This is for all the people I hold dear.
These are the stories of my friends…people who are in pain and won’t ever tell you. Those carrying a heavy load, too scared to tell anyone because of the fear of being judged. But, on the inside, are crying to be heard, to be listened to, to be told that they aren’t crazy.
They want to know that it is okay to feel like you cannot do it alone. That it is okay to feel period.
But, this world we live in…the world that tells us “get out your feelings”, “stay strong”, it doesn’t allow much room to ever just be a human being for two seconds and allow yourself to feel.
As a black woman, I am expected to be strong, to look after my family, to look after everyone else before myself. Never letting anyone see the real pain. Because as a black woman, allowing anyone to know you are hurting is seen as “weak”, and a black woman being seen as weak is not tolerated.
I keep my mask air tight, making sure that no one can ever see what lies beneath. A woman just tired. Fed up.
I seem to have it all together, I mean I have everything that I have ever asked for right? I mean, the grad school of my dreams, own place, making my own money, Miss Independent. But what if I told you that I am not okay. I recently had a man who I love, someone who I deeply cared about and thought he would still be in my life, pretty much called me ridiculous because I got on him when he would act up, he showed me I wasn’t a priority to him and even though I knew he wasn’t right for me at this moment in my life, I did not listen to my gut and I got hurt, badly.
That night, I allowed myself to cry. I went up to my bathroom, closed and locked the door and sunk to the floor, holding my mouth and keeping my sobs low so that I do not disturb my family. They never suspected I was hurting, I just quietly excused myself whilst I allow myself to feel that hurt. The pain wracking my entire body so much that it catapulted me into severe shakes and uncontrollable sobs. The hard truth sinking in, I had been rejected again, that I am not good enough, no matter how hard I try. As perfect as life may seem for me, there is one thing I lack and desperately want.
Someone to actually care and say “She’s who I want to spend the rest of my life with”.
I don’t want to hear how I am only 21 and that it will find me when I least expect it, I don’t want to hear that I have the rest of my life. Because it is happening for everyone BUT ME. It is so easy for people to meet someone and they just click and it work. It is just genuine and authentic and REAL. That is what I crave. To some, it may seem silly, but when you know that God has called you to do more, to be more, when you are living in your purpose and everything is falling into place, you focus on the good, yes, but I also focus on what I do not have. Not having a man doesn’t by any means speak to who I am or what I have to give, but I want an added bonus to my life, ya know? A shorty is out here WORKING HARD, and at the end of the day it would be nice to have someone there to massage my scalp, do face masks with me and share the details of my 12 hour days of class and/or work. Now, I have rid my hands of that man, I have been celibate for about a month and focusing on that journey (Post coming soon), working on my mental health and well-being, snatching my waist and getting that stomach in flat flat, racking those A’s on those grad papers and trying to get back to me. But, I would be lying if I said the pain didn’t sneak up every once in a while.
Dealing with that type of load, of knowing you are pretty amazing but not having anyone to see that, or anyone having pure and genuine connection with you for you, it can be extremely disheartening and when I say no one wants to develop a pure and genuine connection, this is what I mean. I have been in situations where guys will feign interest, for their ultimate goal of getting me to bed, and once I figured out their methods, I couldn’t help but feel that I was being used. Feeling used, it takes its toll on you, for me it just said to me “you’re good enough to sleep with and keep my interest just for a little bit, but not to put a ring on your finger” and that is a very painful realization to come to and I don’t want that to be my reality. I deserve better than that, I am better than that, but when that seems to be all that is offered, or the guys do approach you aren’t what you want. I am stuck. Sometimes you want someone other than our friends and family to see the real you.
But, I digress.
This isn’t about me. I want to share the story of someone very near and dear to my heart. I have been fortunate to see this woman’s growth and she has given me permission to tell her story, whilst keeping her identity a secret. I went to high school with her, but around Christmas of 2016, God had placed us back in each others lives because he knew we would need each other and blessed is an understatement for how thankful I am for her. Before I share her story, I want you to see how much this woman has endured just by showing you her poems.
I don’t know about you, but reading those sent chills up my spine and made me feel things I wasn’t sure I knew I wanted to feel.
The woman who is so full of life lost her boyfriend on Christmas Day and on that day, her light went out. Can you imagine losing the person you knew you were destined to be with? Losing the love of your life. What makes her story so beautiful to me is after his funeral, I texted her to see how she was doing and whilst I had seen her during the funeral, she was all happy and smiling, but I knew better. She expressed to me that she felt the spirit of her love around her so heavy that she couldn’t help but smile and be herself. She had told me that he was the type of person who was always happy, always so giving and cheerful and he had the kind of energy that was infectious, and that transferred to her. She had told me that the only reason she was only able to make it through burying “her baby” as she calls him, was because his love was wrapped around her like a warm blanket on a cold and brutal winter day. I thought to myself “wow, your strength is amazing to me because I am not sure I would even have the strength to stand and entertain people”. She also told me that he never wanted her to be sad, that he did everything in his power to ensure that she was never not okay. This woman who is now so confident and re gaining her strength said to me that she had battled with her self-esteem and confidence issues, she never thought she was beautiful or enough for someone.
But her baby made her feel enough, loved, safe. On their last day together he made sure that he told her how happy she made him and how her happiness, made him happy. She also expressed to me that she felt that he knew it was his time to go. Often times, it is said that a person knows. But, can you imagine looking at the love of your life and knowing that they knew they were going to die, and what do you do about it? You can’t intervene on what God has already planned to happen.
I never knew this man and I believe in God. So when I tell you that during the funeral it was gloomy and rainy and depressing, but a light shone so bright into the church, I couldn’t help but feel that was him, it was him letting her know that he was okay. I knew that this man had loved her and loved God even more, he was a MAN of God if I had ever heard of one, and so I believe that he was letting her know, letting his friends and family know that he was home, that he was where he had wanted to be, with his heavenly father. In that moment, I knew that my friend would be okay.
Now, 10 months later, I am blessed to still know her and see her transition and growth into her new life without him. She left our small town of toxicity, and has moved to GA. She has a new job and is now open to the possibility of being with someone again. However, she is someone who never said she was hurting and if you spoke to her, you would never suspect that she was hurting, but that is often how it happens. That bothered me, often times I would talk to her and she would talk about him like he was still here, she still does and while I know she may be ready for a new relationship, she has not yet let him go.
I read a book entitled “Black Pain: it just looks like we aren’t hurting” by Terrie Williams and at the end of her first chapter, she has a simple phrase: “I ______________ would like to tell you that I am in pain”. A person signs their name and sends it to their loved ones because as my friend has shown, and as I have mentioned, we could be in pain but often times because of the fear of being labeled and the stigma associated with mental health, we keep it to ourselves. I sent this to her and she told me, “Yes, I am in pain” and she had told me that she had never uttered those words to anyone before, just to herself, in her head. The sad thing about our town and a lot of people we grew up with is that when you mention any type of pain or emotional trauma, a lot of them don’t know how to handle that or know how to help. I believe that God knew what he was doing when he placed us back in each others lives. How ironic is it that around the time her baby would pass, we would reconnect. I would need her for my emotional trauma and she wold need me to listen to her and once we found that balance, we have been able to form something that not a lot of people have. We TALK about our pain, openly to each other, without fear of judgement. We support each other when we do something great, we get on each other and keep it real when the other makes a mistake but under it all even through all the good we face, the bad still seeps through, and we talk about it.
Another important person to me is my best friend, she has held me down through some of the most trying times in my life. She has held me until my tears soak through her shirt. I have held her while hers soak mine. This summer we were faced with some tough truths. I had never seen her cry, she began sobbing because she is a chocolate baddie, and she had said that she has just now become comfortable in her own skin. It took her a long time to finally accept who she was and be comfortable and LOVE herself. But, like me, when you know how amazing you are and you are constantly being done wrong, it HURTS. She cried for hours that night, because to have the man she wanted, she was going to be reckless and throw her morals and values to the wind, forgetting just who she is. I said nothing, unable to, because she had voiced every single thing I had ever thought to myself or felt and it was a scary situation to be in. To see my best friend confess everything I had ever thought, here she is sobbing uncontrollably, I could hear the pain behind her words and all I did was stand there, the tears forming in my eyes but refusing to spill over because I am seeing just as successful black women just how much we have been stomped on, over looked, always a second option to some, and as much as I was hurting, it angered me. It angered me to know that as amazing as we were, why were WE the ones going through this? We had been through so much individually and separately and we were the ones being treated like trash.
Another woman I know, my childhood best friend is also one that has experienced some pain. As kids, we were joined at the hip, I moved, she moved, and we lost touch, until we reconnected last summer. She has also shared with me that she had been depressed and she dropped out of school, she wasn’t happy with what she was doing. She knew she had been called to do more. Her passion was music and she knew school wasn’t what she wanted. So, in the Nigerian household, dropping out of school is seen as the worst thing imaginable, it is “reckless”, shows we are ungrateful for all our parents have sacrificed for us. Her mother supported her but wasn’t too thrilled that she risked her education to make music, she felt that her daughter will never make it anywhere with it. Her father doesn’t know. Her father had pretty much disowned her for some other things she had done, he said that he could barely recognize his child and that she was ungrateful. That they had always made sure she and her sister got the best of everything, so her acting out was a slap in his face.
Her mother said that her chasing her dreams was not normal, that normal kids go to school , get a job, etc, that her daughter was a mess. All the while, her parents are the ones messed up mentally and emotionally and projected their thoughts of how they wanted their lives to be, onto their daughter. She had also been sexually assaulted by someone she deeply cared about and then having to face that and not having anyone to turn to, not wanting to tell anyone what had happened to her, she turned to drugs, alcohol, sex, anything that would numb the pain. When she did want to allow someone into her heart, he proved he wasn’t ready even though they had known each other for years. She calls me crying as well, because just like me and my friends before, it was that feeling of never ever being good enough for anyone, that red-hot slap in the face, that no matter how hard you try, how hard you work on yourself, you still won’t be picked. Now, she is producing her music, getting it into the hands of all the right people she has made connections with and is making steps to overcome her demons, but she still hurts. She has friends who will never understand what she is going through, they barely even ask. Friends who she has bended over backwards to ensure they were okay, but they never return the favor.
For women like us, we have busy minds, when we are being productive and proactive our minds are too focused to think about the hurt and the pain. But at night, I have noticed that when everything is quiet, when it is time to go to bed and unwind from the day, the pain and hurt and bad thoughts seep back in, grabbing a hold of us, willing us to pay attention. For us, it demands that we acknowledge it, whether we want to or not, that is the scary thing, pain demands to be felt. There are people who walk around every day pretending like they are okay, like everything is fine, placing an iron lid on their pain and it is itching for a way out. People walking around like ticking time bombs, just waiting.
Growing up in the African-American household, you will often hear phrases such as “Don’t air your dirty laundry”, “What happens in this house, stays in this house”. Parents and grandparents believe that if our ancestors could endure through slavery that we can make it through anything. When a black woman suffers from a mental illness, the perception is that she is weak and weakness in black women is not tolerated. As African-Americans, we place a strong emphasis on religion and taking your problems to Jesus and not a professional, especially one who cannot relate on a cultural level. Our family and friends insist on prayer as the singular solution to curing all of our problems. Like, If you just pray it away, all your problems will magically disappear. But, silent pain is REAL, depression is REAL, pain is REAL and it is not something that only prayer can fix. Now, my God is AWESOME. He has been good to me and sustains me, but I know that I also have to help myself, for myself and sometimes prayer isn’t the only remedy.
I know too many women and men alike, walking around with immense pain and not speaking a word. Too often do black women work overtime, hiding their pain behind a mask, that portrays them to be powerful, strong and in control (Guilty). We are slowly dying inside and not knowing how to reach out for help. Buried under a weight of anxiety so heavy that it prevents us from being able to cope with the pain. In a society that wastes no time in labeling someone who seeks help as “crazy” or “weak” and “incapable of taking care of themselves”, black women mask their pain from everyone, including family and friends.
Pain doesn’t simply disappear just because it is pushed to the back of our mind. It comes back more powerful than ever and asserts itself as other forms of abuse such as alcohol abuse, panic attacks, fear of relationships, hopelessness, and if it continues further, eventually it will turn into depression. As a people, we already have to endure trauma in the shape of everyday racism and not dealing with our own personal trauma becomes the catalyst for the effects of long-term depression.
Generations ago, someone in our family was enslaved, and during those times they experienced daily trauma of being degraded, humiliated, treated as if they had no rights, treated like animals. They did not have the luxury of being depressed and “taking a day off” because they felt like it, that didn’t exist for them. Now, we have incorporated that into our own psyche that no matter how bad things get, no matter how tired or how much pain we find ourselves in, we will continue to perform to the best of our ability. But, if we continue to live in pain, that pain is going to turn into a coping mechanism such as drugs, food, alcohol, sex, gambling and even shopping.
We bear a generational scar caused by centuries of slavery and abuse, being snatched from our families, our homes and everything else we held dear. Our beauty and humanity were all but ripped from us, defiled and devalued, leaving us invisible. However, despite this, we have still come through fire and brimstone, reminding that we are the offspring of those who refused to give up. However, my loves, please, do not deny yourself the gift of help. It is one of the most rewarding things we can give to ourselves. If you are in pain, tell someone, anyone, acknowledge it. Do not let it consume you.
Always remember this,
You are not crazy for feeling the way you do.
You are not weak for feeling at all.
You are beautiful.
You are enough.
You are enough.
You are worth it.
You are strong.
You are amazing.
You are a QUEEN.
It is okay to ask for help
It is okay to not be okay.
I have to go. I am a wreck right now, all emotional and stuff.
I’m outta here.
I Love You Always,
Until Next Time My Loves.