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

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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(Image source)

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

(Image source)

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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Image source

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

XOXO