So…I have a lot of feelings about what happened last night at Loud Mouth Brown Girl’s first ever live event and I have to tell you…I am really struck by how completely disappointed I am, and the various layers of disappointment that I am experiencing.
First off I want to talk about the layers of mental health, when you have something important to do, when you are putting yourself out there for the world to see, the anxiety that you end up facing can be enormous. Even the most famous superstars around the world get nervous when they have to preform in front of an audience filled with complete strangers.
- Will my message get across?
- Will I do a good job?
- Will I fall on my face?
I had about a dozen questions that I wanted to get through, throughout the evening, and I had planned the event to the last moment, knowing full well that there were going to be technical difficulties, and that I was nervous, while also understanding that the conversation was going to flow naturally as we continued to get to know each other.
I went over these questions no less than four times with my cohost Karen Unrue, specifically reminding her that I had a plan, and that my expectations of her were that she be there to help me keep the conversation on track.
The night before we had scheduled a zoom chat, to go over last minute details and make sure that we were on the same page. Karen was more than two hours late for a meeting that she specifically requested, which felt like a bit of a dig, but I chose to let it go.
When we finally did meet up, it was a moment of “oh, so this is really going to be about you,” and Karen spent the entire time we were together talking about herself, her experience, and ignoring any effort I tried to make to get us to talk about the event, and ended up being a conversation where Karen casually decided it would be okay to drop the N-word.
We were talking about how racism had affected my mental health, and she made a comment about how Black people in Europe are treated and then bomb, there it was.
I ended the conversation as quickly as I could and I spent the rest of the evening trying to focus on the fact that my own mental health has been a fucking shit storm this week. Filled with vivid memories of my trauma and all the people who contributed to it, without considering how their actions had affected me, and it just felt like a lot.
On Sunday the 27th, the big day was here, the weather was so hot it felt like the Devil herself had taken a huge fart across the city and released ten thousand years of heat and torture into the universe. An egg could have been fried on the floor.
I spent the day taking a shower, taking a nap because I hadn’t slept the night before, and doing whatever I could to keep the anxiety down.
When the event started Karen was late, which was not unsurprising to be honest, as we had agreed to meet 20 minutes prior to the beginning of the event to go over the plan one more time.
By the time that Karen showed up, we were already running late, and as it turns out due to technical issues a lot of people were unable to get into the room and I couldn’t change the settings to make it easier for them to get into the room, so my anxiety was at an all time high.
I was already nervous because of all my own issues, and because of the issues I was having someone that I both respected and considered a friend, but I started the event and tried to go on as if nothing was wrong.
It just kept getting worse.
Karen continued to interrupted people throughout the event, she centered her own experience to show off how smart she thinks she is, and whenever I would offer a response to something that was said by one of the other attendants, she went out of her way to speak above me, interrupt me, and turn it into a “Look at how smart Karen is,” kind of show.
I was angry for a lot of reasons. I was angry because she had used the N-word without even stopping to take a breath to see how I’d feel about it, I was angry because it was a Loud Mouth BROWN Girl event, and it felt like the Karen Unrue show, and I was angry because at the end of the evening one of the people who spoke the least, sent me a message to tell me they were sorry if they had “centered themselves.” I wanted to scream.
I had asked for Karen to be my cohost, because it was my first ever event, and to be honest I was afraid t stand on my own two feet, I didn’t think I could pull it off without help, and I had hoped that having a supportive friend there would make it a great event.
Especially because Karen has a lot of experience as a patient dealing with mental health, and I know that that experience is something that a lot of people are looking towards. “Show me how to heal,” is the mentality when we’re in the thick of it, and we’re looking for people who can show us how it’s done.
I sat here for ten minutes after the event was over, just feeling incredibly disappointed, incredibly discouraged, and feeling completely deflated, and that’s not how I should have felt after my first live stream event for this website.
At the far beginning of the evening, Karen made a joke that she didn’t understand why people don’t like “Karen’s,” my former friend…this is why. Towards the end of the evening she made a joke about me “needing” to be interrupted, and by that moment I was completely done with her, and with the event and I just wanted it to be over.
I am really upset that I didn’t stand up for myself, but to be honest I was so shocked that Karen had gone so far out of her way to derail my event, that I honestly….I just didn’t have the courage.
This isn’t because I am spineless, it’s because after years of sexual abuse and trauma, I didn’t expect this kind of behavior from another survivor.
I can’t really go into this conversation without talking about the fact that the white women in the room centered themselves in an event that was in totality designed by a woman of color. I addressed this issue with one of the other participants, who acknowledged that they could have done better to make space, but I also recognize that this specific person, is also someone who doesn’t really have a lot of people to talk the trauma with, and thus went into overload.
Karen’s behavior was every bit as abusive and dismissive, ignorant, and abhorrent, as Black and Brown women have been complaining about for years, and I resent the fact that instead of celebrating my first big event for LMBG, I have to sit here and talk about how hurt, and abused I felt when it was over.
This was designed, specifically, so that “I” could connect to other survivors and learn from their experience. So that I could take whatever it was they might have said, and fold it into my own life so that I could get better. The hope was that anyone watching would leave thinking “I could do that too, it could get better for me too,” and as it turned out I left the event just wanting to cry.
I am really angry, and I told Karen that, and I also told her that I would not be inviting her back to any future events, and while she offered an apology, I don’t think the full weight of her behavior has or will hit home and that’s the frustrating part.
It’s bad enough dealing with mental health issues, but when you’re dealing with mental health issues as a person of color who has the added experience of being ignored, neglected, and told that your voice doesn’t matter, having a friend reinforce those insecurities just makes it all the worse.
I am still angry but I am also grateful. When Karen left the chat, those of us who remained decided that we would do the event again in the future, and that we would start a Facebook group in order to stay connected, because we want to continue having conversations about our mental health and our mental health “experts”.
I realized that I have to get comfortable putting my foot down, because it’s not something that I am good at, but especially so when it is a white English woman who is reminiscent of my own white English mother.
I feel deflated, and I feel discouraged by the fact that I didn’t stand up for myself in the moment, but I also recognize that I was trying to be professional. I feel like I was bullied, and what’s worse, was that not only was it coming from a friend, but it was coming from another woman who did it on a live stream, and instead of sticking around after to talk to the guests, she took off as if to say “this doesn’t really matter to me.”
I don’t feel comfortable sharing “this” specific series of emotions on the blog, but I feel even less comfortable not talking about it, because for years I refused to talk about what I was going through, because I was too afraid to stand up for myself.
Talking about what happened last night, here on the blog, is my way of standing up for myself. It’s also my way of saying that it’s never, ever, okay for anyone to make you feel like your voice is unimportant or like your thoughts or feelings are wrong, because your experience is not their experience.
I am going to be a lot more careful about who I invite into my inner circle in the future, and I want to apologize to everyone for not being more firm in the moment, I am going to work on it as much as I possibly can.
Until next time my loves,
Devon J Hall