This past Tuesday was the first time in what seemed like an eternity that I could no longer “self cope”. When I say self cope, I mean self medicate, I mean “be my own therapist”, I mean I could no longer DEAL.
The thing about us black women and “women of color” (for those who do not identify as being black), is that we are too damn prideful! We do not want to be perceived as weak, yet alone inferior by anyone else’s standard. Now I cannot speak on behalf of all women of color, but from my personal experiences and experiences of my loved ones… we are unanimously prideful. Being a black woman or woman of color comes with so many stigmatized labels. We are perceived as angry, bitter, ghetto, lazy, etc. Please do not think that there aren’t positive associations with black women; I’m simply addressing the recurring negative ones.
I would first like to address some disparities regarding stigmas held toward the black women our communities. For those who are not familiar with the term disparity, it simply translates to “difference”According to the CDC, African American women are 4 times likely to report major depression compared to white women. The CDC also found that only 7.6 of African American women sought treatment, compared to the 13.5 percent of the population(2011). Since the findings show that women regardless of race or ethnicity are more likely than men to experience depression, African-Americans experience major depression at higher rates than whites. This then shows researchers that black women in turn also experience high rates of depression compared to the general population.
We as women of color choose not to seek medical care unless it is life or death. Why is that? If white people can go seek medical care for the flu, do we not love ourselves enough to seek psychological help for our mind? Another health disparity I want to enlighten you with is the lack of healthcare amongst black women. The CDC shows that more than 20 percent of black women are uninsured compared to less than 12 percent of white women. How is that? Socioeconomic Status is one of the strongest correlation to health disparities. According to the National Poverty Center, the poverty rates for blacks are well above the national average. To make matters worse, this seems to be the trending pattern for single black and hispanic mothers. Living in poverty leads to little or no access to healthcare, decreased chances of receiving an education, and higher levels of suicide.
There is this taboo in black communities where we pray things off. We pray away sicknesses, we pray for protection, and when all fails… we pray for miracles. One thing black people as a majority believe in is God. Growing up in a strong West Indian Hispanic family, prayer is everything to us. Faith, family, and of course education. But prayer and God are our foundation. My family is beautiful and full of generations. The women in my family outnumber the men, and these women have molded generations and generations of more young women to be strong like them. I remember my mother always asking God to heal those who were ill in my family, or hearing my mother rebuke Satan. You see, my mother suffered with extremely bad anxiety,which heightened her fears in life. She always kept praying on it though because she knew God was going to handle it. Still handling it.
I love you mom.
We are taught to lean on him when times are good, bad, and in between. My grandmother, mom, and aunt always preached to my cousins and I how things “shall pass”. Pray on it, it shall pass.
That’s not the case for everyone…
When I got sick with depression, prayer did not work. I prayed daily, numerous times, and nothing happend. Or at least not as fast as I hoped. I watch myself self destruct and come close to death. Prayer did not work then, and I was at an all time low. It had nothing to do with me not praying “enough”, I just needed more. There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to mental health. I have always kept my faith lifted, but when dealing with mental illness , please understand that it does not go away overnight. There are therapists, doctors, and psychiatrists who can help. Please never feel embarrassed to seek professional help. After five years of depression and panic disorder, I made an appointment to see a psychiatrist this week. After hesitating for two days, I had to make that appointment. I had to begin healing myself. I love me that much. Most importantly I love my family and friends even more. Prayer keeps my soul calm, and connected to my faith, but, therapy is going to keep my mind connected to my soul. It’s time I break my own stigma.