Growing up in the South (the southern part of the Carolina’s specifically), I know all too well how strongly your faith and religion can play a part in pretty much everything that you do. From what you wear, to how you handle situations throughout life, your religion may be the only go to some will say you need to get through tough times. Lately, we all have been exposed to some of the most horrific mental altering images and videos throughout the world, some even have witnessed situations happening in front of them unable to explain or wrap their minds around what has happened. Growing up first hand, being apart of the African American community, I know at one point in time there were no other options of coping with stress and traumatic situations for us other than relying on our faith, or religion during those times. But now, I often question …. is this enough? Is it best or, even safe, for us as a community to only rely on one option to go with in order to treat our mental health? We have often been told that not everyone copes with things the same, so why only rely on one way of coping?
For example, when it comes to your physical health and making improvements to it, we often have more than one option for working out. You are either going to actually go to a set gym to workout and get in shape on a regular, maybe one where you have to pay a membership fee for starters. Or you will have your own at home gym option with no fees included plus it is convenient for you. Or lastly, you may prefer an adventurous type of gym time like visiting parks and taking hikes throughout nature. With either option, you have a choice as to how you would like to improve your physical health, so why are we often told in the African American community that we only need one option for improving and working out our mental health?
Listed below are some alternative options I have found to help out towards improving my mental health, along with consistently keeping it at a good place on a regular basis. These are not methods that I use to replace or disregard my faith, but to add on to it. There is nothing wrong with having more than one way or method of doing things. Sometimes it is necessary to get the results you need. Check them out below:
- Energy Works
- Professional Counseling
My meditation techniques are different from your traditional ones. Of course, with me being an artist I often include art in some way, shape, or form. I don’t participate in traditional meditation traditions that you see on television like sitting in a circle, legs crossed, with my thumb and index finger pressed together with both hand resting on the knees of my crossed legs. Yeah that is just not me, not knocking it though, it may help someone else. But my meditation practices include more self care activities than anything. My first go to for meditation would be creating #DEMusicBlocks thorough our DE ArTherapy activity. Another method I try from time to time are some motivational activities like keeping a consistent journal that I often post on our instagram account to release and keep my mind on the right path weekly. Right now, I am participating in the She Heals 31 Day online journal challenge with @MELLiEPiNK of www.mellieking.com and @Tameka of www.tamekachristmas.com, you can check it out under our #31DaysSheHeals tab. Third method for meditation would be traveling and sight seeing. Getting out the house can really help out a lot especially when you’re doing something you love to do.
2. Energy Works
Practicing positive forms of energy works has been a life changer. My attitude about things and the way I handle certain situations have changed dramatically for the last 6 months to a year. Now, when I speak on energy works everyone always goes to a negative place about it automatically. True energy works is not something that is used to bring negativity, or harm, to another. For me, it is often used as a way from me to get over things and let go. I was introduced to this type of healing practice and method of improving my own mental health by Danielle Ayoka who is the owner and brains behind Mystic Lipstick. Check out my previous article on Mystic Moon Rituals for more information on how she has helped towards my mental health awareness campaign and my own mental health state of mind.
3. Professional Counseling
This method of improving my mental health is not one that I touch on regularly. This has not been a favorite nor one of my go to’s in the past when it came to me dealing with traumatic experiences and mishaps through life for three reasons honestly, but it has helped in a way with bringing awareness to what was really going on with me mentally by identifying the problem(s) and allowing me to figure out my own solutions to those set problems. One reason I would not say it was one preferred is because counseling has always been frowned upon in the African American community. Lets face it, when you as a black woman or man tell someone else who is also a black woman or man, your most typical response 9 times out of 10 is something along the lines of the word crazy. It’s like we have placed this stigma on counseling as a whole that if you go, you are automatically seen a crazy individual who is reckless and out of control. This is the main reason it has taken me so long to open up about this topic because of the backlash received from even bringing up the two words, mental illness. Growing up in the African American community, it has always been you either go to church and God will help you with what you need, or be quiet and suffer in silence and continue to work and handle your business and then it will just magically go away because of course time heals all wounds. Second reason I don’t use this method regularly is because it is not cheap. Rapper and entrepreneur, Master P, was telling the whole truth when he stated on award winning singer, Solange Knowles album A Seat At The Table, that growing up in the African American community you had to be your own counselor. We were not granted opportunities of these type of services due to lack of funds for it. It makes you think from experience whether or not counseling sessions are deliberately priced so high to keep the ones who need it the most away from them, so only the elite and wealthy can be granted access to the healing method? Third reason would be my location. As stated before, I am from the southern part of the Carolina’s, meaning South Carolina. We are a small state, with even more smaller counties that often times have limited resources as a whole. In my particular area of upbringing, you can’t just pull up to local area psychologist, sign in like a doctor’s office and receive the help you need that easily. You either have to a.) drive at least an hour away with hopes that someone is available in a bigger city, and sometimes in a bigger state nearby, to see you and speak with you. This can run up a lot of bills for you quickly especially traveling costs weekly, or you make have to wait months at a time before your initial visit even though you may need help with something right then. Or you b.) go to school. The first place I was formally introduced to a form of counseling is while attending public elementary, middle and high school, our guidance counselor. Then once I reached college, there were professional counselors available on campus to help out with things a bit. Sort of like college based guidance counselors.
My goal for you reading this right now is to allow you the option to realize that mental illnesses are not solely spiritual. To me, they are not spiritual at all. There is a false narrative right now that makes everyone believe that if a person is going through something mental that it is not a big deal because you can not see it physically, some even write it off as being imaginary and not even true or real, but this is far from the truth. Mental health illnesses can be seen just like physical illnesses and injuries. There are many physical symptoms from mental illnesses including extreme weight loss from a lack of appetite, menstrual cycles stopping abruptly for women, heart problems at an early age, extreme fatigue from doing simple tasks and daily activities, and so many more so before you write it off as just an invisible condition, think again and pay attention to the warning signs you are being given. There is nothing wrong with solely depending on your faith to heal you mentally, but there is also nothing wrong with having a little additional help to go along with it as well. Thanks for reading everyone! Check out some additional resources below related to this topic.