is symbolic because showing authority and standing up for myself against her in reality was one of the reasons why she stopped talking to me.

 

Considering I’m a Psychology student, I should probably through some Freudian theory into this: most psychologists believe that dreams are just random brain activity while sleeping, but Freud’s psychoanalysis on dreams argues that our dreams are symbolic of hidden impulses we desire to enact and while asleep, thoughts from the id (subconscious) slip into our ego (consciousness).

 

Growing up, my sister and I were extremely close however, we did fight a lot, mostly over banal things such as each other’s toys, but also because of jealousy – I saw my sister as my father’s fave and she saw me as my mother’s fave – while being played off against one another by our parents. But I always promised myself that we would never end up like our mother and her sister (our aunt) – who no longer speak to each other and haven’t for years – so even when I knew my sister was in the wrong, the majority of the time I would be the one to make up with her, desperate to keep our relationship in tact.

 

As close as we were and as hard as the separation is for me, (according to my mother – when we were speaking – my sister was also struggling with our separation, but where I’ve made many attempts to reach out to her, she has slammed the door in my face and hasn’t made any attempts to reach out to me either) I need to come to grips with the fact that we may never speak again. On the other hand, it has only been four years which in the grand scheme of life is not really that long, so there is still time to reconcile.

 

But do I really want to?

 

On Saturday as I was crying to my girlfriend and sobbing that I couldn’t take not speaking to her any longer, my girlfriend thinking that it was coming from a good place advised me to try one more time to reach out to her. So I did plan to give it one more go on Sunday (yesterday) by calling the house to speak to her while my mother would be out of the house at church, but then on Sunday morning I had two seizures and couldn’t do anything for the rest of the day and forgot about our plan until later on in the evening. The strange thing was, I didn’t seem to distraught about having forgotten about it.

 

I also religiously listen to Kelechi Okafor’s podcast called “Say Your Mind” and this week, during her tarot reading section, she talked about self-worth and knowing who should and shouldn’t be “on the [life] journey with you”. She advised that sometimes people leave your life for a reason and if they cannot see your self worth, then they shouldn’t be on this journey with you and this led me to reconsider my actions regarding my sister.

 

My sister doesn’t see my self-worth; she doesn’t consider my feelings; she only loves me when I’m being a “yes man” – remember she made the decision to stop talking to me after I moved out of the family home and growing tired of her shit and lies I finally stood up to her.

He was a good man

This is also the same sister who even though grew up in the same household of tyranny with my father, claims to not believe that I was sexually abused by this man because according to her warped memories, “he was a good man”. Her memories are extremely selective though, because she does appear to remember him beating us and shouting, yet I guess because he bought us nice things (while getting us into debt) he was a great father.

 

This post has been extremely cathartic for me actually, because now that it’s all written down, I can see our relationship for how fucked up it really was and I do deserve better. I was saying to my girlfriend today that I would never chase an ex, so why am I chasing after my sister? I have too much dignity and self-worth for that.

 

So bringing this back to Freud (I’m not even a Freudian by the way, however I do find his theory on dreams quite interesting) what could my dreams mean?

  1. Do they mean that I do desperately want to reconcile with my sister?
  2. Do I just want to speak to her so that I can tell that I deserve to be treated with respect, how she’s rejected me is below par and that I deserve more?
  3. Or is it just a whole load of random thoughts?

 

I’ll probably still grieve, because it’s a massive loss regardless of how fucked up the relationship was, and as much as I wish the whole science from the film: “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind” existed, it doesn’t. Therefore things are going to trigger memories, which I have to accept and learn to cope with.

 

As for my dreams, I am seriously considering hypnotism to get this bitch out of my subconscious, because it’s driving me INSANE!

 

On a serious note, as of tomorrow, I’ll be seeing my old therapist again. My lovely girlfriend has agreed to help me out with the fees and I’m putting my pride aside to put my mental health first. So this will definitely be something to focus on. Clearly there’s something deeper psychologically to this which needs to be worked on.

Perhaps I need to realise that me living my best live and focusing on that instead of being able to say this to my sister’s face is actually the best therapeutic fuck you. My therapist is amazing at what she does, so I’m positive that I’ll be able to move on from this loss, both consciously as well as unconsciously.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Mental Health Services Are Letting Black People Down BIG TIME

I’m so angry and distraught.

After being rejected by the Islington Personality Disorder Service (London) for treatment last year, I was referred to The Spiral Centre in Islington for low-cost therapy. I applied in December 2017 and was added to their waiting list. I finally had an assessment in May 2018, after which I was told that I would be notified about which therapist I had been allocated to within a matter of weeks.

It is now July and I have still not been allocated to a therapist. When I contacted Spiral, this was their response:

We are very sorry that you have been waiting so long and we haven’t been in touch with you since May. You’re right that our usual waiting time is around three months but this has unexpectedly increased recently because more people are contacting us. We definitely have you on the waiting list and have been looking out for an appropriate vacancy for you. Partly the delay has been that we think that you need to have a more experienced therapist from what you said in the assessment, and we have a smaller number of experienced therapists on the low cost scheme. We will be in touch as soon as are able to offer you a space with a therapist but unfortunately we are not able to predict when that will be, you are near the top of the waiting list.
Please do contact us again with any questions.
All good wishes

The reason why I have highlighted part of the response in red, is because I didn’t tell them anything new in the assessment that I hadn’t told them in my original application. In fact, I was extremely upfront in my application about my mental health having deteriorated due to racial trauma.

While on Spiral’s waiting list, I was seeing a Private Therapist, which my girlfriend was paying for due to my low income, however I stopped seeing this therapist partly because I no longer wanted to rely upon my girlfriend for money – she’s my partner, not my mother or the guardian of my mental health – but also because after the assessment, Spiral had assured me that I wouldn’t have to wait long for my sessions to start. Hence, from that, I began to wind down my sessions with the Private Therapist before coming to a complete end, under the assumption that I would be picked up by Spiral.

Now I’ve been left with nothing.

I’m furious with Spiral, because although I sympathise that they are a small organisation, they do still have a duty of care to people like me who are on their waiting list and have been fed empty promises. When I brought this up with them in my response to their’s above, they admitted that they had fucked up, however I just had to wait.

Great.

The fact that I am currently studying Mental Health and Psychology also seems to be a double edged sword, because although I’m learning about the mind and educating myself for my future, I’m also seen as a high-functioning patient because of the subject I am studying, which is ridiculous. Even qualified therapists are required to have their own therapeutic support. Furthermore, many people in therapy make the assumption that I know more than trainee therapists, which is untrue; I’m not yet training to be a therapist, I’m still in the very early stages of my career, hence I am nowhere near as qualified as a trainee therapist.

In the meantime, I’ve contacted The Gestalt Centre in Kings Cross, London. However, I’ve now been told that some applicants wait up to a year or more to be allocated to a therapist. I’m now currently on their waiting list too.

Both Spiral, and The Gestalt Centre have given me a list of organisations to contact in the meantime, however out of the list the latter sent to me, the majority don’t even apply to me (!!!!!!) and the list from Spiral is the same exhausted list I was sent by the Islington Personality Service last year.

So, a year after my mental health breakdown, I am still in the same place as I was – rejected by the NHS for help and struggling with my mental health. I have an assignment due this week and I cannot even bring myself to get out of bed to do any work. I am mentally exhausted.

What is most exhausting is the discrimination when it comes to therapy and counselling: the Personality Service rejected me because they bought into the stereotypes of me being a Black woman who is strong enough to find her own resources; my girlfriend and I applied to Tavistock for couples therapy, last month and I was told that not only would it be offensive to talk about racism to a white therapist and that my requesting a black therapist to counteract this would be offensive to white therapists, I was also told that my girlfriend’s “trans issues” are of a higher importance than my trauma caused by historical and daily racism.

As a Black woman in Britain, struggling with her mental health, there is nothing for me. One of the reasons why I’m doing this MSc and planning on then training to be a Black Therapist in the UK, is because WE NEED MORE BLACK THERAPISTS IN THE UK. There are thousands of Black British people like me who are struggling with generational, historical, as well as current racism on a daily basis. The problem with white therapists is although they are bound by ethics, their white fragility is still triggered by talking about the Black experience. I was once told by a white therapist that I was offending her, just for talking about how I was being treated at work for the colour of my skin. Furthermore, white people just cannot understand or empathise with the Black experience (and the majority even seem to be incapable of simple sympathy), partly because they are so blinded by white privilege: how many times are we as Black people told that “historical racism is not an issue because it’s in the past” and therefore we should “get over it and stop living with a chip on our shoulder”? How many times are we as Black Britons told that our experience is nowhere near as traumatic as that of the Black American experience, therefore we should be grateful? How many times are we told that we are “just looking for racism that doesn’t even exist”? How many times are we told that just by talking about racism or mentioning it, we are “playing the race card”?

How many of you know how fucking traumatic all of this is to us as Black people?

You tend to conveniently forget that we are fucking human beings.

On top of apparent BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), I’m also still struggling with body dysphoria and bulimia (I fight every day to not make myself sick after meals, because of my meds, but sometimes it’s hard to control, especially when you grew up doing it), as well as the depression that comes with having to live with a chronic condition. All while struggling with the psychological impacts of racism.

So, in regards to the mental health, I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do. My student loan barely even covers my tuition fees, let alone basic living; same with the benefits I am currently on for my Epilepsy. I’m sure I’ll figure something out… Black people always do, right?

Hopefully my mental health won’t consume me in the meantime.

XOXO

P.S. If you are Black and struggling with your mental health, AND can afford Private Therapy, please do contact a therapist via The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network. Some also offer reduced rates, depending on your level of income.
P.P.S. So I’ve just finished reading Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou and wanted to share this quote as it relates to well to what I was saying about seeing a white therapist:
I used up my Kleenex and took more from my purse. No, I couldn’t tell him [the white psychiatrist] about living inside a skin that was hated or feared by the majority of one’s fellow citizens or about the sensation of getting on a bus on a lovely morning, felling happy and suddenly seeing the passengers curl their lips in distaste or avert their eyes in revulsion. No, I had nothing to say to the doctor. I stood up. 
Here’s another quote from the play Leave Taking, by Winsome Pinnock:
Enid: What doctor know about our illness? Just give you a few pills to sick your stomach and a doctor certificate. What they know about a black woman soul. 
Posted in Blog, Mental Health

When Your White Friends Turn Out To Be Racists

Last year I was extremely angry about the way that white British people were treating me for speaking my truth: why am I getting abuse just for saying that racism exists in our country? Why are you telling me that I do not belong here? I soon then realised that I could not fight every single troll that was coming at me, especially when it was becoming detrimental to my mental health. Some days my phone would be going crazy with notifications from threads I had become involved in, because I thought that I could reason with such people, only to end up in them abusing me even more.

Mostly the abuse was coming from strangers on social media, most recently on my YouTube channel: 

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I no longer engage in accusations from strangers.

In regards to my white friends, I had either fallen out with them or just withdrawn from them. Because I had never wanted/ needed to be seen as Black, my colour, race and culture had never been an issue in our friendship, but now I did want to be seen as Black, which surprised the friends I ended up falling out with because suddenly they were not allowed to make racist comments around me while I laughed it off, but died inside.

I’ve stayed friends with some old friends, some of who have now revealed themselves to have only pretended to be onboard with my newfound Blackness; some of these people still think that they can get away with saying anti-black things to me, because they cannot perceive my blackness.

Here are two examples: 

One guy was a friend I knew from church (this was years ago). He knew that I fancied him, but led me on knowing that he was going to emigrate indefinitely. To say that I was heartbroken is an understatement. I was devastated because I had genuinely thought I had a connection with this guy, however now in hindsight I realise that it could never be because I was black and he looked down on me. After a couple of years in Australia, he moved to Zambia, to begin a career in ministry work. I didn’t want to believe that he was a ‘white saviour’ who looked down upon the people he was working with and claiming to help, however the more and more emails I received from him talking about the Zambians, the more it became clear that he was racist. Still, I was in denial. I was once in love with this guy (or so I had thought), how can he be fucking racist? I would’ve known, surely. So when he shared his number, I decided to send him a message to see how he was. His emails are generally addressed because he’s emailing a group of us, so I wanted to see how he came across on a personal level; was he the same guy I knew years ago? Would I be proved wrong?

When I asked him about Zambia, he replied that he couldn’t believe how modern it was and that it surprised him that there were supermarkets and a stadium. This is problematic for two reasons: one, because he had confirmed his racial biases which hadn’t changed even though he was now living in an African country, and two, because he had clearly forgotten that he was talking to a black woman – why would you tell a Black woman of Caribbean and African ancestry that you are surprised at how capable her people are???? When I called him out on this, he became defensive, including pointing out the fact that the Zambians were more racist about themselves than him and if it wasn’t for him they would have no self-esteem, (only proving the ‘white saviour’ trope and their beliefs that Black Africans are incapable of being anything without the white man) which obviously upset me more:

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Notice that he mentions the “race card”… can somebody please enlighten me on what this “card” actually looks like and how I can get hold of it, because according to white-supremacists, it is this powerful card which can be used to change the direction of the game of life!

The Race Card(Image source)

Note to white people: don’t tell me about your black friends just to prove how un-racist you are! IT DOESN’T WORK! He’s also clearly lying about black people agreeing with him. 

He also made some homophobic comments (unfortunately I forgot to screenshot them), in an attempt to conflate how gay people hate themselves just as Black people hate themselves and I ended up having to block him and calling him a c*** on facebook so that that all of our mutual friends could see what he had done to me and who this person really was. I also blocked him on there and via email so that he couldn’t contact me again. Our Black mutual friends actually weren’t surprised to hear what he had done and now that I admit it, neither was I.

The second example was a friend I met on social media. We appeared to get on so well that we actually came close to meeting in real life at one point, however as always life gets in the way. Plus, soon warning alarms signalled when he once asked me if he guest post on my blog, because I had more followers than him. Considering that my blog is unapologetically written from a Black perspective, I found it strange that as a white man he thought that blogging on my platform would be appropriate. It hence became clear to me that he wasn’t paying as much attention to my posts as he had initially claimed. He also commented on one of my youtube videos, with a “not all white people comment” when I was discussing how traumatic it is to be British but feel unwanted in my own country and the country I was born in, and perceived as an immigrant because of the colour of my skin. The video was about how watching the movie Black Panther had only enhanced this feeling of unwant. Again, I found his commentary to be inappropriate, because I clearly wasn’t talking about all white people and the video was about my feelings not his as a white person.

The final straw came when he commented on a tweet I posted of an clip from an LBC radio show, where a racist had called in to say that he wouldn’t be supporting the England football team because there were too many Black players on the team, therefore he was hoping that they would lose because of this. Again, this same guy comments on my tweet, being defensive about this not being all white people and that in his opinion racism was no longer as big an issue as it used to be, because he had never experienced it or seen it in his thirty-odd years. Let me remind you that this guy is white.

Joe1

But they do exist? Actually, more racism happens than white people tend to believe which is why non-white people are consistently gaslighted. To ignore this fact, is problematic.

Joe4

This white guy is telling a Black person who suffers from racism on a daily basis, that the amount of people like this is decreasing, when actually in the age of social media, it isn’t. Furthermore, racism hasn’t always been labelled as wrong because there is a constant conflict between white people and people like me who suffer from racial trauma on what counts as racism. In fact, racism in the UK is extremely insidious, making it just as psychologically traumatic as the explicit racism we see in other Western countries. Therefore, this comment is extremely harmful. 

A friend who is also a Black woman came onboard because she also found his responses to be problematic. In the end, I blocked him. He then sent me an email with the subject line “you’re overreacting” and demanded that I unblock him, while also attempting to assure me that he was not a racist. I never called him a racist, he had just chosen to expose himself as one on multiple occasions.

Now, I have been accused of being rash when it comes to my reactions to situations like this. When people start to act wild around me, I cut them out of my life, which voyeurs then link to the angry, irrational Black woman stereotype. But, firstly I need to put my health first and anybody who claims to be a friend or family member whose negative behaviour is provoking my conditions, needs to be cut out of my life. Secondly, I’ve come to a point in my life where I will no longer put up with shit. Up until my late-twenties, I was letting every tom, dick and harry walk all over me, just so that they could have an easy life, while disregarding my own feelings, which is also why I let my white friends be racist around me and pretend to be in on the joke – I used to be so afraid of calling them out and “causing trouble” that I just let them carry on. But now I know who I am and I have a lot more self-respect for myself.

Also, my actions are not rash. As you can see in the two examples I’ve given, I don’t want to automatically write off all white people as racists – especially when they are in my life. And I gave them plenty of chances to fix up, look sharp. It’s also why I put up with my family’s abuse for so long. But there comes a point where I have to snap, because like an elastic band, if you stretch me enough I’m going to fucking break and catch you in the eye.

XOXO

P.S. If you’re not already following me on social media, why the heck not???

Twitter: Cece_Alexandra

Insta: Cece_Alexandra

YouTube: The Black Wallflower in Wonderland

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

I’m a Pro-Black Rock Chick; Why Is That A Hard Concept to Grasp?

I grew up listening to rock and indie music, not because I grew up in a white centric environment, but because it was the music I grew up with and resonated with my own narrative. My father loved rock music and most of my favourite bands now are many of his own favourite bands. I even have some of his old LPs which I managed to salvage from the collection my mum threw out after he left.

 

When I suffered from bullying because of racism last year, I was extremely conflicted by my music choices. For the first time in my life, I began listening to hip hop music; for the first time in my life, I realised that white men like Thom Yorke and Robert Smith were not the same colour as me and probably didn’t care about me, perhaps didn’t even care about racism and what fans like me were going through as a young Black woman. As you’re reading this, if you’re white you’re probably saying/thinking

 

“what does race have to do with it?”

 

“why does it matter that I am a different colour to these bands? Or from a different culture?”

 

Well it does. Especially when you are constantly being abused for the colour of your skin and told that you don’t belong.

 

I say this time and time again and I will forever say it: Kendrick Lamar literally saved my life last year.

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One of my tattoos (The Blacker The Berry, by Kendrick Lamar)

 

I had always been a fan, but I had never really sat down and listened to his lyrics, until I went through what I went through last year; he spoke to me in a way a musician had NEVER spoken to me before; he allowed me to be unashamedly angry for the first time in my life. Another rapper I find similar to Kendrick so resonated with is Open Mike Eagle: he also speaks about violence against the black community and how his perceptions of blackness have developed from childhood to adulthood. I love him because he’s a great storyteller as well as visual artist. I never knew that hip hop could do this, probably because I’d never given it the chance; throughout my childhood, my mother had always told me that Tupac was just a thug, until last year I discovered he was a better poet than any of the classics I’d taught as an English teacher.

 

For many months, I stopped listening to rock music, and invested my time into hip hop, because these were people who looked like me and could see where I was coming from.  However, recently I’ve now found a good balance where I can still enjoy my rock and indie music, while also embracing hip hop (old and new), so essentially marrying the new me with the old me, and while my black comrades have finally fully embraced this, because they can still see that I’m a pro-black woman who just fucking loves music from different genres, many white people – including my girlfriend – find it difficult to wrap their heads around this concept. I’ve been accused by white people of giving them a free pass for racism because I listen to “white music”; that I’ve forgiven white people for the racial torture they frequently put me, and my brothers and sisters through, just because I’ve started listening to The Cure again and am currently obsessing over DIIV (both white rock bands). Listening to rock music, also doesn’t mean that I’m going to visit some white artist at the Tate (Jenny Holzer), just because she thinks her anti-patriarchal art is progressive, when she refuses to acknowledge intersectionality in her “progressive” feminist pieces.

 

WTF?

 

Listening to rock music doesn’t make me any less pro-black; it doesn’t change the fact that I think that all white people are born with racial biases and many are unwilling to accept that they are born with privilege. In fact, I find it beautifully ironic that every day as I walk through the streets of North West London, I am being judged for the colour of my skin and sometimes verbally and physically abused, whilst listening to Led Zepplin or Roxy Music on my phone through headphones. Which is why when white people say to me “colour doesn’t matter” well actually it does because white people perceive me as lower and “other” just because of the colour of my skin and furthermore, I AM FUCKING DIFFERENT TO YOU so have some respect for my skin colour and culture by recognising that. However, the irony of othering me while I’m listening to the bands you also may like, is that we still have things in common which most white people refuse to acknowledge.

 

I cannot change who I am, God knows I’ve tried. However, the point I’ve now come to is that I am no longer ashamed of who I am. I’ll always be a rock chick, but I’ll also always be pro-black.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Racism At Work – Competition with Other People of Colour (The Effects of White Supremacy)

Black women at work

(Image source)

Yesterday I went to my second Racism At Work session. The group is led by a Black Clinical Psychologist who specialises in racial trauma. I signed up because I was still suffering from the effects of the racial trauma I experienced with my previous employer, which had left me bedridden from epileptic seizures and mental health issues triggered by the racism. The effects of the racial trauma also left me with a phobia of going back to work.

Thankfully, I’m back in work part-time now, but it’s with an agency, not only because it allows flexibility whilst I finish my MSc, but also because it allows me the freedom I need as a Black disabled woman. While employed with the agency, I don’t have to be bound to a contract with one employer; If I go to one place and hate it, I can just call the agency to tell them so that they don’t send me back.

The best thing about this support group, is being amongst a group of British BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) people, who have suffered very similar experiences to me in the workplace; who have suffered such racial trauma at work, that they have been left psychologically scarred for life. Like myself. As difficult at the sessions are, I find it incredibly comforting to be in a group of people who are pretty much strangers, yet they get me, and what I’ve been through and what I am still going through.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I came to be at “Jule’s House of Pain” (my previous employer), posing questions to myself like,

 

why did I think that I could work in an almost all-white staffed school?

 

Other than one Black media teacher and one Black teaching assistant, I was the only employee of colour at this school. I was the only person of colour in the English department. Prior to this, I’d worked in a Secondary school in Hackney for two years, where I was one of many people of colour amongst the staff. My line manager was also a Black British Caribbean woman, who was older than me. At the beginning, our relationship was amazing; She was like a second mother to me, she knew all about the deterioration of my relationship with my own mother and was incredibly supportive. She even let me take on extra responsibilities regardless of my disability and I was the only teaching assistant in the school who was also teaching lessons solo. However, when I decided in the second year of my employment to apply for teacher training in another school, our relationship deteriorated. I’d applied to train in that school the previous year, but my application had been rejected by the mostly white senior leadership team. At first they said that they hadn’t received it (even though I’d had confirmation after submitting the application through UCAS), then after making me wait for so long, they finally rejected my application, claiming that it was because of my lower second-class degree (even though in their application guidelines, they’d said that they would accept and consider applicants with a 2.2). The Head of the English department said that she had fought for me, however the Head Teacher has refused to consider my application. My Line Manager didn’t say anything until the following year when I told her that I was applying again, but to different schools; she told me that I’d been rejected the previous year because of my epilepsy and soon began to divulge apparent murmurings amongst the Senior Leadership Team that I was a burden to the department because of my epilepsy and wasn’t fulfilling my job description… even though I was still working as an Unqualified Teacher at the point, while still only being paid at a Teaching Assistant rate.

The reason why I bring this up, is because in the group yesterday we were discussing toxic relationships at work with other women of colour, who appear to be threatened by the competition they perceive between us as two women of colour and become pawns in the “game” of white supremacy and institutionalised racism, by enacting the behaviour a white oppressor would usually display towards us.

My Line Manager didn’t have to tell me “everything that was apparently being said about me”. She only did it to bring me down, because I had become confident in my role – confident enough to spread my wings to another school even. She was acting like I was gunning for her role, but all I wanted to do was teach! And in a different department! In the grievance, I even put everything that my line manager had told me was being said about me – even by the Head Teacher – and was told that it was all categorically lies. But it’s difficult to know who to believe in a situation like that.

I began to realise that if it wasn’t for this manager, I would never have rushed to “Jule’s House of Pain” to do my teacher training. I was just so desperate to get away from her, that I took the first school that offered me a job. Most of the Senior Leadership Team were leaving during my second year, including the Head Teacher, and the teacher who was taking her place was always supportive of my work. With her and the Head of English looking at my teaching application, I may have had a second-chance. In fact, when I had to ask her to write my Teacher Training reference (she began her role during the last term of my employment), she was disappointed that I wasn’t staying with them to do it at her school. She asked me why I hadn’t applied to train there and by this point, it was almost the end of my employment at the school and I felt like I had nothing to lose by telling the truth, so I did:

 

I was told that my application last year was rejected because of my epilepsy, so I felt like I had no choice but to go to another school.

 

She responded:

 

We would’ve accepted your application now that I’m Head Teacher. We need teachers like you here.

 

By the end of my time at the school, I’d had to file a grievance against my line manager and was moved to the English Department until the end of the school year. But, even being in a different department was difficult because she was still in the school and still talking about me to staff.

 

The irony is that, my Line Manager handed in her resignation after I did. I wouldn’t have had to deal with her anymore. I could’ve stayed in a multi-culturally-staffed school, if it wasn’t for her. When this suddenly dawned on me last night, it broke me, because it brought back all of the trauma I had suffered during my teacher training year. Had it not been for that Line Manager in my previous school, I might have been saved from such trauma. Having to reconcile that although white supremacy played a big part in this game, a Black woman had played a huge part in the demise of my career as well as my mental health, is a difficult pill to swallow. But this is what competition will do, especially when we’re playing the game of the white man. Some of us are so desperate for approval and acceptance from white people, that we will trample over our own people to get it. It’s historical – As slaves, Black people were encouraged to compete for favour from their White slave owners; within families, women in particular fight for the attention and favour of their mothers –  and clearly some of us are unwilling to break the generation pattern. Psychologically, unless we make the decision to break that bondage we could all still fall prey to the orders of the white man. Even if they aren’t explicitly telling us to fight each other, we can still implicitly hear the orders because that’s how institutionalised racism works and the closer you are to your white colleagues or managers, the closer you believe yourself to be to the power that they hold, which of course isn’t true. 

XOXO