Why Self-Care Matters To Me As A Black Woman

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Always make room for joy. Prepare your heart for happiness because every storm must come to an end.

These are the words written on a yellow sticky note that is placed right above my black rustic bed frame. My white walls scream of purity and my comforter feels like healing snuggled inside a duvet. My bedroom has become my sanctuary, my place of healing and restoration. It's where I run when I need a break from the busyness of life. It's where I sip tea, say a prayer, and light a candle to God just to say thank you for giving me another day.

As a young adult who suffered from depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies, I had to learn how to practice the art of self-care, and make it an essential part of my wellbeing and emotional growth. I spent four to five years in therapy trying to rebuild myself and process the pain that I carried in my heart.

For a long time I hid behind my shame, and my spine has been bent and bruised from trying to carry strength as my emotional first aid kit. Learning how to unfold and tend to my mental wellbeing was not easy for me.

In the black community, therapy is often frowned upon, and mental illness is often overlooked. We grieve and mourn for the lives that we lose from suicide, but we turn our backs on the folk who identify themselves as depressed. Some call it the blues, and some folks call it having a bad day, either way, some say the solution is to "get over it" and keep pushing forward. I wish getting over depression was that easy. But it's not.

Within my period of grief and mental madness, I knew I could no longer survive on my own accountability. Friends and family were in the picture, but the honest truth is that "advice" is not going to offer me emotional aid and mental stability.

What I needed at the time was a licensed professional therapist to help me process a lot of trauma and unwanted emotions, offer accountability, and help me to teach myself proper techniques around managing self-care and tending to my difficult phases through my past and present life. Overall, my therapist gave me what nobody else in my life could.

I hear the term self-care a lot and often it is defined as practicing yoga, journaling, speaking positive affirmations and meditation. I agree that those are successful and inspiring forms of self-care, but what we often don't hear people talking about is self-care at the intersection of race and trauma, social justice and most importantly, the unawareness of repressed emotional issues that make us victims of our past.

The work that I did with my therapist not only touched base on my depression and anxiety, we also covered topics around racial trauma and identity. With the rise of police brutality alongside the rise of suicidal rates in the black community, I felt it was equally important for me to process the issues I faced pertaining to my blackness alongside my suicidal tendencies. Our work was important, and it was essential to the growth of my profession as a licensed therapist myself, and mental health advocate.

In the midst of campaigning, protesting, and advocacy- we forget how deeply issues around leadership, equality, race, violence and discrimination can affect us on an emotional, mental and physical level. At times, when we feel like victims, we are unaware that we can repair ourselves from our lost dignity, and use our gained knowledge as a tool to live as awakened beings that are aware of our history, but not defined by it.

The awareness of our distressing feelings are not deadly, but liberating. It is when we repress, and move into feelings of hate, disregard and apathy, that we allow the unjustness of society to overpower and distract us from the goal of repairing a broken system which trickles down to the repairing of broken people.

The extraction of truth from an indoctrinated society leaves people unaware of how to fully live with integrity. Learned biases and stereotypes plague our minds and awakens in the adult that is powerful enough to give them rein; our systems and our society is what we are left with.

Having deep involvement in societal issues requires deep commitment to practicing restoration, because any work that is revolved around healing, whether it be personal or on a societal level, requires a great amount of self-care, self-awareness and vulnerability, for this work will constantly expose you to dark feelings and unprocessed truth that needs to be addressed-in order to mend and repair.

So when I wake up in the morning, and I reach for my yellow sticky notes to recite my words of affirmation, I am reminded of why self-care matters to me as a black woman.

Self-care matters to me because I want my people to know that we have permission to heal in multifaceted ways. We no longer have to rely on strength alone to guide us.

Self-care matters to me because I live in a society where people try to make me feel less than and undeserving; they will tremble when they see the power that resides in me.

Self-care matters to me because if I don't love myself, I won't make wise choices.

Self-care matters to me because when I show up for myself, I have the energy and the motivation to show up for others in need.

Self-care matters to me because I am aware that broken people, hurt people. That is their learned love language. I will continue to show myself compassion so that I can also show it to other beings.

Self-care matters to me because one day I will raise a young black king or queen, and I want him or her to know that they are worthy, praised and powerful. Not because of the color of their skin, but because that is how they were created.

So tell me, why does self-care matter to you?

Minaa B is a licensed psychotherapist in NYC, author, mental health advocate and founder of the digital magazine Respect Your Struggle. She shares words of acumen and promotes self-care on her social media channels Instagram: @minaa_b and Twitter: @minaabe. Her debut book of essays and poetry, on healing from depression and trauma, will be released this fall. Follow her accounts to contact her and learn more.