When I was growing up my mom told me that when someone asks how you’re doing, you’re supposed to tell them that your fine. So for years I didn’t tell people when things were bad, because I didn’t think that I was allowed to.
It took me years to get seriously honest, and to say “I am not okay,” and I’ve learned some people genuinely care, and some people don’t.
I’ve also learned that sometimes I don’t always want to talk about what is wrong, but the knowledge that I CAN talk about how I am really feeling, that I have permission to, is a game changer.
We often hear people tell us “you don’t have to center yourself all the time,” which often translates to “don’t ever center yourself, don’t put yourself first, let someone else take the light instead of letting it be you,” in our minds, whether that is the original intention of the original comments or not.
The thing is that those of us with mental health issues don’t always know when it’s okay to center ourselves and when it’s not. When we feel like we are drowning, we call out for help, and we will continue calling out for help until someone hears us, for some people the “help me” behaviors can be annoying, or frustrating, but it’s genuinely not our fault that we don’t want to die.
We’re conditioned to believe that if we’re drowning, we should do whatever we can to survive, and if that means talking about and centering our mental health issues, that’s what we’re going to do.
Some people who are used to handling their issues on their own however, will judge us for asking for help, for centering our pain, because no one has ever given them permission to do the same and they often wonder why we are getting the help that they’ve been asking for for years.
When we talk about our pain, and our experiences, it’s not always just about venting, it’s about having a sounding board so that we can show the puzzle pieces of our pain, so that they can help us decipher what we’re seeing in ways that we’re not capable of seeing.
Sometimes for some folks, the healthy choice is to step away from us, because we are in fact causing them damage, and for other folks, we have to step away from the people we care about, because being around them causes more damage to our own lives, than good. And it can be hard to decipher which situation you are in.
Too many times in my life, people have looked at me and told me that my pain wasn’t important, or that my story didn’t matter, or they just walked away from me, in favor of helping people with “less” problems, and I’ve come to the conclusion that while I understand their reasonings…I am not looking for people who only want half of me.
I told my mom yesterday that my brain does not work the same way that those who have not experienced complex trauma works. I am learning how to adjust my behavior, and what I talk about and when, but if people are not willing to be patient with me, then it’s a clear sign that it’s not emotionally safe for me to be around them.
Say this with me:
My Experience, My Perception Is Not About You. It’s About me trying to find the balance I need to have a better quality of life.
Each of us are learning at such different paces, there are people who have 20, 30, 40, and even 50, years worth of life experience more than I have, and while they have found answers to question I am only just now learning to ask, they often get frustrated with me for not having the answers they already have.
It can be incredibly hurtful to realize that the people that you’re going to for answers, would rather turn their back on you, because the questions you’re asking are forcing them to open doors they thought they closed.
Sometimes we have to admit that although we want to learn from certain people, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to be the ones to teach us, and so we end up walking away in order to save everyone’s sanity.
I’ve done that a lot in my lifetime, and for the first time in my life, I am starting to recognize that I have to be a lot more careful about who I share my story with, when I share my story, and more importantly how I share my story.
It’s not just because I am the Loud Mouth Brown Girl, it’s also because whether or not I like it, there is a responsibility that comes with sharing my story, that I didn’t know I was supposed to be focusing on.
Learning that some people aren’t ready to hear what’s really going on with me, can be debilitating, especially when I feel like I am drowning, and I’m looking for any anchor I can find, to pull me out of the shit and save me.
I spend a lot more time talking to my blog about what I am going through than I do other people, because other people are not always prepared for the full weight of what it is that I am dealing with.
“Your story is amazing, it’s a phenomenal story, not everyone is going to believe that all these terrible awful things happened to one person. AND you survived? Devon, that’s incredibly intimidating.”My mommy
When we’ve been beaten down, abused, and traumatized, it’s hard to believe that anyone in the world can see “us” as the “individual” as intimidating, because intimidating often means strong, powerful, successful, talented, wise, and we don’t think of ourselves as any of those things.
When I found a group of people that looked like me, I dived head first in, allowing myself to be vulnerable, without considering how my actions, or what it was I had to say, was going to affect the people that I had come to care about.
I stepped away because I realized that they were not going to offer me the kind of support I needed, and because I couldn’t be what they needed me to be, and for the first time in my life I not only have no regrets, but I also hold no resentment. They gave me what I needed for a short while, and introduced me into many different ways of thinking, and I learned so much that I have no reason but to let them go with love.
But that being said, it took me a really long time to understand how to let people leave my life with love, because no one had ever taught me how. I came to this planet as a baby, trying to learn as much as I could, and as I got older I got a lot of very conflicting information.
Now that I am trying to adult, I am starting to realize that perception, and language, are very difficult for me. How I perceive what is being said, is not always the intention of what the person speaking, and I am also learning the opposite is true. Just because I mean to say something in 1 way, doesn’t mean the person hearing me, is hearing the words the way I intend for them to be heard.
In recent weeks I’ve been called too white, and told that I have a white gaze, I can’t help that. I cannot change the fact that I did not spend my teen and adult years around Black people, or Black culture, I am trying to learn – not so that I can fit in, but so that I can communicate, and laugh, and dance, but if people can’t be patient with me, then I can’t be around them.
I am writing about this because every week brings me closer to the person that I want to be, and in a very real way I feel like I am studying the world in a way that I’ve never had the capacity to do before. I am learning each week how to be a happier version of myself, but this week in particular, “patience” is a word that matters to me.
I feel very much like I am trying to catch up to all those who have had different or more difficult lessons than myself, and so while I’m trying to focus on my own studies, I am peeking over the aisle to see what you’re learning too. I want you to teach me, I want you to show me, but I won’t make myself smaller to make you more comfortable anymore.
I am big and tall and strong, and I won’t go back to being less of that, I won’t go back to the place where I stop acknowledging my good qualities, even as I learn about my toxic ones, and yes I am fully aware that I have toxic qualities.
It will take a special group of people to accept me with all of my being, but for those of you who have the courage to try, I am blessed by you and offer my thanks and my heart in return.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall
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2 thoughts on ““I Am Not Okay” World Famous @AfroBloggers Talks Mental Health And Here’s What I Discovered”
Hell yeah! What an awesome quote-where you said repeat after me:….
You are so ON POINT! Another thing complex trauma survivors do (especially when derived in childhood) is be told to keep that a secret from everybody & the shame that is put upon us we internalize & I have found sadly it usually does take many years & often never for some of us to realize our story & perspective DOES MATTER but yes, all too often when others are either uninformed or haven’t experienced something similar it’s like they don’t have the capability to take it on. It’s fucking a lot for us to carry so I actually kind of get it & think-good for them but that’s why they also question whether horrific news stories & our life stories are true. We’ve looked evil in the eye & know all too well how true it is. This is something my therapist greatly helped me with at the beginning of my healing process. Your husband, children, or family members (particularly who grew up in the same household) are not going to have the answers you’re searching for & it will quickly become overwhelming to them. Precisely. That is when I started putting up healthy boundaries & I tweak it here & there as I go along. That’s why fellow survivors especially the #CSAQT Twitter group chat has helped me find people who understand me & I them. I’ve never had that diverse amount of people like me in my life & the support is palpable! It’s truly awesome! Even therapists & Dr’s can only help to a certain extent. Having others that literally identify with you from their similar experiences & not just book knowledge is support & a sense of belonging on a level I hadn’t experienced. The isolation I went into all those years ago was because I didn’t feel like I belonged among people that couldn’t understand where I was coming from because I didn’t yet that isolation just lead to many many more problems. I didn’t have the emotional strength or bandwidth to take on anybody else’s issues because I was stuck in my own head which was constantly painful, traumatic flashbacks, depression that was worsening from year to year & eventually suicidal ideation. The guilt I carried just knowing I didn’t even want to exist anymore was immense especially for me personally because I was A young MOM at the time! How can a mom even feel that way I thought. Whether it was Rx’s, therapy, unconventional Rx (Ketamine Trials), & a hell of a lot of personal research from books, online, you name it I WAS SEARCHING-I wanted to have some relief. I find it so trite when people glibly say “It does get better with time” the fuck it does! It’s a hell of a daily battle which is exhausting & cumbersome! Rather pisses me off I’m paying the consequences of my own father, & grandfather who both stole my innocence (at different times) & crossed personal, emotional, sexual, & physical boundaries that should’ve never been breached by men who were supposed to love & nurture me & most of my siblings-4 out of 5 girls🥺, 1 brother who was spared yet grew up in that chaos so he’s paying the consequences too.
This past week I celebrated my 26th Anniversary with my hubs in a beautiful stone cabin with phenomenal picturesque views at Cheaha State Park & I couldn’t help but appreciate how far I (we as a family too) have come! This was no small feat for sure but the fact that I have a truly loving kind hubs, 2 beautiful children in college & the fact that we are thriving even though I often take 1 step forward 2 steps back & somedays even all these years later it’s all I can do to simply survive & put one foot in front of the other I continue to fight because that’s what it demands from me A FIGHT!
Thank you for your blog, Devon! It always strikes a chord in me & allows me to speak my truth when I’m inclined to & I greatly appreciate that & you!
Have you seen “The Me You Can’t See”? The Oprah/Prince Harry series on Mental Health? I have thoroughly appreciated each episode so far. It’s on AppleTV & well worth the watch in my opinion. I often find my UK Twitter buds & Canadians are ahead of the curb from where we are here in the states. That’s where that CSAQT-Childhood Sexual Assault & I always forget what the QT stand for 😂 chat I referred to originated from but of course they welcome everyone from anywhere.
I hope you & yours as well as anyone else who reads your blog a very happy Memorial Day weekend & ❤️ ❤️ & more ❤️! 🥰
Oh wow, thank you for sharing all of that with me. Yes it’s true it does get better in time, but then it gets bad again, and then it gets good again, and then bad, and so on and so forth. It’s a constant cycle, and sometimes a fucking battle, I am so happy you have found people to support you, to lift you up when you fall.
Thank you for reading the blog, it’s not just stat numbers for me, it’s confirmation that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life, and that means the world to me. Congrats on your anniversary, that’s amazing! Have a great day and don’t forget to join us for the mental health chat on the 27th ❤