Hey girl! Have you checked on your strong friend lately? Not just sent her your usual “how are you doing?” or the “how are the kids?” text. I mean, have you REALLY checked on her? If you’re close by, have you stopped by her house to look her in her eyes as you’ve asked how she’s doing? Or asked her to lunch so you can really take the convo past the usual casual questions?
So many times, especially in the black community, we wear the title “a strong black woman” as a badge of honor. From the outside it looks like she always has it together. Her house is decorated like a page out of a magazine. The kids are well taken care of and never in need of a single thing. And her marriage seems like #goals. But with all that said, where does she fit in. I mean, she spends all of her time making sure the house is clean, the kids are without complaint and her husband is always taken care of.
She’s a hero of sorts among her circle of friends because she never seems to complain. She goes along with the cards that were dealt and wears a smile on her face even though on the inside she’s crumbling. But why would someone who seems to have it all together be crumbling on the inside? Because somewhere along this journey of becoming a wife and mother, she’s completely lost herself. She’s lost sight of HER goals and aspirations in life. She’s lost sight of her beauty. And she’s lost sight of how to put herself first.
When she looks herself in the mirror she barely recognizes the person staring back. Maybe it’s the bags under her eyes or the once always done hair that no longer looks like a crown. But the reality is, when she’s alone her crown sits crooked and she feels vulnerable and lonely. You see, no one knows what it takes to boast the title of a Strong Black Woman. Now when I say strong black woman, I’m not speaking about the ability to be confident in yourself. I’m talking about the strong queen that lives her life inside a pressure cooker. At any moments notice she’s ready to burst from life’s daily pressures. So how did she get to that point? Because she gave up on her own life to serve the life of her loved ones. She felt like in order to build them up and provide the constant love and support they need, it meant she no longer provided love and support to herself. So I ask you this? Do you boast the title of A Strong Black Woman? Or do you know one?
My Personal Struggles
During my pre-mommy years, I’d like to think I had it somewhat together. I worked out on a regular basis. I cooked and cleaned and I still managed to find balance between myself and my hubby. I didn’t quite know what my purpose was just yet but I knew God wanted me to be a mother. We had some fertility issues, which you can read about here
, so I knew when it finally happened I would give it my all. Little did I know that everything I put into myself pre-baby, and I mean EVERYTHING, I would put into my new baby.
In my post-partum days I struggled with a bit of depression. And in my denial, I fought with everything in me to not slap that label on myself. I didn’t want anyone to think I was crazy or that there was something unnatural about me. That was the biggest mistake ever. My denial caused me to begin the habit of continually putting my new baby before my own needs for the sake of the appearance that I was doing just fine. I rarely if ever asked for help. Tuh! Girl, what would I look like asking for help? In my mind I had everything under control. HOWEVER, at the same time, my workouts became non-existent, I wore my hair in the same effortless style like it were a uniform and I began wearing whatever did not require an iron. Girl, at one point I wouldn’t dare step foot out of the house without a made up face. But post baby, make up had become a distant thought. But again, when asked how I was doing, I recited I was fine over and over again until I conditioned my loved ones to not even ask.
My breaking point didn’t come until later this year. In February I had my sweet Jaxon early after suffering from pre-eclampsia. I spent the 24 hours post delivery absolutely miserable as I was hooked to an IV machine and was pumped with Magnesium. My blood pressure still wouldn’t budge. After being discharged, it took a few weeks for my blood pressure to finally normalize while I took multiple blood pressure meds.
After things began to feel as normal as it could with a newborn, my husband got a big opportunity that would move us from Nashville to the Philadelphia metro area. Everything happened so fast. He was offered the job and two days later he was working in Philly. He was able to visit a few weekends but I was left to sell our Nashville home, pack the entire house and care for the kids. Alone. I had to go to closing on one home and closing on another. Alone. I did have some support from my mom but the pressure was starting to mount.
Once the kids and I made it to our new home I was left to unpack and find some normalcy. But it felt like all the things were starting to pile up. The straw that broke the camel’s back was getting the news that my father had passed away. He had been suffering from cancer but we were hopeful his health would turn around. The day before I was planning to visit him, I got a call from my aunt that he passed. I was numb. At that point, the pressure inside had mounted so much that I didn’t know what I felt. It was like everything that I was feeling had come to a boiling point. But I didn’t feel anything. And that was a scary feeling. Luckily, I had people around me who knew I needed to talk to someone and that’s exactly what I did. My therapist helped me to recognize things I can’t control and not take ownership of those things. Not every battle is mine to fight.
Unfortunately in our community we have this thought that if I went through it and survived then you can too. Instead of saying I struggled so let me help you so you don’t have to. There’s a stigma that says we have to be strong. Or we’ll just pray it away. But the reality is, our issues just don’t simply go away. They compound and get bigger and bigger on the inside. Have you ever watched your mom or grandmother snap? Maybe it was over something that seemed so small. But I can guarantee you that the pressures from life were catching up to her and she was starting to crumble. And because you watched your mom or grandma be “strong” you started to condition yourself to believe strength means you have to carry the weight of the world. Girl, I’m here to tell you that you don’t.
As women we take on everyone’s stress including our own. And girl stress is a killer. It can lead to heart disease, heart attack or a stroke. So why do we have this innate sense of responsibility to take on everyone else’s issues including our own? Because we don’t know how NOT to. So what can you do if you start to feel the pressure starting to mount from within?
Ask for help. You are not weak if you ask for help. We simply can’t go through life thinking we can do everything on our own. We have to move past the notion that you’re crazy if you seek help from a mental health professional. Mental health wellness is just as important as physical wellness. If you don’t feel comfortable seeking a professional just yet, then I encourage you to journal. You have to get your thoughts out sis. Because if you don’t, you’ll find yourself living inside a pressure cooker ready to explode at any moment.
So what are you doing to make sure your mental health is in tact? Or what about your girlfriends? Remember, don’t forget to check on your strong friend. And always, comment and share with anyone you think may benefit from this conversation.
Until next time,