Forgive me for I have lived my life outside of the publics eye, and it was wonderfull. I normaly live my ife on social media and for the past six months I decided to take a step back for multiple reasons. But this essay is not going to be about my personal life; I want to talk about mental health in the black community. Not that other groups of races don’t deal with mental health issues, it’s more that I grew up in the West while being raised by an African mother with a completly different culture compared to my Dutch stepfather. He is still the only father figure I have ever known in my life and I love him very deeply. My mother also raised me with so much love and care but at the same time she was dealing with her culture shock, post traumatic stress syndrom because of the war in Angola on her own. Despite that I also love her very deeply and this essay is not to discourage them or condemn them in any way possible. With that being said lets talk about mental health in the African Diaspora.
Most of my peers grew up in the western part of Rotterdam. A predominantly poor neighborhood filled with young (single) parents who fled their country and where mostly from African descent. We flocked together like birds and whenever one single mother was in need the other home or household would support them. Most family’s where torn apart and scattered across the globe. Your neighbors become your family and the only way to survive is by joining the collective. Being in a safe country but still having to deal with trauma from the past and a completely new culture can have its toll on the individual and most kids needed to find emotional solace someplace else.
I used to read a lot of books and the fantasy world I created made it easier for me to deal with the hars reality of living in a poor neighborhoud. I used to find needles in the park where we played as kids, the prostitutes and junkies where a comming sight walking to school and most of us did find it normal. But what happens when you grow up and every single day whenever you open your eyes the first thought that comes to mind is ‘how am I going to survive today?’. You can take the child out of the war filled country but how do you take the war out of the child?
We all grew up knowing a junkie, a prostitute, an inmate, someone who got stuck in a psychosis and so on. We all got tainted by our inverement in a way eventhough we love our friends, family, classmates and the life we grew up in. Whenever my stepdad entered our lives and my baby sister was born I saw a completly different side of the west. One day sippin cocktails poolside (I kid you not) and the next I was playing with refugees in a refugee center. Now that I’m nearing my thirties I am so gratefull to have seen diffrent worls growing up. It enriched me in an magnificent way and at the same time it does feel liek an entrapment. I want to be seen as a normal Dutch kid but I have seen to mutch to be ‘normal’.
The first time I had an anxiety attack I thought I was over reacting. I pushed everyone that loved me away and started praying because ‘only the devil could hurt me’ right? I think it is that type of mentality that does more harm than good in the African diaspora. Yes I also grew up in the catholic church and whenever I was going through grief, depression or anxiety it was always the devils fault. Now at twenty seven years old I can actually see why a lot of my peers or suffering in silence. And this needs to end now. Here are the three main reasons why a lot of us get stuck and what to do about it.
Time’s Up so SPEAK UP
We are thought early on to NOT AIR OUR DIRTY LAUNDRY
You are going thorugh hell and open up to a family member. The next day you get a (mental/physical) beating because you told someone. Eventhough you’re not a child anymore, this believe is so engrained in our culture that it is hard for us to open up to anyone. What you could do is find a professional therapist where you can talk to. Someone who doesn’t know you or your family and could give semi obejctive advise. Try to find someone who understand different cultures or is from a different culture than the western one. Someone who can relate to the cultural differences instead of projecting the Western culture onto your childhood or traumatic experiences. Besides finding a professional find one or two close friends where you can open up to completly. Someone who will listen too you without judgement. We are lucky if we have one person we can call a friend. And for those who find it hard to be vulnerable (or not) write everything down on a daily basis. Try to find some time every single day and write all your thought and feelings down and remember; do NOT censor yourself.
Move your body (just like Black Panter)
Yes for everyone who saw Black Panter and is out of touch with their African heritage..movement is where we come from. We used to dance every single day, man and women. Why? Because it is the only way to deal with your emotions. In the west we are thought to rationalize everything and a lot of things are head based. But once you move your body, guess what? Your troubles will fade away and you will be present in your body. So whatever works for you, put on some music and dance like there is no tomorrow, whatever you do for the next three to six minutes, don’t stop moving. Shake, twerk, roll, pop and lock or moonwalk your way out of your head into your body. Try it for thirty days, I guarantee you you will not regret this.
Stop the victim mentality – We are ALL BIAS
Yes we had it rough but guess what, talking and or complaining about it won’t change a thing. It will only justify why you are being or feeling stuck/depressed/sad/victimized. So take back your power, you are not a victim. Yes they used to ridicule you, burn you, murder, rape or violate you, but guess what; the oppressor never worked alone and the real betrayal was done by our own people. Yes your ancestors where bought and sold or trated for mirrors and guns, but guess what white people are NOT your enemy. It is the colonial mentality, the so called souvenir that is still enslaving us to date. We are all biased and it is time to do the work and learn about our own subconscious bias that is still keeping us apart from each other. So love yourself. Take back your power. You are not a victim. Look for your own faults and blind spots; educate yourself. Bring out the best in you and thrive my brothers and sisters. The time is now. And yes time’s up; we can’t repeat our history. Stop abusing any substance t numb your discomfort. Listen to it
I want to end this essay with a lot of love. Trust your intuition, love the culture you where born in and the one you stem from. If you didn’t like the movie Black Panter of Get Out that’s fine but know one thing. Our story’s are being told by our perspective and if you find yourself in an environment where you constantly have to explain/defend yourself or where you don’t feel comfortable for whatever reason; MOVE you are not a tree. Remember that our ancestors would have loved to live today. So please heal for your children’s children and for our mothers mother, our parents parents are watching from afar and they are so proud… if you only knew. I love you, I honor you, I AM ANOTHER YOU.
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by Whitney Marcial