When I was about eleven years old, I had this vision of myself, but in like a past life. I could hear bombs going off in the distance, and I could see a Black woman in a tan colored dress sitting at a typewriter trying to get the story out.
That vision convinced me that I come from a long line of women who desperately wanted to stand in their truth and tell stories. The truth is that I was born to be a writer, and I fancy myself as a bit of a historian.
These conversations that I am having about mental health and sexual abuse are important. They are a record that those of us having these conversations existed, that our lives have merritt and matter because we exist.
I am excited because today, in less than thirty minutes I am going to have a conversation with other Black women from across North America about mental health, and for the first time it’s not going to be about “me” it’s going instead, to be about “us.”
These conversations never happen. We don’t talk about our mental health as Black women, because we fall into the stereotypical trope that we are supposed to be strong all of the fucking time.
Y’all, Black women are tired.
That is a mood felt around the globe. We are tired, and we want to kick back and let someone else take the lead for a little while, but we can’t, because no one is going to do things the way that we need to have them done.
I started this website, because people weren’t talking about mental health the way that I try to talk about mental health. I wasn’t hearing that it was okay to be feel anxious, depressed, miserable, sad and lonely.
I wasn’t being told that it was okay for me to feel tired.
I needed someone to tell me, that it was okay to take a break, and I genuinely believe that this is why I had a complete and total nervous breakdown. I think this is why I went into the hospital at least three times in the last four years.
I think my body just couldn’t take any more change and stress. I think when I finally broke down I lost parts of myself, and while I feel better than I have in decades, (eyugh, I can’t believe I am old enough to say decades), I know that there is still a lot of work to do.
There is a lot of understanding that I have to learn how to have with myself. There is a lot of knowing that I need to be tender with myself when no one else will be. There is a lot of knowing that no matter what anyone else might think of me only “I” know the absolute truth of who I am.
No one told me this stuff growing up, I had to learn it on my own. I dealt with a lot of racism that I didn’t tell my mom about because I didn’t know how to express what was happening. I didn’t know how to vocalize what was “wrong” with me.
And that was a question I got a lot, “we’re just trying to figure out what is wrong with you,” was something I heard a ton growing up.
The truth was that there was nothing wrong with me, in particular, it wasn’t about me, it was about the people I was surrounded by who told me and taught me to believe that what I saw as racism wasn’t really racism, that I was just too sensitive.
Not being able to recognize racism when I saw it, confused me a lot and left me with a lot of blame and shame that wasn’t mine to carry. Now that I recognize it when I see it, I find an anger inside of myself when I am presented with racism that I can’t quite get right with.
Now when I look back at my life, I see the white men who think they used to own me, who thought they had the right to control me, and I feel sorry for them.
I feel sorry for them because they tried so desperately to destroy me and they absolutely failed.
I am strong because through my veins runs the blood of African women who toiled, worked and sacrificed so that I could have a better life. I was born from an English, Irish, Scottish, Gypsy woman who taught me that I deserve to love and be loved on my terms, no one else’s.
I have the kind of worth that comes from knowing that I deserve better, but it shouldn’t have taken me so long to get here.
It is absolutely imperative that we talk to our Black and Brown daughters about mental health, that we let them know it’s okay to have an off day. That once in awhile they might need a mental health break and that it’s healthy to do so.
It’s imperative that we teach our daughters how to check in with their emotions, so that they don’t have to struggle the way we did. It’s absolutely and truly absolutely needed, that we actually sit down with our daughters, and our sons, for that matter, and talk about choice, power and mental health.
If continue the tradition of not talking about the hard stuff when our kids are young, they will grow up believing that they can’t talk about them at all, and that is one cycle that you as a parent absolutely have the power to change.
It’s not easy, to sit down and talk about mental health with your kids, this I know for sure, but it’s important. It’s important to teach them the strength of their own power so they don’t question themselves when they are feeling weak or damaged by the toughness of the world.
So yes, I am excited to talk to other Black women about mental health, and I am excited to share that conversation with you.
I hope that you will learn from it, and feel encouraged by it, and while I am nervous because we all know I never feel Black enough, I am excited to learn that I am not alone.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall