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Loving Yourself as a Black Woman

 

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

 

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Black women we are often portrayed as being unworthy of love.  This is a message we get in media and also larger society.  It’s difficult to not internalize the words of others and believe that you are worthy of love like everyone else.  I’ve struggled with my self esteem and have felt that I wasn’t as pretty or smart as other people however I was lucky to be praised often in my home and that protected me from a larger society where I was always led to think I wouldn’t be the one who was chosen and considered beautiful. When a woman turns on the television or opens a magazine and does not see herself represented or only represented in a negative way, it can leave her feeling like she isn’t beautiful, or maybe she just isn’t worth loving.

A first step to achieving self-love is to acknowledge and list all of the things you love about yourself.  We often spend so much time being critical of ourselves that we forget that there are things that we love about ourselves.  It can be helpful to write a list of things that you love about yourself, and create a list of all of the Black women in your life that inspire you.

Another step is to educate yourself on the Black women who inspire you and/or have changed the course of history.  Remember there are some amazing Black women who have been trailblazers in history. Another step  s is to create goals for yourself and work on achieving those goals.   Remember you deserve success just as much as anyone else.

 

Finally  it is important to find a space, and create platforms dedicated to you.  This is why it’s important to have spaces dedicated to the upliftment of Black women.   Remember we’re our sister’s keeper.

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To Tell or Not To Tell

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The beginning of a new relationship  can be a time of discovery,  a time when you get to learn the good, the bad, and sometimes the  ugly about the new person in your life.

But when it comes to  the number of people you have had sex with, – how much do we really want to know?  And does sharing (or not sharing) make a difference for a happy future?  How ever much you chose to share with your new partner is completely your decision.   Remember what  you’re comfortable sharing  is influenced by many things, including: your culture or religious beliefs; the degree of security in your relationship and your own feelings about your sexual history.  I’ve complied a list of the benefits and potential negatives you may want to consider before you discuss your sexual history.

 

Positives of telling your partner

You don’t have to waste energy keeping it secret.

When you are regularly sharing intimate aspects of your life, it might feel like withholding this one piece of personal information is using up a lot of mental energy.

Your past experiences are part of who you are today.

Your past romantic and sexual experiences play a part in shaping who you are as a person, and how you behave in relationships, so it might provide important context or understanding for your partner.

 

Honesty is the usually the  best policy in relationships.

It’s a  cliché, but honesty is  often the best policy. And although withholding doesn’t necessarily mean you are being dishonest with your partner, you might find it means you have to tell a few lies in different situations.

 

 Negatives of telling your partner

It might change how you perceive each other.

While the number of people your partner has had sex with shouldn’t make a difference to your current relationship, sometimes you might feel that if they’ve had many partners you might have negative feelings about this and wonder if your partner is too experienced for you.    Remember if  you ask your partner how many people they’ve slept with and they tell you,  you have to try not to judge them.

Remember if  they’d rather not tell you, try not to  push them into it and respect their privacy if they say they’d rather not.

Remember if  your partner judges you for the number of people you’ve had sex with , this says a lot more about them and their own insecurities and prejudices than it does about you.

It could be a sign that your partner is too controlling.

When you are making the decision about whether to open up, remember that you don’t owe your partner this information and you have a right to keep it private.

If your partner casually asks  about this, then there is no need to be concerned, but if they pressure you into telling them, there may be an hidden agenda.

If the question  feels intrusive or makes you uncomfortable, you’ll know instinctively. If they push you into answering,  this can be the sign of a controlling relationship.

Remember a sign of a healthy relationship is feeling like you can tell your partner if you want to, but not feeling like you have to.

Giving a number means nothing.

At the end of the day, a number is a number, so make sure you don’t torture yourself too much with this marker of ‘sexual experience’, because we all know that how many partners  you have been with doesn’t determine how good you are sexually.

 

To tell the number of past partners is completely up to you.  Don’t feel pressured to tell and remember being experienced sexually or not sexually experienced has no bearing on you as a person.

What is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse is a common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship.  The forms of financial abuse may be subtle or overt but in in general, include tactics to limit the partner’s access to assets or conceal information and accessibility to the family finances.   Financial abuse along with emotional, physical and sexual abuse, manipulation, intimidation and threats are all intentional tactics used by an abuser aimed at keeping the partner in the relationship.  In some abusive relationships, financial abuse is present throughout the relationship and in other cases financial abuse becomes present when the survivor is attempting to leave or has left the relationship.

Financial abuse, while less commonly understood, is one of the most powerful methods of keeping a survivor trapped in an abusive relationship and deeply diminishes her ability to stay safe after leaving an abusive relationship.   Research indicates that financial abuse is experienced in 98% of abusive relationships  and surveys of survivors reflect that concerns over their ability to provide financially for themselves and their children was one of the top reason for staying in or returning to a battering relationship. As with all forms of abuse, it occurs across all socio-economic, educational and racial and ethnic groups.

Forms of Financial Abuse

As with other forms of abuse, financial abuse may begin subtly and progress over time. It may even look like love initially as abusers have the capacity to appear very charming and are masterful at manipulation. For example, the abuser may make statements such as “I know you’re under a lot of stress right now so why  don’t you just let me take care of the finances and I’ll give you money each week to take care of what you need.” Under these circumstances, the victim may believe that she should or can trust the partner she is in love with and may willingly give over control of the money and how it is spent. This scenario commonly leads to the batterer giving the victim less and less in “allowance” and by the time she decides she wants to take back control of the finances, she discovers that the accounts have all been moved or she no longer has knowledge or access to the family funds.

In other cases, the financial abuse may be much more overt.  Batterers commonly use violence or threats of violence and intimidation to keep the victim from working or having access to the family funds.  Whether subtle or overt, there are common methods that batterers use to gain financial control over their partner.  These include:

  • Forbidding the victim to work
  • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities by stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace orcausing the victim to lose her job by physically battering prior to important meetings or interviews
  • Controlling how all of the money is spent
  • Not allowing the victim access to bank accounts
  • Withholding money or giving “an allowance”
  • Not including the victim in investment or banking decisions
  • Forbidding the victim from attending job training or advancement opportunities
  • Forcing the victim to write bad checks or file fraudulent tax returns
  • Running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts
  • Refusing to work or contribute to the family income
  • Withholding funds for the victim or children to obtain basic needs such as food and medicine
  • Hiding assets
  • Stealing the victim’s identity, property or inheritance
  • Forcing the victim to work in a family business without pay
  • Refusing to pay bills and ruining the victims’ credit score
  • Forcing the victim to turn over public benefits or threatening to turn the victim in for “cheating or misusing benefits”
  • Filing false insurance claims
  • Refusing to pay  or evading child support or manipulating the divorce process by drawing it out by hiding or not disclosing assets

The Impact of Financial Abuse

The short and long term effects of financial abuse can be devastating. In the short term, access to assets is imperative to staying safe. Without assets, survivors are often unable to obtain safe and affordable housing or the funds to provide for themselves or their children. With realistic fears of homelessness, it is little wonder that survivors sometimes return to the battering relationship.

For those who manage to escape the abuse and survive initially, they often face overwhelming odds in obtaining long term security and safety. Ruined credit scores, sporadic employment histories and legal issues caused by the battering make it extremely difficult to gain independence, safety and long term security.

Light Skin, Dark Skin- Colorism in the Black Community

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“You’re really pretty for a dark girl”, this is something I’ve heard many times in my life. Growing up as a dark skin girl can be difficult, as a child other children often made fun of my color.  I was lucky that at home my mother always told me I was beautiful and I never felt I was less beautiful than lighter skinned girls.   Although I’ve never wanted to be another complexion, I know that many other women with dark skin often struggle with wanting to be lighter because being lighter is often praised in the Black community.

The idea that the lighter you are the better often begins when a child is an infant.  Many older Black people will try to determine how dark a child will be by looking behind the ears because that color is said to be the color the baby will grow into as she gets older.  The idea that if you’re lighter with straight hair and smaller facial features,  you’re better is also depicted in the media.  Lighter skinned Black women are usually portrayed  as being soft and feminine and darker women are often portrayed as being unattractive and masculine.  It’s an interesting fact that lighter skinned women are  often praised however  darker skinned men tend to be more desired in the Black community.

Some darker women will bleach their skin in order to be lighter, this is  of course a very dangerous practice and can cause serious damage to your body.  The idea that if you’re lighter your life will be better and happier is something we as a community need to stop believing and begin to love ourselves no matter your complexion.  Remember that your skin color does not determine your worth and you deserve love and kindness whether you’re dark, light or any shade in between.  All shades of brown and black are beautiful.

What is a Trigger?

 

 

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Recently  we are often hearing about trigger warnings and on social media, many people will post a  warning before posting something which may be disturbing to others.  Triggers are not something new however until recently many people didn’t think about how something could trigger someone else.  If someone gets triggered, it often takes sometime to get out of the the moment and not think about the memory that was triggered by what they saw, heard or smelled.   Unfortunately it’s impossible to know what will trigger each person and some triggers are unavoidable.  It’s important to know if something will trigger you and to try to avoid any triggering situations.   Triggers are activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.  Sight and sound tend to be the most triggering for people.

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Sight

  • Often someone who resembles the abuser or who has similar traits or objects of the abuser will be triggering and bring back vivid memories of the abuse.
  • Witnessing someone else being abused.
  • The object that was used to abuse
  • Seeing a place or situation which reminds you of the abuse.

Sound

  • Anything that sounds like anger , pain or fear can be triggering.
  • Anything that resembles sounds that the abuser made for example . whistling,  or tone of voice
  • Words the abuser used.

Smell

  • Anything that resembles the smell of the abuser
  • Any smells that resemble the place or situation where the abuse occurred (ie. food cooking ,wood, odors, alcohol).

Touch

  • Anything that resembles the abuse or things that occurred prior to or after the abuse for example certain physical touch, someone standing too close or the way someone approaches you.

Taste

  • Anything that is related to the abuse, prior to the abuse or after the abuse for example. certain foods, alcohol, tobacco.

If you feel triggered  by something there are ways to help you to feel better.  Grounding exercises and deep breathing are usually helpful.  A good grounding exercise is to acknowledge that you’re being triggered, remind yourself that you’ll be ok and that you’re safe and not in the situation.  Think of some positive affirmations to repeat to yourself and most importantly be kind and compassionate to yourself and remind yourself that whatever happened was not your fault.

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder

 

 

 

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a often characterized by difficulties in regulating emotion. This difficulty sometimes leads to unstable mood swings, impulsivity and instability, poor self-image and difficult personal relationships.   A person  living with BPD  sometimes will exhibit destructive behavior, such as self-harm (cutting) or suicide attempts. It’s estimated that 1.6% of the adult U.S. population has BPD.   Nearly 75% of people diagnosed with BPD are women, but recent research suggests that men may be almost as frequently affected by BPD.

Symptoms

People with BPD experience wide mood swings and sometimes display a great sense of instability and insecurity. Signs and symptoms may include: Frantic efforts to avoid being abandoned by friends and family. Unstable personal relationships that alternate between idealization—“I’m so in love!”—and devaluation—“I hate her.” This is also known as “splitting.” Distorted and unstable self-image, which affects moods, values, opinions, goals and relationships. Impulsive behaviors that can have dangerous outcomes, such as excessive spending, unsafe sex, substance abuse or reckless driving. Suicidal and self-harming behavior. Periods of intense depressed mood, irritability or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days. Chronic feelings of boredom or emptiness. Inappropriate, intense or uncontrollable anger—often followed by shame and guilt. Dissociative feelings—disconnecting from your thoughts or sense of identity, or “out of body” type of feelings—and stress-related paranoid thoughts. Suicide threats and attempts are very common for people with BPD. Self-harming acts, such as cutting and burning, are also common.

Causes

The causes of borderline personality disorder are not fully understood, but experts agree that it is the result of a combination of factors: Genetics. While no specific gene has been shown to directly cause BPD, studies in twins suggest this illness has strong hereditary links. BPD is about five times more common among people who have a first-degree relative with the disorder. Environmental factors. People who experience traumatic life events, such as physical or sexual abuse during childhood or neglect and separation from parents, are at increased risk of developing BPD. Brain function. The way the brain works is often different in people with BPD, suggesting that there is a neurological basis for some of the symptoms. Specifically, the portions of the brain that control emotions and decision-making/judgment may not communicate well with one another.

Diagnosis

There is no single medical test to diagnose BPD, and a diagnosis is not based on one sign or symptom. BPD is diagnosed by a mental health professional following a comprehensive evaluation.  To be diagnosed with BPD, a person must have at least 5 of the 9 BPD symptoms listed above.

Treatment

Treatment for BPD generally  includes psychotherapy and medications.   Psychotherapy, such as dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic psychotherapy,  usually works well for people with  BPD. Medications are often used in  treatment, but there is no one medication specifically made to treat the core symptoms of  emptiness, abandonment and identity disturbance. Rather, several medications can be used off-label to treat the remaining symptoms. For example, mood stabilizers and antidepressants help with mood swings and dysphoria. Antipsychotic medication may help control symptoms of rage and disorganized thinking. Short-term hospitalization may be necessary during times of extreme stress, and/or impulsive or suicidal behavior to ensure safety.

BPD can be difficult to diagnose and treat—and successful treatment includes addressing any other disorders somebody might have. A person with BPD may have additional conditions like: anxiety disorders, such as PTSD. bipolar disorder, depression or  eating disorders.  They may also have  other personality disorders or substance use disorders.

Helping Yourself

Although you may realize that your behaviors are destructive it may be difficult to control them. Treatment can teach you ways to cope. Here are some other ways to help manage your illness: Connect with others. Find emotional support from others living with BPD. It’s helpful to share your thoughts, fears and questions with other people who have the same illness. Use online message boards or groups found through social sites like meetup.com or Facebook. Avoid  excessive use of drugs and alcohol. These substances can disturb emotional balance and interact with medications. Take care of your body. Eat well and exercise. To relieve stress, try  activities like meditation or  yoga.

Helping A Family Member Or Friend

The support of family and friends is critical in the treatment of BPD, as many people with this illness may isolate themselves from these relationships in times of greatest need. Look for warning signs. BPD often shows in erratic behavior, shopping sprees, sexual or substance binges and blow-up fights in relationships. If a person is open to it, discuss your friend or family member’s past episodes with them so he or she can clearly recognize the signs early. Encourage continued treatment. Family and friends can be  helpful in encouraging someone to engage in proper treatment.

While this is a difficult condition to have or to have a loved one suffer from with the correct help, you or your loved one can live a stable life with BPD.

How to comfort a parent whose child has died

 

 

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It is often said that there is no greater loss than the loss of a child. It is what every parent fears. It is very important to be there for the parent who is experiencing this devastating loss.  What a bereaved parent wants the most is to have their child back. Sadly, no one can grant that wish however you can help them through their grieving process.

1-  Remember that your help or support will be needed long term. It is going to take time to feel better, be there for them in the long term.

2- There will be false starts, and setbacks. Be prepared for the emotional ups and downs with them. Your love and compassion will be very needed.

3- Be practical. Grieving parents need space to grieve.   You can help this by providing meals, offering to keep any other children or  offering to run errands for them. Do the everyday mundane things that suddenly seem pointless to them. Stay in close contact; simply calling and visiting can be a huge source of practical support.

4- Be free with physical shows of support. Give lots of hugs. Give the parent your shoulder to cry on literally.  Many many tears are normal and healthy.

5-  Expect the grief to increase not decrease. This is grief for life,  it’s not something to “get over”. Accept that there is no time frame on grief. For now, it will continue to grow in magnitude and you are much needed as the grief overwhelms your friend. Be a shoulder to cry on, someone who will listen, someone who will not judge, and someone who will keep being there, no matter what. Accept that a bereaved parent will never ever get over the loss of their child, but know in time,  they will get through it.

6- Never compare a child’s death with a non-child death of your own you’ve experienced. The loss of a child carries very different connotations from the loss of a parent, sibling, or friend. Parents will often tell you that they wish it could have been them instead of the child and this is a feeling that  may haunt them for many years after. The pain after loss of a child does differ from any other loss of a person you know and love; accept this and acknowledge it where needed.

  • Share your pain over the loss of their child, but remember your pain is nowhere near their pain unless you have lost a child yourself. There is no greater pain than the death of one’s child. Never tell a bereaved parent you know how they feel or you understand because you probably do not.
  • Do not compare the loss of your job, marriage, pet, or grandparent to the loss of their child.
  • Don’t ever tell the parent to “Get over it”, or “Get on with your life, your child would want you to.”
  • Never say “You can always have more children” if the parent is mourning  the death of a baby or very young child. This is one of the most insensitive things to say to a grieving parent. And grandchildren are no substitute for lost adult children either; just don’t go down this avenue of platitudes.
  • One really good phrase is simply: “Tell me how you feel.” This lets the parent open up and talk in any direction wished. And to cry or scream if they want to as well.

7-  Don’t be afraid to talk about the child. Every parent wants to know their child is not forgotten. And listen to the parents when they want to talk about their child. Whether the child was young or an adult, there will be many memories that the parents will want to talk about, as a way of bringing the child back into temporary existence.

8-  Don’t just disappear. This can be the ultimate letdown for a grieving parent, to lose someone who was once a friend,  The concern you feel at not knowing what to say or do is nothing compared to the pain, sadness, and loneliness the grieving parent experiences. It’s better to put your foot into it and apologize than to just fade away and cease to be a resource your friend can count on.. Remember the child’s birthday. Send a card saying that you remember their child.  Remember the child’s date of death. Send a thinking of you card, call them, share good memories about their child, and listen.

9- Give them space. As well as letting them know you’re there for them, also accept that the bereaved parent may want to seclude themselves. Be wise to signals of distress about having you around and gently withdraw, still letting them know that you’re there for them whenever they need you, just a call or text away.