Black lives matter, and so does Black mental health. Here are some resources for African-Americans as well as some articles about Black mental health issues:
Black mental health resources in Minnesota:
African American Family Services:
National Alliance on Mental Illness:
The Association of Black Psychologists:
Racial Battle Fatigue:
MPR article about shortage of Black mental health providers: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2017/08/03/mn-slow-to-respond-as-minority-mental-health-needs-grow
Distrust of mental health care among African-Americans: https://www.minnpost.com/mental-health-addiction/2018/11/advocates-address-deep-distrust-of-mental-health-care-among-african-americans/
Ram Dass, On Self-Judgment:
"When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying 'You’re too this, or I’m too this.' That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are."
"In a world that lives like a fist
trust is no more than waking
with your hands open."
by Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
This quote from Mark Nepo's book challenges us to open up to the present moment, to be open to possibilities. "Waking with your hands open" makes sense in the context of an adult who grew up with secure attachment figures, enough resources to focus on being his or her best self, and enough ego strength to fend off the typical hardships that everyone encounters in life. However, finding a balance between opening up to the world and protecting yourself can feel scary to people with a history of trauma.
There are good reasons why we have instincts that tell us to fight, flee, or freeze. Honoring those instincts is a good place to start. They got you through the trauma. But after the trauma is over, your body might not realize it's over, despite what your logic tells you. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder.
The first steps to treating trauma, no matter what treatment model your therapist/counselor is using, is to help you find strategies to communicate to your body (your emotional core, your heart, your feeling parts, your viscera) that you are safe enough in the here and now. Granted, safety is a relative term, and none of us are 100% safe at all times. But if the threat is really over for you, and you are currently relatively safe in your life, maybe it's time to consider living as if that is true. Openness doesn't have to feel scary forever.
"To heal is to touch with love
that which we previously touched with fear. "
by Steven Levine
I have heard many different definitions of "healing" over the years, doing this work. But when I read this quote by Steven Levine, I thought it was one of the best.
The things that we do in order to survive can cause us to hate ourselves, want to cut off that part of ourselves. But what that part really needs is to be held with compassion and acceptance. We are complicated beings, with shifting and changing roles that, as a whole, create who we are.
Being kind to parts of us that are ashamed, revengeful, or needy doesn't mean that we don't address the problems that they cause, or let them off the hook. For example, If a jealous part of us sabotaged a colleague's work project, then we need to accept responsibility at our work place and do the appropriate repair work. However, in order to make that experience useful to ourselves and not repeat the mistake, we need to look inside and be curious about why the jealous part got the leading role in your work day. Why wasn't the responsible, kind, empathic part of you take charge?
Being accepting, loving, curious, and compassionate towards the ugly parts is just the first step in being able to face a problem, rather than avoid, numb, or attack those parts of ourselves.
I have always loved listening to people's stories about their lives. I used to sit at my grandma's kitchen table as a child and listen to her tell me about her own childhood. Sitting on the edge of my seat, I would savor every moment while she shared little details about the color of a favorite dress, or the names of her friends (Grace, Celeste, Merytl were popular in the 1930s. She would be chopping vegetables or setting the table, letting her mind wander around, while her hands stayed busy. My love of hearing about people's lives turned into a career. Listening is a powerful way to connect with someone, and I am lucky to be able to do what I do.
You may be familiar with Story Corps, an independent organization that travels around the U.S. recording real life stories, started in 2003. It's mission is "to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world." Periodically I look at their website, watch a few stories, usually the stories make me laugh or cry or both. This morning I came across a story about an older couple who shared how they worked together and supported one another. It's a story about persevering and being vulnerable and the power of relationships. We could learn a lot from Larry and Eileen.
I came across this Ted Talk, and thought it provided really sound advice about having a good life:
In case you don't have the 12 minutes and 46 seconds to watch the video right now, I can summarize it by saying the happiest and healthiest people have quality connections to family and friends, and actively nurture those relationships over time, as well as seek out new communities of people to connect with on a regular basis. The director of the study called it "leaning into relationships." Do you have relationships that you can lean in to in your life?
In mid-June Pixar put out with a new film, called Inside Out. It's about an 11-yr-old girl and her parents who move from Minnesota to California, and how the girl's conflicted emotions help her adjust and navigate the changes. Pixar did a wonderful job creating a visual of the way the brain works. Apparently they consulted with neurological scientists to be as accurate as possible. Although the creators left out one primary emotion (surprise), they nailed it with the other primary emotions. I loved the messages about the importance of feeling all of our feelings, not just the positive ones. If you get a chance to see it, I'd love to hear what you thought of it.
A website called Mental Elf posted an interesting article about the rates of PTSD in children who had experienced trauma. The articles reviews a meta-analysis about this topic. (A meta-analysis is when researchers look at all of the studies already done on a particular subject, and then analyze, compare, and summarize all of the studies' findings.) There's been debate over this percentage, depending on the child and the type of trauma. This particular meta-analysis came up with the number 16%, or 1 in 6 children, which they discussed as probably being low. They only looked at kids who met the full criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and didn't account for partial symptoms, or other diagnoses. My interest in this topic stems from clients' questions about why they are struggling with PTSD symptoms, and others who went through similar experiences, are not. Adults, and kids much more directly, ask what is wrong with them. This article shines some light on the fact that we are all wired a little differently, and are sensitive in different ways, to different experiences. The important part to remember is that there isn't anything inherently wrong with you. The same brain architecture or brain hard wiring that make us susceptible to experiencing something traumatic more intensely, can also be a strength and help us heal. That last part is just my professional experience, not based in research.
In about a month I'll be in a new office. Same building, same address, same funky brick floor. Just downstairs on the first floor in a larger room. I love my cozy little office (pictured above), and many of you have commented how the space "just feels good." But I'm feeling like I need to spread out a bit, make more room for art therapy projects and play therapy materials. I'd like to start a therapy group as well. And that stuff just couldn't happen in 110 square feet. So I will look forward to welcoming current and new clients to a new room, which will probably happen around the same time that Spring returns. New starts all around!