Posted in Blog

Pioneer

Last night I was bullied out of a Facebook Epilepsy support group and I realised, if I really want to be a pioneer, I need to toughen up.

I joined this group last year when I felt I needed support, however I ended up using them very infrequently.

Some white people within the group didn’t like my last post. They didn’t read it. They didn’t read the studies. They find the fact that my pointing out that as a Black woman, with a different body, mind and brain and henceforth shouldn’t be treated under a healthcare system that is specifically created for only white bodies, minds and brains and is therefore killing me, makes me racist. They also aggressively bullied me for pointing out that vitamin D is linked to seizure control regardless of race and should be prescribed, and harassed me until I had to leave the group. The notifications were off the frickin’ hook, with messages containing capital letters (which my partner and I both found to be incredibly aggressive) – all because I wrote a bloody blog post! And they didn’t even read it! Because they’re too stupid!

This is what I’ve learnt about these types of racists: when you make them feel inadequate, they will stop at nothing to try to intimidate you. I made them feel ignorant, so they tried to do the same back in an aggressive manner, but I refused to rise to the bait. I just kept on telling them to read the science, which pissed them off even more.

But I soon had enough. I have to protect my mental health, and I’m two weeks’ seizure free (woo!)- speaking of which, we’re all epileptics in this group, who all know what stress does to each other and a gang of white epileptic people are trying to stress me out, just because I’m smart? Go read a fucking book you morons! I know my worth. And the ironic this is, these racists kept on saying that we weren’t different, yet they treated me with absolutely no regard, because they do not see me as a fellow Epileptic. Because I’m Black. Do you see?

I did have a cry, of course I did, because a) it hurts to be bullied and I’m human and b) it’s healthy to let it out. However, if I really am the only person speaking up about the racism in health, specifically Epilepsy – which is why I referred to myself as a pioneer at the beginning of this post – then I do need to toughen up because the road is only going to get bumpier.

I find it absolutely hilarious that white people find it so offensive for people of colour to point out the absence of our inclusivity… “oh you’re being racist”; by saying that we’re not being treated fairly by the law? To say that it’s time for there to be more representation in medical research? We exist, therefore we have every right to be represented in medical research.

Going off on a tanjent slightly, but I’m currently reading Americanah, by Chimamanada Ngozi Adichie and in one scene, the protagonist Ifemelu is sitting at a table with a copy of “Essence” magazine, a Black beauty magazine, which her boyfriend at the time, Curt, finds racist because it only contains Black models. She then takes him to a cafe where they look at numerous magazines, flip from cover-to-cover to count how many Black models they can find: in two thousand pages they find only three Black models. Curt finally understands the importance of Essence magazine, because prior to its existence there was nothing on the market in terms of representation for Black beauty.

At the moment, this is the problem we have in Epilepsy: White voices speaking for Black bodies and brains. How does this make sense, when you don’t understand how we work? 

XOXO

Posted in Blog

Seasonality in Epileptic Seizures

vitaminddisc

As you may or may not know, I have been fighting with my Epilepsy team to prove that there is a correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and seasonality in Epileptic seizures. Zsófia Clemens,, András Holló , Anna Kelemen , György Rásonyi , Dániel Fabó , Péter Halász, József Janszky, and Anna Szűcs in their 2013 study, reported a significant effect seasonal effect (p=0.026), which I presented to my Epilepsy team. In the study, patients kept a seizure diary and seizure numbers showed a significant seasonal pattern for Epileptic seizures with a peak in January and a nadir in August – very similar to my own. In fact, the highest numbers were during the three winter months – again similar to my own.

 

There also appears to be more direct evidence supporting the anti-convulsive effect of vitamin D. In fact, according to their pilot study in 2012, they reveal that vitamin D deficiency is known to be highly prevalent among epilepsy patients, which appears to be unknown to NHS England, as it appears to be unknown to my Epilepsy team.

In a comparison during a 90-day period before and after vitamin D3 treatment onset, median seizure reduction was 40%. Furthermore, reduction of seizure numbers was significant (p = 0.04). The conclusion of the study therefore, was that vitamin D has an anticonvulsant effect in support with antiepileptic drugs.

 

This study appears to suggest that NHS England is failing its Epilepsy patients. My Epilepsy team also told me that vitamin D deficiency does not cause seizures, however this pilot study appears to suggest otherwise. Therefore, if vitamin D was prescribed alongside anticonvulsant medication, imagine the significant impact this might have for the wellbeing of Epilepsy patients’ health in the UK?

 

What is also important to note is the final discussion:

 

“Our study highlights the potential importance of screening vitamin D levels in patients on antiepileptic therapy and starting supplementation in those with low levels.”

 

What does this this mean for Black people with Epilepsy?

 

As a Black woman with Epilepsy, my priority is always speaking out against racism in Epilepsy. The NHS guidelines state that 30 minutes of sunlight a day is sufficient for vitamin D intake – implicitly ignoring people of colour and those of us who may be chronically ill, or in bed recovering from seizures on a regular basis. Low vitamin D levels also cause fatigue, depression and weight gain – things that many women of colour in particular complain of, and white Clinicians stigmatise them for.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, people with a long-term illness or disease are at greater risk of a range of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and PTSD (Mental Health Foundation, 2018). However, due to racism from white Clinicians, people of colour are rarely offered help such as counselling and talking therapies in comparison to their white counterparts. Depression is also a symptom of Epilepsy while simultaneously a side-effect of many anticonvulsants, therefore the negative implications of low levels of vitamin D will have a significant effect upon mood and quality of life for people of colour with Epilepsy.

What about outside of the doctor’s room? Well, all of this will have severe implications on the standard of living for people of colour: socioeconomically, Epilepsy affects level of wealth and job prospects, because employers are much less sympathetic towards us. We are seen as fakers when we are sick and aggressive when we try to stand up for ourselves.  In fact, we are seen as aggressive whether or not we are sick. This then affects our economic and political stability, as well as our safety in terms of which geographic locations we can reside in, which again circles back to mental health, freedom and quality of life.

So when people continue to ask, what does Epilepsy have to do with race? Everything.

And finally, my blood test result was 25 (the lowest is 24), which is severely low, proving that vitamin D should be prescribed to Black Epilepsy patients on the NHS, along with anticonvulsants. However, once my prescription of two-weeks’ worth of boosters has been taken, I will be left to self-medicate for vitamin D and add oily fish to my shopping trolley, in order to maintain my own seizure and mental health control, instead of relying upon NHS England to do that for me. Or at least help me with it.

 

References

Holló, A., Clemens, Z., Kamondi, A., Lakatos, P., & Szűcs, A. (2012). Correction of vitamin D deficiency improves seizure control in epilepsy: A pilot study. Epilepsy & Behavior, 24(1), 131-133. doi:10.1016/j.yebeh.2012.03.011

 

Zsófia Clemens, András Holló , Anna Kelemen, György Rásonyi, Dániel Fabó, Péter Halász, József Janszky, & Anna Szűcs1. (2013). Seasonality in Epileptic Seizures. Journal of Neurology and Translational Neuroscience. 1: 1016.

 

Mental Health Foundation. Mental Health Statistics: Physical Health Conditions

 

The Guardian. ‘The Lowest of the Stack’: Why Black Women Are Struggling With Mental Health

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

Victory! Taking Control of my Epilepsy Healthcare As a Black Woman

Following the back and forth exchange between my Epilepsy Nurse and I, we scheduled an appointment to discuss my concerns, so I went in to see them last Wednesday 14/3.

My consultant was sulky that I’d misspelt his name in my email exchange, which I apologised for, however like a petulant child he wouldn’t let it go! I couldn’t work out if he was joking around or not, so I told him to get over it, people misspell mine all the time (which is true, even my Christian name – all throughout Secondary school, my Physics teacher even insisted on rudely mispronouncing it). Furthermore, in my mind, we weren’t there to discuss the misspelling of his name. Plus I’d already apologised, what more did he want? I felt like he was trying to distract me. Not guna happen matey.

Zonisamide

Even though Keppra on its own, and on high doses, made me psychotic, I think I’ve grown to hate Zonisamide the worse, because it’s taken my words away from me. Zonisamise is also known as Zonegran, and some of its side-effects are speech problems and word association (in speaking and writing), which I brought up during my previous appointment in October last year, but felt this was dismissed by my consultant, which I found incredibly distressing. My consultant brought this up, because he’d seen the email I’d sent to my nurse and he was offended (the causcasity!) to which I replied:

“Mate you were on your computer during the appointment, while the nurse did all the talking and you barely said two words to me. That’s dismissive.”

He conceded.  He then apologised and said that the clinic had overrun and he’d been trying to catch up on work, was stressed but that was no excuse to take it out on me.

#win

We then agreed that we would ween me off of the Zonisamide and see them again in six weeks’ time. When I return, they’ll have a new medication recommendation for me and I’ll also be coming off the Keppra too (woo).

This has been distressing for me, because it’s like I’ve had a stroke, and I’m a baby and an old woman all rolled into one. After beginning Zonisamide, I’ve had to relearn how to write (I thought this was due to the tonic clonic seizure I had back in June last year, but now I think it’s down to the effects of the medication). Furthermore, I find conversations are incredibly difficult as usually I’m an eloquent person; the word is there, but there’s a blockage. It’s incredibly frustrating. Hopefully, my speech and writing will return back to normal soon.

Vitamin D

He [the consultant] wanted to argue that there was no causation, in other words: low vitamin D levels do not cause epileptic seizures. My response was that this is not what I am saying; what I am saying is that according to the study there is a correlation between low levels of vitamin D and seasonal seizure activity, which means that I as a Black patient should be taking vitamin D boosters during the winter. This was proven by a recent blood test, which confirmed that my vitamin D levels were significantly low and I’ve been prescribed boosters. I’ve also been keeping a diary which shows an increase in seizure activity during the winter months. However, the Nurse argued that the NHS are reluctant to prescribe vitamin D boosters to people of colour anymore because it’s too expensive, even though we need it. And even if I can prove that it relates to seizure activity in people of colour, this won’t make any difference either. And unfortunately I believe her, because I had the same issue with the flu jab last year. The GP wouldn’t give it to me even though I could prove that Epilepsy is affect by influenza. It’s madness.

All I can do I guess, is try to get as much vitamin D as possible through D and over-the-counter supplements.

But considering I am a Black woman living in a country with hardly any sun, with a chronic condition which is proven to be affected by low vitamin D levels, it is madness that I should be refused vitamin D on the NHS.

XOXO

Posted in Blog

I’m An Adult, Listen To ME! More Racism in Epilepsy :(

Hey everyone,

I’m exhausted. Although I’ve been a busy bee creatively, mentally and health-wise, I’m just done. I came across a study in the early hours of the morning, shared on Twitter by Epilepsy Research UK on seasonality in epileptic seizures and I was disappointed to find that as a Black woman, once again, the NHS has let me down.

You can read the article here. The gist of the study was that a significant effect was found between seasonality, vitamin D levels and seizures, which means that Black people with Epilepsy are being let down again.

I’ve come to trust my Epilepsy team. I’ve been with them since 2014, when I first moved to London and grown to trust them.

However, lately I’ve become more and more frustrated with them. I’m feeling dismissed, cast aside – especially because we have such a good relationship, when I raise concerns, it feels like I’m being talked and walked over at times. I feel like they are treating me like a child instead of an adult. Last night I was so wound up after reading this article, I couldn’t sleep, which is detrimental to my Epilepsy, and after talking to my girlfriend I felt like the only solution was to go to another hospital and start afresh.

I’ll walk into the new consultant’s room as an adult

I thought.

But upon reflection, I realised that wasn’t right! I’ve built up a relationship with the Homerton Epilepsy team. I’m not going to run away. They must look after me.

And I’m a fucking adult!

So I sent my Epilepsy Nurse this email:

 

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 23.34.52

Hopefully, I’ll be listened to.

I’ll keep you all informed!

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.

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Oh Mother, Where For Art Thou?

So I had a quick catch up with my mum last week afternoon and caught her up on my failed teacher training due to racial microaggressions, the bullies using my epilepsy as a scapegoat, and my subsequent suicide attempt. Fairly light afternoon mother-daughter chat. When she asked the reasons they had used to sabotage my reputation at work, I replied “well at first it started off as them accusing me of being late for work, then they started to say that I was aggressive towards members of staff. Have you ever known me to be late for work mum?” Without a moment’s pause, she replied no. However, when I asked her if she’d ever known me be aggressive, she paused, before replying:

“well maybe not aggressive but angry”.

We’ve fallen out over this before. She’s always perceived me to be an angry girl, however she’s never paused to think about the reasons behind it. I didn’t want to fight about it, so I just said to her “at work mum. I know how to present myself at work.” Her response was then:

“well I’m not there with you, so I can’t say, but I’m sure you are.”

How come you can say with conviction that I’m a punctual person when I’m not in your presence, but you cannot say that I know how to be a professional Black woman?

That’s what I wanted you to say mum.

It dawned on me that yet again, our parents are a generation that have been insidiously conditioned by white supremacists to think in certain ways about our Black actions.

Just because I may behave in a certain way in your home, does not automatically mean that I am the same person outside. Furthermore, you brought me up woman! You brought me up to have manners, to be polite, to act “white”around white people so as not to draw attention to myself, therefore that’s how I used to act outside (in the workplace).

At home, I was your angry daughter because I had issues with you, therefore if a group of white people in the workplace are then ganging up on your daughter and stereotyping her as an aggressive Black woman, alarm bells should be ringing in your mind mother.

And this is where I am yet again reminded that my own mother doesn’t know me.

My mother doesn’t even know that my favourite animal are owls.

Everybody who knows me knows this about me.

She banned me from having anything owl related in her house, because she thought that they were demon-related – especially so when Harry Potter came out.

Hedwig

So, after crying myself into a nap, I realised that things needed to change.

I messaged her, reminding her that the things that I was angry about, were reasonable things to be angry about, and I did not appreciate being labelled as angry for that.

This was confirmed when I went to see my Tarot Counsellor on later on in the week, Thursday. I’ve recently gotten into Tarot and astrology, because I follow my heart and not only do the cards give surprising readings; they sometimes confirm my gut instincts. For example, I had no idea that I would be speaking to my mother again – the cards read this, which was a surprise for me and after two years I thought that I was ready to move on, but it turned out that it was time for me to return on my terms. The cards also read some incredible insight into the broken relationship between my sister and I. You might be reading this and thinking this is all bollocks, but I’m not easily swayed either. I just follow my gut.

My Tarot Counsellor advised me that it was time to stand up for myself, because I already knew that the relationship between my mother and I was an unhealthy one, bourne down through generations of trauma. My mother was also a shadow who casts darkness over my light – in fact, nobody on earth makes me feel shitter than my mother and sister; nobody on earth makes me feel more like an outsider than my mother and my sister. My mother consistently acts like the child in our relationship, knowing that it puts significant strain upon me – both physically as well as mentally. She claims to care about my health, but it dawned upon me that we’ve been talking for two or three weeks, yet she hasn’t apologised for the fact that we haven’t spoken to each other in over two years, nor has she apologised for the vile things that she said to me. Whereas, I apologised during our first conversation.

So, I messaged her.

I wasn’t rude. I reminded her that I was her child and that if this relationship was to move forward, she needed to embrace her role as a mother. She should also get to know me, because she never had and she still did not. Those are my terms.

I haven’t heard from her since.

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It is what it is.

This time however, the door is still open on my side, instead of slammed shut like before, which is much beneficial to my mental health, as well as my physical.

And I’ve been busy making my family around me who know me and love me. I don’t need blood when I’m a Priestess and I’ve got options and acceptance.

XOXO