If you look at the people in your circle, and you are not feeling inspired you don’t have a circle you have a cage.Nipsy Hustle
I heard this in a chat with Trish Roberts today, and it struck such an important cord with me.
In my old circle of friends I never really felt like I belonged, I always felt like I was wearing a costume, but the thing is that the costume came so easily to me, I didn’t really think about how it was affecting me.
It wasn’t until I had the nervous breakdown of 2017 that I started to realize that I had been holding in a lot of resentments against pretty much every person I had ever known.
A lot of those resentments came from the fact that when I, a strong Black woman did ask for help, I was rebuffed.
I remember one time being at a “meeting” I said to someone that I was really struggling, and that I needed help. The person I was talking to completely ignored me and said “you know who really needs help..” and went on to talk to someone who later died.
It was a painful experience, because I started to feel guilty and ashamed for being angry, knowing someone else had needed help and didn’t get it. I was genuinely afraid that I was going to die from all the pain that I was in, and the people that were supposed to help me, just didn’t care to.
A lot of that stems from this idea that Black women are there to help everyone, and don’t need help themselves when that mentality couldn’t be further from the truth.
In 2020 Black women specifically are focusing on mental health in ways we just didn’t twenty, thirty or forty years ago. We are learning so much more about mental health and its affects on the body and the mind, than we understood back when I was growing up.
Part of that mental health journey is learning that I need to have other Black women in my circle. I met someone today who was lighter skinned than I am, and it hit me…I’m not the only Black girl who doesn’t “look” Black, I am not the only one whose left out of the conversation because of the lightness of my skin.
That was such an inspiring moment for me, and for someone who hasn’t felt truly inspired by other people for a very long time, it’s one that I am going to carry with me for the rest of my life.
When I first wrote Uncomfortable, one of the first things I did when it was over, was to cry my heart out. And even though people may not understand from the outside looking in, it wasn’t tears of joy that I was crying.
I was crying because of all the lost time that I had given up to remain inside my cage. I was mourning all the times when I could have had opportunities or advancements in my career and sabotaged them to protect my secrets.
I never wanted anyone to know what I had gone through, I never wanted anyone to see me as anything other than a strong Black woman, and thus I kept my secrets to myself, which translated to me not being mature enough to handle more responsibility in my chosen field.
Now that I am no longer working in the mental health world exclusively the way I did before, I can pull myself back from my past and understand that the reasons that I did a lot of things was out of fear people would learn my secrets.
Being open with my experiences and my stories doesn’t come naturally to me. It only happened because I started reaching out to the Brown Girl Blogging community so that I could find others who had been through some of the same stuff that I had been through.
Although our experiences are vastly different, knowing that other Black women specifically have been abused and were taught not to talk about it, helps me to know that I am on the right path.
It feels like the right time to say that I am excited about my future, largely because of my Black friends, because they keep inspiring me in ways that my White friends never did.
Part of that is knowing that the people I used to spend time with had such a limited world view. They didn’t care about social issues the way that I do, and they didn’t feel the social responsibility to help others the way I do. Which isn’t to say there is something wrong with that, we were all just very different people with nowhere else to go.
Now that I am out of that circle, I finally feel free to say all the things that I was holding back out of fear. The truth is that I love my old circle very much, they got me through some tough times, but I outgrew that party until dawn phase a long time ago and the only thing I want to do now is work.
I want to work on myself, I want to help others work on themselves, I want to learn from other Black women and to connect with them on a spiritual level.
One of the women today inspired a conversation about religion, and it hit me, that the reason I’ve felt so disconnected all these years from my own spiritual path, wasn’t just that I was sexually violated by a Priest, but because so much of my Catholic identity was built by people who were White.
My Teachers, The Priest, my school Principal and Vice Principal, I didn’t have many people of color who understood what it felt like to be the only brown person at the table, and those who did have melanin in their skin, weren’t Black.
Now that I am older and being intentional about who I surround myself with, I am feeling far more inspired and far more refreshed than I ever have before. And that includes having White friends who understand deeply that sometimes they don’t understand at all.
It’s so important, imperative really for people who are not of color, to understand that there are just some experiences they will never have to deal with, and I really appreciate that my White friends are doing their best to give me the space I need to spread my wings.
So I ask ladies, how are you connecting with each other? how are you ensuring that you foster those relationships with people who look like you? Let us know in the comments below.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall