Black Women, Lay Down The Weight Of The World And Lean Into Your Feelings
What we’re experiencing now is all a part of our journey. It won’t always be this way.
August 12, 2020 at 6:22 pm
It’s safe to say we are living in unprecedented times. And if you're Black, it’s even more troubling.
Our Forever First Lady, Michelle Obama, recently mentioned on her podcast that she was dealing with low-grade depression, and it was at that moment that I said, “Me too.” According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, such as sadness, hopelessness and feeling like everything is an effort.
The ongoing negative news cycle, COVID-19, health disparities in the Black community, the racial injustices, unemployment, constant videos of Black bodies being murdered at the hands of police, social media, politics — it’s all overwhelming. But what do you do? You continue to show up with a smile on your face day in and day out because, as a Black woman, we are taught to be tough and strong in the face of adversity. And while I am strong, for the past five months I’ve also been feeling anxiety, uncertainty, pain, hurt, stress and just a vast range of emotions. I am no stranger to these feelings.
When I was in elementary school, I saw a therapist monthly to help me process similar feelings. I struggled with anxiety and depression as a child, so now at 36 I assumed that I was fine — until the pandemic hit. When we were forced into lockdown and people began dying at rapid speed, and then the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, it all brought me to my knees in grief. It opened up the door to old feelings and emotions that I thought had been laid to rest.
According to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's nonprofit, Lean In, Black Women are among the hardest hit by the coronavirus unemployment crisis, which has added to the stress and pressure for Black Women to feel the need to create and to be the overachiever in the pandemic.
If you are not able to write that book or create the next best thing during this global crisis, that is OK. You are not any less than; you are human.
Black Women are the most economically vulnerable, carrying a heavy burden in this pandemic. This is why I always advocate for hiring Black people, specifically Black women, and especially now. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research says that four out of five Black mothers (79%) are breadwinners, with a majority of Black mothers (56%) raising families on their own. Imagine what happened when COVID-19 struck these households. It decimated these families.
The saying, “check on your strong friends,” is real. And especially in the uncharted times we are in, it’s even more important. Black women and Black families are suffering in silence because of the fear of being judged for needing assistance. This shame leads to desperation and feeling hopeless. I am usually the bubbly one, uplifting, complementing, encouraging, cheering on and reassuring, but in these last few months, I’ve had to sit in my own feelings and allow myself to process and cope with these emotions.
What I’ve learned in experiencing these emotions is to change my thoughts. I have the power to change course on anything that doesn’t serve my greater good. When my mind starts to go there or my spirit starts to get low, I shift my thoughts to positive images and things.
It’s important for me to do things that bring me joy. I find solace in going for a walk, talking to my husband, FaceTiming my family in Dallas, group texting with my friends and in saying "no" unapologetically. I believe heavily in self care, and during the pandemic it’s been even more critical to do those things for myself.
I also find great joy in immersing myself in my work.
As a journalist, like many other industries, I had to shift. I went from face-to-face on red carpets, to interviewing virtually. Although that was a big adjustment, I’ve made the best of it. I love hearing the stories of my guests and how they went from dreaming big to actually living out those dreams. There is this common universal theme in their stories, and that is the journey. I think a lot of times we get stuck on getting to the destination that we don’t enjoy the in-between.
What we’re experiencing now is all a part of our journey. It won’t always be this way. We won’t always be on stay-at-home orders, social distancing and wearing masks. But if we can use this time to learn, grow, feel and simply just be present in the moment, we can use it for our good, and the good of others, when we arrive on the other side.
It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to lean into our feelings and allow ourselves the permission to just be the beautiful, imperfect human beings that we are.
If you, or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed and experiencing anxiety or depression you are not alone. Please visit the Disaster Distress Helpline by calling 1-800-985-5990, or texting TalkWithUs to 66746.