Black people: It’s okay to not be okay.
She’s a strong black woman. That’s something you always hear when you see a successful black woman in public or a woman who has had to overcome trauma and come out relatively okay. “Strong”. Like we’re superhuman or something. Like we wear capes all day long or are masked crusaders coming to save people at night. While that all sounds lovely and perhaps a new character for DC or Marvel to delve into, it’s not the truth. Like, at all.
Believe it or not, black women are quite human. We cry, we bleed, we hurt, we love, we scare and we laugh just like everybody else. Yes, there are some who live up to that strong black womanly title. My mother, for example, was a single mother raising me and she did a fine job if I do say so myself. Her mother, raising seven children essentially by herself while my grandfather served in the Navy was also a strong black woman. I have plenty of them on both sides of my family, I suppose I’ll include myself in that. I know many a “strong black woman”.
But you know what, we all have our demons. And sometimes the demons win. Case in point, the 30 year old former Miss USA. On the outside, this woman was gorgeous, a former Miss USA, a lawyer and had a host of other accomplishments. But yet, none of that mattered and she took her own life jumping out of a building. Now of course, knowing my people like I do, conspiracy theories will come up. She was sacrificed they’ll say or maybe the Illuminati got her or a secret cabal led her astray. It all sounds juicy but it’s most likely Occam’s Razor…the simplest explanation is the most logical one or something like that.
Sometimes black women/people kill themselves. According to an article in the New York Times that came out in September of 2021, the number of suicides in black youth, particularly in black girls is rising. Some of it makes sense. This current pandemic we are in has some people in the pits of despair be it isolation, loneliness, domestic violence, loss of job, loss of family members and friends due to COVID, et. al. Bullying is at an all time high and in this current era where people are seeking to not hurt white children’s feelings, black kids and kids of color are feeling the weight of that. They are being terrorized and nobody seems to care to do anything about it. So what do kids do? They pick a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Don’t believe me? Just do like people always love screaming about “your own research.”
Look up those predominately white crowd goers mocking black athletes with monkey sounds or two delightful pieces of cheese in Minnesota calling their black classmate the N word and telling her to kill herself. Thankfully she didn’t listen to their nonsense but others aren’t so lucky. Why is that? Why are black people expected to rise above everything thrown our way? Why are black women expected to be strong even if they’re being traumatized or abused? Why does Gabby Petito have the world stop for her murder but Lauren Smith-Fields murder go silent until it was reported on social media?
Because black women and people are seen as both superhuman and less than human. We don’t get to be just human. I am on the bigger side of the spectrum and I don’t smile (cause honey ain’t nothing funny) so naturally I’m intimidating to some people. If I was white with the same big size and lack of showing my teeth, would I be seen as intimidating? I think we all know the answer to that. I remember hearing from people that “Tee can handle anything”. I’m here to tell you that I really can’t. My nerves are bad. I was diagnosed with anxiety in my late 20s or early 30s. My early 20s were very dark and I had depressive episodes that included three suicide attempts and daily thoughts of it. Sometimes it’s so dark that you can’t see any other way out. But I’m still here going into my Jackie Robinson year in about a week from the time I wrote this.
When I would tell people, my nerves are bad, they thought I was making a joke. You’re Miss Tee, you can handle anything, or you’re so strong, you can deal with anything coming your way. Yeah, no. After I had my fibroid surgery, I was very depressed and only because I reached out to friends and family did I come out of the darkness. Now I know we always see after someone takes their own life, the suicide hotline number pops up. And that’s fine and good and is needed but what about those that suffer in silence? By all accounts as of the time I write this, Ms. Kryst did not outwardly show signs of suicidal ideology. You can’t trust social media posts for a second but she appeared to be happy. Although honestly, as someone who struggles with my own dark passenger, I could see the sadness in her eyes in photos. Something was just not right.
Is her not saying anything about her troubles (at least publicly) a product of that “strong black woman” syndrome heaped on us? I won’t poke any further than that because her family is grieving. But for all the other black men and women, boys and girls who are suffering, you have to talk to somebody. Somebody who will hear you as well as listen. Let’s be real here, many people don’t want to hear about your problems. They want to think happy thoughts and you and your depression are bringing their mood down. So don’t speak to those kind of people. Speak to someone who you feel you can trust. I would love to tell you that I can be an ear that will listen but I can’t. I will guide you to someone who will though. As I said, my nerves, I can’t. It’s okay to not be okay especially in the times we’re living in. Sometimes a simple “Are you okay?” or “How are you doing?” does wonders for people. Now it’s true, some people pink cloud (temporary feelings of euphoria after recovery, be it from drugs, alcohol or even a suicide attempt) and don’t tell how they’re really feeling but if you truly care for someone and their well being, stay on their behind.
That’s particularly true for black people. We’re either the comedian or the thug. The singer or the athlete. We don’t get to just be. And it’s exhausting. Most of us black folks are just out here trying to survive. But many of us fall into that trap of not wanting to seek help because it makes us look weak. I’m far too old and tired now to think like that but I used to. Now I will say something if I’m having an issue. I advocate for therapy. Church is great and all but there’s also some issues with that that we’ll get into at a later date. Seek out a counselor. There are teledocs or virtual mental health visits to go to.
But think about this, this current world is so ugly that folks just don’t want to live in it anymore. So that means we have to change the world. It’s getting late early as Yogi Berra would say. I would recommend staying off social media for days at a time if you can. Black women, you can be vulnerable, and emotional and you don’t have to be on all the time. Yes there are jobs to work, children to raise, relationships to nurture and education to learn but you gotta put yourself first sometimes. If your mental health is suffering, what good are you to yourself and the people you care about? What did Beast Mode say? Take care of your mentals. Your life is truly depending on it. I hope Ms. Kryst, Ian Alexander and all others who suffered have finally found the peace that escaped them while they were living. Peace be still.