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.

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Divine Intervention: Black Mental Health & Coltan

Thursday was wild. I’ve signed up to a Tutoring agency and yesterday was my first session with a student but I’m sick with a cold. I spent the entire day in bed and the session was booked for 5pm. I didn’t want to cancel, so I booked an Uber to take me to the student’s house. There was surge pricing (bastards), but I had no choice, so already I’m out of pocket.

The driver’s a brother. Cool. We start chatting. I tell him I’m on my way to work and I’m a tutor but my main thing is actually I’m a student in Mental Health and Psychology. He asks what I want to do with that, and my reply is that I want to be a therapist, because I have a special interest in Cultural Psychology and Racism.

His interest is piqued.

Uber Driver: “Racism?” 

Me: “Yeah.” 

He explains that he’s been doing his own research in to racism. We began to talk about how the English and Americans like to meddle in international affairs, mess around in their conflict and then paint an ugly picture it to the rest of the world, and he asked me if I would call that racism. I said 100% yes sir. 

He asks where I’m originally from (St. Lucia), and then he responds with his life story. Now if you know me in real life, usually I don’t appreciate a life story (I have a short attention span LOL). But this is phenomenal.

This guy’s name is Jean-Louis and he’s from the Democratic Republic of Congo where the mineral Coltan is mined – the mineral which is used in mobile phones and laptops. Coltan is traded in conflict in surrounding countries such as Rwanda.

According to this article by Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Blood on Your Handset (2013), money from minerals sold, is being funded back into the violence of the war and kept from the people. There is a strong image that Africans are prone to guerilla-type tactics, when it comes to warfare and this has nothing to do with any International influence whatsoever. You can also seem to find evidence of this in William G. Thom’s article on the Congo-Zaire Civil War conflict. This is untrue, unfair and racism.

Who is funding this violence?

 

Who is supplying the arms?

 

Who is whispering into the ears of the enemies?

And all of this stems back to colonialism and slavery…

People were also forced to flee their countries and cross the borders into the surrounding countries for refuge, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, causing conflict – Jean-Louis told me that the number of people probably the population of St Lucia have been murdered in his country and I believe him. This is ALL BECAUSE OF INTERFERENCE BY THE WEST.

I’ve often wondered what the psychological impact has had upon these people, after what they have lived through, seen and done. I was in Secondary school during one of the wars in Rwanda and Sierra Leone in the late nineties, where refugees fled to the UK and I went to school and Church with some of these people and of course their accounts were very different to what was shared in the media. I often wonder how they deal with their PTSD in adulthood in the UK, which is something Jean-Louis and I discussed, because they would be angry about their past traumas, but have nowhere to express that anger, so instead of therapy which would provide a safe space to express their pain, they would be incarcerated or sectioned. This is racism. This then also has a cyclical psychological and mental health impact upon generations of Black children, which is not being dealt with.

Jean-Louis assures me that the land is not poor; the Democratic Republic of Congo is surrounded by rainforest and therefore, is fertile and self-sufficient. This links back to the lie from the “Blood on Your Handset” article, that the people from the Democratic Republic of Congo are using violence to populate money to fund for food, when in actual fact, they are living on fertile land already and are being forced against their will to work for tax purposes and to sell coltan to the West. That is racism.

After all of this meddling, what is left?

Broken Black people. That is what is left.

And the next time you hear somebody telling you that racism is over, get over it, show them this piece please and tell them to fuck off.

 

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

My 1:1 Tarot Reading with Leona Black

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In my rejection of Christianity, I’ve begun seeking other sources for spiritual guidance and comfort. As a child, I’d always been drawn to astrology, so I decided to return back to this which then led me to tarot.

A Little About Me

My star sign is Cancer, however my rising sign is Taurus. Crabs (Cancer), tend to be internal and receptive, with a heavy dose of initiative (cardinal), and strong, emotional awareness.

Leo, which lives next door to Cancer, boasts a very different personality (as is always the case with adjacent signs). Leo, is a sign of positive fixed fire. This means that it natives tend to be outgoing (positive), determined (fixed) and full of flash (fire).

As I am a Taurus rising, I stand firmly on my feet. I therefore look for stability in the people around me, security and the feeling of security. They are social and love to socialise – given by their precious skill to communicate and focus requests. I have also had to learn how to handle changes and experiences – to accept them positively. I can become obstinate and stubborn when pressure and stress dominate my life or my way to act.

How I Came to Meet Leona

Leona Nichole Black was recommended to me by a friend of mine, Kelechi 

Leona is a Tarot Reader, Intuitive Counsellor, Writer & Cultural Theorist. As well as this, she’s also currently studying for a PhD in Black Consciousness, which I was immediately drawn to as an Black academic myself. I initially requested for an MP3 Tarot Reading, back in January; I didn’t give much away, only because I didn’t really know what to ask:

How can I move on from the conflict with my mother and sister?

At the time, my mother and I had not yet reconciled and I was having mad dreams about both her and my sister. I was ready to walk away and I wanted to know how, however Leona had a very different answer for me. She told me that my mother and I were going to move past our conflict. She could see that my mother loved me immensely, but was stuck in the middle. My sister, on the other hand, could not be trusted.

Leona gave me an incredibly in depth reading and it was also incredibly on point! I was shooketh!

So much so, that I decided to go and see her in person, where she gave me another in-depth reading, followed by advice and counselling regarding my situation with my mother and it is thanks to her that my mother and I are now talking, on my terms.

The session began with a simple prayer, to bless the space, as well as the cards, and then the reading began. Unfortunately, I didn’t start taking notes until further into the reading (I didn’t know I could actually take notes!), but I do remember the Source Card coming up and we spoke about breaking the generational cycles within my family, which is something that I am incredibly passionate about – mostly in regards to female mental health, but also abusive familial relationships. My grandmother is currently living in relational poverty and my aunt and uncles have stopped my cousins and I from going into the house. Last month, when one of my cousins and I tried to go and visit, they stalked the house to intimidate us, and then tried to beat me up. One of them is also keeping her finances from her. The house has no proper electricity running through it. My aunt who lives with her has an undiagnosed mental health condition. Social services are aware of this, however have been been more inclined to be helpful to the older generation (not believing me or my cousins even though I’m more educated and my cousins have evidence of abuse against my grandmother). We’ve even reported threats made by my uncles towards me, to Social services, and deterioration in my Grandmother’s mood however, we still haven’t been heard. The Ten of Pentacles came up, which indicates stress, (I did have my first tonic clonic seizure in 9 months last week), however there were other cards pulled to indicate that there will be success. My cousins and I just need keep on persevering.

Advice

Leona pulled the following cards for me for advice:

  • The High Priestess card – to trust my intuition, which is something I am very good at – except with my mother (perhaps because she’s my mother?)
  • The Sun in Reverse – Mum’s thoughts can overshadow mine. My mum and sister were both very negative and judgemental – both intentional and unintentional, which had a severe impact upon my mental health, confidence and creativity growing up and in my early twenties. Therefore, now is the time for honouring my own emotions which is a process I have already begun. Now is the time to be my own warrior. 
  • Three of Ones – I am now looking for a return on my investment and I have been waiting at a distance, with my barriers up, especially during these early stages of the rekindling of our relationship. In hindsight, I guess this also will eventually apply to the situation with my Grandmother and the work my cousins and I are putting in on her behalf for her welfare.
  • However, there was the Two of Swords, indicating that I am not seeing the situation clearly, and this could also apply to my uncles because up until January, I thought that the sun shone out of their arses.
  • The Ten of Pentacles in Reverse came up, reminding me that my blood are not my family. They continue to hurt me, devalue me (I’m talking about my mum, sister, uncles and aunt here), when I have people who aren’t blood, who perceive me as the little girl and woman who deserves all of the love I’ve always craved.
  • The Nine of Pentacles in Reverse – indicates that I haven’t been seeing myself clearly. I’m a 10/10, but I’m only seeing myself as a 9/10. I’m the shit!

  • The Magician – reclaiming my energy, which is something that I am working on for 2018 and not draining myself for the sake of others.
  • The Temple Card – I’ve built my own temple, on my own, without the help of anybody. I look back on where I was this time last year and I just cannot believe how far I’ve come. Nobody can tell me anything now about my journey, because they haven’t been through it and they don’t know and therefore, nobody can ever gaslight me about my intelligence ever again because my foundation is now too strong.
  • The Grief Card – reminding me that I will be let down and therefore, I need to have outlets for pain. This is so important as a Black woman to allow myself to feel pain.
  • The Strength Card – I will need courage and I will need to take back power from the source. The source is me.
  • The Chariot Card – the triumph and overcoming will be in sticking it out. So many times with my family, I’ve just upped and left, however just leaving isn’t the way. I have to show up and remind them that I am the child, and they will be held accountable for certain things and that’s where the healing is for me. Do not compromise. This worked. After this session, I meditated on this advice, before sending my mother a message, pretty much outlining my “terms and conditions” for our relationship going forward (LOL). We are yet to meet in person again, but at present, we now speak on a weekly basis.

Outcome

Queen of Wands – This will be mum, who will finally see the suffering she has caused, however she will find it very difficult to deal with, so she will flee. Whether or not she will return, only time will tell.

And she has. 

 

I cannot recommend Leona’s services enough, not only for spiritual guidance, but also for counselling. I’m looking forward to returning!

The MP3 reading was £28 and the one-to-one session was £60.

http://www.nicholeblack.com/services/

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

My Mother & I… Freedom

After my last blog post which you can read here, I spoke to my mother and we finally addressed our past. It’s been a looooooong time coming. We finally openly spoke about what it was like for me growing up after my father left, but also what it was like for me before. While talking, it also dawned upon me that I never ever told her about the final conversation I had with my father on the phone and his final words to me:

You need to be an adult now.

Words that I had carried for twenty years. I didn’t realise the weight behind the meaning of these words, until I uttered them to my mother last weekend. My father wasn’t just telling me to be the adult, to be the second parent; he was telling me to bear the burden of his sins and to keep my mouth shut. For so many years, I blamed my mother for not being able to talk about what happened to me and for the memories that I repressed however, what we both came to realise in those words was that he was just as much to blame for both of us not being able to speak to each other.

Black women are burdened with carrying so much pain – it’s a curse.

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I watched the visuals for Beyoncé’s album, Lemonade last night (finally (!) – if I’m honest, I’ve always been more a fan of her sister Solange – who to me was more woke and more real, however lately I feel like Beyoncé’s been calling out to me lol). The visuals are stunning, but the lyrics and the spoken word parts are incredibly more resonating, because she speaks about Black female pain and its curse – the curse being that we as Black women are never permitted to feel pain. This is why Lemonade spoke to soooooo many Black women.

The exclusive world premiere of Beyonce's 'Lemonade' on HBO

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I’ve often thought to myself, why did B stay with Jay-Z when he treated her so badly? He cheated on her, he caused her such psychological stress that she had multiple miscarriages. There’s a lyric that resonates with me in one of her songs, where she sings:

Let me see your scars/ show me your scars

Again, this is breaking the curse.

Yes, she could’ve left him, but then they may never have addressed their issues.

She had to stay with him, to compulse him to address his own issues, and this would’ve taken an incredible amount of stamina from both of them. But especially her. And the fact that he submitted himself to her, considering where he’s from and who he is, is again breaking that curse and breaking down so many barriers here not just in relationships, but for Black mental health simultaneously. Hopefully, they have finally re-created a relationship where both man and woman are now on the same platform, where man is no longer above woman, where woman is no longer inferior to man.

And I really do need to write up my piece on the self-care event I went to (I’ve been unwell, so I’m behind on my tings), because this is one of the things we discussed, and it’s also something my mum and I discussed, and why she couldn’t permit me to talk to her about certain things, for so many years. My mother would shut me down when I tried to open up to her about what my father had done to me, especially so when I was older and the repressed memories began to resurface. In fact, when my father left I originally went to a family friend about the abuse, because I couldn’t talk to my mother.

On Sunday, my mother apologised for not permitting me to address these memories with her, because she acknowledged that she hadn’t yet dealt with her own pain. Through prayer and therapy, she’s now done that and I’m incredibly proud of her because she’s broken the curse in our family. Just like Beyoncé did. Beyoncé had to allow herself to feel pain that perhaps no woman in her family had permitted herself to feel before. This then breaks the cycle of the curse, so that her own daughters will go on to have healthier relationships with themselves, as well as their significant others.

My mother has now permitted me to see her own scars, which is something that has not been done in our family before.

My mother had, and still does have a terrible relationship with her own mother, because of this curse, because it wasn’t broken. In fact, they presently have no relationship. My nan carried her pain; my mum carried her’s; both refused to acknowledge each other’s pain and address each other’s pain, until it festered into an incredibly abusive relationship and now they unfortunately no longer talk. I’ve come to realise that this is not uncommon within Black communities.

Hopefully, my mother and I can continue to progress down this healthy road of mother-and-daughter-relationship.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

My Mother & I (Parentification)

My mind is spinning, and I’ve tried to do some mindfulness; I’ve tried listening to music. I cannot even contemplate reading. I have so many questions that my inner- child needs answering; that only my mother can answer, so I’m waiting for her to call (I’ve sent her a message, I’m not just idly sitting by the phone).

Black women are forced into adulthood so rapidly, that we leave childhood behind without a chance to say goodbye. It’s all the more brutal when there is abusive involved. We are forced into an adult role before our time, while still within our childhood years, in order to help out a parent. Psychology calls this “Parentification”. Therefore, although I’ve now had many years to find an adult identity, my inner-child is still screaming for answers:

Why did my parents have me? Neither of them were psychologically capable of parenthood; So why?

 

Why didn’t my mother deal with her trauma, in order to allow us to then deal with mine together? 

 

Why does my mother deny my abuse? My pain? She confirms my anger, yet constantly denies my own trauma. 

 

My mother has never shown me any gratitude for being the adult she needed. Her response has always been:

“Well I never asked you to”. 

She’s never shown me any appreciation for my sacrifices. When I use the word “appreciation“, I do not mean being thankful or regarding me as her saviour; I mean showing a true understanding of the situation we were in: that I was a child who was being abused by her father, yet I heard my mother being abused simultaneously, therefore, I would sit up each night listening to make sure my mother was still alive. Then when my father walked out, I was forced to step up and never got to have a life of my own. I never got to deal with my own trauma, or my own struggles either (don’t forget that I was living in a religious home at the time, privately struggling with my feelings of queerness).

Speaking to a close mutual friend a couple of days ago, it’s pretty clear that my mother may not only ever accept the parentification I was subjected to, she may also ever appreciate the sacrifices of my inner-child. During our last conversation, she blamed previous generations for mistakes made and the impact this has had upon us on a family, because there is clearly a pattern of the same mistakes of abuse, being made over-and-over-and-over again, to which I replied:

“well then you lot shouldn’t have had children”.

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She couldn’t argue with me then.

One final point I need to make: this close mutual friend mentioned that my mother rarely speaks about my father, or the abuse she suffered from him. This is one of my mother’s best friends. I call this woman Aunty – in fact, she’s like a mother to me. I go to her for guidance and advice as well as laughter and appraisal. She also constantly tells me off for swearing on social media!

My mother has known this lady for almost two decades.

My mother has been using it as an abusive weapon against me that I do no talk to her, when all this time hasn’t even been talking to her best friend. I knew that she did not talk to me (she became more restrained as I grew older), however I thought that it was for a number of reasons (e.g.manipulation), however I am surprised.

Yesterday, I went to an event on Self-Care for Black Women – which I will do a separate post on – and as Black women, we do carry a lot of pain because we don’t want to allow ourselves to feel it. Pain is so normal for us, we’ve actually forgotten to recognise its symptoms. We also do not talk to our own peers enough. My mother was subjected to abuse by her family as well as her husband, but she was coming to me for a listening-ear instead of people her own age.

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Do not stop talking Black women, as long as you are talking to the right people. 

XOXO

 

 

 

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Being A Sexy Black Woman with #Epilepsy

Hey guys!

Quick post.

I’ve been working on my body this year, no just losing weight but also my self-perception. So far over the last couple of months I have lost weight. #PROUD

This began towards the end of 2017 with healthy eating and looking at my portion sizes, and light exercises I could do at home. Then when I felt that my body was ready physically, I began to exercise outside.

Running is still extremely difficult. Sadly I don’t think I’ll ever get back to my old level of fitness due to muscle weakness from the seizures 😔

I did throw myself in at the deep-end in January and signed up to a local kickboxing class for beginners, however my seizures have left me so unfit that I just couldn’t keep up, even with the other beginners, which is a shame because when I wasn’t recovering from seizures I definitely noticed the difference in my upper body even after a month, and upper body strength is where I am severely lacking. I have absolutely no fat on my legs, but I find that the muscles in those bounce back quicker after a seizure 😔

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll remember that I used to cycle as well as run when I was working full-time, before I became unwell. I recently had to sell my old bike because it was too hard-core for me, however I’ve traded it in for a brand new delightful Dutch bicycle which is much more easier for my sore muscles to handle:

Saying goodbye to my old bike was another wakeup call and a reminder that my body has changed so significantly.

However, thanks to embracing my identity as a Black woman, I’ve now learnt to love my body for what it is.

As Black women growing up, we had very few role models to look up to, so imagine at the age of 31 me finding The Slumflower finally telling me it’s ok to be who I’ve always wanted to be and to embrace my body for how it is and to not give a fuck what anybody else thinks. Because I love it and that’s all that matters 👊🏾

For example, I’ve always hated bras. Most women do – in fact, as soon as we walk through the door we take the damn things off. When you have big boobs like me it’s even worse! They can cause severe psychological distress and when people around you constantly tell you that you’re wearing the wrong sizes, when you know that you you’re wearing the right sizes, it’s just having to wear a bra that’s the issue and if you could only not have to wear one then you wouldn’t be so distressed, then you wouldn’t feel so self-conscious.

So when The Slumflower began the #SaggyBoobsMatter movement on Twitter, I burned my bras and haven’t looked back since.

What has this got to do with Epilepsy I hear you ask?

Well as a Black woman, everything. It causes me less stress, it boosts my self-esteem. It’s bad enough that I’m still suffering from the impact of racial traumas; ANYTHING that can contribute to my positive mental health and well-being, has everything to do with my Epilepsy.