T-Kea Blackman

@t-kea-blackman | contributor
After attempting suicide and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I set the mission to end the mental health stigma. I am an advocate, author, and trainer. When I'm not working, I enjoy traveling, spending time with family and friends, dancing, going to the movies alone, and listening to my favorite artist H.E.R. Fun Fact! My favorite color is orange and I have a terrible obsession with leopard/cheetah print. I lost count of how many shoes and items of clothing I have in that print. Connect with me on social media!
T-Kea Blackman

I Disclosed My Suicide Attempt in My Job Application Process

After being hospitalized for attempting suicide, I could not work for two years. I started writing articles sharing my mental health challenges under an alias name because I was embarrassed and ashamed. My biggest fear was employers seeing my articles and viewing me as unreliable, incompetent, and “crazy.” When I started applying to jobs and got to the section asking me to disclose if I had a disability, I always selected no. Two of the disabilities on the list were major depressive and bipolar disorder, and I received both diagnoses. When I finally started applying, I pursued my peer recovery specialist certification through the Maryland Addiction and Behavioral Health Professionals Certification Board. This credential provides me with training to use my experience living with a mental health condition to coach and mentor others in recovery. As a peer specialist, it implies you live with a mental health or substance use disorder. When I applied to jobs, I could show up as myself. I was fortunate to have a supervisor who supported my mental health. I had multiple relapses, and I never had to worry about stigma or losing my job. As I was preparing to transition from providing peer support to a communications role, I decided to show up as myself again, even though this position would not reveal I had mental health challenges. I wrote in my cover letter that I have bipolar disorder and attempted suicide. I talked about it during five rounds of interviews. While I have two communication degrees and over 10 years of experience, I sent a portfolio and thank you e-mails to each interviewer without being asked. Guess what? They offered me the job. My supervisor and coworkers told me my transparency set me apart from other candidates because it shows I understand the importance of their mission. Both experiences taught me to continue to live in my truth, advocate for myself, and if an environment does not support my health, it is not for me. My openness helps to end the stigma. I hope employers are open to hiring people like me and those in recovery aren’t afraid to express their challenges and leave places that cause their mental health to decline.

T-Kea Blackman

Choosing Not to Have Children as a Woman With Mental Illness

One day, I decided to do some research on women who don’t want children, and I discovered the childfree movement. They’re a community of people who don’t want children, and when I found the movement, I finally felt like I had found my tribe. As the oldest of eight siblings, I helped my mom raise my siblings. While she did not require me to help her, I gravitated toward helping since I’m the oldest. At 9 years old, I changed my first diaper. I remember taking my little cousin who lived with me shopping at 12 years old — all by myself. In high school, we had the option of taking care of an egg or a doll for one week, and the doll was the type that acted like a real baby and cried. I was one of the few students who chose to care for an egg because there were five children in my house, ranging from newborn to 7 years old. I also worked at a daycare in high school, so I quickly learned that parenting involved far more than dressing children up in cute clothing. I’ve also struggled with my mental health — specifically suicidal ideation — since I was 12 years old. As I became older, my mental health worsened, leading to a suicide attempt. Throughout my recovery, I realized having children was probably not the best idea for me. However, I did not think being childfree was an option. I’m a woman. Aren’t I supposed to have children? Is something “wrong” with me for not wanting them? I decided to talk to my therapist about it, and I told her I was about 95 percent sure children were not in the cards for me. She told me my life is mine, and I do not need the approval of others or society. After my therapy session, I wrote a list of reasons to have children and not have children. Guess what? I came up with nine reasons for not wanting children, and I had zero reasons for having them. The first reason on the list was my mental health. As someone with bipolar disorder , sometimes I struggle to get out of bed, eat, engage with others, work, clean, and take care of my hygiene. I know having a child would likely cause me to struggle with my highly fragile mental health . I still struggle with suicidal ideation frequently too. I will also have to stop taking my medication when I am pregnant and risk being depressed during pregnancy and afterward. I know women with mental health diagnoses who are great mothers; however, I do not think motherhood is the best decision for me. I told this to my OB-GYN during my appointment, and she mentioned she has never had a patient consider their mental health before having children. Many joys come with being a parent, but it can also come with stress. Does this mean I don’t like children? Absolutely not! That is the mindset of some childfree people — but not me. I am a big sister and a cousin, a godmother, a mentor, and a soon-to-be-aunt. I watch children on weekends occasionally and enjoy my time; however, I do not think I can manage that responsibility 24/7. A friend once asked me, “Who is going to care for you when you’re old?” Ideally, parents prefer their children to care for them when they age, and many children do care for their aging parents. However, I also realize children are not obligated to care for their parents. I do not need to have children to care for me when I am old. I have poured love into so many children and have a big family, and I also plan to get married, so I doubt I will be left alone when I’m on my deathbed. I plan to make a will and discuss my desires with those close to me before I pass as well. I enjoy time with family and friends and also love speaking publicly about my mental health recovery, allowing me to meet hundreds of people who are inspired by my story. Still, I thoroughly enjoy having a lot of time to myself, so I travel alone often. I am happy by myself most of the time, and when I feel the need to be around people, I make plans. My values are also different from some others.’ The idea of starting a family does not excite me as it does for other women, and that is OK. I prefer to spend most of my time traveling, and I also want a fulfilling career that supports my mental wellbeing. Because of my mental health challenges, I am incredibly passionate about mental health advocacy, education, and policy. To help end the stigma around mental health, I teach mental health training, host events part-time for my business, volunteer with mental health organizations, and am the director of communications and programs for a mental health non-profit in Washington, D.C. I also plan to start a scholarship fund for black students who want to work in the mental health field and raise money for low-income children to access therapy. Traveling allows me to experience different cultures, have fun, take a break from my daily responsibilities, and practice self-care. Does this mean women with children can’t travel, participate in charity events, and have great careers? No, it does not. However, children are also a huge responsibility. Good parents often make sacrifices to ensure they raise responsible children. They typically do not have the flexibility to take a spontaneous trip without impacting their children. Some women are OK with making those sacrifices, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, I do not think I want to make those sacrifices and put someone else’s needs before mine all the time. I prefer to choose when to put my needs on hold for the sake of others. I don’t think “rolling the dice” by having children to see if my mental health can handle it is worth the risk. I also have more flexibility with my finances. As the oldest child, a god-mom, and a cousin, I can do a lot more for my family when I have the mental capacity to handle it. For instance, I am taking my mother and sister to Puerto Rico to celebrate their birthdays. As a parent, I may not have that freedom, and the children in my life can get what they want from me most of the time because I don’t have my own children who would need my finances. I feel extremely fulfilled doing things for others. I have seen many mothers judge other women for deciding not to have children. We are often called “selfish,” “bitter,” and “old cat ladies” and are sometimes told we will never know true love. Hearing those things can feel hurtful, but I also see stories online of women who regret having children. I would rather regret not having children than have it impact my parenting. Women should respect other women’s choices, whether that includes having children or not. One choice is not better than the other. Our values, health, and reasons for not having children are as unique as we are. Being childfree allows me to have the flexibility and freedom to manage my time how I see fit, making it easier to prioritize my mental health . Therefore, I am leaning toward not having children — and that’s OK.

T-Kea Blackman

Choosing Not to Have Children as a Woman With Mental Illness

One day, I decided to do some research on women who don’t want children, and I discovered the childfree movement. They’re a community of people who don’t want children, and when I found the movement, I finally felt like I had found my tribe. As the oldest of eight siblings, I helped my mom raise my siblings. While she did not require me to help her, I gravitated toward helping since I’m the oldest. At 9 years old, I changed my first diaper. I remember taking my little cousin who lived with me shopping at 12 years old — all by myself. In high school, we had the option of taking care of an egg or a doll for one week, and the doll was the type that acted like a real baby and cried. I was one of the few students who chose to care for an egg because there were five children in my house, ranging from newborn to 7 years old. I also worked at a daycare in high school, so I quickly learned that parenting involved far more than dressing children up in cute clothing. I’ve also struggled with my mental health — specifically suicidal ideation — since I was 12 years old. As I became older, my mental health worsened, leading to a suicide attempt. Throughout my recovery, I realized having children was probably not the best idea for me. However, I did not think being childfree was an option. I’m a woman. Aren’t I supposed to have children? Is something “wrong” with me for not wanting them? I decided to talk to my therapist about it, and I told her I was about 95 percent sure children were not in the cards for me. She told me my life is mine, and I do not need the approval of others or society. After my therapy session, I wrote a list of reasons to have children and not have children. Guess what? I came up with nine reasons for not wanting children, and I had zero reasons for having them. The first reason on the list was my mental health. As someone with bipolar disorder , sometimes I struggle to get out of bed, eat, engage with others, work, clean, and take care of my hygiene. I know having a child would likely cause me to struggle with my highly fragile mental health . I still struggle with suicidal ideation frequently too. I will also have to stop taking my medication when I am pregnant and risk being depressed during pregnancy and afterward. I know women with mental health diagnoses who are great mothers; however, I do not think motherhood is the best decision for me. I told this to my OB-GYN during my appointment, and she mentioned she has never had a patient consider their mental health before having children. Many joys come with being a parent, but it can also come with stress. Does this mean I don’t like children? Absolutely not! That is the mindset of some childfree people — but not me. I am a big sister and a cousin, a godmother, a mentor, and a soon-to-be-aunt. I watch children on weekends occasionally and enjoy my time; however, I do not think I can manage that responsibility 24/7. A friend once asked me, “Who is going to care for you when you’re old?” Ideally, parents prefer their children to care for them when they age, and many children do care for their aging parents. However, I also realize children are not obligated to care for their parents. I do not need to have children to care for me when I am old. I have poured love into so many children and have a big family, and I also plan to get married, so I doubt I will be left alone when I’m on my deathbed. I plan to make a will and discuss my desires with those close to me before I pass as well. I enjoy time with family and friends and also love speaking publicly about my mental health recovery, allowing me to meet hundreds of people who are inspired by my story. Still, I thoroughly enjoy having a lot of time to myself, so I travel alone often. I am happy by myself most of the time, and when I feel the need to be around people, I make plans. My values are also different from some others.’ The idea of starting a family does not excite me as it does for other women, and that is OK. I prefer to spend most of my time traveling, and I also want a fulfilling career that supports my mental wellbeing. Because of my mental health challenges, I am incredibly passionate about mental health advocacy, education, and policy. To help end the stigma around mental health, I teach mental health training, host events part-time for my business, volunteer with mental health organizations, and am the director of communications and programs for a mental health non-profit in Washington, D.C. I also plan to start a scholarship fund for black students who want to work in the mental health field and raise money for low-income children to access therapy. Traveling allows me to experience different cultures, have fun, take a break from my daily responsibilities, and practice self-care. Does this mean women with children can’t travel, participate in charity events, and have great careers? No, it does not. However, children are also a huge responsibility. Good parents often make sacrifices to ensure they raise responsible children. They typically do not have the flexibility to take a spontaneous trip without impacting their children. Some women are OK with making those sacrifices, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, I do not think I want to make those sacrifices and put someone else’s needs before mine all the time. I prefer to choose when to put my needs on hold for the sake of others. I don’t think “rolling the dice” by having children to see if my mental health can handle it is worth the risk. I also have more flexibility with my finances. As the oldest child, a god-mom, and a cousin, I can do a lot more for my family when I have the mental capacity to handle it. For instance, I am taking my mother and sister to Puerto Rico to celebrate their birthdays. As a parent, I may not have that freedom, and the children in my life can get what they want from me most of the time because I don’t have my own children who would need my finances. I feel extremely fulfilled doing things for others. I have seen many mothers judge other women for deciding not to have children. We are often called “selfish,” “bitter,” and “old cat ladies” and are sometimes told we will never know true love. Hearing those things can feel hurtful, but I also see stories online of women who regret having children. I would rather regret not having children than have it impact my parenting. Women should respect other women’s choices, whether that includes having children or not. One choice is not better than the other. Our values, health, and reasons for not having children are as unique as we are. Being childfree allows me to have the flexibility and freedom to manage my time how I see fit, making it easier to prioritize my mental health . Therefore, I am leaning toward not having children — and that’s OK.

T-Kea Blackman

Choosing Not to Have Children as a Woman With Mental Illness

One day, I decided to do some research on women who don’t want children, and I discovered the childfree movement. They’re a community of people who don’t want children, and when I found the movement, I finally felt like I had found my tribe. As the oldest of eight siblings, I helped my mom raise my siblings. While she did not require me to help her, I gravitated toward helping since I’m the oldest. At 9 years old, I changed my first diaper. I remember taking my little cousin who lived with me shopping at 12 years old — all by myself. In high school, we had the option of taking care of an egg or a doll for one week, and the doll was the type that acted like a real baby and cried. I was one of the few students who chose to care for an egg because there were five children in my house, ranging from newborn to 7 years old. I also worked at a daycare in high school, so I quickly learned that parenting involved far more than dressing children up in cute clothing. I’ve also struggled with my mental health — specifically suicidal ideation — since I was 12 years old. As I became older, my mental health worsened, leading to a suicide attempt. Throughout my recovery, I realized having children was probably not the best idea for me. However, I did not think being childfree was an option. I’m a woman. Aren’t I supposed to have children? Is something “wrong” with me for not wanting them? I decided to talk to my therapist about it, and I told her I was about 95 percent sure children were not in the cards for me. She told me my life is mine, and I do not need the approval of others or society. After my therapy session, I wrote a list of reasons to have children and not have children. Guess what? I came up with nine reasons for not wanting children, and I had zero reasons for having them. The first reason on the list was my mental health. As someone with bipolar disorder , sometimes I struggle to get out of bed, eat, engage with others, work, clean, and take care of my hygiene. I know having a child would likely cause me to struggle with my highly fragile mental health . I still struggle with suicidal ideation frequently too. I will also have to stop taking my medication when I am pregnant and risk being depressed during pregnancy and afterward. I know women with mental health diagnoses who are great mothers; however, I do not think motherhood is the best decision for me. I told this to my OB-GYN during my appointment, and she mentioned she has never had a patient consider their mental health before having children. Many joys come with being a parent, but it can also come with stress. Does this mean I don’t like children? Absolutely not! That is the mindset of some childfree people — but not me. I am a big sister and a cousin, a godmother, a mentor, and a soon-to-be-aunt. I watch children on weekends occasionally and enjoy my time; however, I do not think I can manage that responsibility 24/7. A friend once asked me, “Who is going to care for you when you’re old?” Ideally, parents prefer their children to care for them when they age, and many children do care for their aging parents. However, I also realize children are not obligated to care for their parents. I do not need to have children to care for me when I am old. I have poured love into so many children and have a big family, and I also plan to get married, so I doubt I will be left alone when I’m on my deathbed. I plan to make a will and discuss my desires with those close to me before I pass as well. I enjoy time with family and friends and also love speaking publicly about my mental health recovery, allowing me to meet hundreds of people who are inspired by my story. Still, I thoroughly enjoy having a lot of time to myself, so I travel alone often. I am happy by myself most of the time, and when I feel the need to be around people, I make plans. My values are also different from some others.’ The idea of starting a family does not excite me as it does for other women, and that is OK. I prefer to spend most of my time traveling, and I also want a fulfilling career that supports my mental wellbeing. Because of my mental health challenges, I am incredibly passionate about mental health advocacy, education, and policy. To help end the stigma around mental health, I teach mental health training, host events part-time for my business, volunteer with mental health organizations, and am the director of communications and programs for a mental health non-profit in Washington, D.C. I also plan to start a scholarship fund for black students who want to work in the mental health field and raise money for low-income children to access therapy. Traveling allows me to experience different cultures, have fun, take a break from my daily responsibilities, and practice self-care. Does this mean women with children can’t travel, participate in charity events, and have great careers? No, it does not. However, children are also a huge responsibility. Good parents often make sacrifices to ensure they raise responsible children. They typically do not have the flexibility to take a spontaneous trip without impacting their children. Some women are OK with making those sacrifices, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, I do not think I want to make those sacrifices and put someone else’s needs before mine all the time. I prefer to choose when to put my needs on hold for the sake of others. I don’t think “rolling the dice” by having children to see if my mental health can handle it is worth the risk. I also have more flexibility with my finances. As the oldest child, a god-mom, and a cousin, I can do a lot more for my family when I have the mental capacity to handle it. For instance, I am taking my mother and sister to Puerto Rico to celebrate their birthdays. As a parent, I may not have that freedom, and the children in my life can get what they want from me most of the time because I don’t have my own children who would need my finances. I feel extremely fulfilled doing things for others. I have seen many mothers judge other women for deciding not to have children. We are often called “selfish,” “bitter,” and “old cat ladies” and are sometimes told we will never know true love. Hearing those things can feel hurtful, but I also see stories online of women who regret having children. I would rather regret not having children than have it impact my parenting. Women should respect other women’s choices, whether that includes having children or not. One choice is not better than the other. Our values, health, and reasons for not having children are as unique as we are. Being childfree allows me to have the flexibility and freedom to manage my time how I see fit, making it easier to prioritize my mental health . Therefore, I am leaning toward not having children — and that’s OK.

T-Kea Blackman

Choosing Not to Have Children as a Woman With Mental Illness

One day, I decided to do some research on women who don’t want children, and I discovered the childfree movement. They’re a community of people who don’t want children, and when I found the movement, I finally felt like I had found my tribe. As the oldest of eight siblings, I helped my mom raise my siblings. While she did not require me to help her, I gravitated toward helping since I’m the oldest. At 9 years old, I changed my first diaper. I remember taking my little cousin who lived with me shopping at 12 years old — all by myself. In high school, we had the option of taking care of an egg or a doll for one week, and the doll was the type that acted like a real baby and cried. I was one of the few students who chose to care for an egg because there were five children in my house, ranging from newborn to 7 years old. I also worked at a daycare in high school, so I quickly learned that parenting involved far more than dressing children up in cute clothing. I’ve also struggled with my mental health — specifically suicidal ideation — since I was 12 years old. As I became older, my mental health worsened, leading to a suicide attempt. Throughout my recovery, I realized having children was probably not the best idea for me. However, I did not think being childfree was an option. I’m a woman. Aren’t I supposed to have children? Is something “wrong” with me for not wanting them? I decided to talk to my therapist about it, and I told her I was about 95 percent sure children were not in the cards for me. She told me my life is mine, and I do not need the approval of others or society. After my therapy session, I wrote a list of reasons to have children and not have children. Guess what? I came up with nine reasons for not wanting children, and I had zero reasons for having them. The first reason on the list was my mental health. As someone with bipolar disorder , sometimes I struggle to get out of bed, eat, engage with others, work, clean, and take care of my hygiene. I know having a child would likely cause me to struggle with my highly fragile mental health . I still struggle with suicidal ideation frequently too. I will also have to stop taking my medication when I am pregnant and risk being depressed during pregnancy and afterward. I know women with mental health diagnoses who are great mothers; however, I do not think motherhood is the best decision for me. I told this to my OB-GYN during my appointment, and she mentioned she has never had a patient consider their mental health before having children. Many joys come with being a parent, but it can also come with stress. Does this mean I don’t like children? Absolutely not! That is the mindset of some childfree people — but not me. I am a big sister and a cousin, a godmother, a mentor, and a soon-to-be-aunt. I watch children on weekends occasionally and enjoy my time; however, I do not think I can manage that responsibility 24/7. A friend once asked me, “Who is going to care for you when you’re old?” Ideally, parents prefer their children to care for them when they age, and many children do care for their aging parents. However, I also realize children are not obligated to care for their parents. I do not need to have children to care for me when I am old. I have poured love into so many children and have a big family, and I also plan to get married, so I doubt I will be left alone when I’m on my deathbed. I plan to make a will and discuss my desires with those close to me before I pass as well. I enjoy time with family and friends and also love speaking publicly about my mental health recovery, allowing me to meet hundreds of people who are inspired by my story. Still, I thoroughly enjoy having a lot of time to myself, so I travel alone often. I am happy by myself most of the time, and when I feel the need to be around people, I make plans. My values are also different from some others.’ The idea of starting a family does not excite me as it does for other women, and that is OK. I prefer to spend most of my time traveling, and I also want a fulfilling career that supports my mental wellbeing. Because of my mental health challenges, I am incredibly passionate about mental health advocacy, education, and policy. To help end the stigma around mental health, I teach mental health training, host events part-time for my business, volunteer with mental health organizations, and am the director of communications and programs for a mental health non-profit in Washington, D.C. I also plan to start a scholarship fund for black students who want to work in the mental health field and raise money for low-income children to access therapy. Traveling allows me to experience different cultures, have fun, take a break from my daily responsibilities, and practice self-care. Does this mean women with children can’t travel, participate in charity events, and have great careers? No, it does not. However, children are also a huge responsibility. Good parents often make sacrifices to ensure they raise responsible children. They typically do not have the flexibility to take a spontaneous trip without impacting their children. Some women are OK with making those sacrifices, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, I do not think I want to make those sacrifices and put someone else’s needs before mine all the time. I prefer to choose when to put my needs on hold for the sake of others. I don’t think “rolling the dice” by having children to see if my mental health can handle it is worth the risk. I also have more flexibility with my finances. As the oldest child, a god-mom, and a cousin, I can do a lot more for my family when I have the mental capacity to handle it. For instance, I am taking my mother and sister to Puerto Rico to celebrate their birthdays. As a parent, I may not have that freedom, and the children in my life can get what they want from me most of the time because I don’t have my own children who would need my finances. I feel extremely fulfilled doing things for others. I have seen many mothers judge other women for deciding not to have children. We are often called “selfish,” “bitter,” and “old cat ladies” and are sometimes told we will never know true love. Hearing those things can feel hurtful, but I also see stories online of women who regret having children. I would rather regret not having children than have it impact my parenting. Women should respect other women’s choices, whether that includes having children or not. One choice is not better than the other. Our values, health, and reasons for not having children are as unique as we are. Being childfree allows me to have the flexibility and freedom to manage my time how I see fit, making it easier to prioritize my mental health . Therefore, I am leaning toward not having children — and that’s OK.

T-Kea Blackman

Choosing Not to Have Children as a Woman With Mental Illness

One day, I decided to do some research on women who don’t want children, and I discovered the childfree movement. They’re a community of people who don’t want children, and when I found the movement, I finally felt like I had found my tribe. As the oldest of eight siblings, I helped my mom raise my siblings. While she did not require me to help her, I gravitated toward helping since I’m the oldest. At 9 years old, I changed my first diaper. I remember taking my little cousin who lived with me shopping at 12 years old — all by myself. In high school, we had the option of taking care of an egg or a doll for one week, and the doll was the type that acted like a real baby and cried. I was one of the few students who chose to care for an egg because there were five children in my house, ranging from newborn to 7 years old. I also worked at a daycare in high school, so I quickly learned that parenting involved far more than dressing children up in cute clothing. I’ve also struggled with my mental health — specifically suicidal ideation — since I was 12 years old. As I became older, my mental health worsened, leading to a suicide attempt. Throughout my recovery, I realized having children was probably not the best idea for me. However, I did not think being childfree was an option. I’m a woman. Aren’t I supposed to have children? Is something “wrong” with me for not wanting them? I decided to talk to my therapist about it, and I told her I was about 95 percent sure children were not in the cards for me. She told me my life is mine, and I do not need the approval of others or society. After my therapy session, I wrote a list of reasons to have children and not have children. Guess what? I came up with nine reasons for not wanting children, and I had zero reasons for having them. The first reason on the list was my mental health. As someone with bipolar disorder , sometimes I struggle to get out of bed, eat, engage with others, work, clean, and take care of my hygiene. I know having a child would likely cause me to struggle with my highly fragile mental health . I still struggle with suicidal ideation frequently too. I will also have to stop taking my medication when I am pregnant and risk being depressed during pregnancy and afterward. I know women with mental health diagnoses who are great mothers; however, I do not think motherhood is the best decision for me. I told this to my OB-GYN during my appointment, and she mentioned she has never had a patient consider their mental health before having children. Many joys come with being a parent, but it can also come with stress. Does this mean I don’t like children? Absolutely not! That is the mindset of some childfree people — but not me. I am a big sister and a cousin, a godmother, a mentor, and a soon-to-be-aunt. I watch children on weekends occasionally and enjoy my time; however, I do not think I can manage that responsibility 24/7. A friend once asked me, “Who is going to care for you when you’re old?” Ideally, parents prefer their children to care for them when they age, and many children do care for their aging parents. However, I also realize children are not obligated to care for their parents. I do not need to have children to care for me when I am old. I have poured love into so many children and have a big family, and I also plan to get married, so I doubt I will be left alone when I’m on my deathbed. I plan to make a will and discuss my desires with those close to me before I pass as well. I enjoy time with family and friends and also love speaking publicly about my mental health recovery, allowing me to meet hundreds of people who are inspired by my story. Still, I thoroughly enjoy having a lot of time to myself, so I travel alone often. I am happy by myself most of the time, and when I feel the need to be around people, I make plans. My values are also different from some others.’ The idea of starting a family does not excite me as it does for other women, and that is OK. I prefer to spend most of my time traveling, and I also want a fulfilling career that supports my mental wellbeing. Because of my mental health challenges, I am incredibly passionate about mental health advocacy, education, and policy. To help end the stigma around mental health, I teach mental health training, host events part-time for my business, volunteer with mental health organizations, and am the director of communications and programs for a mental health non-profit in Washington, D.C. I also plan to start a scholarship fund for black students who want to work in the mental health field and raise money for low-income children to access therapy. Traveling allows me to experience different cultures, have fun, take a break from my daily responsibilities, and practice self-care. Does this mean women with children can’t travel, participate in charity events, and have great careers? No, it does not. However, children are also a huge responsibility. Good parents often make sacrifices to ensure they raise responsible children. They typically do not have the flexibility to take a spontaneous trip without impacting their children. Some women are OK with making those sacrifices, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, I do not think I want to make those sacrifices and put someone else’s needs before mine all the time. I prefer to choose when to put my needs on hold for the sake of others. I don’t think “rolling the dice” by having children to see if my mental health can handle it is worth the risk. I also have more flexibility with my finances. As the oldest child, a god-mom, and a cousin, I can do a lot more for my family when I have the mental capacity to handle it. For instance, I am taking my mother and sister to Puerto Rico to celebrate their birthdays. As a parent, I may not have that freedom, and the children in my life can get what they want from me most of the time because I don’t have my own children who would need my finances. I feel extremely fulfilled doing things for others. I have seen many mothers judge other women for deciding not to have children. We are often called “selfish,” “bitter,” and “old cat ladies” and are sometimes told we will never know true love. Hearing those things can feel hurtful, but I also see stories online of women who regret having children. I would rather regret not having children than have it impact my parenting. Women should respect other women’s choices, whether that includes having children or not. One choice is not better than the other. Our values, health, and reasons for not having children are as unique as we are. Being childfree allows me to have the flexibility and freedom to manage my time how I see fit, making it easier to prioritize my mental health . Therefore, I am leaning toward not having children — and that’s OK.

T-Kea Blackman

Texts That Ask 'How Are You?' Just Remind Me I'm Not Doing Well

“How are you?” is the question I despise the most when I am in the midst of a depressive or manic episode. I understand people mean well. And I feel terrible for saying this because I don’t want people to think I am ungrateful they’ve expressed concern for me. But the question is a constant reminder I am not doing well. It is one of the many reasons I will not respond to a text message that says those three simple words, “How are you?” I am very vocal about my mental health challenges as I share them on social media , wrote a book on my life, have a mental health podcast and give plenty of presentations and speeches on my journey. I attend therapy twice a week, so talking about my current struggles is not the problem. While talking is therapeutic, there are times I do not want to talk about anything. Some people say things to make an episode worse and others can’t handle a conversation about suicide, so I don’t engage. Sometimes, I don’t want to act on my thoughts. I need a safe space to talk about it; I limit suicide conversations to my therapist and the few friends who can handle it. I communicate with my support system I feel best supported when someone comes to my house and watches a movie with me, cooks for me, helps me clean and reminds me my life matters. If I have the energy to drive, I am open to spending the night with someone, so I am not alone. There are some days I haven’t left my bed to eat or shower, and leaving home is not always an option. I feel valued when people go the extra mile to show they care. A person’s presence is good enough for me. Don’t try to “fix” me or feel bad for me; show up and be there.

Community Voices

Sis, Do You Have A Wellness Recovery Action Plan?

As a suicide survivor, black woman living with bipolar disorder and an entrepreneur, I know firsthand how easy it is to neglect your mental health and lose yourself in your career and daily responsibilities.

Black women are running departments in corporate America, businesses, and families, and we often forget to take care of ourselves. We serve others to our demise, and it leads to poor physical and mental health such as burn-out, depression, obesity, and more.

I want to help black women become more intentional about self-care. I’m not talking about lace-fronts, manicures, pedicures, and massages. I am talking about self-care that leaves your cup overflowing so that you continue to sprinkle your black girl magic without feeling depleted.​

Are you battling burn-out? Do you struggle with making time for yourself? Do you know early warning signs that your mental health is deteriorating? Do you have a plan in place to get you back on track or help you navigate a crisis? Is self-care a priority?

If you answered no to any of those questions, you need a plan. The Wellness Recovery Action Plan® (WRAP®) is a self-designed prevention and wellness training that anyone can use to get well, stay well, and create the life they desire. WRAP® was developed by Dr. Mary Ellen Copeland. It was initially used by health care and mental health systems all over the world to address all kinds of physical, mental health, and life issues. This training is now used by people in all types of circumstances.

WRAP® will help you:

Discover ways to create hope, support and advocate for yourself
Discover your own simple and safe wellness tools
Gain clarity on your values and beliefs
Discover ways to create hope, support and advocate for yourself
Develop a list of things to do every day to stay well
Identify upsetting events, early warning signs, and signs that things have gotten worse and develop action plans for responding at these times
Create a crisis plan
Create a post-crisis plan

According to an article by, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that African-Americans experience depression at higher rates than Whites. Black women in turn also experience high rates of depression compared to the general population.

WRAP® is not a substitute for therapy to treat mental health conditions. However, it can serve as a guide to develop healthy coping skills and an additional resource to support your overall wellness. This plan is a working document because you discover new things about your daily. I make changes to it with the help of my therapist and a part of a community that uses it, so I know my WRAP® works.

It changed my life so much that I became certified to teach it. If you want to make self-care your priority, then this training is for you. Register for this four week training and develop your WRAP® by www.eventbrite.com/e/wellness-recovery-action-plan-wrap-tick....

T-Kea Blackman

How I'm Coming to Terms With Not Catching My Bipolar Diagnosis

Some days are great. I’m slightly upbeat and getting things done. I can’t sleep and end up working in the middle of the night. Throughout the day, I function as if I had eight hours of sleep. My mind races, and I lack focus — jumping from one thing to the next. But I’m ambitious and passionate, that’s what most would say, and I agree. Despite the knowledge I gained in mental health first aid, Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) and Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) sessions, YouTube videos, articles, learning from the experiences of others — I missed it, and I am disappointed in myself. I did not count my experiences of extreme irritability to an increase in mood, to the rapid mood switch of depression and suicidal thoughts as an issue. I did not realize my depression medication stopped working. It wasn’t until my latest episode with depression and desire to carry out my suicide plan that I became frustrated and asked my therapist about a higher level of treatment. My mother often mentioned how fast I talked and how short-tempered I was, but I didn’t know why. It felt as if I was on an emotional roller coaster. I was unable to control my mood and wanted to get off the roller coaster, but did not know how. I’ve been in therapy for nearly five years. Why didn’t I mention my behaviors and rapid mood swings to my therapist when I noticed it last year? How did my therapist miss it? Maybe a part of me refused to acknowledge it since it did not look like others (extreme behaviors like excessive spending and going into debt, or being hypersexual); bipolar disorder never crossed my mind. While there is a part of me that feels relieved, another part is angry, and that’s OK. It was easier for me to accept the diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD), but I can’t quite wrap my head around a bipolar diagnosis. However, I believe this new information will slow the roller coaster down so I can learn how the disorder shows up for me and, eventually, stop blaming myself.

How Telling People Gratitude Will 'Cure' Their Depression Is Harmful

After dealing with depression for what feels like forever, I’ve done a lot of reading about how to get through it. What mind-set shifts I need to make, what thought patterns I need to change and what negative thoughts don’t serve me and should be left behind. One thing I’ve noticed is a lot of places will tell you one of the keys to working through depression is to have gratitude. Especially with the new year just starting, and lots of people reflecting on what last year looked like for them, there is a lot on social media about gratitude. There are also a lot of people just sharing their “highlight reels,” which can be disguised as gratitude, but often come across as “showing off” or inauthentic. It can also make people who don’t have these big highlight reels feel bad about themselves. While I agree gratitude is essential to having a better outlook on the world and helps you “stop and smell the roses,” I struggle with the notion gratitude is the antidote for depression. More specifically, it feels like the message being sent is gratitude and depression must be mutually exclusive. That is absolutely not the case. Overall, I feel very grateful for the good things I have in my life. I’m grateful for the privileges I have, the roof over my head, the food in my fridge, the friends who look out for me, the job I excel at … you get the picture. I am immensely grateful for all of these things, and I hope I don’t take them for granted, but I’m still so depressed. And when I see all of these tips telling me to be more grateful so I’m less depressed, it makes me feel guilty. Am I being ungrateful? Am I bringing this upon myself? Does my depression indicate I’m greedy and keep wanting more and more? Like nothing is ever enough? As these questions circulate, I start to feel worse about myself and that just exacerbates my feelings of depression. I once heard depression isn’t feeling sad when things in your life are going wrong, it’s feeling sad when everything in your life is going right and I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes, when I take stock of how good my life is, and how much I have to be grateful for … I actually feel worse and my depression gets louder because I have so much goodness around me and I still feel so terrible. The other thing about gratitude is it doesn’t negate the bad things that have happened to you. Sometimes people don’t always go about gratitude in the best way (even if they have the best of intentions), and instead of it being an appreciation for the good things, it becomes a cover-up for the bad things. That can be really invalidating. It’s like when you say you’re struggling with something, and a friend says something like, “But think about how many good things you have in your life!” Misguided gratitude can be dangerous and harmful, and it’s important we don’t allow the pursuit of gratitude to invalidate or minimize the struggles we do face. I’ve also sometimes found that even though I have a lot to be grateful for, there are a lot of things that have happened to me that have really worn me down. And when my depression is really bad, I start to ruminate with thoughts of, “What’s the point?” Or, “Why should I bother?” That’s generally when I really start to rely on my list of things I’m grateful for … but sometimes the bad outweighs the good. And when I do a cost-benefit analysis of the good in my life versus the bad in my life, I struggle to see the good outweighing the bad. Based on this, I often find myself filled with gratitude for a million things, and yet still depressed … because like I said, depression and gratitude are not mutually exclusive. We can be so thankful for the good in the world, and still hurt from the bad in the world. Or still hurt just because. Because that’s what depression is sometimes; hurting without a particular reason to, even when things are good and even when we have a lot of blessings. At the end of the day, I still believe that gratitude can be a vital tool for healing and is an incredibly important exercise to recognize how much goodness there is in the world. I just hope we don’t continue to feed the false notion it is a cure for depression, or that if you’re depressed, you’re somehow ungrateful for the good things you have in your life.