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Processing Your Feelings After Watching ‘When They See Us’

For those of you that have tuned in to watch the four part Netflix miniseries, “When They See Us”, directed by Ava Duvernay capturing the story of the five falsely accused and wrongfully convicted Black boys, it is by no surprise that you may be “feeling some type of way.” Over the last couple of days I have seen many posts on Facebook and Instagram trying to find the words to articulate and describe what viewers are feeling after watching the series. I have seen several posts from people expressing feelings of anger, sadness, irritation, lack of hope, isolation, and basically just being “PISSED OFF”. While many have been able to find the words to describe the feelings they felt in the moment and following the series, I also noticed and paid attention to those that felt “numb.”

Then there were those like me who decided not to watch the film series right away for various reason. I recall studying this case in undergrad in my criminal justice program and watching the 2012 documentary regarding the case. I remember feeling unsettled, disturbed, emotionally upset, and angry with the criminal justice system back then. Fast forward 2019, following the numerous senseless killings of unarmed Black men and women by the hands of police officers, the unrest in cities following not guilty verdicts, and me now having my own Black son…I CAN’T DEAL WITH THE HURT. With that being said, I have decided like many others to refrain from watching the series right away. To allow myself the appropriate amount of time to be able to watch the series while also being able to take care of my “whole self” (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually).

If you have watched the series and are still struggling to make sense of your emotions or you’re finding it difficult to manage your feelings related to the series, here are a few tips that might help.
  • Limit your time on social media. With the series being newly released, many people are using their social media channels to share their thoughts and feelings about it. You may find it comforting to participate in the conversations and to find community with others sharing your feelings, but it might also be overwhelming. When we become immersed in highly charged conversations, it sometimes results in a compounding of whatever we were already feeling. So if you were already feeling hopeless after watching the series and then see several friends on Facebook sharing their feelings of hopelessness, it may make your feelings more intense. So monitor your feelings and how much time you’re spending on social media. Take breaks when necessary or mute certain words or people if you find the conversations triggering for you.
  • Take time to identify, acknowledge, and process your feelings. Being able to pinpoint exactly how you’re feeling during and after watching the series may be really helpful for you in figuring out how to manage your feelings. One way you can do this is through journaling. What kinds of thoughts are you having about the series? Were there particular scenes that felt more impactful than others? What about the series reminds you of experiences you or loved ones have had in your own life? Allowing yourself to really tap into what impacted you about the series can give you helpful information about next steps and where there may be some work to do on your own healing.
  • Engage in an activity that allows you to connect to yourself and others. When we’re feeling flooded by emotions, it can be helpful to participate in activities that allow us to feel more connected to our bodies and to others. Try something like going for a walk or a run, listen to your favorite meditation track, take a little person in your life out for ice cream, or grab your girls and head to your favorite restaurant and really pay attention to the flavors of the food you eat. Any of these or others you come up with may help to recharge you and improve your mood.
  • Practice a grounding technique. If you’re feeling particularly impacted and like your feelings are out of control and difficult for you to manage, try a grounding technique. Grounding techniques are designed to help you stay in the present moment and connect you to reality. One of my favorites is the 5 Senses Grounding Technique. Sit up straight with your feet planted firmly on the ground and take note of 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
  • Take action in your community. Often, feelings of helplessness are remedied by doing something to get involved with preventing others from being mistreated in our communities. If you’re feeling anger, resentment, and disgust towards the legal system after watching the series, your feelings are valid! It may help to get involved in a program in your area that does advocacy work for those accused of committing crimes. A great place to start is The Innocence Project which shares lots of information about how you can get involved either locally or globally.

RELATED: Race Related Stress

I think it’s also important to note that if you feel like watching the series will be too much for you, it’s ok not to watch. Not watching is not an indictment on your humanity or how much you care. Ultimately, it’s always ok to do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. You can find other ways to advocate and support that don’t involve submitting yourself to situations that may be traumatizing.

The impact of social media on our lives and self-esteem

You can admit it. You do it. We all do it. You scroll and scroll and scroll analyze and analyze until you’ve wasted 20-30 minutes on the device of your choosing. The time you spent scrolling and analyzing is followed by the inevitable. Comparison. You compare yourself and your life to those you see on social media with the question of how you measure up floating faintly in the back of your mind. And you don’t always take notes from celebrities, although many of us would be quick to take a makeup tip from Gabrielle Union’s or some fashion advice from Beyoncé—no, the people we compare ourselves to most are the people closest to us. Our friend, people we work with and folks in our circle.

As mentioned in an earlier post, social media has become more than a platform for connecting our lives with those that we love, like our friends from around the world. It’s evolved into something deeper than that and it affects our mental health in more ways than one.

Social media has morphed into a tool used to put the best picture of ourselves out there—our highlight reel—our extremist of highs. While the wins we experience are derived from massive amounts of hard work and focus, the residue of all of our wins clustered into one small Instagram page and made to appear like the picture of who we REALLY are is in many ways manufactured. It’s what we want people to see. Comparing yourself to someone else’s version of this is harmful and could be downright dangerous.

While knowing your follower’s significant milestones is a great way to keep in touch, if not consumed and digested in moderation, comparison can yield to damages to our mental stability. No matter how successful you are, online scrolling can consciously and subconsciously force you to ask yourself the question: am I doing enough? And on the flip side, that brief release of dopamine associated with the likes we receive on the gram or Facebook can lead us to a constant quest for more. So, we post more good news. We focus our cameras, snap the pic with the best angle and lighting, filter and post it up for all to admire.

If you don’t see yourself reflected in this commentary, let’s get specific. Have you seen an influx of engagement announcements on your timeline? Is everyone having children, getting married, promoted and living out major #lifegoals? Sure, they are! And it’s natural to think “but what about me,” even though your life may have seemed great five seconds before you saw the post of your friend who just passed the Bar (and believe me, you’re happy for her), a human reaction we all face is the need to share in the same sense of accomplishment. And when we simply don’t have anything that we think will garner the most likes, we feel a sense of shame…like not being able to compete.

If you feel yourself ever falling into the comparison trap, here are a few things you can ask yourself:

  1. Could I argue, in a court of law, that I’m really not doing anything in my life and convince a judge?
  2. How often are the people you compare yourself to posting?
  3. Am I part of the issue? Am I spending too much time on Instagram when I could really be channeling the time and energy toward accomplishing things that are meaningful to me?

Relationships, Social Media and the Rules of Engagement

You may not want to admit it but nowadays, social media says A LOT about who you are.  We’re obviously long from the days of Instant Messaging our pen pals, but we may have taken a sharp detour into a different place called ‘Instagram: A day in the life of [Insert your name here]’ town. Although navigating this destination can be a bit confusing and there are a multitude of ‘unspoken’ rules about what we can and cannot post, this isn’t totally a bad thing! On social, we stay updated on the people we love most— graduations, new jobs, and major money moves happening in their lives.

And, of course, we also get a chance to socialize our own milestones, some of us taking extra care to snag the flyest pictures of ourselves at [insert location], with our Black Girl Magic hashtags and no-filter flexes…it’s become a lifestyle. And, whether we choose to believe it or not, we’ve steadily welcomed more and more people into our lives with each post and with each caption. We disseminate personal information about who we are and what we’re about in the process. We do it seamlessly and with a touch of a button. So, our platforms tell folks about our values, goals and the things that matter most to us in this life.

So, what happens when someone else steps into our lives? Someone like a life-partner or significant other? Are you jumping at the earliest opportunity to post pictures of the two of you on Instagram in all your #relationshipgoals? Or, are you slower to make your online debut as a full-fledged couple? Or maybe the thought of posting someone else on your profile gives you some real anxiety—for fear that person might not be a permanent fixture in your life.

The real question here is this…
When someone else comes into your life, how are they incorporated, if at all, into your online life and what impact does this have on you?

What are the rules of engagement regarding relationships on social media? Here are some of the questions we’re wondering about. 

  • Do you have conversations with your partner or someone you’re dating about when or if you’ll be acknowledging your relationship online? If there is a difference of opinion here, how might you negotiate it?
  • Does it make you feel some kind of way if your partner would prefer not to have pictures of you or y’all as a couple on their social media?
  • What kinds of conversations, if any, do you have with your partner about their interactions with others online?
  • Do you follow/friend/like your partner across social media channels? Why or why not?
  • Has your relationship been impacted by things that have happened on social media?

We’re curious about these new rules of engagement and what they might mean for our mental health, so share your thoughts with us in the comments or sound off on our social media channels under this post. 

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

It’s time we talk about that relationship of yours. You know, the one that’s been keeping you up at night? Constantly overanalyzing. The one causing you to question your value in this life? The one that has you anxiously checking the gram or Facebook to compare your height, your weight, your job, your success to other women. The one that has you trying (and failing) to validate your worth. In this relationship, negative thoughts consume your mental space day in and day out. And I’m pretty sure you’ve had it up to here. If you’re looking for a sign, beloved, here it is.

Sis, it may be time to re-evaluate some things. That little gadget in your pocket, sending you constant notifications at every minute and every hour of the day reminding you where you fall amongst your followers. How many likes you got that day, reminding you to seek validation from all people other than yourself. That measuring stick you evaluate your life by. Your phone, to put it bluntly. The toxicity has gone on for far too long. But the good thing is, it’s not you.

RELATED: MISADVENTURES OF A BLACK WOMAN IN CORPORATE AMERICA

According to a recent study by UK disability charity, Scope, of 1500 Facebook and Twitter users surveyed, 62 percent reported feeling inadequate and 60 percent reported feelings of jealousy from comparing themselves to other users. This means, if you have feelings of inadequacy, you’re not alone.

During Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re asking you to join us in exploring your relationship with technology. We’ll be engaging in a critical discussion about how you may be internalizing what you’re seeing on social media and in the tech space. We’re going to address how social media impacts our relationships with friends, partners, peers, and even our careers! We want you to join us during this time to be more intentional about the role technology plays in your life.

So stay tuned to the blog and our social media channels throughout this month as we’ll be asking questions and posing challenges that we hope will encourage you to think about your life beyond the character limit.

If you have any thoughts, share them with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGTalksTech.

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome: What they don’t tell you about stress

Stress is a response to situations in life where our mind and body are in high demand to prepare for dangers that may arise. This response is so common that various media, including magazines and blogs, suggest steps towards stress relief. But what happens when you have been stressed for an extensive period of time? Those migraines you feel prior to entering your place of employment, the change in your menstrual cycle, mind fogginess, difficulty concentrating, irritability, difficulty with sleep or gaining weight despite the exercise and nutritional considerations you’ve taken into account, are often results of a condition called Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. So why isn’t anyone talking about this condition?

If you were to enter into a mental health office and stated some of the aforementioned symptoms, you may be diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression. Alternatively, a medical physician would complete blood work indicative of a hormonal imbalance, thus treating you for early onset menopause. The condition, Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, often mimics mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression and other medical conditions, which is why Adrenal Fatigue is often misdiagnosed.

Adrenal Fatigue is a condition where the body has been in a state of high stress and the result of this leads to the body adapting in ways to maintain the stress hormone- cortisol.  In order for the cortisol levels to stay consistently high in preparation for dangers in our environment, important hormones such as estrogen and progesterone must decrease. This creates a toxic environment within our body and brain and it manifests by physical changes within our body and mental state.

Ways to find out if Adrenal Fatigue is a possibility

1. Primary Physician:
Communicate with your primary care physician your concerns about Adrenal Fatigue. Ask your doctor to complete any lab work and an examine beyond the basics to find the

2. Holistic physicians:
Holistic physicians tend to diagnose Adrenal Fatigue more quickly than a traditional medical physician. In some states, holistic physicians do not operate under the insurance umbrella so they are able to administer tests (non-harmful of course) that can easily identify adrenal fatigue.

How to treat Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

Depending on the severity of stress and high anxiety in your life, Adrenal Fatigue can range from mild, modern to severe. Thus, it can lead to 3 months to a year to establish mind and body balance. Staying consistent is the most effective key to addressing this.

Self-care:
Caring for yourself does not have to be expensive or consume a great deal of time. Painting your own nails can be considered a form of self-care and it’s inexpensive. It’s incumbent for your health to be intentional and purposeful in carving out a minimum of five minutes of your time to your needs.

Therapy:
Attending therapy is a form of self-care and can be a benefit in this area as it helps to explore the various stressors in your life. You and your therapist can come up with ways to manage your response to toxic situations and develop coping skills which you can apply to reduce your stress more efficiently.

Physical exercise:
We are often instructed to exercise for 30 minutes or more at a time, however, this could actually be detrimental to someone experiencing high levels of stress as it begins to overuse the adrenal glands. Therefore, 20 minutes of lower impact physical exercise, such as yoga, tai chi, walking, water aerobics, and others can be sufficient for your body and mental clarity.

Nutrition:
When we are stressed, we tend to gravitate toward unhealthy foods including sugars and caffeinated beverages. This is because our body may be lacking in certain nutrition and our mind and body tend to supplement unhealthy substitutions for the nutrition it is actually craving. For instance, if you crave chocolate or sweets, it may be likely that your body is magnesium deficient.

You know your body more than anyone. If you experience the symptoms above, communicate them to your providers. There is hope!  Adrenal Fatigue can be treated. However, the work towards your health will be led by you. And if Adrenal Fatigue is not an ailment that you are dealing with, it won’t hurt to apply some of the techniques mentioned above to continue to promote well-balanced living.


This post was written by…


Reynelda Jones is a Licensed Masters Social Worker,   Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselors, and Acudetox Specialist. She currently has a private practice called A Solution B in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she specializes in working with women who have experienced childhood trauma which is negatively impacting their current relationships and family dynamics with an infusion of holistic care to incorporate stress relief in the areas of the mind, body, and home.

http://www.ASolutionB.com

Facebook: A Solution B
Twitter ASolutionB1

The Realism and Dreams of Black Women

Recently, I watched the episode of This Is Us, titled “The Little Island Girl,” and I found it to be such a mirror into the lives of Black women, into my life as an Afro-Caribbean woman. This episode depicted the Black woman’s journey when facing life transitions. While all paths aren’t the same, there are some common treading among Black women when longing for liberation in our lives. Liberation from utter realism that has kept our survival mode in gear but impedes on our dreams; liberation from the sense of unwavering “obligation” we feel to others when we are given an “opportunity” that capitalizes on our productivity. And liberation from the perceptions of ourselves and the roles that we juggle.

 We’ve previously watched Beth be terminated from a workplace where she invested 12 years of her life. It’s at this juncture that she encounters a cracked door of mystery. Previously, she had been so consumed by being a “strong” pillar for her family, analyzing the needs of her workplace to remain a “top boss” employee, while simultaneously trying to catch her breath through life. She had not given herself permission to slow down or whole-heartedly reflect on her trajectory over the past years — if it was truly aligned with the depths of her dreams.

Our natural instincts are flashes of light, guiding us to dream big. When we deny ourselves permission to turn those dreams into fruition, our natural instincts will continue to follow us like a shadow. In Beth’s case, dance was her shadow and it had been following her for years. It was waiting for the moment where she would “see” what had happened to her. 

“When the time comes, I hope you’ll choose yourself.” The advice given to her by the late William foreshadowed her job loss and the stripping of old perceptions, along with the many roles she felt she had to juggle. It’s safe to say that Beth felt like a wanderer, but we later see that she wasn’t lost.

Beth’s trip to visit her mother further signifies the treaded path Black women experience with life transitions. She returns to her childhood home, while the stripping of old perceptions and roles continue to occur. Similar to Beth, this can cause us to feel at our most vulnerable. Especially, when needing to confront aspects of our past that create present barriers. Beth does this through a truthfully unveiling and mutually vulnerable conversation with her mother. The scales come falling down, and Beth is walking into the shadow that leads to the mystery door.

Treading the shadow path to arrive at the door of mystery, we’re shown the value of facing who we thought we were and how we resigned ourselves to live. Here, we’re also challenged to confront the barrier between our current selves and what we would unknowingly become when entering the door of mystery. It’s hard work, but it’s fresh air to our souls. As Black women, the path of liberation in our personal lives might feel uncomfortable, but we’ve been through difficult and uncomfortable circumstances before and have survived. Beth does the work and so can we.

In the end, we see Beth look at her partner in the eyes. She shares her dreams without ambivalence and she walks into the cracked door of mystery that had been waiting for her all along. Beth dances from depths of her being. When she falls, she smiles. There’s an extended exhale because she’s breathing in fresh air and getting back in the groove of her natural instincts. There we know that she has met liberation and will get back up. And I can’t wait to see how this newly founded liberation of her personhood continues to unfold.

As once the “little island girl” who immigrated to this country at the age of two, and a therapist who has been helping clients face and tread their own life transitions for years, I now find myself at a new juncture in life. I’m in transition personally and professionally. Here’s what I’m learning, as I’m hoping it can help you along life transitions of your own.

1.) Give yourself permission to slow down. I know juggling the balls of life has become an art form for you, but allow yourself to place the balls down one by one. With each ball that you place down (whether it be a carried role or self-imposed expectation), ask yourself if this ball is giving you energy or taking it away. I was asked to reflect on these several weeks ago by a wealth strategist and it’s been helping me channel my focus toward what gives me energy. And guess what? What gives me energy is very much aligned with my natural instincts. What takes away energy is usually self-imposed expectations or responding from a sense of unwavering obligation where it may not be warranted. 

2.) Choose yourself. I can hear the resistance all the way from here, and I can also hear the imposed guilt chattering away, “but that’s selfish!” To which, I can happily respond, a world where we personally experience liberation and fulfillment is a safer world than when we are treading around, resigned to being unfulfilled or constricted for fear of being “selfish.” The latter, I call neglect and soul deprivation of fresh air.

3.) Your transition may go contrary to who you thought you were for years.
In the midst of treading unknown territories, don’t worry about being “right”. Give more attention to being wholehearted. Get out of your head, and start to experience life from your body. Decisions can be made much simpler. Just notice, “how is [my] body responding throughout each phase of this transition?”

4.) Transitions are a vulnerable time for anyone (therapists included). How we respond to certain challenges can sometimes fall out of our normal range of response. When you notice this, don’t kick yourself. It doesn’t help you get closer to where you want to be. Instead, reflect on the kind of challenges faced, and be more intentional on responding oppositely. My favorite poem often reminds me that at the face of life challenges, there’s value in being kind, sincere, intentional, and of goodwill. Do it anyway. 

5.) Our path to personal liberation may go contrary to the vision that others held for us and for themselves. If you are met by a challenge from others, understand that it’s normal to care for them and want their support. Yet, even if you don’t receive it, you can’t abandon your dreams. You see, in the final analysis, it’s about you caring for your Soul, not about you and them.

6.) Surrender to the process of transition with your heart, and not your head. It will save you so much time. If you don’t understand what I mean by that now, give it some time. I’m confident you will at a later time. Now, go thrive, because you are so capable.


Carmelle Ellison is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Berkeley, CA who specializes in working with Millennials and the Gen-X  population who suffer from complex trauma; those who are high achieving but have difficulty separating their self-worth from productivity; along with helping individuals manage anxiety, depression, life transitions, and relationship challenges. You can connect with Carmelle at https://carmelleellisonpsychotherapy.com  .

Misadventures of a Black woman in Corporate America

‘Black Girl in the Corporate World’ is part of a series we’re hosting throughout the entire month of March. We’ll discuss what tolls being a Black woman in a white-patriarchal society could have on your mental health. All thoughts and testimonies are welcome using the hashtag #BlackGirlCorporateWorld.

You’re Black, you’re a woman and you work with white people. And the ways in which race and gender are so openly discussed in Corporate America nowadays, it’s becoming harder and harder to get these three things jiving. We all know of the Black girl who had to work ‘twice as hard’ to get that job at the firm where, as a consequence of racial/social inequities, has very few coworkers who look like her. She could be you. She has no real Black (or white for that matter) allies to help relieve the pressure of being the ‘only’ anything in a majority white-professional space. She finds herself in corporate settings forced to make decisions which speak on behalf of her entire race and gender at the same time. And sis, quite frankly, is exhausted.

Or, maybe you’re more familiar with her girlfriend who avoids these conversations at all costs. She doesn’t speak on behalf of all Black women, because honestly, we’re not all the same and “Becky needs to know that!” And plus, she’d rather not indulge her white coworkers with anything race/gender-related out of pure self-preservation because let’s be real, ‘ain’t nobody got time for that.’

Nevertheless, there’s a time where we all must face white curiosity — someone earnestly chomping at the bit to ask you about the latest headlines, politics and yep, your hair.

If you’ve worked in Corporate America, you’ve faced the paradox of being Black and being asked to discuss and put aspects of your Blackness on display for white people to ‘understand’ or feel better about, without feeling paranoid that you exposed too much, or without feeling like you had to sanitize your words in order to make make others feel more comfortable. So how did you do it? Bringing our full selves as professional Black women in the workplace can feel risky but it’s the direction we’re headed in a world becoming more and more racialized. How do you navigate? Here are a few notes (not tips because being a Black woman in Corporate America is still in beta) on how to handle work when white folks are getting on your nerves.

  1. Set boundaries: it’s okay to vocalize when you’ve had enough.
  2. Seek out coworkers who ‘get it:’ They’re out there. Find one or two who you feel will listen and hear where you’re coming from. Seek out coworkers who you feel already have foundational knowledge of the racial injustices of the world. Those conversations might not be perfect but they’re a start.
  3. Take breaks: It’s been a week and you feel like racism is all you have talked about. Take a breather. Just because you’re being silent doesn’t mean you can’t circle back and address these issues later.
  4. Talk to your girls: Behind every successful black woman, is a group chat support system filled with girls she can vent to and friends who will big her up.
  5. Talk to your mentor: Chances are, she had to deal with this too.

Where My Girls At? The Importance of a Strong Support System


Research suggests that a strong support system is key in maintaining our mental health. Having people we can count on provides protective factors against depression, it enhances our sense of confidence and esteem, buffers us against stress, makes us feel less isolated,  and helps to hold us accountable when we set goals. However, in order for us to reap these benefits, our support system must be both functional and utilized. A support system is not just a bunch of people who call when they need a ride or who update you on the latest office gossip. Our support system should be made up of people who actually show up when they say they will, allow us to show all parts of ourselves and who provide us with what we need and in the ways that we need it. This is not something that happens overnight and it may take some time to curate this group but it is well worth the effort. Here are some tips that may help you to create and better utilize your support system. (more…)

3 Simple Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Routine

When thinking about mindfulness and meditation, people generally imagine themselves sitting cross-legged on a floor, eyes shut and “omm”ing until their thoughts come to a screeching halt. This is an extremely common misconception, but the good news is that you don’t have to hold onto it for long!  By definition, meditation is an umbrella term that encompasses ultimate concentration and consciousness by self-regulating the mind; mindfulness is a form of meditation where the act is focusing on being fully present. Meditating can even be done through everyday acts such as listening to music, doing yoga, or journaling. Keep in mind that the goal of meditation is not to “turn off” the mind; rather, the goal is to acknowledge thoughts and feelings that arise without getting stuck in them. Below are three simple ways to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your routine:

Engage in a 3-minute journal exercise.
Keeping a journal allows you to track patterns and growth over time. Set a timer and spend three full minutes free-writing and recording every thought that you’re able to catch, doing your best not to control your thoughts. Maybe you’ll notice a pattern or a specific theme that arose. Multiply the number of thoughts that you recorded by twenty –  this is about how many thoughts you have in an hour, and it shows how quickly our minds operate without us being aware. I recommend engaging in this activity almost every morning or evening before bed; it may give you insight into how you’re truly feeling and what you’re truly thinking before the day starts, or how your day impacted you when it’s finished.

Make a Sponge list.
I am subscribed to Shine, a self-care app that sends me a research-backed mindfulness tip every weekday for struggles like stress, anxiety, time management, and more. One of the tips Shine sent me this past summer was creating a Sponge list. Good vibes and energy come from two places: what we do and what we soak in. When we solely focus on what we want to “do” in a given week, we forget what we can “take” from a week too. I begin each week by either writing down these three questions or making a mental checklist: What do I want to feel? What do I want to learn? What do I want to unlearn? This helps me start my week with an intention that I aim to align myself with.

Practice mindful eating.
Eating is one of the ultimate self-care practices because it’s necessary for our survival, energy, and peak levels of functioning. Our current society leaves little room to enjoy meals and actually taste the ingredients and time that went into them, especially during the week when schedules tend to be busier. Our current society also leaves little room to notice effects that food has on our feelings, figures, and hunger triggers (it takes the brain up to 20 minutes to realize you’re full) . Engaging in mindful eating can be helpful in understanding physical cues and cravings when eating. If we all we engaged in mindful eating more regularly (cue a “slow dowwwwn” echo), our brains and bodies would most certainly thank us later.


Juliana R. Collins is a licensed social worker practicing in Philadelphia, and received her Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania. Currently, Juliana works as a substance abuse therapist for an intensive outpatient program at Center City Recovery LLC. Juliana is skilled in DBT practices and sexual assault counseling. To contact Juliana, email her at jcollins@centercityrecovery.com

Valentine’s Day: Celebrating love in all of its forms

Here’s the truth about Valentine’s Day. People have very different relationships with the celebration in question. If you’re not in a relationship, you might not think you’re the kind of person who should be celebrating. You might feel that way if you’re IN a relationship. And, that’s not so. You can use Valentine’s Day to celebrate love in all of its forms. And as corny as it sounds, you can celebrate love any day, even if it’s not a romantic for of love.

For the month of February (and with Valentine’s Day as our inspiration), Therapy for Black Girls is calling out the ways you can celebrate love– love for others, love for experiences and love for yourself. We’ll be talking about the ways we can be in healthier relationships and navigate our way out of toxic ones.

To kick off this month of love, whether you’re in a relationship or not, here are a few ways you can celebrate love in all of its forms: 

You can celebrate anyone, just pick someone!  
Think about some of the most wonderful humans in this life. Now, think about the ones you have access to. Find a way to celebrate them! You can have a super fun Galentine’s day. You can celebrate your mother, father, sister or any other a close relative. Hit up an aunt and let her know you’re thinking of her. Chances are, they’ll reciprocate the love.

Be around the little ones in your life.
Remember the childlike excitement you got in third grade when you exchanged Valentine’s Day cards with classmates? That contagious joy may help you get into the spirit of love. Another idea: send Valentine’s Day books or cards to the little ones in your life.

Decorate your house.
Celebrate the love you have for your personal space. Ribbon, confetti, a scented candle is enough.

RELATED: Session 8: Getting What You Need in Relationships

Affirm yourself
When we affirm ourselves we’re amen-ing the things we love about ourselves. Try saying the following out loud:
‘I have a kind heart,’
I am confident in my body,’
‘I am beautiful,’
‘I am strong,’
‘I respect my body,’
Repeat.

Hop on the phone.
If you don’t even know how to begin with these affirmations, do it with a friend! Call up someone close to you and take turns saying things you like about the other person. Write their words down on paper. Repeat it out loud and practice internalizing their words. Here’s a prompt to get you started: What are five things that make me special?

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Make sure you snag friends who will talk exclusively about the good things, not just your growth areas.

RELATED: Session 57: The Do’s of Dating

Compliment someone.
Practice giving love by giving complimenting others. Maybe push yourself to compliment someone you don’t talk to very often.

Practice gratitude.
Be still for a moment. Look around you and focus on the things that make you feel grateful. Did you accomplish a goal recently? If so, take the time to recognize that and thank yourself for doing what was needed to reach that goal.

Celebrate February 15th
Always remember, the best part about Valentine’s Day is February 15th when all that Vaelntine’s Day chocolate goes on sale! Treat yo self!

5 tips for navigating the first date

Dating can be a fun and enjoyable experience.  However, for some, it is an anxiety-producing task. Uncommunicated expectations, unrealistic plans, and hidden motives can wreak havoc on first dates.

Even defining what is and is not a date may be difficult.  There is a new term almost every month.  One of the most recent terms brought to my attention is “pre-date.”   A “pre-date” is an activity that is engaged in to determine if one wants to go on a date.  Yet the activities may not differ from activities that another person would consider a date.  The time of day is another factor in defining whether or not something is a date.  Some people do not consider anything done during the day a date.  Are you confused yet?  It is important that you and your potential date know one another’s definitions.

Now that you have defined that this IS the first date, here are some helpful tips to reduce some of the dating anxiety:

  1. Choose an activity with a natural end
    Meals are the classic activity with a natural end in that the interaction may conclude at the end of the meal. Movies also have a natural end but there is not any time to truly communicate.  Tea or coffee is simple and is enough time to get to know one another yet can be over once the beverages are finished.
  2. Be in the moment
    It is hard to get to know a person if you are already thinking about how the date will lead to a relationship or even worse how the relationship will end.  Give yourself some space and grace to enjoy what is happening in the now.  Being elsewhere is going to hinder your ability to perceive the authentic interactions that are happening in the moment. In doing so, it is easy to give the date too much or too little credit.
  3. Turn small talk into an engaging conversation.
    Getting to know someone can feel awkward.  What do you talk about?  There are only so many things to be said about the weather.  Here are a few topics beyond “what do you do for a living” to spur conversation.

    • Last great meal
    • Fictional character with whom they identify
    • Last book that was read
    • Favorite podcast
    • Dream vacation
    • Best and worst first day of school/work
    • Colors that represent various aspects of their personality
  4. Leave the exes in the past
    Although, knowing a person’s dating history can help shed some light into preferences and stressors.  Previous partners do not need to be present at the first date.  This may send the unintentional message that there is still “something there” or that the person is comparing and judging this date against the “ex” standard.
  1. Keep your standards but release your unrealistic expectations.
    A standard is a level of quality while an expectation is a belief that something will happen in the future.  An example of an unrealistic expectation is that your date is responsible for how you feel.  Turn that into a standard of wanting and needing your date to behave in a respectful manner.  It can get confusing but a good rule of thumb is to break down things into wants and needs.  Another one is to ask yourself “how would this person know this.”  If the answer is “they just should” then that may be an unrealistic expectation.

Now that you have a few tips, take some time to develop your own and most importantly go into the real world and practice!


Nicole is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA who specializes in mental health and relational wellness.  Dedicated to infusing mental health into your overall wellness regimen and promoting healthy relationships.  https://nicolemwardlmft.com

Things you need to know for your first therapy appointment

So you’ve made the choice to seek therapy. After doing your research, (you’ve heard about our directory right?), you’ve zeroed in on a therapist that seems like they might be a good fit for you. Now what? The pending New Year has us all ready to start anew. Maybe you’re seeking therapy as a way of getting your mind and spirit aligned for a new year filled with new obstacles and new life changes. Or, maybe you’re looking to leave some habits back in 2018 and you’re looking toward therapy to help you out with that. Whatever your reason, here are a few things you should know before you first therapy appointment.

  1. There will be lots of questions. You will probably do most of the talking during your first appointment and it may feel like more of an interview. Your first session is what we call an intake and it’s designed to get as much background information as possible to help us figure out what’s been going on with you and how we might be able to help.
  2. You might feel really nervous. It’s totally normal to be really nervous about your first session. It’s not everyday that we talk to a complete stranger about some pretty personal stuff in our lives. If you feel comfortable, share with your therapist what you’re nervous about. It could lead you to a great conversation and might provide some valuable information to your therapist about the kinds of things that might be helpful to you in the therapeutic process.
  3. You probably won’t leave with a diagnosis. Since we’re likely doing a bunch of fact-finding in the first session and there still may be some pieces of the puzzle that don’t quite fit, you probably won’t leave your first session with a diagnosis. We may have a good idea of what we think may be going on, but will likely want to see you a few more times and have you share more about your story to be able to make a diagnosis if there is one to be made. You don’t need a diagnosed mental health condition to see a therapist.
  4. You might be hesitant to come back for the next appointment. It may initially feel better to finally have a place to share what you’re struggling with but afterwards you may have what we call a ‘vulnerability hangover,’ where later that day or the next morning you think “what in the world did I just do?” it feels like you’ve just been naked in front of a lot of people. This is not uncommon and it may make you feel a little embarrassed about going back to the therapist. Try to fight through that feeling. See if you can and go back to the next session and share how difficult it felt to come back and the feelings you’ve been experiencing.
  5. You might not feel “better” right away.  Depending on what’s going on and how long you’ve been dealing with whatever brings you in, it may actually feel worse before it gets better. You know that one closet many of us have in our homes where we shove boxes, out of season clothes, wrapping paper, and various other odds and ends? What has to happen when you finally decide you want to clean that closet. You probably have to take everything out, decide if you’re going to keep it or not, and then make a plan before there’s any sense of organization right? That’s a lot like what it’s like to start therapy.

If you’ve already started therapy, what was your first appointment like? Is there anything else you think others should know about the first appointment? Share it with us in the comments. And if you haven’t already started therapy but think you will soon, grab our Guide to Getting Started With Therapy to help you out in the process.

The Wounds of Sisterhood: Black Women, Grief, and the Loss of Adult Friendships

 

September 26, 2018 was supposed to be a standout day for my best friend Sharmara. I imagine we would’ve sung happy birthday (the Stevie Wonder version of course), enjoyed a great meal or big bash even—mainly just spent time together marveling at how old we are now from our first meeting as high school freshmen in 1993. We would have lovingly reflected on how long our friendship has endured—through all the triumphs, heartaches, and “only you would understand” moments. What a day it would have been, honoring my best friend on her milestone 40th birthday. But we didn’t celebrate the way I envisioned. Six years ago, 17 days after her 34th birthday, Sharmara surrendered to a noble, four-year battle with pulmonary hypertension.

I spent this special birthday honoring my friend in her absence, tickled by the shenanigans we devised in our 19 years of friendship. Even at this stage of development, I miss her connection. I miss her severely and yet so tenderly. She is still the most kind-spirited and gracious person I know. She was the one who knew of my deepest aspirations. She was the one who saw my flaws as is and still look beyond them to dream so big for me—grander than I believed. Such bonds are so precious and needed throughout a woman’s lifetime.

RELATED: 3 QUESTIONS IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE CELEBRATING YOUR FRIEND

Recognizing the impact of this loss prompted me to consider the different wounds Black women sustain in sisterhood, including the demise of adult friendships. The breakdown of bonds once so fierce but ultimately divided by misunderstandings, lack of commitment, or even life transitions such as budding careers, marriage, and parenthood. As a defense, some women may offer a warning about the dangers of sisterhood: See, that’s why I have more male friends. In the face of the ironclad Black-woman-bond, why do many women relate to the aching hurt and sting of the termination of friendships, particularly those that blindside and leave you cultivating your own closure? Why do relationships conclude in this way? And when they do end, how do you heal and grow through loss? The following are gentle considerations in grieving the loss of a friend.

Mourning the Loss

Acknowledge how you feel about the loss of your friendship. Resist blocking, numbing, or diminishing your emotions. Often, the end of a relationship can be a sorrowful time and you may want to move as swiftly and far from it as possible. However, relationships take time to create and in these connections are memories that may later lend to sadness, confusion, frustration, guilt, and disappointment at the relationship’s dissolution. Know your feelings about the loss are valid and deserve to be explored. Consider a safe space to identify, vent, and process your emotions such as counseling with a professional experienced in helping individuals work through loss. You may also benefit from journaling or figuratively writing a goodbye letter to your former friend to express your emotions about the course of the relationship and its ending.

Grief and Acceptance

To accept the end of a friendship doesn’t mean that you like or prefer this outcome. Acknowledging the loss doesn’t diminish how you feel about it either. Still, accepting the relationship’s status is fundamental for healing as acceptance allows you to identify how to live with this loss now that it is a reality. As you acknowledge the end you can work to create a solution to live anew without the friendship.

RELATED: EXERCISE: THE ULTIMATE FORM OF SELF CARE

Trusting to Befriend Again

Vital to cultivating new friendships is the ability to identify the lessons you learned in loss and areas for self-improvement. With a balance of being open and wise, you can work to heal and foster connections that serve you well. Moving forward, consider what you need and desire most in friendship, as well as what you’re willing to offer and accept. And do just that. Remember, all friendships, current or former, are unique and not to be compared.

I know there will never be another Sharmara. Nevertheless, she taught me the value and power of sisterhood. She was the one who woke up hours before she passed just to see me and offer her parting words, “See you later, okay.” At the time, I heard her statement as a request but now I know it was really an explanation. A prepping almost. She had the last word and she was right. Just a little later, Sharmara. I will see you again.


Author’s Biography
Keisha is a licensed professional counselor and owner of Transformation Counseling Services in Columbus, Georgia, which focuses on grief counseling and perinatal mental health services for mothers and their families impacted by pregnancy and infant loss, and postpartum anxiety and depression. Keisha is an advocate and writer, contributing to articles in Essence Magazine, The New York Times, Bustle, and Elite Daily. Connect with and follow Keisha on Facebook and Instagram.

3 questions if you have trouble celebrating your friend

 

It happens to the best of us! Something major just happened to one of your friends and suddenly you feel like your life isn’t going anywhere. Maybe your relationship dynamic has shifted as a result of this exciting moment for your girl. You find yourself questioning where you are in life. You ask yourself: ‘Why is my friend stepping into this exciting new world and I’ve been in the same place for what feels like forever now?’ Whatever it is, it’s important to know you’re normal. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself if you ever find yourself in a position where supporting or celebrating your friend’s accomplishment feels hard.

  1. Is there somewhere in your life you should be working harder?
    It might be a good idea to take inventory of your life. What do you have going on? Is it better to focus on the ways you can take your opportunities to the next level? Or, is it better to focus on what others around you have going on? Often times, our insecurities are controllable when we allow ourselves to focus on the ways we can improve ourselves. Each step, no matter how small, can get us thinking more positively about our own lives.RELATED: EXERCISE: THE ULTIMATE FORM OF SELF CARE 
  2.  What is coming up for you?
    Is there a sense of grief about an experience you thought you’d have that you didn’t? Perhaps you’ve been having trouble getting pregnant and your friend just announced her pregnancy. Or, you have a friend that landed an amazing new job. Or, she just entered into her first serious relationship and it’s caused the relationship between the two of you to shift. The thing that’s important to remember is that your feelings are valid, they’re not wrong. How you manage it is where it becomes tricky. A great step is to acknowledge your emotions. Allow yourself to feel whatever pain you’re feeling as a result of what you think is missing in your life. Confront the fear of not having it at the moment. Then, strategize. Write your goals on paper and plan the best most practical way you can go about achieving them step by step. As soon as you get closer and closer to your goals, the anxiety of not having what someone else has will fade. Don’t believe me? Just try it.
    RELATED: 31 DAYS OF AFFIRMATIONS
  3. How can you manage whatever you’re feeling in a way that still allows you to celebrate your friend?
    How would it feel to have a conversation about it? This is the biggest step toward acknowledging your fears or insecurities. Our friends care about us, they are our friends after all. Sometimes they can give us a different perspective. Maybe you were thinking about your friend’s accomplishments one way, but there’s an entirely different side you didn’t know about. Maybe there was a time she felt the same way you’re feeling right now. Whatever it is, talking to her about it is a great way of acknowledging how you feel with the source. It can be one step toward a more positive outlook on your own life.

31 Days of Affirmations

October 10 is my birthday and like all true Libras, I celebrate all month long lol! This year to celebrate, we’ve partnered with ThinkUp to bring you 31 days of affirmations. After the Mental Wellness Challenge in August, many of you shared that you wanted more opportunities to be reflective and think about the ways you can be more intentional about taking care of yourself, and I think this is a great way to do it! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Here’s how you can join the celebration:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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1. Download the ThinkUp app at therapyforblackgirls.com/thinkup. It’s free!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

2. I have chosen a collection of 31 affirmations called “Living Life on Your Terms” that can be found in the ThinkUp app. Each day we’ll share one of the affirmations on social media that you can add to your ThinkUp playlist. You can record them in your own voice and even add music. Feel free to add any of the affirmations that fit for you. You can also add your own affirmations or search the app for others.
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3. Journal about what comes to mind for you as you’re reflecting on the affirmations. Try to choose a time at the beginning of your day or at the end of the day for this exercise. Do some fit for you better than others? What made you choose the ones you did? There’s no right or wrong answers, more a reflection of your process. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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4. At the end of the month, if you’d like to, make a 1 minute or less video discussing what the experience has been like for you and how you plan to continue using affirmations as a part of your mental wellness plan and email it to kamron@therapyforblackgirls.com. We’ll choose one winner randomly who will win a premium version of the Thinkup app. 

Exercise: The Ultimate Form of Self Care

Regular exercise can improve our physical health, decrease our risk for serious health conditions, and help us feel better emotionally.  For many of us, our lives are so full that don’t know how to add exercise into our already packed days. Neglecting our health at the expense of our busy schedules is dangerous for many reasons, but ultimately it can stop us from being the healthiest version of ourselves, both in mind and body.  Understanding the impact that exercise has on our lives, allows us to make intentional choices to improve our health.

 Common reasons we avoid exercise

Lack of Time.  Lack of time is a major concern when starting and maintaining an exercise routine.  You take on so many responsibilities that you rarely have time for yourself.  When you have a brief moment to slow down, another critical task quickly moves to the front of the line. Even though your to-do list never ends, there is still that voice in the back of your mind – the voice of your basic needs – telling you that you need to make your health a priority.   Listen to this voice!  Find a few minutes in your day – 10 to 15 minutes – for exercise.  A quick walk in the neighborhood, a yoga tutorial online, a quick high-intensity workout – any of these are great places to start.

Guilt.   What will my children do when I’m exercising?  Am I a bad mom for going to the gym when my son is at football practice?  Guilt starts off as a subtle whisper, but left unchecked, it can grow louder.  Sometimes we think that taking care of ourselves is equivalent to selfishness.  What if I told you that exercising, and finding a consistent health care routine, is one of the most selfless acts you can give to your family?  Studies show that consistent exercise is linked to increased productivity and mental focus.  This means that exercising regularly can help you become more focused and present with your partner, children, and with yourself.  Letting go of self-inflicted guilt is an important part of building self-care through exercise.

Lack of knowledge.  Maybe you realize that exercise is key to your long-term health, both physically and mentally.  You’re ready to move!  And you know the recipe for success….diet and exercise!  Should be easy, right?  Wrong!  It is surprisingly easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of exercise material online.  Cardio or weight training?  Aerobics or water exercises?  Run or walk? Not knowing where to start or what you enjoy can easily keep us stuck.  If you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information out there, consider finding a workout partner to start the journey with you.

What are the emotional benefits of exercise? 

Improve stress and overall mood.  Our bodies release stress hormones as our stress level increases, which may trigger our “fight or flight mode.” Stress also triggers increased heart rate, trouble breathing, and sweating.  Exercise can help decrease overall stress levels.  In fact, researchers found that exercise actually reorganizes the brain to increase resilience to stress.  Exercise also has been shown to improve mood by increasing endorphins.

Increases confidence.  Exercise can also increase confidence.  Setting, working on, and achieving a set of goals helps build a sense of personal accomplishment.  This is why many “couch to 5K” programs work, as they build slowly on small goals.  With each accomplishment, you can continue to work on building larger goals.  It feels great to accomplish something new.

Improve sleep.  Exercise also improves quality of sleep.  Sufficient sleep is connected to quality of life and overall health.  Because exercise reduces anxiety, depression, and stress, it can also lead to improved sleep quality.  Here’s a bonus – there is a bilateral connection between exercise and sleep.  This means that as you begin to exercise more, the quality of your sleep will improve, and the quality of your workouts will improve as well.

Reduces the risk of dementia.  A recent research study from the American Academy for Neurology found that women with high physical fitness levels were 90% less likely to develop dementia decades later than women who were less fit.  Although the study does not look at cause and effect of exercise and dementia, there is a chance that adding fitness could delay or prevent dementia.

Adding exercise and self-care into your day can help you live an efficient and healthy life!

Dr. Jacque Strait, Ph.D. is a licensed Counseling Psychologist and co-owner of Winding Way Therapy, and creator of Fit For a Queen Wellness Consulting.  Dr. Strait specializes in counseling for professional women suffering from life burnout.  She also provides wellness consulting to Women of Color who want to build better self-care through fitness.  To reach Dr. Strait, contact her at strait@windingwaytherapy.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear graduate, what’s next?

Graduation season came and went; a season marked by major transition, lot’s of excitement, and definite celebration. Let’s say you’re the one that graduated. You spent years working toward a goal. The time came. Now it’s gone. While you should absolutely be enjoying the fruits of your labor, you’re not without some growing pains. While this time is marked by lots of celebration, you could be feeling apprehensive, confused, and even depressed.

RELATED: REAL TALK: POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION

At least a few emotions indicate the entrance into a new phase of life whether you, specifically, are graduating or simply experiencing a separate major milestone (a wedding, birth of a child, new job etc.) This season is characterized by life changes and it’s crucial to equip yourself with the proper tools to manage the emotional shift. Here are at least 8 things you should look out for and implement during the summertime transition that could greatly impact your life post-graduation and set you up for success:
Breathe.

  1. So first, there’s a natural coming down of adrenalin that happens when you finish big projects. You’ve spent so much time working on this thing that, at times, felt like would never end and now it’s done. Then there are ceremonies, parties, dinners and it is pretty nonstop for a while. You’ll probably have a wave of emotions related to saying goodbye to friends who have become a large part of your life. And then, abruptly, it’s all over.  You’ll suddenly have a bunch of time on your hands and may even feel like you don’t know what to do with yourself. Before you try to fill the space with unnecessary noise – breathe. Feeling bored or like you’re not doing enough is not uncommon and you don’t need to beat yourself up over feeling down, even though everyone else feels like you should be on top of the world.  If you feel like a sobbing mess allow yourself to feel those authentic feelings. If you’re confused about what’s going to happen next, call a friend, go to dinner, process your thoughts with someone who cares about you. Know you’re not the only one feeling this way and that the feeling will likely pass as you get a little distance from all the celebrations.

RELATED: STAY WOKE. BUT GET SOME SLEEP!

Manage expectations

  1. You may have some concerns related to not finding the dream job right away. It’s important to remember most people don’t retire from the job they started straight after undergrad. Beginning one job now does not mean you’ll never have your dream job, or you’ll be there forever. It’s more important to interrogate what makes something a dream job. Can you find some of these same qualities in another job, internship or volunteer project? Could these opportunities potentially open more doors for you to land the dream job?

Give up on the comparison game

  1. You might be comparing yourself to others, whether it be on social media or live and in action. People all around you are embarking on new adventures and it’s easy to consider someone else’s grass, #goals. In reality however, most of our social media feeds show the highlight reel and not the full story. Try to manage your tendency to want to create a better story around someone’s picture than their actual reality. Like the pic and move on. It might also help to do some journaling if you notice your mood being impacted by what you see on social media. What comes up for you as you see pictures of others moving into their new fancy apartments or taking great vacations? This could give you a good place to start to do some digging about changes you might need to make to feel better about what’s going on in your life.

RELATED: THE BLACK GIRL’S GUIDE TO SELF-CARE

Get real about your finances

  1. You might be worried about having to pay back loans. Unfortunately, Sallie Mae (or whoever your lender is) may start calling and emailing shortly after your degree is conferred. Try not to get into default in paying back your loans. Instead, look into deferment or forbearance options that might give you a little more time to start paying back.

Exercise discipline.

  1. It’s easier said than done. You might feel caught off guard about the lack of structure and stability that school provided. For about 17 or 18 years now, there has been a certain rhythm to your life. Go to class, do your homework, eat some lunch, hang out with friends, repeat. And, even though your college years gave you a bit more freedom, now that you’re done. Your schedule really will require you to be disciplined and accountable. There won’t be any loss of points for coming in late or a grace period because you ran out of time. It’s now incumbent on you to figure out what’s important to you and map out your days accordingly.

 

Do you have an idea or tip you want to share with the us about making a major transition (new school, new job, etc.) make sure to share it in the comments or on social media using the hashtag #tbginsession.

5 things you didn’t know about suicide

September is National Suicide Awareness Month and the goal for this campaign is to share resources and information so that we are more aware of the signs that someone might be suicidal and how we might be able to help. I’ve found that there tends to be a lot of misinformation about suicide so wanted to take this opportunity to dispel some common myths that continue to pervade our culture.

Black people do die by suicide. Though Black people and Black women specifically have the lowest rates of dying by suicide, it is definitely on the rise and something we need to pay attention to. Suicide is now the 3rd leading cause of death for young Black people between the ages of 15-24. You may have seen recent articles discussing how suicide rates doubled between 1993-2013 for Black youth between the ages of 5-11, and how teen girls are dying by suicide at higher rates.

RELATED: LET’S BE CAREFUL WHEN DISCUSSING SUICIDE

Suicide is not act of selfishness. Many of us have not had significant depressive symptoms or felt the incredible despair that typically accompanies the decision to end one’s life. So, it seems unfathomable that someone would want to end their life. But it’s important to remember that at the point when someone is considering suicide, they often feel like they are a burden on their loved ones and feel like everyone would be better off if they were gone. They often do not see a way through or out of the pain they are experiencing.

Asking if someone is suicidal will not make them suicidal. I can assure you that someone who has not felt suicidal in the past will not become suicidal simply because you ask. Often times, not asking indicates that you can’t handle your friend sharing that level of pain with you. It makes it secretive and like something that should not be shared, which is not what we want to happen with someone who is feeling suicidal. We want them to be open and honest so that we can help them get connected to the help they need.

RELATED: REAL TALK: POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION

People don’t attempt suicide for attention. All attempts at hurting one’s self should be taken seriously. Even if someone does not seriously intend to kill them self, an attempt is typically a signal that something larger is at play and that professional help is necessary.

People who are suicidal don’t always look depressed. Sometimes a person who has decided to end their life will actually have a bit of an improved mood in the days before their suicide because they are at peace with their decision. We saw this recently when Chester Bennington‘s widow, Talinda, released a video of him laughing and joking with his family days before he died by suicide. She wanted to help shed light on the fact that depression and suicidality don’t only look one way.

Helpful Resources

  • You can talk with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at  1-800-273-TALK
  • In the US, you can text with a crisis counselor 24/7 by texting the word TRIBE to 741-741
  • If you’re looking for a therapist in your area, make sure to check out our therapist directory at therapyforblackgirls.com/directory

 

Help! I can’t stop checking my ex’s IG

Going through the motions of ending a relationship can make you feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster. One day things are going great and then the next day, you and your partner are done. When your relationship ended, you may have felt as if there was no closure when ties were severed with your partner. Old feelings linger, and your curiosity drives you to explore what your ex has been up to since the break-up. It’s not uncommon for people to spy on their ex’s social media account when they don’t feel like there is closure to the relationship, because it’s an easy way to intrude into their space without being found out. Here are the reasons why you secretly watch your ex’s social media account…

1) Your emotions run high when saying goodbye to your partner. Just like when you lose someone in death, you go through a range of emotions including shock/denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and eventually acceptance. There is saying that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” which implies that after separation from someone, there are times when you miss them, and you romanticize the relationship. When you romanticize your partner and relationship, your memories focus on the good times you had together while minimizing the bad times. To your dismay, you may start thinking to yourself “our relationship wasn’t so bad.” After that, you start to mentally justify all of the things that your partner did right, how no one else can fill that void, and maybe you should give it another shot. The easiest way to do this is by checking up on your ex on social media – and see how they are doing since the breakup. It feels safer to silently monitor how things are going for them since you two are no longer together.

RELATED: TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF AS A STEPMOM

2) You hate being alone. Being alone after ending a relationship is difficult. Lying in bed alone at night leaves your bed and heart feeling empty. You long for and crave that closeness that your ex provided for you; whether it was the conversation, sex, or just being in your space – things just don’t feel the same when you are single and alone. Trying to find ways to fill the void for the activities that you used to do with your lover on the weekend can feel exhausting. And since you recently broke up you may feel like you don’t know how to occupy your time or your space, which may leave you to wonder what your ex is doing. Perseverating on the feelings of familiarity and security that your ex provided for you cause you to spy on their social media account and follow how they are spending their time – so that perhaps you “happen” to show up where they are and increase the likelihood of rekindling the intimacy flame. You also may think of ways in which you can extend the relationship. It’s not uncommon to want to continue the relationship by being “friends with benefits” to satisfy the craving for intimacy.

3) You want to see if they were happy without you. You ask yourself “is my ex missing me as much as I miss them? Are they hurting as much as I am? How are they moving on without me?” You’d like to think that you were an integral part of your ex’s happiness, and it may be difficult for you to surmise that they can possibly move on and be happy without you. Peeking at their social media gives you the opportunity to see how they are handling their lives emotionally without you in it.

4) Fear of failure. No one wants to feel like they have failed in their relationship. Social media makes it easy for people to fake happiness. People usually only post bright, beautiful, and uplifting photos and statuses. People are getting married, having babies, and getting engaged all around you. Your timeline is filled with happy smiling people – not couples with problems or breakups. How would it look if you changed your status to single? It’s as if you feel like you will be judged on the longevity or your ability to remain in a relationship. There is a lot of pressure associated with appearing as though you are perfect on social media, thus if your relationship fails, it may feel like you are a failure in your ability to love, beloved, and be perfect. There is shame around admitting to others, that despite your best efforts, your relationship didn’t work out. Thus, spying on your ex and keeping up a charade that the two of you are still together, to avoid embarrassment is not an uncommon tactic to maintain an image on social media.

RELATED: THERE IS NO MOVING ON AFTER A BREAKUP

5) Lack of closure. There is this idea that because your relationship ended, that the two of you must properly say goodbye in a special way to mark the parting of your paths. You may feel like you can’t truly move on because you didn’t say good-bye, discuss why things ended the way they did, or let your partner know how you felt when things ended. Thus, you feel that you and your ex have unfinished business. Thus, you may spy on your ex to try and find the right opportunity to talk to them about how things were left.

Ok, now that you know why you silently spy on your ex on social media after the break-up, how can you stop doing it and move on?

1) Honor your emotions and process the breakup. Allow yourself to go through the grieving process, by giving yourself time and space think about the hurt and pain that the breakup has caused, as well as thinking about the finality of the breakup. While going through the pain of grieving doesn’t necessarily feel good, it’s a necessary and healthy part of letting go. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, however, you must allow yourself to do it. It’s okay to cry, get angry, and pass on going out with friends if you are sad about what has happened. If you find that you have difficulty processing your emotions around the breakup, then try finding a therapist that can help you with the coping process. Also, reach out to family and friends.

RELATED: BOOSTER SESSION: SEX WITH THE EX

2) Stop isolating yourself. Being alone can trigger you into feeling like you have to occupy your time, and your space – which you may feel is empty. Rushing back to your ex may feel like an easier option because there is comfort in being with them – especially if feelings are still there. You may also feel like your ex is easily accessible because they still have feelings for you too. Instead of reaching out to your ex or looking at their social media account; pre-schedule activities with friends or for yourself during times when you know you are going to be alone. Find ways to enjoy spending time with and distracting yourself like going to a movie, trying a new restaurant, taking a walk, learning a new hobby, etc.

3) Avoid triggers. Steering clear of triggers in the beginning stages of a break-up can be necessary for you. That can include avoiding spaces like social media, and other platforms where everyone may seem to be a happy couple. When you are triggered to check-up on your ex on social media, develop a strategy where you do something else instead like call a friend, watch tv, etc. Also, be mindful of what causes you to feel like you need to spy on your ex. This can help to understand and avoid the unnecessary emotions of discomfort, feelings of failure, and feeling like you owe people an explanation about your break-up.

4) Buy a body pillow – and a vibrator. Finding a way to quell those normal emotions of wanting to be close to someone intimately can be a useful way to help you move on and prevent you from reaching out to your ex to fulfill those desires. It can be helpful to occupy your bed-space with a body pillow or a large stuffed animal. Also, quelling your desires can be done by using a vibrator, which can prevent you from impulsively reaching out for sex with the ex.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not addressing serious forms of cyberstalking or abuse.  This blog post is to be used for educational and informational purposes and should not be substituted for treatment with a licensed mental health professional. The suggestions mentioned may not be applicable to everyone.


Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD., LPCC is a Licensed professional clinical counselor and a registered psychologist. She currently has a private practice called Lifetime Counseling and Consulting in Oakland and Sacramento, CA where she specializes in working with women who have been in emotionally and psychologically abusive relationships with narcissists, as well as with individuals who were previously incarcerated for various crimes. Dr. Jones has a podcast called A Date With Darkness Podcast, which specializes in providing education and tips from healing from narcissistic relationships

To contact Dr. Jones please visit: https://www.drnataliejones.com

Taking Care of Yourself As A Stepmom

A stepparent is anyone dating or married to a partner with children from a previous relationship. When most people hear the word “stepmom”; many preconceived notions come to mind.  Many people think of stepmothers through the lens of old outdated fairy tales and myths. The reality is that the average stepmother is often, isolated and very much misunderstood by society.

Research shows that stepmothers have a much more difficult experience parenting and step coupling than stepfathers. Many stepmothers are expected to be maternal and nurturing toward their stepchildren, even if their stepchildren are rejecting. Biased gender roles, gender stereotypes, and unrealistic expectations contribute to the difficulty that many stepmothers experience.

RELATED: THERE IS NO MOVING ON AFTER A BREAKUP

The average stepmother is expected to hold the same role that a biological mother fulfills such as working outside of the home, and performing the majority of the domestic tasks like cooking, cleaning, planning family events and schedules as well as child rearing. According to attachment theory Bonding refers to a very particular type of attachment that occurs when a child is born and developing in utero. It’s natural for a biological mother and father to see themselves reflected in their children. Biological parents can see their child through loving eyes, even in the midst of their child’s challenging behaviors and children have a natural biological bond with their parents.

Stepparents, on the other hand, are newcomers to an already established family dynamic and are outsiders from the onset. Stepfamilies are born out of the loss of a previous relationship. Stepmothers are often expected to parent and nurture children who are grieving their original family and who do not yet have a bond with their stepparent. Stepmothers come into their role, with a partner who may have unrealistic expectations of what a stepmother “should” be.

RELATED: THE BLACK GIRL’S GUIDE TO SELF-CARE

In stepfamilies with single fathers, the responsibilities of child rearing are often transferred from the biological father onto to the stepmother. During this transfer; Stepchildren can become resentful of their stepmother’s new role in the family. Stepmothers often experience the responsibilities of parenting but usually have very little authority related to their stepchildren and their behaviors. It is common after a breakup or divorce for Biological parents to elevate their children as peers and become permissive parents; which leads to more stepparent stepchild conflict and resentment.

Stepmothers can experience high levels of depression; due to the lack of support they may receive from their partners, within their household, and from their community of biological moms. Many biological mothers can vent and express feelings of frustration and overwhelm related to their children, but stepmothers often have the experience of being shamed or silenced when expressing a similar sentiment of their stepchildren.

Tips toward a healthier, realistic Stepfamily dynamic

Establish Healthy Boundaries with your partner:

If your partner is leaving you alone with their children during visitations; and you feel uncomfortable with this; it might be time for a heart to heart. At the beginning of your relationship, it’s best practice for your partner to continue parenting as they did before the two of you became a couple. It takes the average stepfamily  4 to 7 years to function as a traditional family. It’s crucial for you to define your role as a stepmother and to determine which activities you are comfortable participating in and which activities you would like to delegate to your partner. Learning to say no and delegating to your partner regarding their children can be hard because society has a particular perception of how women “should” interact with all children.  

Utilize Self-Compassion:

It’s easy to listen to that inner critic or to allow others to project their ideas onto you regarding your role as a woman and stepmother. You may worry that you are not “doing enough” as a stepmom if you set boundaries, but keep in mind your partner is ultimately responsible for their children. Try not to beat yourself up for needing a break. Try to tap into those passions you once had before this relationship. As women, we tend to put everything into our intimate relationships, but it’s essential to maintain your interests and friends outside of your stepfamily.

If you are a stepparent and are experiencing signs of depression such as sadness, guilt/shame, irritability, low energy and feelings of isolation, please seek help from a licensed professional You are not alone.

 

Shelly Ware is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California specializing in Stepfamily dynamics and Women’s Issues. http://www.mycounselingclinic.com