I finally let myself cry.
After so many African Americans, innocent Black people being killed by police officers I became very avoidant when it came to the videos, photos, articles, etc. of our people being killed. It wasn't that I didn't care anymore- I always care. But I couldn't take it anymore. My heart was exhausted- still is. Then came, George Floyd right after back to back weeks of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Dreasjon Reed then the news about Breonna Taylor coming out MONTHS after the murder happened but right at the same time that we learned of the other two. Eventually I just couldn't take it anymore. I still haven't watched the video of Mr. Floyd or Mr. Arbery and I cut the video of Mr. Reed off. I felt myself crumbling all day but what really broke me was this post by a white police officer on Facebook. I guess what did it with this post was that going from a white police officer they KNOW better! Even though none of us should need any training to know what putting your knee into someone's back does...
Last week, I had the opportunity to present at the Oklahoma Social Work Summit and I used my opportunity in speaking about minority mental health to talk about how clients may come in needing help with processing these things and their white therapists possibly not knowing why it is so deep for us even when we do not know the individuals personally. I told them about how hard it was to show up for work after watching Philando Castile being killed on my phone, hearing the cries of his fiancé and her daughter trying to comfort her after witnessing it herself. The fact that I had pull myself together, go to work, and try to keep a straight face and normal affect so that I did not have to hold back in telling my white co-workers that I am grieving a man I probably would have never met in my life in an attempt to save myself the risk of going completely left if met with n ignorant answer.
I share that in trying to stay in the theme of mental health to say that we all have shared this experience- having to explain our grief or attempting to avoid explanations. Black Lives Matter. Black Mental Health Matters. And I want to remind you that it is important for us to take care of ourselves in these moments. The reality is that a lot of us have to put on a brave face and go to work. Dare I say we are lucky that this has happened while we are still somewhat quarantined. But, if you do please be sure to take a moment to really deal with all of those emotions. Whether it is before you walk into work or once you are out those doors...deal with it. Let yourself feel the emotions- cry, weep (like I did), and sit with all of the fears and anger it brings up. Avoiding it didn't help me because it continues to happen- so when the next round came it was built up from before.
I really want to step into my social worker role and offer support and free Decompression Sessions to help but right now I just can't. Maybe when I can pull myself together a little more and I will definitely update you all if I do but right now...I can not. And for my fellow helping professionals - this is important for us to acknowledge - you do not always have to be in a rush to help others- take care of yourself first!
I really hope we one day can stop sharing posts like this, stop watching our people get killed on social media, and stop fearing for our own lives and the lives of our loved ones.
Until then...take care of your mental and emotional space, grieve, take a break from social media as needed, hug on your loved ones, and keep fighting for us.
And real quick, while we're here let me address something with Dreasjon Reed- he was absolutely wrong for running from the police but we are still going to fight for justice for him because he should not have been killed for that and he definitely did not deserve the ignorant comments made after his death.