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How was strength modeled for you as a child?
For me, sadness, depression, and nervousness weren’t useful emotions. Those feelings got hit with comments like, “Well, sis you better bare knuckle through it to get stuff done. Cause your mommy, daddy and big momma worked hard for the life you’re living now with less. You got this!” *Insert me awkwardly smiling here*
I’ve spent the past few years trying to shed the shame of not living up to other people’s expectation of strength.
Masking emotions doesn’t feel like much of an option for me – a person whose feelings are more like third-degree burns. I’ve cried enough tears to flood the Nile. Anxiety is an electric storm in my body – an energy I’ve struggled to cope with for a long time. Expressing my emotions was like speaking English and a foreign language in the same breath. Both in childhood and adulthood, bullies used me as a verbal target practice for being “too emotional,” “too sensitive” – just too much.
I felt validated when Megan Thee Stallion, Queen Real Hot Girl Shit herself, dropped her website: badbitcheshavebaddaystoo.com. The site provides a wealth of mental health and wellness resources for Black and LGBTQ+ folks, such as directories like Therapy for Black Girls and multiple numbers you can call or text if you’re struggling with domestic violence, substance use or in a mental crisis.
On Wednesday, I started group therapy. It’s a continuation of the trauma-healing work I’ve been doing for a few years now. I say this out loud because, like Megan, I want to end the stigma of talking about our mental health. It’s ok not to be OK. Asking for help doesn’t make you any less of a baddie, y’all.
A fellow journalist asked me what I do for fun. I said healing.
I’m all about finding ways to soothe my inner child, breaking unhealthy patterns and replacing them with love, grace and respect for myself and others. I’m showing love to the person I created for survival so I can embrace the authentic woman I am becoming in my 30s.
There are other folks along with Megan who are helping us find joy by breaking the stigmas, taboos and barriers stopping us from taking charge of our wellness. Ignoring our mental health for the sake of resiliency is making us sick – and, in severe cases, killing us. We deserve to thrive, too.
So forward this newsletter to your friends and fam so we can model better ways to be strong together – for ourselves and the next generation.
Let’s heal y’all.
Big boys do cry
Licensed professional counselor James Harris wants to change up the stats when it comes to Black men and boys’ mental health.
The numbers are dismal, y’all. The ratchetness of racism creates heightened psychological distress for Black Americans and the rate of major depressive disorder among young Black adults has increased. Stigma, lack of cultural competency and racial bias running amuck in the mental health field are a few of the reasons why Black Americans – especially Black men – are less likely to seek mental health treatment.
As the founder of the Men to Heal movement, James is spreading awareness on YouTube, the Gram and in his community about the importance of Black men taking charge of their mental health. He opened the Healing Hub in 2019 in his hometown of Richmond, Va. It’s a one-stop shop where the Black community can repair their mind and body relationship through outpatient therapy, yoga, zumba, mindfulness classes and other resources. For Black men and boys looking to express themselves in healthy ways, James hooked y’all up with his interactive journal. For y’all who are boo’d up or single but ready to mingle, James created the “Cheesy Dates Board Game” as an innovative way to work on your communication skills while increasing spontaneity and having meaningful conversations.
James has experienced gaps in the mental health field throughout his life. And he wants to have a word with the predominantly white industry.
“Mental illness is not one-size-fits-all. One’s race, culture, tribe, values and upbringing will all play a major role in honing the mold for mental illness. Factor in a systemic lack of trust in outside treatment, limited access and availability and you’re looking at a culture of bottled-up stress, unresolved grief and trauma,” James preached. “Black males need a safe place to land and a place to feel welcomed and validated. There should be no assumptions about what a Black man may feel or want. The provider should ask and try to deliver based on that response.”
You can read more about how James is doing the good Lord’s work in mental health in my story. But as bonus content, James gave us some insight on preventing generational curses by teaching the young boys and teens in our lives how they can take care of their mental health.
- First off, keep discouraging words out your mouth. Phrases such as “boys don’t cry” can cause a child to equate vulnerability with weakness: “The more we let our guard down and embrace our feelings because those are human emotions, the better off society will be based on those things. It’s a lot of people who could have been saved if they were able to express themselves without being judged or chastised.”
- And second off, check their circle (and yours, too): “Surround them with people that’s displaying joy and doing what they have to do from the standpoint of growth.”
Healing is a journey. Not a destination.
I stumbled upon this word on Black Twitter: “If I have to go through anymore character development my character is going to develop into a villain.”
I think many of us can relate to that message. Unlearning old habits can wear you out, and at the same time, some people will test your healed self. If your healing journey has left you stressed, exhausted and a little hard on yourself, take a scroll through Melenie Brown’s TikTok and Instagram. Sis is a 28-year-old licensed mental health counselor associate near Indianapolis. Her soothing voice and gentle, loving and encouraging pep talks are exactly what y’all need on your timelines and FYP. Some of my favorite messages by her:
- It’s still a privilege to know you – even when you are imperfect
- Healing is a quiet journey
- Appreciate where you are in this season of your life. You are where you’re supposed to be.
Melenie, like a lot of us, downloaded TikTok in 2020. But she didn’t start using it for wellness purposes until she started healing from a situationship this past summer. TikTok became a tool she used to encourage herself, but hundreds of thousands of fellow TikTokers have resonated with the lessons she shared as she healed her heartbreak. Melenie chatted with us about how heartbreak led her to healing her core wound of abandonment, how she challenged her own narratives about therapy and why she’s sowing wisdom on social media.
Care to tell us what led you on this healing journey?
I’m a very big relationship person. My parents are always like, “You love so heavily and it kind of hurts you sometimes when people don’t reciprocate that love.” I went through something when I was 12, and I was really connected to someone who was my only friend at that time.They kind of severed the relationship out of nowhere on me. When you’re homeschooled and you don’t really have friends like that, it just hits you in a different way. I can remember thinking, “If I do certain things certain ways people will stay.” I just kept processing like that.
Fast forward to my adult years. I got into two situationships the last year and some friendships ended. This is after I expressed to those individuals, “Hey, when people leave or don’t communicate, I get nervous.” And so when they left I was like, “Its got to be me. I gotta be the problem.” I’m a big faith person as well. So you add in God, my family – a great family at that – and I was like, “I don’t need therapy.” But soon I was like, “No. You need therapy. Everybody needs therapy. It’s not gonna kill anyone to get therapy.” So I got this amazing African American therapist. She’s my heart, but she just was real with me about where I was at. She was like, “Well, you got some abandonment issues here.”
How did that abandonment wound influence how you saw yourself?
I recognized all the places where I put my value in other people’s hands instead of just taking my value for what it was. People would compliment me like, “You’re so beautiful. You’re gorgeous.” And I would be like, “You say that, but this person left me.” I would always equate it back to the people who left instead of accepting the fact that people who leave have their own issues. Once I stopped making my value about other people’s personal decisions, it just got easier for me to grow again, easier for me to love, and I still love those people very much. And I still wish them all the best. I just recognize your traumas are not me, and it’s not my fault.
What was your process in healing your abandonment wounds?
The first person I held accountable was myself. I was like, “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. It’s me and you, girl. All the time.” So I started talking to myself like somebody I loved. I was letting myself know that if everybody else leaves, it’s still you and me. I stopped taking my family for granted and started really appreciating the fact they were there. I know that’s not everybody’s testimony, but I started to focus on people who decided to stay.
When I started doing that, it was amazing the kind of people I started meeting and all the ways my own mind and heart were able to open up to the different perspectives around me. I wasn’t just stuck at one perspective anymore, or one way of healing. I was able to see healing even in the small things like getting a cup of coffee with a friend, watching a movie or going for a walk with someone and just talking about life without there being any pressure or expectations.
You mentioned earlier that you questioned whether or not you needed therapy because you had your faith and a loving family. I think it’s a common misconception that if you have God you’re good. You need both prayer and therapy, too. How did you change that narrative in your mind to accept the fact you needed help?
In 2022, I got out of that situationship where I thought it was going to work with that person. I remember thinking, “Why do I keep putting myself in situations where people leave me? I’m reading self help books and I still continue to choose the same pattern.” So I needed insight from somebody who didn’t know me, but wasn’t going to judge me. Even the Bible talks about seeking wise counsel. My best bet was to try therapy and see what happens.
It’s actually funny because after a couple of sessions, I was almost like, “I don’t think I need this.” Then around our third session, my therapist brought up the abandonment issues, and I just fell apart. She was like, “No, ma’am. You’re not done.”
You talk about multiple lessons on your TikTok and Instagram. What do you want viewers, and even your clients, to get out of those experiences?
Hope. Healing. Permission to move forward. I think a lot of times we give ourselves permission to stay, but we don’t give ourselves permission to go. Knowing that you’re not alone is also a big deal because everybody makes it seem so easy. They say, “Just let it go. Just get over it.” And I’m like, “This hurts. This is a struggle.” I think we get into our brains that “I’m a weak-minded person” or “I’m not strong because I have to work at it and it comes so naturally for other people.” We’re not recognizing that this takes work. so I want people to know that someone sees that you’re trying and it’s okay.
When you’re feeling mentally drained, music can calm you and give a much needed recharge. From the Black Joy team, here’s a playlist to help you embrace your feelings, calm your mind, and let the joy in. (And here is a link just in case the technology acts wack.)
Spread the Black Joy by hugging your inner child! See y’all Friday!