Black Women and Mental Health
Yes I know this isn’t the cheeriest topic for Christmas but talking about Mental Health is important for all. Following on from my recent one on men and Mental Health I of course recognise that Black Women and Mental Health is a whole other issue. Not only are we less likely to get help until we reach crisis point but we are more likely to be over institutionalised, over medicated and stigmatised so Mental Health is a tricky subject.
Just to note this is not about chronic Mental Health. This is environmental, trauma based mental health which is acute in nature but can in fact change how you interact with the world and become part of your ‘personality’. I found myself holding everyone else up but, not myself. So, I’ll start by telling you my story and hope that it helps.
Me and My Mental Health
I’ve been relatively lucky with my Mental Health for a number of reasons. Both parents work in related fields so can spot signs, I’ve been in therapy a couple of times before, I work in the field and so does one of my close friends. So I’m blessed! But not immune.
When I was diagnosed with a chronic illness in 2016 I did what most people do and fought it instead of accepting its existence in my life and learning to live symbiotically with said disease which I now lovingly call Theo and Thelma (depending on how it’s acting). So things were ok for a while. Yes I had developed anxiety, sleeplessness and a bit of a temper as a side effect but overall I was one of the lucky ones. Ok who am I kidding, I’ve always had a temper.
With lockdown I was working 12-18-hour days as Social Care imploded on itself and Local Authorities battled to get people out of hospitals and home or into care homes. Every day was a different drama. Then I lost 4 people through sudden or Covid adjacent deaths. But, you battle through because what else can you do, no time for grief. You just have to get on with living.
The Rat attack
Luckily, it wasn’t debilitating for me. I managed to balance my diet and lifestyle and work… or so I thought!
I first noticed I was struggling to juggle everything end of May time and ended up spending a month at my mum’s. Work was beyond ridiculous and people wanted to video meet about nonsense that could easily have been a meeting. Work Woes were bad enough but now you expected me to be camera ready for meetings at 8am? Yeah no.
Then there was a rat at my flat, the landlord refused to sort it out and I just couldn’t cope. It was the last straw. With all the restaurants closing the rats had taken to nesting in bin areas and I’m in a basement so near the bin area. I actually thought I was going to have to abandon my home and move in with Mama Black for life. A situation she didn’t mind during lockdown but would have gotten tricky when she got a beau I’m sure. Plus Chingford is way too hilly for someone who walks everywhere. I had to go home eventually.
One of my best friends stepped in and Project Managed the rat proofing of my flat before I could move back in. He went above and beyond and I’ll forever be grateful. Meanwhile I sat at my mum’s watching TV boxsets, something I NEVER do and reading back to back romance novels. That’s when you know I’m not well. I don’t own a TV for a reason!
Luckily it was summer. I was able to move back home in July but I realised that things had to change. I needed to reach the point of not doing anything I think as I had been on the go. Plus the chronic illness was a daily management thing. My mum couldn’t get her head around the diet and kept offering to make me all of my favourites.
Making me matter
Alas, when I got back home I carried on eating badly and watching crap. Work wasn’t a priority and I was on a project with idiots. I lost another 4 people and going to South Africa wasn’t an option so, no funerals for me. My isolation grew worse and I literally left the dungeon once a week to get provisions from the supermarkets. I realised how I depended on my holidays in the sun to maintain my mental health. I was not a winter person. This weak arse Vit D sun wasn’t cutting it. So, I got ruthless.
It started when I’d get calls or texts from friends who I realised where toxic or just emotionally draining. I eventually stopped being nice in a typical patriarchal way and stopped answering them. Most were calling to be nosey or to dump their lives on me and I didn’t have the mental space.
Then I boundaried the hell out of work. No work after 8pm (I know it sounds like not very much but Health and Social Care aren’t easy right now). I refused to work on the weekends. I put my out of office on constantly and put on the Do Not Disturb on chats.I set up a waddle schedule which meant that I was out of the house 2-3pm every day so they couldn’t try to book in meetings. Normally I was walking but then I started running again every other day. If I missed a call, so be it.
3 weeks ago I started a diet. I had to let go of the emotional eating. I love sugar but a bag of jelly babies and 2 chocolates a day? That can’t be right. And, I’m getting a lot better. I’m closer to my Mental Health weight (3 lbs to go) and I’m finding running, whilst hard with a mask, means that I make me time. Fingers cross the annus horribilus ends soon!
Right that’s my roast potatoes done, I’m off to eat my lockdown meal. If you want more tips then I scribbled some down here.
Merry Christmas and hope you’re enjoying your dinners wherever you are!
© Chelsea Black® 2020 (Covid Era)