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A Reflection in honor of Bebe Moore Campbell & Mental Health Awareness Month (July) written by Tanisha Dunac (TFBWL Intern)
I've been in search of
Like the way clouds roll
And growl back at me
Like the way summer rain
Raises the earth's soil off the ground
Like the way the sun could paint
Brick buildings fuchsia and orange
I have been in the search of Gaia
And instead founds strings
That i can't help pulling
Does my uterus deserve to wade in
The white man's opinion
To roe against protestors
Do children deserve to have a favorite spot
Under the desk, or in the closet
Do they deserve to calculate out their
Life expectancy, drenching themselves in
Their peers blood to reach an age where they
Can shed it on their own
Does Brianna and George
and all the countless forgotten names whisper
In the wind
Consoling black berry
That it's just as sweet even though its been split
Does the earth have asthma
Is she begging and gasping for a breath of her own
Is she choking on vaporized pollution
Is her health care also not free
Do we survive any of this
Do we deserve to
Then i will have pulled
Until the strings reach back to me
And i tug further
Do I hate the way i walk because
My arches were made to walk on different land
Do i hate my nose because I can be traced
back, placed back into the outside
*pull, pull, pull*
Sister look in
I don't want to, it's all mess and strings and
If i pull any longer do i unravel with it too
Is the way I love and who i love worth it to lose ancestors
Is my body too masculine to hold
If i am not the best, if i am not of service,
Can I exist?
Do I contempt God?
Cause why did he create suffering, obsession
Why do the people who love the hardest cling to gravel
Bellowing out to nothing
Have i been so trapped in the world of others
Time has skipped my station?
Will I leave a mark when I'm gone?
Have I loved others right?
Do they love me?
How do you know what's true
Are you lying to me?
Am I lying to myself ?
Gravel to the mercy of
Cause at the end of it
I am you and you are me
And we both are trapped in our
Own gelatinous seas
This poem I wrote talks about the process of constantly overthinking and being stuck in one's inner world while also one’s existence in the outside world is prohibited. It's a verbal display of what may spiral through my or anyone's head in the span of a youtube advertisement. My mind works best in metaphor and I could continue to pick strings my whole life. This metaphor is sentimental because I have trichotillomania: a hair pulling disorder that stems from anxiety. The act of pulling literally and figuratively soothes me. I hope to find myself at the end of those strings, but what I find is connection. It gives me hope that others struggling with their internal world and external world are not alone.
In honor of Black mental health awareness month, I wanted to talk about the mental health of Black children in schools. My experience was that of being placed into a New York program that helped disadvantaged kids aka POC children in the boroughs get into higher education for highschool. I assume everyone knows the idea of the 'school to prison pipeline’. In schools, black kids and especially black women are “disciplined” at a much higher rate compared to their white counterparts. From biased hair laws that target black hair most notable are braids or locs to dress codes that showcase the sexualization of black girls from an early age; schools don’t make it the easiest to be from a different background.
They don't make it easy to get out of the poor and sometimes violence ridden communities that inner city kids know all too well. For those who cannot and will not tolerate the incredible nuanced codes of schools, they are labeled as a waste to society and end up on the street where society would much rather criticize those kids' survival tactics than step back and realize kids are hurting in multitudes of ways. When those kids are labeled, they don't get the respect or the decency to ask why, to help fix the problem, or to even find healthy ways of coping. They don’t give space for community without labeling it as loud, a ruckus, suspicious, or a waste of resources.
For the kids who for whatever reason stay in the school system by ducking their heads and most likey swallowing their tongue, different coping mechanisms arise. From drugs and alcohol, self harm, to in my case trichotillomania. Excellency is required and expected of black kids to just match their white counterparts much rather than exceed their classmates as well. This coupled with intergenerational trauma in the family, being Black in America, being queer, or having disabilties: I am shocked at peoples confoundment that Black mental health exists and deserves better resources and access.
From my time in several predominantly white institutions, the likelihood of a Black person who struggles with mental health or just the struggles of being Black period is slim. I am now a perfuse promoter of therapy, but it wasn’t always the case. I was struggling with keeping up with the workload, battling everyday microaggressions, the news that was never happy, and years of yet to be unpacked generational trauma. It was too much, but I didn’t think to even get help or ask for it.
Somewhere along the way I learned that you had to stick it out and keep it all inside you. If it wasn’t for a peer who grew up in a household that supported therapy and my financial aid that covered it, I would never have met my therapist who I ended up seeing every week for four years. It wasn’t easy. I sat in the chair for the first 30 minutes trying to convince him or more likely myself that I was ok. He looked at me, waited, and asked me: “Are you really ok?” and that's all it took to just cry. To stop holding on to everything and just feel. Sometimes feeling all the hurt, pain, fear is too much and a lot of us are scared on where to start. I thought I would drown in my sorrow, but a good therapist doesn’t let you drown. They let you realize you are in the water and how to float on your own.
Not everyone's story goes like mine. But every story, for Black kids in school around the world, should have more people who can guide them to mental health resources, and to embed in them that asking for help is not a weakness. To embed that more people go through the same experience than they realize. If you are one of those kids or even adults, parent, friend, co worker I want to remind you that you shouldn’t have to swim alone, and to ask you to remind that to someone else.
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