The Armor can come off sometimes, right?

Vanessa Watson-Hill, LCSW

The gift of armor has been passed down for generations for black women. Out of necessity armor was and is still needed to navigate many social forces such as racism, sexism, and classism in the United States.

The armor born out of self-protection and used to cope with weight of racism has become a permanent fixture in many women’s wardrobe.

Many generations later we are armed with data that tells us the weight of the armor many black girls and women wear is too heavy.

For over a decade I worked as medical social work in New York City. Every day on my units, I saw the toll of the armor black women carry. The majority of my younger patient’s admitted with complications of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease where often black women.

My patient ‘s with new amputations due to the complications of diabetes often where black women. My patients who needed to be placed on dialysis due to kidney failure from Hypertension 9 times out 10 black were women in their forties or fifties.

The CDC reports HIV is the third leading cause of death for Black woman thirty-five to fifty-four. This was reflected of many of the newly diagnosed patients with HIV in my work. My patients who grappled with crippling depression often were black women. Sadly, many of my patients who declined therapy referrals often were black women.

All of this is heavy stuff, complex, and there are no easy solutions.

I can offer three tips to help you begin to take action to address how this impacts your life.

The first step is self-awareness. Many times, women are not aware they are wearing armor at all. An erosion of self often occurs when you are conditioned to always be strong. That is because you are conditioned to place and think about the needs of everyone else before your needs. In my clinical work I often find my clients who are 95% black women struggle with identifying their needs. This is something I unpack in my capacity as a Therapist.

Going to therapy with a culturally competent therapist in your area may be something that will help you learn more about how your carry your armor. A therapist can help your develop healthier tools to help you with managing your armor.

Commit to intention self-care practices. Selfcare can be taking a walk in the morning before the kids get up. Self-care can be listening to relaxing music during your two-hour commute home. Selfcare can be sitting down and reading a non-work-related book for one hour a week.

Wearing armor 24/7 365 is killing many of us. Sis, I want you to live a full and healthy life.

Let’s start breaking the chains of unhealthy pattens that simply is not serving us in 2019.

What About your friends, caregivers edition

Article By: Vanessa Watson,LCSW

Three tips to support your friend who is a caregiver

Last night on Real Housewives of Atlanta, Nene Leaks shared her struggles being a caregiver to her Husband Gregg who is battling Stage III Colon Cancer. I applaud Nene and Gregg for sharing their story. Many caregivers, especially caregivers of color, can feel alone, and their stories are not told. Nene expresses feelings very common for people providing care to loved ones facing a serious or chronic medical condition. Life as a caregiver can feel like being in a pressure cooker on high that doesn’t turn off. 

The multiple stressors and demands of caregiver can be overwhelming on top of the feelings you may experience watching your loved one battle for their lives. Many caregivers start experiencing their own medical problems, face strain in their personal and work life when support is not provided.

Often people may not know how they can support a friend who is a caregiver. Many people not knowing who to do or say, may stay away, which can lead to increased feelings of isolation many caregivers already face. 

 

Here are three tips to remember to do to help support a friend in your life who’s a caregiver. 

1.    Remember to ask your friend how they are doing instead of how he/she is doing. Your friend in is this with their partner. Asking “How are both of you “acknowledges it’s not just the person who needs care who is dealing with challenges.

2.    Try to avoid saying “Please take care of yourself”. For many caregivers when they hear that it’s just another thing to add to an already very long do to list. Try to offer concrete support. You can offer do some errands like picking up the laundry or picking up the kids from basketball practice. 

3.    Support may look like offering to pick up dinner and a bottle of wine for a girl’s night in. Your friend many not be able to hang out or go out to dinner because of their caregiving responsibilities. An offer like this will help your friend have an outlet and one less meal to cook.