Dear Black Woman, You Deserve Care Too
From the time I was little, I have watched the Black women in my life portray the epitome of strength and courage, just as these women did in the media. They pushed through any and everything, fought through tough situations and circumstances and did whatever was necessary to protect their families. But they also accomplished things no matter how they felt and despite what it would do to them mentally, physically and emotionally, just as these lovely TV role models. And I myself have been blessed with such strong genes and traits.
We see Black women doing it all in the media and in real life. We see us sprinkling our Black girl magic on everything but what we don’t see and haven’t historically seen are Black women practicing self-care or taking the time to tend to our health until it is too late.
In these shows that I watched growing up, we would see Claire, Gina, Florida and Thea, doing any and everything to keep their families going. In a rare episode where any of them were shown as sick, the family matriarch would eventually rise up and take over running the family because either nothing would get done or things would be a total disaster. What does that teach us as a culture about Black women growing up?
Even I myself can count on one hand the amount of sick days that I saw my mother took for her own illness growing up, and it was. Yes, you read that correctly. She never took off work and wore that as a medal of honor and I unfortunately inherited this same gene. When I got older and got sick, I too would push through and never take off and I wore that as a badge of honor, until now.
Now I have no choice because I let things get so out of control and ignore things that shouldn’t have been ignored over the years and didn’t rest when I should have because I was raised to think that we don’t take rest; you just push through because you are this strong Black woman and you don’t ask for help or healing. That has cost me my health.
Because of what I have gone through over the years, I try to help out my fellow sisters to avoid the same downfalls.
Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend and she mentioned how much she has going on with her life– she has a business she is running, plus a full time job, plus two kids and is trying to sell her home. She also mentioned that she was having some significant health challenges. I paused before saying anything to her. So many things went through my mind. While I was thinking of what to say to her, she mentioned that she couldn’t stop anything or scale back because she needed to do all these things and that is when the words came to me. I told her “Sis, your life is more important than anything and so is your family. We have to learn to put things on hold in order to pour into ourselves so that we can be there to enjoy the other things. If I had just taken those days off to rest and restore my health or went to the doctor a bit sooner, I feel as though I would have been able to control some of my conditions sooner and have more of my life. I didn’t because I kept saying I don’t have time or it’s fine. Well it isn’t fine. You deserve to come first.” As I was telling her these things I realized none of the strong women I looked up to ever told me these things growing up– not my mother, not my aunts, not my cousins. I had to come into this on my own and through my own experiences. It got me thinking, why didn’t I see this on my beloved TV shows growing up?
Why didn’t I see my beloved Black queen role models discussing self-care and taking the time to heal yourself when you aren’t well? Because we are supposed to be strong and be able to do it all and when you need to take a break or heal from anything, it makes you weak. But the reality is that is the furthest thing from the truth. If anything, it makes you strong.
Sometimes seeing ourselves in times of weakness allows us an introspective into parts of ourselves we normally would not see and allows us to build a better us, and that even goes when we are ill and need to rest and recover.
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