The Focus On You

*Self-Care & Lifestyle Blog*

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The Connection Between Minority Mental Health And Belonging

As a Mexican-American, I naturally gravitate towards wellness issues that focus on people of color. Inclusivity is becoming more than just a buzzword and honestly, it’s nice to finally be invited to the party.

In lieu of spouting off statistics about the effects of depression and anxiety on people of color, I want to explore a problem with mental health that goes unnoticed.

Belonging.

Being seen.

Although there are layers of barriers that people of color face in relation to mental illness (inadequate healthcare coverage, citizenship, poverty, taboo subject in your home), having a feeling of being unwanted or unseen can be damaging to one’s core.

You see belonging relates to fairness.

Fairness is what our kids gripe about in their classrooms. Fairness is missing in our board rooms, where the majority of upper management are Caucasian males. Abused women and mothers want fairness in courtrooms for restraining orders and custody agreements. (Don’t ask me how many times I have seen the court give the kids to an abusive father because he earns more money).

When you’re treated unfairly and go “unseen” you develop a sense that you don’t belong. For minorities, every incidence of being passed over for a job, harassed by cops, having nasty glares from sales associates or pre-judgments about your intelligence builds layers of “I don’t belong” messages.

Imagine adding on years of these messages with a newly diagnosed mental illness.

For anyone with mental illness you may wonder, who will believe me? Who will dismiss your illness and claim you have to “suck it up?” How do you talk about anxiety and depression with elder family members who survived a dangerous migration, escaping a war torn country or extreme poverty?

Even when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia I wondered how I would be judged? How can I complain about being tired when I have friends who are running non-stop with kids, career, mortgages and large families? And how do I describe fibromyalgia as more than being “tired?”

And as popular culture focuses again on the mindset behind suicidal ideations, many suicide survivors would admit that their thoughts cannot be trusted with loved ones. You can have the greatest family in the world but suicide is not a topic you can bring up comfortably without people shoving questions and doctors down your throat. So if you feel suicidal, where can you feel like you belong?

Luckily, social media is providing groups and websites chock full of resources, hotlines and chats that are opening up discussions about all these sensitive topics.

My wish? In this expansive web of social connectivity, I want people struggling with painful symptoms to find a safe spot where they know they belong, and will be accepted.

And my continued passion with this blog and future projects, is to open up the door for people of color to have these conversations and begin the healing process.

Resources:

Talkspace – Online Therapy

Project UROK: Resource for teens and young adults

Buddy Project: Project that uplifts young people with mental illness and pairs them with supportive friends. They frequently share Twitter threads full of resources (playlists, affirmations, etc).

Affirm podcast:  Podcast for women of color created by a mental health therapist.

To Write Love On Her Arms: Non-profit devoted to finding help for people dealing with suicide, self-harm and depression.

Tessera Collective: Online community and empowerment for girls and women of color.

PsychCentral: Mental health social network overseen by mental health professionals. Fabulous resource for ALL topics related to psychology.

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Trevor Project Crisis Line (LGBTQ): 1-866-488-7386

 

 

How To Navigate Your Way Out Of A Shame Storm

This post contains affiliate links.

As a therapist and self-care blogger, I am a huge fan of Brené Brown’s books and seminars on shame, imperfection and courage. I recently watched a webinar on shame and was blown away.

One of her concepts that blew me away was this:

What happens when you get swept up in a shame storm?

Shame is that feeling that weighs much heavier than guilt. Brown describes guilt as the self-talk that says, “I made a mistake.” Shame, on the other hand, says “I AM a mistake.” Guilt focuses on a particular behavior and shame is more personal.

So what is a shame storm?

It’s that shitty feeling when:

  • Someone ghosts us after dating.

  • Being criticized by someone we respect at work.

  • Being passed over for a promotion, raise or special project.

  • Feeling alienated by family members or friends.

  • Intimate relationships become a struggle.

  • We talk ourselves out of trying something new (job, taking a trip, business risk).

  • Your children disappoint you.

  • A recent medical or mental health diagnosis.

  • Being stuck in a comparison cycle because your friends and family have kids, good paying jobs, fit bodies, education, happy relationships, etc.

Personally, I’ve been through a shame monsoon where self-doubt and anxiety flood my entire being. Every thought and step is bathed in doubt. And no one has to say anything to trigger it. When fibromyalgia floods my cells with a flare, it instantly throws me in a lurch. I don’t want to self-diagnose but I have no shame in describing it as depression. When I suddenly lose energy and motivation to even take a shower, it’s easy for shame to curl up next to me.

In all honesty, a therapist can’t prevent a shame storm. We can sit and listen and help provide solutions to paddle your way out of it though. Knowing what your triggers are could help you weather the storm too. Having the courage to discuss your shameful feelings with a trusted therapist or healer, is an important first step.

Here are some ideas to help:

  • Identify who would listen without judgment. We don’t need that friend or family member who minimizes our pain. Don’t call the person who says, “Oh you have no reason to feel shame!” According to Brown, shame can’t survive in silence. Speaking to someone who will be empathetic decreases shame’s power.
  • Write, write and write. And then toss it. Burn it (safely). Tell the shitty thoughts to leave your head and toss them. Give them a death sentence.
  • Depending on how we react to shame (internalize it, lash out, isolation) we may need to ask for space. Our loved ones don’t need to feel the effects of our hurt and its safest to ask for space. You don’t even have to explain why. Say this: “Uhh I’m having a day today. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” Enough said. Set healthy boundaries.
  • If the shame storm soaked you, imagine drying off. Change out of your “wet” clothes, take a soothing shower and start fresh. This could be a good mindfulness exercise in literally washing off the scent of self-doubt. Himalayan salt showers or Epsom salt baths are popular practices. Cleansing our body can be a meditative process and helps mask tears. Crying in the shower is perfectly ok.
  • If alienation or abandonment occurred, remind yourself of who still loves you and appreciates you. Reach out to your Higher Power, identify important and healthy people in your life and tell yourself you are loved. Don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The Four Agreements” helped me make sense of the phrase, “Don’t take anything personally.” (Hey I’ve written about this! Building Confidence Using The Four Agreements)
  • If you are feeling abandoned, beware of being “vague” on social media. If you’re not speaking clearly about what you’re feeling, people could brush you off or minimize your situation. Thus, you may end up feeling abandoned again. Don’t set yourself up for more sadness.
  • Brené Brown has described shameful experiences as “falling face down in the arena.” I recommend her book, “Rising Strong”, where she describes the rumble before falling down and the revolution that takes place when you are resilient. She provides personal experience as well as therapeutic messages from the perspective of a healer.

As a therapist, I have seen clients become empowered when they identify the source of their shame. Many times adults are carrying around messages of unworthiness from childhood. An absent or distant parent, addicted parent, abusive siblings or generational trauma leave lasting scars.

We are simply containers of emotions and most of us haven’t cleaned out our shelves. Click To Tweet

Working with a therapist or healer can help clean out our dusty crevices, especially if we are steadily drenched in shame storms.

My hope is that shame storms can eventually trickle down to sprinkles of guilt, which encourage us to change our behaviors instead of isolating ourselves in doubtful and discouraging self-talk.

 

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