Healing is an Act of Resistance: Three Things Black Women can Learn from Megan and Naomi about Mental Health.
Once again, the media judges and debates the mental health of a high profile black woman. Black women have long ignored their mental health because the fear of not being believed is a real problem that we grapple with, whether it’s sharing our concerns with Doctors or mental health professionals.
There is also a stigma around mental health in the community and the world, so when a black woman comes forward and speaks about their well-being and gets vilified and mocked, it sends a message to others, ‘don’t speak up.
However, speaking up is a sign of strength and courage. It takes bravery to speak, knowing there’s a high possibility you will not receive sympathy and compassion.
Despite that, these women chose to speak anyway, so black women let us learn from the example of Naomi and Megan and use healing as an act of resistance. Healing will send a message to the establishment that we are hurting, and we will no longer ignore our pain.
The fact that black women face a constant struggle to be heard and believed is a problem. We have long suffered from labels that criminalize, victimize, and dehumanize us. The fight to be heard can be choosing your mental health and doing everything within your control to heal. Use healing as an act of resistance.
Here are three things we can learn from Megan and Naomi and five things we can do as black women to heal in a world that chooses to ignore our pain.
It takes courage to heal, the kind of courage that lets people be honest with themselves and admit where they are and be so unapologetically: no hiding, pretending, and no looking out and wondering what others might think. This kind of courage is uncommon, but it’s accessible to all. Naomi chose to pull out of the French open, and Megan decides to speak against a system that is thousands of years old.
Overthinking and feeling overwhelming emotions might accompany the decision to speak out; however, you can learn how to order your feelings by focusing on things that are in your control.
Megan and Naomi must have learnt how to be comfortable with the discomfort. They chose courage over fear. I imagine the fear of speaking out and running the risk of being dismissed and labelled was as intense for them as it will be for you as you decide what courage looks like for you. However, they stood nonetheless. Many chose to not speak for fear of being labelled an angry black woman or seen as unable to cope. These are strong feelings that can influence a woman to stifle how they feel and push through.
For many, courage might seem an expensive treat for the privilege because speaking out might mean job loss or losing their children to social services. However, you can cultivate courage. It will grow one choice at a time.
Courage could look like asking your GP/Doctor for a mental health assessment or speaking with a helpline about how you are feeling. Courage could be educating yourself around mental health and learning strategies to cope that is not rooted in denial. Courage is acknowledging that something is wrong and taking steps to help yourself to heal.
It will take a robust support system to help you build and maintain the courage that you will need to follow through on any decision. I am sure both Megan and Naomi have support systems that believe them and is unwavering in their efforts to help. The courage to stand needs a steady backing amidst the storm of other people’s opinions.
Do you know anyone steady in a storm? A place you can go to get comfort and be who you need to be without judgement and criticism? Maintain safe and supportive relationships and eliminate anyone who will try to dissuade you from getting help.
Manage your emotions.
Be intelligent to your emotions, learn how to harness them, and use that strength to your advantage.
When you learn how to listen to your feelings and learn what it’s saying to you, then you can learn how to put those to work in your favour.
Deep breathing helps us stay calm in the face of enormous pressures. It soothes the emotional brain and gives us access to the frontal lobe, where we do reasoning and thinking. A simple strategy that helps you stay in control despite what is happening.
Black women often get tagged with the negative stereotype of the ‘’angry black woman, and therefore, many of us are accustomed to holding emotions in an attempt not to get labelled.
However, freedom comes from understanding those emotions and using them to express yourself clearly and succinctly.
Our feelings don’t disappear when we ignore them. Instead, they reappear in other ways and becomes more disruptive.
These Six things will help maintain courage, your support system and help to manage emotions.
Be aware of inside and outside threats.
Internal threats are those things like your thoughts that
impact how you feel and act. Outside threats are things external to you that has a similar effect. Outside threats are people, the media, social media, family and friends. To heal, we need to be aware of both and develop
strategies to cope.
Having a safe space to talk about how you feel is crucial. Establish a community where people understand your struggle and help validate your experiences.
Being able to talk and release pent up emotions will help you regain a sense of peace.
Know your triggers
Triggers are things that remind you of a past painful or
traumatic event. Triggers will sometimes manifest themselves as a physical symptom of anxiety, panic attacks etc. Naomi decided to not give an interview because of how she felt. You, too, might need to make tough decisions in service of your mental health. Having a supportive community can help you speak up for yourself.
When triggered, we might experience feelings of anger,
fear, sadness, nervousness and sometimes headaches, chest pains and back pain.
Take regular breaks, even short ones, will help. Take
time out of your routine and do something different.
Find a safe space where you feel safe and relax.
Black people don’t have many spaces where they can fully relax and feel safe. We are still on edge at work at church at play; sometimes, to cope, we are often one person at home and another out in the world.
Being on edge can put your body under pressure
which might result in unexplained pains; therefore, it’s necessary to have spaces where you can fully relax and be at ease.
Laughter is good medicine.
Engage in activities that made you laugh with your
whole being. Stay present and enjoy each moment. Stay alert for opportunities to help you relax.
When we try to stay at peace, looking after our bodies is
as important as protecting our minds. Make exercise a regular part of your routine. Exercise is an
excellent way to relieve stress and relaxes tense muscles. It helps with breathing and enhances digestion.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean an expensive gym membership; instead, take advantage of the great outdoors, take regular walks around the block or find green spaces such as parks to exercise.
A popular Uk supermarket has this slogan — every little help. Likewise, if you are intentional in making small changes daily, they will add up to helping maintain good mental health.