Anxiety Calling

Anxiety has been knocking at my door a lot lately. Whether it’s been about the migraines, a troublesome lack of focus, the challenges of a new relationship, or really anything at all, anxiety found a way to slide in. Thankfully, I “stumbled” across an ad for an event that Joyce Meyer was livestreaming on anxiety and remembered to sign up.

Now people have different takes on Joyce Meyer and her bible teaching. But for me, she has been a God-send. She’s taught me and millions of other men and women how to know and honor God in practical ways. And her vulnerability about so much of her life, including the abuses and challenges she’s faced, have, I believe, helped save my life. So, whatever – I love her.

The event, called a Girls Night In, included worship, teaching from Joyce and a discussion panel all on the topic of anxiety. I soaked up every minute of the experience like a plant in dry, brittle soil.

The worship brought me to my knees. Snotting and crying on the floor, I was reminded of how good God is. The discussion reminded me that I am not alone in this struggle. Women all across the country who love Jesus, were also struggling with anxiety, and many, like me, were receiving help from God through prayer, therapy, and medication. But Joyce’s teaching made me realize why I had been struggling so much more lately. To my amazement, I realized that I hadn’t been doing two things: (1) avoiding worry like the plague, and (2) actively reminding myself of the times that God has taken care of me before.

Instead of running from worry, I was letting it run me ragged. I needed to cut those worried thoughts off at the knees by either focusing on what God’s word had to say about the matter I was worried about or about “worry” itself.  And I had plenty of experiences with God taking care of me in matters both big and small. How could I have forgotten to do this? I was tempted to beat myself up about it. But I knew that wouldn’t help. So, this time, I skipped it and quickly, got to remembering God’s faithfulness in my life.

What about you? Do you have any memories of God taking care of you that could run what’s been bugging you off?

Catch 22

Water rises up to the edge of my eyelid, falls into my lashes, and dribbles down my cheek as I watch the screen. My mind is connecting with what I am hearing in a way that I don’t yet have words for, so the tears come. Tears of relief, joy, and hope. Tears for the end of a loooong trial that’s been hard to observe with the naked eye, but has been present all the same.

I’m listening to a nurse practitioner recount the many traumatic brain injuries she’s had through the years. Concussions in many varieties that, at different times, came with a fractured skull and cheekbone, inflammation, cuts and bruises, and debilitating migraines that shock her awake and make her throw up in the middle of the night.

I explain the evolving symptoms of my own migraines, the last remaining symptom of a concussion I suffered in a car accident a few years ago. They have improved drastically despite their lingering and, often, show-stopping presence. But when I describe the deteriorating focus and concentration that has begun to affect my work and scare the crap out of me, I point to depression. Do I feel depressed? No. But since when has any of this ever made sense? One hormone decides to call in sick, or my symptoms evolve unexpectedly, and the whole apple cart turns over.

“It’s not the depression. Your medication would’ve handled that symptom like it did the others. No, it’s the concussion. I think you have medical onset ADD – the predominantly inattentive type.” I have no idea what that means. So, I say some version of a “huh?” to the screen.

“It’s common to have worsening focus and concentratration even years after suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I think the concussion has brought on the inattentiveness. Medication can help with that.” She asks me if I’ve tried “Wellbutrin”. “Yes,” I answer, and add that it made me have suicidal thoughts within hours of taking it. “I’m sensitive to medication.” She pauses, then suggests Adderall.

I listen in silence, letting it sink in. As it does, the tears come. In the next second, I wipe my cheeks, saying, “I’m sorry. I’m getting emotional because this has been so hard, and you’re telling me that there’s a way out of this?”

I don’t remember much of what happened next. I learn that there’s a national shortage and that some people can become addicted. “It wouldn’t be addicting if it didn’t work,” she says. We talk about dosage and my medical history as well as my extended family’s. We end the telehealth session with an agreement to meet again in two weeks.

When the call ends, I’m bowing, sitting on my bed, and then again with my knees on the floor. Warm tears still streaming down my face, I praise God for this, whatever it is. Deliverance. A breakthrough. A resolution to an old prayer that I had only recently begun to pray again. Confirmation that I should expect good things from my Father in heaven. Maybe it was all of the above. But whatever it was, I had to offer my gratitude in praise.

The next couple of days pass in a blur. There’s a hold-up with the medication because there’s a nationwide shortage of the exact dosage for my prescription. It takes another day for the nurse to submit a new prescription for a lower dose. But my hope helps me push through the struggle at work. On the day that it is finally ready, I decide to type “Adderall” into Google, and suddenly, my hope comes crashing down around me.

I see words and phrases like “Amphetamine,” withdrawal symptoms, risk of addiction, and effects similar to Meth, and my mouth goes dry. “What the…?”

“I can’t take this,” I say to myself. “I can’t risk addiction.” And immediately, the option was off the table. But the fears of losing my job because I can’t focus and deliver tap dance their way back into the forefront of my mind.

And this is the challenge that comes with navigating any illness, the catch 22, deciding which is worse, the suffering without the medical intervention or the suffering with it. “There has to be another way,” I think to myself.

By the end of the week, I had spoken to my therapist about it – who advised me to seek a second opinion from a neurologist, asked a mentor about supplements for focus and concentration, and most importantly, asked Jesus about it – a simple question in the journal where I write my prayers.

I also endured a rainy “migraine day” that sent me into dark room rest for most of the day. But when I woke up on that sunny Friday, I felt better, drained and tired, but much better. And on the roughly hour long drive to work, I returned to a practice that I hadn’t done often enough in the new year. I listened to audio of my own voice reading verses of scripture on health, healing, and believing.

Taken from a little purple book by Joyce Meyer called: The Secret Power of Speaking God’s Word, I have scriptures covering a few topics recorded on my phone. Why? Because when I speak God’s word out of my own mouth, things change. I change.

I needed my focus to change. So I listened to my voice saying those verses and to two of my favorite RnB songs that I’ve remixed in my head to remind me of God’s love for me… “So Beautiful” and “Yes” by Musiq Soulchild over and over again as I drove to work. All of which reminded me that my God is undefeated and that the “nickname” of Jehovah Rapha (God who heals) was given for a reason. What are migraines and concussions to an all-powerful God? Crushable ants, that’s what. And I said as much along the way, ignoring how insane I might look to the surrounding drivers.

I can’t say what for sure did it. The peace of an empty and quiet office. The joy of a sunny Friday. A grateful attitude. The remembrance of the power and faithfulness of my God. Or, more likely, in my opinion, the very words themselves. But I went on to have the most productive day that I’ve ever had at this job, probably in an entire year, if not longer. And my amazement remains.

I did the practical thing. I filled the prescription. In the off chance that the neurologist agrees with the nurse, I didn’t want to wait even longer due to shortages. And maybe that’s a failure of faith, I dont know. But do I expect to use it? No. Will I forget that it’s there? Probably not, especially if the focus of that Friday never returns.

But I do expect it to return. I believe it will and will say so every day if I have to, with God’s help. Maybe the threat of an addiction will spur my mouth into action, I don’t know. And if I have to throw the pills away, then so be it. But I have been amazed, tantalized by the power of God, and I want to, need to, see it again.

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Long time no see…

So here goes. I haven’t written in a while – a long while. It would be easy to offer up the fact that things have been busy and crazy in my life lately. That’s actually true, though it isn’t the whole story. So much has been happening that I could write about. But I couldn’t get myself together enough to actually write about it and, so, I feel like I’ve failed. And it’s that feeling that’s stopped me.

In the many months since my last post, I’ve relocated to a new state, taken a new job, struggled with imposter syndrome and fears that it’ll be another toxic workplace. I’ve applied  to and entered a rigorous online master’s program, met someone new and experienced the tell-tale signs of falling in love, despite my best efforts to avoid it. And all of it has been complicated by depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and regular migraines. But somewhere inside me, is a feeling that someone will need to read about what’s been on my heart so that they will know that they are not alone. And that’s the only reason that matters. So, I’m starting again.

Welcome to Creatorskind. This is a blog where I talk about my experience as a Black woman navigating depression, anxiety, PTSD, and a beautiful relationship with Jesus, something I never thought was possible. I hope you see yourself here and, more than anything, are hopeful too.

Just Stay … please?

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…

You are not alone.


You are seen.


You belong.


You are needed.


You are no accident.


You were made with intention, regardless of what’s happened since.


You have a purpose, despite all the pain.


So, stick around a little while longer to see what it will be.


Decide to stick around for one more day.

Just one – one day at a time.

Every day.

And I promise you will get there, love.

Because, for real, you really are loved.

If you need a virtual ear, hit me up @ creatorskind@gmail.com 💜

Trust is letting go Pt. II

I’m letting go.

It’s a cloudy winter afternoon and I’m running late. Snow is falling lightly and turning to slush on the roads. If left undisturbed for a minute or more, it turns to ice in the bitter cold. Mindful of the time, I keep pace with the cars gliding down the highway. But when I hit my exit, I realize that time shouldn’t have been my only concern. Because suddenly, I’m slipping and sliding.

My tires have hit a patch of black ice and I’m in chaos. Forgetting what I know, I hit the brakes. Wrong move. I’m beginning to spin even as my car skids forward. I turn the wheel hard to the right and then I see it – the short concrete sidewall of the ramp, less than 10 ft ahead and even more above ground. And I’m moving fast toward it. Overwhelmed and out of control, I take my hands off the wheel and close my eyes, bracing for impact.

This haunting memory is what came to mind a few weeks ago, when I spoke to my play big sister. We got caught up on what’s been happening in each other’s lives and there was much to tell. But in recent years, I’ve noticed a growing calm in my good friend’s demeanor and perspective on the events of her life. My normally boisterous and giggly friend, though still joyful, had become more subdued. The twists and turns of living don’t seem to warrant the same complicated reactions as before. Instead, everything had become very simple. I guess, having a serious illness has a way of doing that to you.

We talked about her restorative trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, the calming effect of being near water and her new perspective on stress. Like the water that she watched drift in and out from the shore, she had decided to just flow. Though her body is doing things that she does not want or understand, she was accepting that she was not in control – not of her illness or her life. All she could do is her part – take her medicine, avoid stressful interactions and situations, and treat her mind and body well – because the outcome wasn’t up to her. That part was up to God. My friend was letting go, not of life, but of the illusion of control.

That cold, snowy day on black ice, I made a split decision to release control and trust God for an outcome that I would be able to recover from. I let go. And in that moment right before impact, I wasn’t panicked. I was free.  

When I think about the choice to leave my toxic work environment, it almost doesn’t even feel like a choice. I feel pushed by the toxicity to go elsewhere. But I’ve vacillated between wanting to leave and wanting to be valued. And the truth is that I don’t have any control over that last part.

How people perceive me and my work or what they are willing to do in the face of racism in the workplace isn’t up to me. That responsibility is entirely their own. All I can do is make choices that value and affirm my own well-being. The choice that does that best is the one where I leave. There’s nothing left for me here and I know it.

I don’t know what my future would look like if I accept the job offer that has been the subject of my many pro and con lists. I’m not sure what to expect of this new position in a different field in a new state. A new environment, new people, and new expectations and demands means unpredictable. And in all honesty, I can’t be sure that the “new” place would be any better than the last one.

It’s a choice that challenges me to consider how I view myself and my potential as a professional. But more than that, it requires me to decide whether my faith is real or “sometimey.”

It forces me to ask myself, “do I really believe that I walk through life holding God’s hand?” And if the answer is yes, “then prove it … let go. Leave.”

In her book, In My Grandmother’s House, Yolanda Pierce captures the gravity of this moment well. She says, “Leaving is trusting in God. Leaving is a leap of faith with no guarantee that the situation you encounter once you have left will be any more life-giving. Leaving is walking out of Egypt without the certainty that you will ever arrive in Canaan. … The lesson of leaving is not in the destination, which you may never reach, but in the journey itself.”

Leaving is a gamble. But letting go is trusting, not in myself, but in my God.

I can’t control the outcome, but I can make the choice.

I choose to trust God and journey onward to see what the end will be.

What about you? What are you choosing to let go of?

©2022 Creatorskind

Trusting is letting go Pt. I

“Never underestimate the value of a good pro’s and con’s list.”

I said this to my nephew only a few days ago.  He was weighing the benefits and drawbacks of a job offer at a new company against the familiar rhythms of his current job. “Make a written list,” I told him. “Write down the pros and cons of each company and job.  Getting them out of your head and onto the page will free your brain up to consider the possibilities, instead of trying to keep them all straight,” I said, pointing to his head. He promised to make a list in the morning.

A few days earlier, I was in an EMDR therapy session talking about my own pro’s and con’s list. Actually, lists would be more accurate, because I had several. I had pro and con lists about whether I should leave my job, relocate to another state, and whether to accept a job offer I had received.

But this time, the release that came with getting it all down on paper had been short-lived. Instead of decluttering my brain, the multitude of options lining those pages were short-circuiting it.  To say yes to the job offer, was saying yes to them all and every positive and negative outcome that came along with them. It was a lot to consider. It could be a welcome change, but change, especially of this magnitude, can be scary and is rarely ever easy.

Knowing my love for Jesus, my therapist asked me to imagine giving my list to God. I was all for it. I figured it might be a way to remove some of the pressure I had been putting on myself. So, as I watched my therapist’s index and middle fingers swing from one side of the screen to the other, I imagined giving God my lists.

With a blank expanse as the background, I imagined a large hand extended in my direction. The palm was open before me like a blossoming flower. This big hand with its firm and well-formed flesh looked strong enough to lie in, but I didn’t. Instead, I walked over and lifted the little notebook containing my lists as the hand reached forward to receive it.

At first, I imagined the hand immediately ripping the notebook to shreds. But when I reflected on what my relationship with God had shown me about God’s character so far, I knew that it wouldn’t go down that way. So, like an artist crumpling and tossing an imperfect work, I started the exchange over in my mind.

The hand embraced my little notebook with a care that I hadn’t noticed in the last scene; its fingers gently closing around the book as though it were fragile. And with that same gentle care, the hand put the notebook aside and returned its wide and empty palm before me, beckoning my own. In the next moment, I was holding God’s hand. That scene is where my mind stayed until that EMDR round ended. 

Even though this had all been in my imagination, I knew that something was happening. Even though a single word hadn’t been spoken, in every action, from my hand to God’s, an exchange was taking place. I was remembering a promise that had been made.

In offering God my lists, I was asking God to take the burden of needing to make the “right” choice off of my shoulders. In laying that notebook in that outstretched palm, I was handing over control of every outcome, both positive and negative, and asking God to give me discernment and rest.

Those lists were my concerns – the questions and worries hiding in my heart and overloading my brain. Their gentle handling in God’s hands reminded me of what I already knew but had momentarily forgotten – that my concerns matter to God.  God takes me and everything in my life seriously because that’s what love does.

The hand that reached out to receive and embrace my own reminded me of another point that, lost in my anxious thoughts, I had forgotten – that I’m not in this alone. God is with me, choosing to walk through whatever comes, right by my side.

And it wouldn’t be the first time.

I was remembering that I could trust God.

I was remembering that I could let go.

©2022 Creatorskind

Seeing the big picture

Have you ever found yourself faced with a challenge that is so big and so overwhelming that you can’t tell whether you’re winning or losing?

Maybe you get sick or hurt and need to undergo a medical procedure. Thankfully, you have insurance, so you’re not responsible for most of the cost to address it. So, you use some savings, take out a loan or save your pennies to pay your deductible and co-pays.

You go to the doctor and work out a plan to fix the problem. You take test after test and exam after exam. You find yourself naked in the company of so many specialists that you wonder whether you should adjust your body count.

All of this takes a while, but eventually, you find yourself checking in at the hospital. And then, you wait. Before you know it, it’s over. You’re at home and recovering. Crisis over.

But now, as you make your way back to life as normal, something unexpected happens. You find new bills in your mailbox. Bills for this test, that exam, this specialist, and those medications. New bills arrive even as you pay the latest ones. You’re in a whirlwind, overloaded with bills for something that you thought was over and done with; something you thought was covered. And in confusion and frustration, you wonder, “Am I wasting my time? Will this ever stop?”

This is how the random flashbacks and intrusive thoughts of PTSD feel to me. No matter how much progress I think I’ve made, those two symptoms remind me that it’s not over. It’s a problem that refuses to go away, and certainly, not without a fight.

My way of fighting is to go to therapy, get enough sleep, stay on top of my medicine, workout, do things I enjoy, have alone time and time with people I love, eat well, journal and talk to God. These are the practices that have made a difference for me. But those moments when I am catapulted back into the original moment of pain feel like a setback. A big one. Beyond confusing and exhausting, it ticks me off.

It makes me angry at the people who caused the trauma. Angry at the person or situation that now reminds me of that trauma. Angry at the world for being so jacked up. Angry with myself for not being past this already. And, if I’m honest, a little angry at God too. Why? “Because I’m doing my part, aren’t I? Where is God?”

My anger temporarily blinds me to God’s many fingerprints that cover my story. Fingerprints that show up in the supports I have that are helping me heal, like therapy and friendships. But this blinding anger is a feeling that arises from some hidden bitter place in my heart, though I know better. My back and forth with PTSD makes me feel like I’m failing. And that makes me angry.

I have a friend that I appreciate and admire so very much. She’s a single mom and is working hard to raise her child to be a responsible and independent person with good character. Day in and day out, she invests every resource she has into this simple, but challenging goal. Yet, understandably, she sometimes gets overwhelmed and frustrated when the same mistakes and setbacks continue to happen again and again. Sometimes, she feels like she’s in this all alone. Sometimes, she feels like she’s failing.

One day, we were talking about a recent episode that brought those negative feelings back to the surface. And I saw something in her situation that I now see is true for me too. There’s a saying that describes it well. It says, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” In other words, she’s in the weeds.

When I look at her child, I see a person who is smart, funny, kind, considerate and well-rounded. In him, I see the totality of her efforts in a singularly beautiful form. I see it all blending and working together in even the simplest things. But I am on the outside, watching her strategic parenting from afar. And she’s too close to the details, too close to every decision, to see the effects they have on the big picture. She doesn’t see that she’s winning.

I realize that it’s true for me and PTSD too. Where I am now with PTSD is not where I was 4 years ago or even last year. Though the uninvited symptoms still show their ugly faces, in the big picture, they have less of a hold on me now than before.

Today, there are fewer episodes with intrusive thoughts. Fewer random flashbacks. Less insomnia. Little to no nightmares. Less anxiety. Less crying myself to sleep. Less stress. Less hopelessness. Less need to be hypervigilant. More confidence. More peace.

In the big picture, where I am now is progress, even if it doesn’t always look like it in the moment. And as difficult as this fight has been, it is exactly because it has been so hard that nothing could ever make me believe that I did any of that fighting on my own. When I take a step back and look at the big picture, I see that I’m winning too, with God’s help.

What about you? What problem has you unable to see the forest for the trees?

©2022 Creatorskind

Time Travel: This is PTSD

It doesn’t matter what I’m doing or where I am. I could be reading quietly or sitting at a table eating amongst friends and, in an instant, I’m transported. The book, the table, the commotion around me withdraws and instead, I am inserted into a vivid, living moment from my past. And usually, it’s a painful one. This is PTSD.

Truly, in the span of a single breath, I have flown backwards through space and time to any one of many scenes that rotate on replay in the ether of my mind. When I arrive, it’s so real that I don’t know that I’ve been anywhere else – there’s no future to speak of, just this moment, right now, and my body makes the shift.

My heartbeat quickens, pounding in my ears. My muscles tighten and my eyes narrow as I am face to face with him, her, it, the experience, again. And I feel the emotion, the same emotion that I felt the very first time, when I lived it.

It flows freely – anger, embarrassment, confusion, hurt or shock. It’s a wave that carries me along through the scene. I speak words in my mind that never make it out of my mouth. I’m trapped.

The pain is my boat, and I can’t get out. I can’t get off. In this repeated scene, I do new things, sometimes no thing, or the same thing. The one thing I never do is leave.

I can’t break away because in this moment, I don’t remember that this isn’t real. In this moment, right now, what I see, what I feel, and this scene is all there is. And it hurts.

When this haunting memory is finished with me, it departs just as quickly as it came. My racing heart is the only trace of its having passed through. My mind clears. I’m back, but I remember where I just came from.

I take deep breaths, in and out, letting the fresh O2 soften the rigidity in my body and slow the pace of my heart. Sometimes, I cry. Maybe just a few tears, sometimes more.  It hurts to be dragged back through pain with no rhyme or reason. And it’s hard to explain.

How do you explain what feels like your own mind trying to take you out? How do you make that make sense? How do you make it plain without sounding too intense? This is what it is. And it’s just a regular day. If I told someone my daydreams hurt, they’d run away, afraid they’ll catch what has already caught me. So, I tell no-one. Instead, I pray.

My words speak of contradictions. Devotion and confusion. Praise and questioning. Struggle and surrender. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” flows from my heart, though I promise it’s not what I believe. But it is how I feel. And it comes with hot tears and anguish.

To this Lord that I love and whom I believe loves me my thoughts shout, “I thought you would deliver me … at least by now!” But out of my mouth comes, “Lord God help me,” in a whisper.

I seek God, believing that God IS; believing that I will be rewarded for my pursuit.

I put it all down in my journal, covering the lines and the margins. My words are addressed to all of Heaven and the hand that made it all. I let it all out and allow my tears to stain the pages.

When I am done, I feel a little better; a little lighter. But, tired too. I have no answers, yet somehow, I know that I have been heard. With that knowing comes a little peace and it is enough for now.

©2022 Creatorskind

She said, “save yourself.”

“Save Yourself.”

With those two little words, my wise, straight-dealing grandmother was telling me that pretending to have no needs, no hurts, and no complaints, wasn’t worth the trouble.

I’m not used to that idea, especially when it comes to me.

What I AM used to is appearing under control at all times. Partly a product of my introverted personality and overly analytical brain, I choose to try to understand a situation before I allow it to engage my emotions.

But truth be told, I have often skipped emotions altogether. More than the result of a deeply analytical personality, it is mainly a maladaptive coping mechanism. It’s something I do to avoid the emotional intensity that often comes with conflict. I had let my emotions take the lead before and the momentary loss of control scared me.

A simple school yard fight, that wasn’t really a fight, is what started it. It was just a little pushing and tussling before it was broken up. Though hot and intense in the moment, when the rage I felt had faded, all I was left with was embarrassment. I had completely lost it and in front of everyone.

I’ve heard it said that depression is rage turned inward and I believe it’s true. Because after that singular experience, I decided that I wasn’t going to let anything or anyone take me there again. I was going to always keep myself completely under control. And because of that decision, my anger, no matter who or what caused it, had nowhere else to go, but back in my direction.

Fast forward to adulthood and the world of work. At work, my need to not lose my cool in difficult situations turned into a warped display of strength. Somehow, not letting other people get under my skin, or even think that they had, became a victory for me. It became a twisted (and prideful) signal of professionalism and “being the bigger person.”

As I found myself increasingly in mostly white spaces, I felt my coolness during conflict stand out in sharp contrast to what I could see was expected…the angry Black woman. I saw the widened eyes and bated breath as people waited for the fireworks to start, complete with snappy insults and the obligatory neck roll.

Well, I wasn’t going to be anyone’s stereotype. I would skip over all the emotion and get to the heart of the matter or ignore it altogether. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was rapidly developing another maladaptive coping mechanism… unamused silence in the face of conflict.

It’s the approach I have taken when faced with micro-aggressions and even blatant racist hatred and sabotage in the workplace.

It’s something that I am realizing that people often mistake for weakness.

In saying “save yourself,” Ma was saying, “to hell with that.”  And could I blame her? Nope. But I can’t shake that this somehow feels incomplete to me. Even if I got it all out, what about the hurt part of me? How does that get healed? It’s a question I ask wondering if my grandmother would have an answer.

In her book, In My Grandmother’s House, Yolanda Pierce remembers crying in the safety of her office after one too many microaggressions. She wondered why, with all that her grandmother and church mothers had taught her, hadn’t she been taught how to care for herself in these painful moments.

She would eventually learn that she needed to offer herself compassion and kindness, not just a steely resolve to push through. She would realize that it was okay to need, pursue, and receive that loving attention. But what she would also realize was that those skills could not come through her grandmother and co., because they hadn’t known how to give it to themselves. It hadn’t even been an option for them, and you can’t teach what you haven’t been taught. My guess is that it was probably true for my grandmother too.

For the me that I am now, I’m seeing that saving myself must include authentically reacting to what is happening around and to me, without the hang-ups about how others will perceive my words or actions. I must give that freedom back to myself. But I also owe myself another important and related freedom… love.

©2022 Creatorskind

Words of wisdom

“Don’t let someone piss on your head and call it rain!”  These were the words that rose to the surface of my mind during an EMDR therapy exercise. I immediately erupted in laughter.

Though not in her voice, I instantly recognized the personality behind the words. Memories of my grandmother’s sharp wit and no-nonsense attitude streamed through my mind as I considered whether she would say these words to me in real life, and not just in a dream. Another laugh straight from the gut is my answer. Yes, she would… emphatically yes.

This is how she would react to my stunned silence at my supervisor’s behavior. She would want me to call him out on his garbage and get it all off my chest, professionalism and consequences be damned. She would want me to fiercely fight back in any instance where I have been mistreated. So strongly would she have felt this, that I am certain that if she were alive, she’d offer to tell him off herself.

Ma was a smart, funny, kind, and mannerly woman. Through her influence, her children (grandchildren and foster children too) were renowned for our exceptionally polite and respectful ways when in the company of adults. Visitors would say, often in genuine astonishment, that we were “so well-behaved”. When we were guests of someone else, an invitation to return “anytime” was the norm. She expected her family to be respectful and respectable. But she was also a street-smart fighter.

She didn’t take crap from anyone and never hesitated to put someone in check, if need be. For her, it was always better to nip it in the bud. And she didn’t mince words. Ever. Her epic no-nonsense and no B.S. attitude is one of our favorite topics of conversation in my family. And regardless of what the actual scenario is, it’s often hilarious, simply because it’s true. So, those initial words were no surprise to me. But as we resumed the exercise, the next ones were.

“Save yourself.” 

Now THAT gave me pause. We were using EMDR to try to break down some of the stress I’ve been having about the situation at my job, along with some particularly difficult past trauma around race and work that continues to come up.

Because I’ve been so concerned about what my grandmother would think of me and how I’ve handled these experiences in my life, my therapist thought it would be a good idea to envision a conversation with her about it. Like the one in my dream, I would meet with her and see what comes of it. I don’t know what I expected, but whatever it was, it definitely wasn’t that. But in an instant, I knew what those words meant.

“Save yourself” was a call to arms. It was a call to come out from under the strong Black woman stereotype, even if I didn’t know that I was hiding within it. It was a call to let go.

The strong Black woman is resilient by reason of necessity. She is familiar with hardship. But is expected to be hardened to all of it, racism included. Stoic. She is expected to stretch herself to superhuman proportions, unemotional about the dizzying shapes in which she contorts herself.

When presented with less than “enough” of whatever, the strong Black woman somehow manages to pull everything together. She juggles multiple plates and takes on more without ever letting one fall. She does not disappoint.

She does this at home. She does this at work. She does this in her relationships. She is the person who endures anything, gives everything, and asks for little to nothing. And that is the curse.

She appears to handle everything so well, even the hard stuff, that no-one thinks to offer her help or protection. No-one expects that she needs it. So, she grins and bears it, while her legs buckle under the weight.

Inherent to the strong Black woman stereotype is self-sacrifice. Her needs, wants, hopes and passions come last in-order to wear the crown that comes with lifting everyone and everything else up above herself.

You can argue that it’s a choice. But it isn’t always a conscious one. Without having the language for it, this kind of fortitude was built into my childhood ideas about Black womanhood through example. As a product of strong Black women, and The Cosby Show and Living Single era, I fully expected to do it all and have it all. I just didn’t know that eternal self-sacrifice was one of the trade-offs. I also didn’t know that in-order to reverse course, I would have to fight against another stereotype… the angry Black woman.

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