Committment and Hope

You may have noticed that Envision-ings took a brief time out, over the past few weeks.  So much is going on, as I am preparing to wish Japan a loving “Sayonara” and declare “I’m back” tinged with mixed emotions to my home, the US.    I’m looking forward to meeting some of you at Growth and Goal Setting and definitely feeling excited about all of the other events Envision Therapeutic Services will be hosting in 2017.

I am also feeling ambivalent about returning to a President-elect Trump and a country that has largely, doubled down on hate.   I am working hard, like so many of you, to keep a positive, hopeful attitude that we will continue to prevail no matter what stumbling blocks are put in our path. We must continue to walk in our legacy of exceptionality and excellence in the face of racism, sexism, classism, both microagressive and institutionalized.

The election of Trump is the capstone to the violence and discrimination we have suffered in recent years from the institutions and governments that are failing to support and protect all of this nation’s citizens.  From Jim Crow to Reganomics to Ferguson to Flint, this modern age is still fraught with struggle for People of Color.  This election has once again, illuminated our need to care for ourselves, body, mind, and spirit, as we continue to fight against oppression and further cemented my commitment that Envision Therapeutic Services will be a safe harbor, a place to be nurtured and rebuild, individually and collectively, as we press on.

 

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New Event!! Aziza E. Jones and Women of Color in Leadership

We are so proud to announce that Aziza has been selected to present at the Smith College Women’s Leadership Conference, March 31 to April 1, 2017!  We are looking forward to a lively discussion and great engagement around her workshop, Leadership as Disruption: Women of Color and their Allies Moving Beyond the Boundaries.

Keep watching our Events page for more information about this and related events!

Metal Clouds

If you are an R&B music fan, by now you have heard the buzz about “A Seat at the Table” Solange’s long-awaited, new album.  Like her big sister, Solange has penned an ode to the being that is Black womanhood.  Her single, Cranes in the Sky has me open, feeling (and to be honest, reveling in) the Black Girl Blues in a “this song hurts so good” kind of way, and I’m not really sure what to do with it.  I even tried to talk myself out of writing this post because I’m supposed to promote mental health, not romanticize the blues, right?

Most theorize that this song is about the end of a relationship, but for me it described so much more than a break up with a lover.  Solange gives voice (impeccably, I might add) to that nebulous, sadness, displeasure with life, and feeling like you are not “enough” that so many Black women have felt.  It’s the feeling of being tired, but not giving up.  It’s the pain of not seeing your beauty reflected in the world or by your brothers and sisters who are fighting the same fight.

This song makes me wonder, marvel at how we are doing it.  How have we thrived as Black women, despite every horror time has tried to come against us with?  We are miracles! We have learned to take care of ourselves, affirm ourselves and our sisters, so we grow beyond what should be possible.  What I love about this song is that it reminds me that we are still flying.  You can’t run into metal clouds, unless you are already in the air.   We are soaring and that should be celebrated!

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Paper Crane Chains Symbolizing Peace at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Japan

#Yougoodman

This past week, Kid Cudi rocked the social media world by sharing that he was seeking treatment for depression and anxiety.  Kid Cudi’s choice to reveal his struggle ignited #yougoodman as a way for other Black folks,  Black men, especially, to talk about their own journeys of cultivating and maintaining mental health.  His openness and vulnerability created space for others to share how they combat a world that is often destructive to the souls and physical existence of Black folks.

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Kid Cudi

This discussion is hugely important and timely.  One of my friends, who is a black, male mental health clinician, has said that “Depression in the Black community looks like people making a series of bad choices”.   For us, major depression might not mean being unable to get out of bed, but functioning despite feeling emotional devestation or the emotional void of numbness.

After generations of being forced to endure extreme psychological and emotional suffering, many of us are ill equipped to deal with or emotions in a healthy way.  Because of our collective, generational trauma from slavery or colonialism, many people of color believe that emotions are unimportant.  We tell each other to “man up” or to remember that we are “strong black women”.  Many of us have been taught to harness our anger from experiencing racism into energy to propel us towards success. We are instructed to push down or deny other emotions, like sadness and fear because too many feels get in the way of our survival.

We’ve been sent the message that our feelings are the least of our problems or that they don’t matter at all, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Our underlying feelings shape our beliefs. What we believe underlies what we do or don’t do to secure positive outcomes for ourselves and each other.

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Our future as individuals and a community is inextricably linked to us being as healthy as possible.  Let’s continue the dialogue and keep taking action to ensure we achieve global health–physical, psychological, and spiritual.

 

For the Love of Self

 

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Portrait by Barkley L. Hendricks

 

Black folks are known for their bravado. Our culture expounds our beauty and brilliance through braggadocious raps, poems, like Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman“, and the portraits of Barkley L.  Hendricks.  Despite the self-love that permeates our cultural expressions, some of us struggle, at times to know that we too are included in those representations. We may struggle to remember that our melanin is poppin’, our strength is sometimes silent, and that loving ourselves is not only, necessary, but revolutionary.

For Harriet, contributor, Angela Roulette gives us an honest, open look at what it means to not feel love for oneself, in her article, “A Black Woman’s Shame“.  Reading her story made me think of other women I have know, both personally and as clients, who have struggled to love themselves for various reasons. I was led to write this in response to her and for every woman who has ever fought to love their very being. I am also writing for myself, as there have been times in my own life that I have struggled to care for myself.

So, what exactly is self esteem and how do we get it? Self esteem can be defined as what we feel and what we believe about our own value. Healthy self-esteem reflects a relationship with oneself that is loving, confident in one’s abilities and forgiving of one’s mistakes. Like many other indicators of health, self-esteem often falls on a continuum of unhealthy to healthy and is not static. It can be changed.

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Portrait by Barkley L. Hendricks

During childhood, our self esteem is largely based on the messages we receive from the outside world. We get messages from our parents and other caregivers, as well as other children about our value. The more supportive, consistent and loving our care is from infancy through our teen years, the more we will internalize a strong sense of self worth. Our earliest experiences form our beliefs about who we are and what we are worth to others. If our caregivers have shown us how to care for ourselves physically and emotionally, we will grow into adults that take care of our own bodies, minds, and spirits.

Unfortunately, not all of us get a master class in self-love. For many of us, there were some holes in our education, especially if we are from communities that have faced historical trauma, like American chattel slavery, war, or poverty. Our caregivers, likely gave us the best they could, stretching to share what they had. Even if we didn’t get everything we needed from those charged with our care, we can work to rebuild ourselves in adulthood.

If you are struggling with loving yourself, here are some steps you can take to rebuild your foundation.
Give Yourself Credit–Make an honest assessment of your abilities, Identify the things you do well. Once you can appreciate the what you DO, it will lead to appreciating your best qualities. For example, maybe you make a mean pound cake and whenever you make a cake you share it with your elderly neighbor. What a caring, kind thing to do! Acknowledge that you are kind, caring and a great baker!

Do More of What You Do Well–Once you’ve acknowledged what you do well, do it more often and you will increase your confidence in your ability. If you are a good writer, join a MeetUp group for writers or volunteer to help with the newsletter at an organization in your community. Expanding opportunities to use one ability will likely lead to other chances for you to recognize more valuable skills and character traits

Accept Compliments
–Accepting compliments graciously is a skill that is easy to perform, even if it feels difficult. Simply responding to a compliment with a “Thank You” is all that it takes to receive the gift of recognition. If you struggle with affirming yourself, you may be tempted to down-play what was said or offer up a rebuttal. Don’t give in! Remind yourself that “Thank You” is a complete sentence and push the Gremlin of self-doubt aside. The more you practice this, the easier it will become.

Get Help–Sometimes we all need assistance to improve our outlook. Seek counseling with a licensed professional to help you uncover the beliefs that have led to a poor self-image and learn tools that are specific to your situation to move you along the path to self-love.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Each year, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) hosts National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September. It’s an opportunity for us to educate ourselves about the risk factors associated with suicide and ensure that we know how to get help for ourselves or others. Unfortunately, talking about suicide is still taboo in many circles, including many communities of color. Often we misjudge mental health issues, like depression or anxiety as personal weakness or a crisis of faith.

NAMI has great tools and information to help us understand when and where to get help, including Help Yourself. Help Others that lets you take an anonymous suicide risk assessment online.  Once the assessment is complete, the site allows you to email the results to yourself or print it and take it to your physician or a mental health service provider.  It even has specialized assessments and resources for college students and military servicemembers and veterans (folks who are close to my heart!), since they are often at higher risk for self harm.  If you need help finding a provider and you’re not in crisis, the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) can assist you.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of ending their life, call 911 or The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).  The lifeline is open 24/7 and will talk with you about anything.  They will help you get stabilized and connected to help.