I MUST SAY I ADMIRE Ms. Karazin for igniting a firestorm of commentary on the plight of unplanned pregnancies by African American women in the United States. That fortitude to want change and to rally the resources in that manner is excellent. I respect that.
I have concerns, beyond my own anecdotal stories on this subject alone. My biggest concern is that of mental health and wellness before, during and after pregnancy. Some of my greatest clients suffer from post-partum depression. Some are married, some are not. These are the realities of things.
Another action I do admire about No Woman, No Womb is seeing Mrs. Nisa Muhammed's name. Respect for her because I do support Marriage Enrichment courses before, during and after.
But this blog is really not a positioning blog for my business: Sister Mental Health and Wellness, this blog is for me to use self-management and self-care between visits to my mental health providers and avoid mental illness Bipolar Disorder II manic episodes - which may be going on as I write this piece due to my PMS...LOL!
So I know when I blog my crazy episodes, people actually read my posts and respond! In fact when I post them to my Facebook, folks give me plenty of feedback, including my own mother after I get my phone call. Then she invariably sees other people's comments with stories "worse than my own" and she realizes like I did, that I may have just helped someone who has mental health issues be given a voice...
Because the problem with having a mental health condition and managing everything involved is losing one's voice...
Seriously, the stigma of mental illness is deadly in the African American community. Two weeks ago, I made a presentation in front of a group of young people and their parents about cyberbullying and the kids had NO clue about what to do if anyone posts a suicide threat online.
Only 1-800-273-TALK has the BEST information on dealing with suicide threats online. Metanoia.org has the BEST written content to talk one down from following through with a suicide threat. But I can tell you, cultural competency is lacking in both organization and they know it. Then, we have this STIGMA and if I hear another person say, just pray on it, I will SCREAM!!! Why? Because once a SUICIDE threat is posted anywhere, the person who made the post is not anything but MENTALLY ILL which requires EMERGENCY MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY!!!
ALL SUICIDE THREATS MUST BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AT ALL TIMES!!!
This is WHAT YOU DO so that you do not say, I WISH THERE WAS SOMETHING I COULD HAVE DONE!!!
What does this have to do with the NWNW backlash I have seen from highly educated African American women?
Self-esteem/efficacy is a part of mental health, specifically behavioral health that falls under two large categories: NATURE and NURTURE aka GENETICS and ENVIRONMENT...
Genetics becomes hardwired roughly 90% of the time. It is very tough to change it. For neuropsychiatric medicine though, scientists are discovering that the human brain is not as hardwired as thought. That an individual's brain genetics shifts as a reflection of learning in an environment under evolution...
Behavioral genetics is the driving force to understanding and developing treatments and therapies for mental illnesses, such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, autism, etc.
Environment in this context = residential background, region, family involvement, sociability, etc. These actions are taught. A child LEARNS how to respond to life's stimuli no matter the stressors. How the child is taught is only ONE aspect to understanding mental illness. And in the African American community, we will have to discuss the Social Determinants of Health and Health Disparities. If we are discussing these concepts, then we are discussing Social Injustice...
Mental Illness is exacerbated when the stress of social injustice complicates optimal and efficacious treatment. What is the point in prescribing the latest and expensive Anti-Psychotic when the insurance will not pay for it, no Urban pharmacy carries it and the patient sees no need to "adhere" to the regimen? Do you still implement the "intention to treat" as outlined in the medical oath? Or just wait until they show up at the ER waiting for a psych nurse to give the approval eval at 3 AM? I will tell you it is the latter for MOST people of color who threaten suicide... Or the police have already killed them...
/END ACADEMIC RANT
My anecdotal story: FOR or AGAINST NWNW... I will not decide... In fact, I will place this poll and let you decide after reading my blog. But here is my anecdotal story:
- I am 42 years old, a Black Woman and married for 7 years to a wonderful man who I love dearly.
- I have never been pregnant
- I hold a doctorate in Molecular Genetics - most folks who read this know this, this is for the newbies.
- I have bipolar disorder that I seek medical treatment for and I effectively self-manage it according to my mental health providers' (yes with an "s") care.
So I am the outlier...
When I was ~24 years old, I fell in love with a professional athlete. He was the moon and the stars. I met him at a party and we had excellent conversation and I gave him my number. In boy time you know what that means, he called me and left a message. My 20-something self just KNEW we could become an item! :D IT WAS FUN! Me just getting accepting into a PhD program and HIM playing for a pro team! What could be better?
Then, his true self came out. Either I actively overlooked it after friends told me to stop, but he was verbally abusive to me. He treated me like I was worthless. Let's make that more accurate, I let him treat me like was worthless. The FACT IS we did NOT have a relationship agreement - i.e. ACQUAINTANCES vs DATING! I was his acquaintance, NEVER his date...
The long conversations we had were arguments on me trying to prove why I was good enough for him--OR SO I THOUGHT! Let's not go into me spending my money to make him happy...Yeah...EXACTLY!
[side note] To this day, it is still painful I went through this ordeal. Some of my closest friends know about this situation and how it is bad. But it helps my healing from the damage I incurred allowing that monster into my life. Yeah, eyes welling up. [/side note]
He would call himself having parties and invite the kind of women that his boys wanted to be hooked up with. Some being his family members. I was invited, but I was smart enough to bring friends who could tell when it was time to go. Of course there was alcohol, which he drank a lot of and I ignored that.
Then one day he started inviting me when the ladies in his family visited. I would come and they liked speaking to me. I thought they liked me. I thought I was "it"... Then the trash would come in. I am not one to fight over a guy, but this "boy" was into pitting women to feed his ego in hindsight...
Then, when I met the new "flavor du jour", I was to be pitted against, she was old, sickly, looked like an OLD Cruella DeVil or Natasha. Well in his line of work, allegedly, they teach the athletes about these kinds of women in a seminar. It means he was not listening... The time was ~3 years of knowing him, trying to be a good friend in spite of it all, longevity, and he stops speaking to me one summer. I was clueless all along or delusional...
[For those who have an idea what happened next do not speak...LOL!]
Then I got a surprise call of him inviting me to one of his games. I was so enthusiastic, jumping for joy that I rushed over to his house to go with his male "cousins" to the game, then Cruella was there...
9 months pregnant...
That is how I found out where babies come from in psychotic situations such as these /sarcasm.
Here is what happened to me:
Rush calculations, back tracking to conception dates, doubting how that was possible!
Sorting through my mind all the things were said
Realization of what happened and how I let someone treat me that way
Worrying my folks about my surivival
I cried... Did I cry! Even now...I cry!
HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO STUPID! SO IGNORANT! SO DELUSIONAL! SO UGLY? WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME? WASN'T I PRETTY ENOUGH? SMART ENOUGH? GOOD ENOUGH? WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME? WHAT DID I DO WRONG?
My friend keep telling me: Just one less person to think about a Christmastime...
For six months... And I was so oblivious, NEVER did the guy and I discuss any relationship situation seriously other than, "FINE, then FINE"... I thought we were just angry with each other and we could work it out. NEVER DAWNED ON ME that that was my EXIT... That was my CUE...
Yeah, I can bash myself with EVER expletive possible... Then after a year of that pain, the ONE STRIKE LAW WENT INTO EFFECT!
- Cannot have kids under the age of 12...
- MUST be DIVORCED from wife for 5 years
- MUST HAVE AN EDUCATION!!!
- MUST ONLY HAVE ONE CHILD!!!
There were more. I cannot think of them all.
[side note:]Oh did I say my husband does not have kids... He is an African American professional man with a DVM, who WAS single without any kids and never got a woman pregnant...Graduated from Morehouse College...[/side note]
I finally got to the point in my life at that time that if I want to ruin my life, I do not need anybody's help, I can do that well enough alone...
And dammit after working so hard in graduate school to become a research scientist (LOL!) I deserve someone commensurate to who and what I am with similar family values and background -- or at least a man who respects that about me. If he cannot, then X ONE STRIKE LAW!
How long was I single after that? ~10 years. Did I want to go and mess up my life like all my friends were doing by "getting married in reverse" - have the baby, trap the man? Yes. Did it happen for me? No. Why not?
I did not care for any of the men enough to want to carry their seed for 9 months.
Then I learned the TANTRA!!!
The Art of Conscious Loving...
Not about loving yourself...More about how to express the love of yourself as a your gift to your partner - the sharing of Anhat... The mindfulness of Ajna... The mantras... The settings... The Feng Shui of a romantic encounter.
I HEALED USING TANTRA...
That when I expressed myself in relationships, it was my gift to honor them. If they did not return, I know that at least I gave them that blessing that they needed at the time and I was blessed to have experienced them.
That was when I let go, so that I could allow true love to come in with my true mate.
It takes patience. It does not happen overnight. Good relationships are TOUGH to build, especially when there is no outline, not a very good instruction manual or archaic one, too academically rigorous, etc. And to be honest, that crazy relationship I was in with the pro athlete, I was to lazy to face facts of letting go... So the Spirit made me let go... I am better for it.
So... Now what?