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

Bitch, I Ain’t Fat!

If you remember on Thursday, the reason why I decided to treat myself to some new make up was because I had such an awful day. It began with the trolls on Twitter, followed by a New Patient Healthcheck with the Practice Nurse at my new GP Surgery.

I hate these appointments; I hate throwing shade at Practice Nurses because I’ve worked at GP Surgeries and I’ve worked, with some highly qualified and educated Nurses. However, the ones who work in the surgeries I’m always registered, at always seem to be dumb and prejudiced towards Epilepsy and people of colour.

My appointment was at 11am – I stupidly rolled out of bed and straight into the Surgery, without having anything to eat even though the week before, my partner had told me that he had had to wait over half an hour for his own appointment because the same nurse was running late. I ended up waiting over half an hour. The receptionist apologetically informed me that the nurse had struggled with some baby immunisations earlier in the morning.

The nurse finally called me almost forty minutes after my appointment time, offering no apology for running late. Then she saw a patient she knew and left me in her room to take this other patient to another room. I could hear them chatting, she was offering him a newspaper to make him more comfortable while he waited. I even heard her offering to make him a cup of tea! All while I was standing in her doorway, waiting for her. By this point I was furious and close to passing out.

The Nurse finally returned, still didn’t apologise but came in and sat straight down. I informed her that I she was running late, she had offered no apology, that I had Epilepsy, had not eaten and was extremely upset. Instead of apologising, she replied: “oh were you told to fast? You didn’t need to”. I then informed her that my medication makes it did difficult to wake in the mornings and that it also makes me sick, however that doesn’t excuse her lateness. She then told me that I could cancel (!) At this point, I’m ready to smack her, just apologise! And get on with the appointment. I had to explain to her that this was my second attempt to see her, as the last time I booked an appointment, I had a seizure and was rudely told by the receptionist that if I miss another New Patient Healthcheck I won’t be registered with the Surgery.

She then apologised.

Now, the reason why I keep making a big deal about her failure to apologise straightaway, is because when I told my partner (who is white, and so is the Nurse) what happened , he told me that the Nurse apologised straightaway and couldn’t apologise enough.

Yet I had to beg for mine. Because I’m Black, right?

She then took my height, weight and blood pressure.

She didn’t say anything about my weight, but I knew a lecture was coming…..

She told me that my blood pressure was high – no shit. We’ve just been arguing! However, she tried to convince me that I had high blood pressure because “people like you do”. And there we go, health professionals making assumptions. Instead of taking into account the fact that she had kept me waiting for over 30 minutes for an appointment, without any food and then provoked me into an argument, she instead diagnosed me as having a high blood pressure problem. She ordered me to come back and see her in two weeks time. I immediately refused and ordered her to read through my medical file, to which she will find that I have never had a high blood pressure issue.

Lion

(Image source)

Which of course was confirmed in my records.

As for my Epilepsy, she told me that she has a patient who also has Epilepsy and can talk themselves out of their seizures. I told her that was a lie, and I am under the care of a great team. She disregarded that, and recommended that I try Tai Chi for my seizures, “just like her patient who can talk herself out of her seizures”. 

As people of colour, we need to educate ourselves. This same dumb woman who is telling me this shit about my epilepsy, was also trying to diagnose me with a blood pressure condition I know for a fact that I don’t have and also told me that I have a weight problem.

I’m not skinny, but I’m not fucking obese either. Since I had to stop working and my seizures became worse, I’m not as active as I was and I’ve noticed a little weight gain around my middle, however I’m nowhere near as heavy as I was 2 years ago.

Last year I went to see a Psychiatrist, and when I told him I was a UK size 12-14, he looked at my like I was lying, and in the clinical letter, he actually wrote that I was “clearly lying.” This was actually one of the reasons why he also believed that I was lying about having Epilepsy and therefore diagnosed me as having Borderline Personality Disorder.

Anyway, the point I’m making is  *breath* as women of colour, especially in the U.K. we need to challenge Primary Care clinicians more, because they have no idea what the fuck they are talking about, especially when it comes to our health. The BMI calculator in particularly, was not created for us! I’ve weighed my boobs and each one weighs 1.5kg! Our body fat is distributed differently in comparison to White women, which the BMI calculator doesn’t take into account. We have booty and also a higher bone density: physiologically we are completely different to the White European “ideals” that the BMI calculator was created from. When you go on the NHS Choice website to check your BMI, all you see are White women telling you how to be like them. Eurocentric standards healthcare are one of the reasons why so many women of colour have eating disorders. It was one of the reasons why I spent most of adolescent years with an undiagnosed eating disorder.

I found this great article by Linda Lowen about Black BMI, which is a great starting point. I’m definitely going to stay healthy, but I’m also going to be doing my own research.

XOXO

 

Posted in Blog

Growing Up Black

Black Girl (Image source)

I grew up wondering if we as black loved each other. In fact, I doubted it. I realise now that this was mostly because of how I was raised. 

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon some videos of Michael Jackson talking about the psychological abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, Joseph. In these clips, the example he used was how Joseph used constantly to pick on him for the shape of his nose.

The abuse had such a psychological impact on him, that it led to years of surgery on his nose.

The response to these video clips, were incredibly open, honest and encouraging towards Michael, from hundreds of black people who, as little boys and girls, had grown up being taunted by their parents for their facial features, their weight, even their hair (I was shocked to read of parents referring to own children’s hair as “nappy hair”). I read Nina Simone’s autobiography in July, and her mother was her first bully, who criticised her dark skin and nappy hair. Nina’s mental health issue’s began with her upbringing. Like Michael Jackson, by the time she became a superstar it didn’t matter that the world loved her because the psychological damage was already done. 

My mother was a great encourager of my intelligence. She always used to call me a little professor because of my glasses, and when she found out in primary school that the teachers were refusing to give me harder books to read, she marched to the school and demanded for me to be intellectually challenged, just like she was doing for me at home! She would buy me as many books as she could get her hands on when she could afford it.

However, when it came to beauty, I felt taunted. She would call me fat and tell me to stop eating too much.

Even when I wasn’t eating. 

Everybody would say that my younger sister was the prettier one, so I guess that’s why I became a tomboy – I was rough, clumsy and forgetful. I hated dresses, but actually didn’t mind Barbie dolls, as long as I could cut their hair and give them jobs LOL.

When my parents split up, she would tell me that I looked like my father, which was devastating for me as a teenager, yet everybody I know sees my sister and my mum in my face and I’m now starting to agree.

Every time I got spot she would be the first to tell me.

Every time I put on weight she would be the first to tell me.

I recall the summer during the height of my eating disorder when I was purging and over exercising, at my lowest weight and my mother never said a thing.

She would however constantly compare me to my sister: why can’t you be more girly like her? Why can’t you be slimmer like her? When my sister fell down the same path, she threw compliments down the path like a paparazzi stream, knowing that my sister wasn’t eating properly either.

I don’t really know what to say about my father. His torture took years to recover from, to the point where even up to perhaps last year I was apologising to strangers before I’d even had a chance to disappoint them. And I finally stopped blaming myself for the abuse in my late-twenties, which unfortunately is a common poison in Black culture (victim blaming).

It took for me to read the words of Maya and Assata to learn not to walk with my head down, and to walk tall. Their grandmothers taught them not to be ashamed of who they are, and now from the grave I’m being taught the same. I walk the streets of London, with my hair scraped up and no makeup on my face and my head held high and for the first time in my life I feel beautiful.

I see out of the corner of my eye, people do double takes as I walk past (wooooo).

I don’t pay no mind – I just carry on walking.

I’m so thankful for this new generation of Black People, who love ourselves and love each other. It’s sad that some of us have skipped a generation for our education, but I’m just thankful that it’s THERE. Black love is real love.

When Assata was in her final prison, it was Grandmother who spoke these words to her:

““I love you,” my grandmother said. “We don’t want you to get used to that place, do you hear? Don’t you let yourself get used to it.” “No, grandmommy, I won’t.” Every day out in the street now, i remind myself that Black people in amerika are oppressed. It’s necessary that I do that. People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.” – Assata: An Autobiography (2016) by Assata Shakur, Angela Davis

I can’t be angry at my mother – just like Joseph Jackson, as black immigrants they believed in the false narrative that  “being white” equates to success; my mother believed in white supremacist lies that told her that we had to conform to certain labels, and the older I get, the more I realise how many Black People are psychologically oppressed by that system as they forever try to conform. It got me thinking about mental health: black adults have every right to be angry for the persecution they have suffered at the hands of the white man or Black culture and they have a breakdown.

You will know from my previous posts, that Psychology has failed people of colour when it comes to mental health. For whatever reason – whether it be internalised racism, childhood abuse – we suffer a breakdown and go and see a Psychiatrist for help, but instead of being listened to, we get given a label that doesn’t apply to us because these labels don’t understand white supremacy, parental abuse in Black Culture, the Black community in general or even religion. The psychiatrist prescribes the medication anyway, which doesn’t work and as the years go by, the black patient’s condition deteriorates until they become the disregarded “crazy black bitch/dude on the street who’s always outside Sainsbury’s”.

 

Which is why I’ve now decided that I want to work with adults in Mental Health.

 

♥ We shouldn’t have to bring ourselves up – we deserve a proper childhood. 

♥ We deserve proper mental health care and deserve to be listened to. 

♥ We should be able to have access to psychiatrists who understand our culture. 

We need to know how to educate our children

XOXO

Posted in Blog

Eating Disorders in Women of Colour

eatingdisorders

When it comes to psychological studies and research of men and women, it can be very generalised. When looking at body dissatisfaction, it becomes even more uncompromising – particularly for women of colour.

Until very recently, women of colour have had very few physical role models that they could look up to, and young women of colour therefore had to compare themselves to the body images portrayed in the media who looked nothing like them – both in shape as well as colour. When I was thirteen, I used to compare myself to Britney Spears and then at fourteen I’d compare my thighs to my school friends’ and wonder why mine were so much bigger than theirs.

Only until recently, research has been dedicated to eating disorders specifically amongst these group of women (women of colour), who have being ignored, purely because it was believed that it didn’t exist (Arriaza & Mann, 2001; George & Franko, 2010; Smart, 2010b), however new research suggests that adolescents, are either like or at a higher risk than European women. I was at the height of my bulimia and over-exercising when between the ages of fourteen and eighteen.

When it comes to eating disorders amongst women of colour, we have unfortunately been let down; there is unfortunately very little research and this is because the Black African body shape can be attributed to all African and Caribbean women as the norm within that culture, therefore Western Clinicians dismiss that we might actually have any psychological body issues. However, a study by Taylor et al. (2007) found prevalence rates for anorexia among their African American sample and Caribbean Blacks sample, age of onset for anorexia (14.89).

What research has also found is that sufferers of eating disorders battle between two cultures: a dominant one and a home one – which one is the dominant one when you are person or colour and you look nothing like the women perpetuating the thin-ideal image on the billboards? And the TV? And the movies? And the magazines? And on the Underground/ Subway ads? So then you feel guilty and disgust and self-hatred that you’re rejecting your own culture, and so you punish yourself.

Pumariega et al. (1994) surveyed the Essence magazine African American female readership regarding their disordered eating attitudes and behaviors and their African American cultural identity. Results from their study suggested that the risk for developing eating disorders for African American women was the same as for their European American counterparts.

“Some researchers contend that African American women may use binge eating as a maladaptive coping strategy to manage negative affect (D. J. Harris & Kuba, 1997; Root, 1990, 2001; Smolak & Striegel-Moore, 2001; Talleyrand, 2006). Binge eating has also been linked to obesity, which may be used to explain the high levels of excess weight or obesity in African American women” (Striegel-Moore et al., 2000; Talleyrand, 2006), if they are using these habits as a method of dealing with psychological issues as they battle with societal pressures from their own culture and a foreign culture.

In conclusion, my research found that strong cultural identity protected African American women against some anorexia- and bulimia-related risk factors. Wood and Petrie (2010) also tested a sociocultural model of eating disorders on a sample (N = 322) of African American college women and found that women who internalized societal messages about beauty, reported engaging in eating disorder symptoms. In addition, the higher their level of ethnic identity, the less they internalised societal messages about beauty. This could mean that they were surrounded by healthy role models, or were brought up encouraged in appreciating Black Beauty for its true magnificence.

Therefore, this study believes that high levels of ethnic identity indirectly protected African American women from engaging in eating disorder symptoms. feelings of powerlessness and a lack of control driving women of colour to use food (e.g., either restricting food or bingeing) to cope with their feelings of internalised racism or to reject societal standards of beauty (Kempa & Thomas, 2000; Thompson, 1994, 1997). I have to agree.

Thus, it is imperative that researchers assess levels of oppression and stress and coping behaviours when studying eating disorders in women of color. One manner of assessing how an individual internalises racial oppression is the use of racial identity theory, which to be honest a lot of clinicians do not understand.

More research needs to be done, as it is evident that not only white, middle class women suffer from eating disorders and body dissatisfaction.

However, I believe that we have come a long way in educating our young men and women of colour in coming to terms with their own biology, so that they are not turning to whitewashed mainstream media for that education instead.

But please stop forgetting about us.

XOXO

 

References

Talleyrand R.M. (2011)  Disordered Eating in Women of Color: Some Counseling Considerations in Journal of Counseling & Development. Retrieved from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=80b55bdb-be00-421d-9254-9980a58e970b%40sessionmgr101  

Posted in Blog

Charlottesville: White Christian Ignorance

Quick rant.

I just stumbled upon a blog post by a person who used the analogy of their eating disorder to compare the compelling evil of Satan to the evil we witnessed in Charlottesville over the weekend. According to the blogger, the power of Satan is compelling people to lie and commit acts of evil. The blogger used the example of their eating disorder as an example.

To say that I am speechless is an understatement.

The person who wrote this, follows my blog and is therefore going to see this for which I am not going to apologise. (Before I proceed however, I’ve had a severe eating disorder myself and I’m not denying its evil hold, so I can empathise with the struggle.)

My mother used to always say that we give the devil too much credit, and for once I am going to agree with her. What we witnessed over the weekend was terrorism:

the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

So this is how the events on Saturday unfolded…

According to an article in the Guardian, Virginia has one of the most relaxed sets of laws in the US. Alt Right groups came from different states, having chosen their territory, like a sniper marks its target. These terrorists came with guns, pepper spray, eggs, clubs, vehicles.

They came to kill. 

Speakers, such as the white nationalist Richard Spencer, had planned to address the Unite the Right crowds descending on a public park to defend a statue honoring the Confederate general Robert Lee, which is set to be removed by the Charlottesville authorities. It was the largest event in recent times organized by emboldened far-right racist extremists.

But the police had to cancel the event, due to the tension between the two opposing sides, which then erupted into violence, when the alt-right attacked the other side with a vehicle and then with the rest of their weapons.

That’s not satanic possession. That’s terrorism.

People on social media are saying that Antifa and BALM (Black Lives Matter) were just as much to blame for the violence. Firstly: 

Secondly, if I came at you with a club or a knife, what the fuck would you do? Would you just stand there? The left were protesting against the celebration of monuments of slavery, to which the right responded with violent opposition. This was war. The violence came from the alt-right. 

Furthermore, to dismiss these acts as “signs of the end times” (which is also what the blogger referred to the attacks as), is a dismissal of hundreds of years of black suffering, and therefore displaying hundreds of years of white ignorance, which is why this was allowed to happen. White supremacists want to bring America back to a time before colour touched your soils, however America is built upon racism – the blood, sweat and tears of people of colour. Your rivers run with the outpouring of that suffering.

When are you white people going to get it?

Does blaming demons for you past console your white guilt?

Medieval Supremacy

If you would like to read more on the history of White Supremacy in Charlottesville, then I highly recommend this article: Racism, Medievalism, and the White Supremacists of Charlottesville,  (2017) by Josephine Livingstone.

XOXO