I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard men tell me that I’m crazy. But, I think what I’ve heard uttered in frustration is something that I want to bring attention to now. The myth of the strong black woman. This myth that seeks to guide us as we grow up in facts cripples us by the time we’re grown women.
We’re taught that we shouldn’t be vulnerable. That we should be able to get through the problems that we encounter with strength and determination. We should just keep on keeping on. But, that’s not true. So many black women suffer from depression and are not getting the help that they need.
We try to explain it all and say “Oh, she’s just a little sick right now. She needs to pray on it and she’ll be better.” We can’t pray away mental illness. We have to address it and we have to stop teaching our girls that they have to grin and bear the pain. It’s too much.
Being strong is killing them. I’m tired of reading stories about my sisters who are struggling with underlying cases of mental illness and no one in their circle seems to know it. Blame it on the fact that we are uneducated or unconcerned about mental health in this country, but I have to say “Please stop ignoring it. It’s killing us.”
I know. I get tired. I get tired of being a strong black woman. I watched my grandmother raise 11 children on her own and then raise some of her children’s children. If that wasn’t enough, she took in foster kids. One summer that I spent with her she had 13 other children that summer. Who the heck openly commits to raising 13 children for the summer? Why? I know she loved us but did anyone think that maybe that was too much? Let’s alternate kids for the summer?
My own mother pushed aside her pain to raise her children by herself with no financial, emotional or physical support from my dad. I still remember the day she said to me “Your dad is gone. I need you to be a big girl and help me with your brother and sister.” I was 10. Thus began the need to be a strong black girl who would become a strong black woman.
I’m not against therapy. I’m a big supporter of the need for therapy. I will often say that black folks need three things: Jesus, wine and therapy. We often neglect therapy believing that we can pray away our pain. But, if you are in immense pain can you even hear God’s response? No. The noise is too loud.
So, we put on our cape and continue to fight for the injustices of the world and never worry about how it is affecting us. How it is killing us because we are supposed to worry about everyone else but ourselves. We don’t want to be weak. Therefore, we continue to do everything around us to make people not see that we are cracking under the pressure. Try to live a normal life.
We deny that we are hurting for the convenience of others. To try to appear strong in spite of the pain. To endure. To deny the ugly truth that sometimes life is hard and we need help. We need your listening ear. We need sympathy and we need your encouragement that we should seek help.
I’m tired of reading stories where black women are killing their children, each other or themselves in what is clearly undiagnosed mental health issues. We have to stop saying be strong and tell them that it’s okay to not be strong. Be you. Find your authentic voice and get help. It’s okay.
Disclaimer: I don’t own these photos. A quick Google search was performed to find them.