By: Nidja Muldrow, a SHE Team ExKlusive
As I was taking my first celebratory walk across the auditorium stage as a newly crowned queen of one of the most prestigious Greek Lettered Fraternities at my university, I was confident in my future. Ironically enough, my platform was entitled “Getcha Mind Right” and was focused on spreading awareness on mental health in the millennial African-American. Little did I know, I would soon be a walking example for why spreading awareness and developing resources that promote mental wellness was so necessary.
Since I entered college, I was alone. Yes, I had friends and was fairly well-known and liked on campus. I even embarked on what would become a long-term relationship. I was almost over-involved on my campus and often found myself mentoring other students. Even though, I was shy, I purposely put myself in the spotlight on to push myself out of my comfort zone, and I soon became known for participating in pageants and performing spoken word. I even joined a sorority. From the outside looking in, I was thriving. Still, I was alone.
Though the fruit which would eventually rot into my depression took a long while to appear, the seeds were being planted and taking root even before I was preparing for my pageant, so diligently planning out exactly how I would bring attention to my chosen cause. I didn’t have my mom a step away anymore to talk about my fears and pains or to calm me when my hypersensitivity reared her head, and I felt weak being vulnerable with my friends. So I wasn’t. I took it all alone; every bad grade, harsh word from a teacher, challenge with a mentee, issue in my relationship, problem with friends. All normal things every student goes through, right? Except I wasn’t dealing with any of it. I simply added another activity; busied myself with something “more important”. I didn’t have time to take care of MYSELF! I could wait, I thought.
I never did fulfill my queenly duties. I had to ask my fellow queen to step up and attend a follow-up pageant in my place. I missed events first. Soon, I was missing class, missing assignments. I was fired from my job after continuously showing up late. Everything was catching up to me, but I still “didn’t have time” because now I was focused on proving that I was okay; on getting back to the “old Nidja”. “As soon as I fix this problem, I will be okay,” I thought. I wasn’t okay though. On the first night of my university’s homecoming, I got all dolled up for the concert being held. I rode to the gym with my friends seemingly happy, until we got there. I was putting on my shoes while my friends, excited to see the rapper performing, went ahead leaving me alone. In that moment, right then, I broke. I stayed in the car all night wallowing. Listening to my own mind telling me that I didn’t matter, that no one cared. I never went inside. When the concert had ended and my friends came back, I told them that I had fallen asleep and was ready to go home. That night, alone in my bathroom, I suffered my first of what would be many panic attacks and cut myself for the first time. This routine continued and worsened for a full year as everything around me suffered.
The light that FINALLY woke me up was a conversation. After an especially destructive episode, I found myself speaking to my friend’s mother. I expressed myself to her. I told how I wanted to die but that I was terrified of dying. I told her of my pains and fears and she asked simply “What are you doing to feed your soul? What are you doing to take care of you?” I had no answer. I realized that my fearful obsession with death came because I wasn’t living. I wasn’t feeding the parts of me that will never die. I was making earthly duties more important than my soul/spirit duties. I was making time for everything temporary and no time for me! From then on, I resolved to try. To try to do something to care for myself and feed the parts of me that were most necessary. Though it’s been a very slow process with many black slides, I’m proud to say that every day is more fulfilling and joyful than the last.
A few months before my pageant, I was shocked with the knowledge that a close friend had been secretly battling Bipolar Depression. Selfishly, the first thing I thought to do was instigate an argument about why they hadn’t told me sooner; first, even. After them educating me, and encouraging me to do independent research into their condition, I wondered why on my college campus this knowledge wasn’t made readily available. I wondered how many like my friend had suffered silently before getting help or worse, never got the chance to. Thinking of that now leaves me both relieved that I wasn’t a part of the “never got a chance to”, yet terrified that I almost was.
While I am not still in the thick of my battle with Depression, I sometimes still feel shame about it. It hurts to know that this thing almost ruined my life; that it almost ended my life. It hurts me to tell my story (especially when I talk about self-harm) and see my family and friends’ hearts break as they blame and question themselves. Even still, with all the pain that my story may bring, I know that it also brings freedom and displays triumph. My most painful scar, the deepest cuts I ever inflicted on myself, serve as a stinging reminder to take care of the best parts of me first before trying to save the world. (Sorry in advance to everyone who reads this who I told that the scars on my thigh was the result of a burn.) I just hope that my story encourages everyone ,especially the person who feels constant pressure to be “happy” and “good”, to take care of themselves.
Women are badasses. Even though men are at the top of the food chain, because of patriarchy, we really run this shit and keep the world turning. My favorite women, of course, are black women; I am one, as is my mother, my closest friends, and most women I look up to. Black women have always been sprinkled with a little extra badass-ery but we prefer to call it #BlackGirlMagic. Our beautiful, wonderful, magical selves have been the backbone of our communities since forever! We care for our men and children. We take care of our parents or anyone else in need. We’re the shoulder to cry on, the listening ear, and we do it all with a smile on our face! As black women we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves when it comes to mental and physical health because we are too busy taking care of others. And that all ends today!
For as long as I can remember, whenever black women were to be praised (which is hardly ever *eye roll*) the adjective used most frequently to describe us was “strong.” Not chest press 250 pounds “strong” but more like possessing great fortitude. There’s a toughness about us that allows us to endure even in the most difficult of circumstances. Not only do we endure, but we’re expected to rise from the ashes unscathed and bring our communities out of the flames with us. We take on the pain and stress of everyone else and do it quietly but at what cost?
There’s a very famous quote in Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God from Nanny, the grandmother of the main character, where she explains how black women are consistently stepped on by society and their own men. She says:
"Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out. Maybe it’s some place way off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don’t know nothin’ but what we see. So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see."
From that time until this, nothing has changed for we are still the mules of the world. We have made ourselves responsible for the physical, mental, and emotional labor of the world. We fight both sexism and racism daily. Some of us even deal with colorism at the hands of our own people. We battle the ills of society all while trying to keep our personal lives intact and it is e x h a u s t i n g.
Listen, I love us for real (word to Mo’Nique) but my sisters, we’ve got to stop. For centuries our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers have been carrying the load and I’m here today to let you know it’s okay to put it down. We are not Superwoman. That’s not a role we have to play even if we were cast against our will. There is nothing wrong with being a strong woman but let it be because that’s what you want. There’s a difference in being strong because you need to be and being strong because you’re made to be.
I have spent 25 years of my life molding myself into this stereotype. I have worn it as a badge of honor. I learned from my mother that there’s no time for pity parties because life moves on and so should we. I cannot blame her because this is what we as black women of every generation have been taught. So, I’ve held things in. I haven’t cried. I’ve suffered. I haven’t taken the necessary time to process traumas and now all my chickens have come home to roost. I now find myself having to unlearn these unhealthy behaviors at 26-years-old. I’m learning the beauty in vulnerability. I’ve discarded my armor and I’ve laid my weapons down for the sake of saving myself for once.
I want to say to anyone who has taken their time to read this, it’s okay to save yourself. There’s nothing wrong with putting yourself first when it comes to your needs and your mental health. They say you can’t pour into anything or anyone if your cup is empty. You also can’t pour if your cup is cracked and beginning to leak. Before you crack and especially before you break, I encourage you to take off the cape, fold it, and store it away. We’ve all got to do a better job at healing ourselves and I declare that it starts right here today.
Take these words and be blessed, beloved.
Audreyonna Sequale is a 26-year-old who is living, learning, and documenting all the lessons in between. She began blogging in December 2017 in hopes that her experiences would resonate with others and encourage them to live their truths.
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As I write this letter to myself reflecting on my days growing up, I’m sorry I doubted myself. I made up in my mind that I was, indeed, ugly. . . Dear Middle School Me:
Letter to the Ball-Head Dark Skin Girl,
Don’t turn the lights out. They might lose you. No one is going to see you. But when the lights are on, they still don’t see you. Chin up. It’s only words. It doesn’t matter what others say about you because you are beautiful in your skin.
“Ball-head, skally wag, ain’t got no hair in the back.”
Kids are going to be kids. Let them say whatever, as long as they not putting their hands on you, it’s fine. I’m serious, you’re going to be okay. You’ll be going to high school soon and no one will care if you’re dark skinned or not. Middle school kids have nothing else better to do but to talk about people.
“You still ball-head under those micro braids.”
I guess I was wrong. High school was no different. He said he only liked light skin girls. Forget him! There’s somebody else out there for you. Oh, I forgot that he doesn’t date dark skin girls either. Maybe if you start wearing bright colors, they’ll start to notice you. Even your friends will begin to think that you’re beautiful and they’ll stop drawing attention to your dark skin.
“We can have sex but, I couldn’t make you my girl or anything. You not my type.”
You can’t get rid of your skin, girl. Taking extra hot and extra long showers won’t make some of your color come off. Be smarter than that. Okay, this is the last night you’re going to cry about it.
I know it’s hard to get out of bed, but you must go to school. Just don’t look in the mirror while you’re getting ready. You don’t wanna keep looking at yourself. You see the darkness that others see. You feel the darkness inside. But you must get up and go to school. No need to tell anyone how you feel, they don’t care. They’ll just tell you again that what people say doesn’t matter. It does matter, though. You didn’t ask for this skin. You didn’t choose to be dark. You question why God made you this way. That’s when you stopped smiling.
“Nah, she too black"
As I write this letter to myself reflecting on my days growing up, I’m sorry I doubted myself. I made up in my mind that I was, indeed, ugly. I decided that I wasn’t good enough for anyone because I was dark skin and didn’t have much else to show for myself. I’m not sure where I lost my sense of self-worth in the process, but I found it.
I often hear people say that talking about colorism as Black people (especially as Black women) is adding more divide in the Black community. In actuality, continuing to sit in the shadows and insist that it isn’t an issue is the thing that keeps us divided. Rooted in white supremacy, the color complex is no is secret in our culture. From the time we were brought to this country, our oppressor separated us by light and dark and it has followed us through centuries.
Many of the images we see of Black women in leading roles often exclude those who are dark skinned. We live in a society where Zoe Saldana gets to play Nina Simone in a movie and the show grown-ish doesn’t have one leading dark skinned woman. We, as black women, come in many shades and that’s what makes us unique, but let’s not forget that representation matters. It mattered to me when I was growing up trying to stay out of the sun in the summer time with fear that I would get darker. It matters to my 13-year-old niece who is now going through the same emotions about her skin. It matters to the young girls who look up to the Lupidas and the Violas and the Beyoncés.
I remember the girl. I was the girl…and I want that girl to know, she is beautiful in her own skin. - I love you
Tristen is a 28-year-old Black woman working professionally in higher education and finding ways to navigate through life. Adjust Yo’ Crown is a space to be real and open about various aspects of life and what is happening in the world. It is a space where Blackness is celebrated and unfiltered.
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Contributed by: Krystal of Rhea Aligned
A twenty-something wife, mother to one diva child, bonus mom to two amazing children, daughter to the worlds most amazing parents, friends to some, and the list goes on. Bit of an introvert and foodie; against all things cold and has recently tapped into making handmade products. Rhea Aligned is busy; self-care is a must!
What is self-care?
Self-care can be easily defined but hard to practice, especially with a marriage, family and life dedicated to making a difference. I must admit, I often fail at self-care, yet I know I am NOT alone. I fall into being the mom, the wife and the helper, often forgetting "the me". As I type about this topic, I have a little spoiled person in the bed with me that won’t stop talking to me about her dolls and a very loud iPad talking about some toy that she will ask me about on YouTube. Thus saying -- everyone needs time alone, just to do something for themselves. To realign and center their energy!
There are several people who do not have a problem with taking time out for self-care. I wish I were more like them in realizing and understanding that I need time to compose myself. *I am working on it* Doing things for yourself is therapeutic and helps with emotional and physical well-being. The demands of life can make self-care hard to practice but we must make time. If needed, simply schedule "me-time" just like you schedule your hair appointments, meetings or your doctor visits. Make YOURSELF a priority!
How do you get your self-care?
Do you have a set time each week or during the month that you devote to doing something for yourself without any interruptions? Do you have time that you lock yourself in a room and meditate? Does your self-care include you spending money or is it something that is completely free? How you practice self-care may differ from the way I do or the way someone else does, however as long as you are investing in self, you're spot on! Although it may seem like a task to schedule time for yourself, it is a must. Self-care isn’t just for those that are married or those that are super busy, everyone needs a self-care regimen!
Me Time with Me!
I recently went on a much-needed self-care day. I got an opportunity to cash in on my gift card from Mother's Day to a massage at Gould’s Spa. That 60 minutes of relaxation was amazing. I then followed up with a manicure and pedicure at a place here that I will not return for service again. Despite the downfall with their service, it felt good to be able to spend time away from my husband and child and focus on self. I had plans to do so much more, like do some window shopping, get my eyebrows tamed, etc. But laying on that table, I had time to think about some issues that have been on my mind. Being able to listen to what was going on around me and not hear “mommy, mama, ma, babe, Krystal, etc.” and break my concentration. *So Peaceful* Book your personal spa-day soon!
Here's My Two Cents
Please take the time to figure out what makes you happy and do it at least once a month. My husband is an extrovert, he enjoys going out and would every night if possible. To him going out is his "me time" or self-care. I’m the complete opposite, I hate meeting new people and doing things that involve being in crowds. I am an uber-introvert! Give me a spa day or some time to shop in a local boutique or some peace and quiet and I am H-A-P-P-Y!
No matter what it is that you deem "your time", take it. Make self-care an important thing. Add something daily, weekly or monthly that helps you align yourself with yourself! In the words of Representative Maxine Waters, “Reclaiming my Time”! Some of us need to take her advice a little more often. Take care of you!
How do you practice self-care? Is it daily? Weekly? Monthly? When is your scheduled "me time"? Share with us some of your "me time" activities or self-care regimens! Together we can inspire each other to invest in self!