Dear You, Dear Me, Dear us,
I want to start off with, IT IS OKAY. It is okay for you to feel depressed. It’s okay for you to feel constantly anxious. Its okay for you to have OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder. It is okay for you to have eating disorders, autism, and substance related problems. It’s okay for you to feel overwhelmed in life. And your suicidal thoughts come with the distress. Your feelings are valid. You are valid. Do not let anyone tell you that your feelings are invalid because mental illness is “some white people stuff.” Do not let anyone tell you that you aren’t allowed to feel because you have to be a “Strong Black Woman.”
This Strong Black Woman identity that no one asked for, is detrimental to your health. Once you hear that “you gotta be strong and suck it up” speech, you’ll start to keep your feelings to yourself. You’ll feel like your experiences don’t matter. And most importantly, you won’t get the help you need. This Strong Black Woman trope won’t teach you to take care of yourself mentally. But it will teach you to put everyone else’s needs before your own.
This Strong Black Woman guide teaches:
The Strong Black Woman must hold down her Endangered Black man.
The Strong Black Woman has to procreate and then raise her Impressionable Black Children.
The Strong Black Woman has to do right by her Large Black Family.
And the Strong Black Woman must work for the Entitled White Man without anger.
The Strong Black Woman cannot feel,
she cannot put herself first.
She has to wear her hair like this and she has to wear that.
And her Strong Black Body is community property.
If her Strong Black Body was violated, she has to keep it to herself.
If her Strong Black Body was violated, she didn’t follow the rules.
If her Strong Black Body was violated, it was her fault.
All of these rules will become internalized from the moment you learn to talk. You’ll start to feel like you cannot handle it. You might want to give up. .. But I am not writing to you so I can tell you how you should react or to tell you how to live your life. I’m writing to tell you that all of these feelings, experiences-everything. Everything is valid. You are not crazy. You are not just looking for attention. And you are most definitely not making it up. You are not alone. You can find comfort in other Black women.
Black women are tied together all by the same rope made of misogynoir. You are taught that other black women are your competition. I want you to un-learn that. We all have so much in common and when we are not leaning on each other, we are suffering alone. You do not have to suffer alone. I want you to read this letter and go out to the black women in your life and start a candid conversation about the mental health of Black Women.
–Taina E. Morris