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I teach English composition part time. Every semester during the lecture “Tips for Good Writing” I ask students to define strong. Typically in a class of 27, I hear about 20 definitions. The lesson of this exercise is to teach them the importance of choosing the right word for the audience, because just like them the audience can also have various definitions for a word. However, among the black women in the class there are some common denominators: emotionally strong, got it together, fierce and able to handle business. They tend to put strong in front of Black woman.
The Strong Black Woman (SBW).
I’ve heard this most of my life. Folk have called me SBW. Once I asked a man I was dating why did he think I was so strong. He answered “You’re the only woman I know who doesn’t cry” I replied “So crying is weak, not crying is strong?” I replied. He said, “Most women freak out about small things you don’t and you never cry when we argue.”
Truth is I cry often, however I did not cry in front of my ex lover because I did not let him see my emotional vulnerability. Like many Black women, I have been taught to be strong, hold back the tears and in many ways “man up” to life.
Black women are resilient. They are fighters. They have withstood horrific atrocities to come out on the other side standing tall. Black women have a finesse that surpasses all other races. And while because of history, and perpetual attacks on their womanhood, systematic racism, failed unions, money woes, health issues and more Black women deserve to cry hard tears.
It is a myth the Black women can withstand everything, anything, whenever it happens.
The perpetual Strong Black Women Syndrome must stop because this myth hinders many women from crying out loud and also seeking proper help to be mentally well.
Mental health issues such as depression, is not the only consequence of the SBW syndrome, according to a study by the National Institute of Health other health disparities including poor pregnancy and birth, lupus and obesity can be explained by stress and coping mechanisms many Black women have for dealing with life.
Seeking help for your mental well-being is the most important decision you must make. As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s nearly impossible to achieve happiness, resolutions or goals without mental wellness.
It’s not an easy journey. Remember being healthy is a journey, not a destination — a constant decision to be well. You are not alone, below is a list of testimonies from other Black women about their mental health journeys.
The first step is to admit you need help. The next is to speak your truth. Tell your story to a trusted friend or therapist. Write it out!
Stop being strong and start being POWERFUL.
SLIPPING INTO DARKNESS: A BLACK WOMAN’S STRUGGLE WITH DEPRESSION By Janice Fuller Roberts
Depression and the Black Superwoman Syndrome By Josie Pickens
Sisters of the “Yogic” Yam: bell hooks and the Yoga in Self-Recovery By Sariane Leigh
“It is important that black people talk to one another, that we talk with friends and allies, for the telling of our stories enables us to name our pain, our suffering and to seek healing. When I opened my tattered copy of The Salt Eaters today, I found these words written in pencil on the back cover. They were spoken to me by a student seeking recovery: “Healing occurs through testimony, through gathering everything available to you and reconciling.” This is a book about reconciliation It is meant to serve as a map, charting a journey that can lead us back to that place dark and deep within us, where we were first known and loved, where the arms that held us hold us still.” –bell hooks, “Sisters of the Yam”
With you on your journey,