It’s ZOE SEASON!!!!!!!
*Zoe gang or no gang*
To my fellow misunderstood Haitian Americans who grew up being prayed over instead of having someone to talk to and those fighting mental health issues there is no time like the present to speak upon your experiences. To change the cycle we must start with ourselves, and so I’d like to share my story.
To many May is proclaimed as Haitian Heritage month, in the same breathe the month of May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. As a proud Haitian-American woman I understand what the month of May means to my people and the struggles that those before us have traveled in order to get to where we are today. But are we neglecting to acknowledge and discuss the struggles our communities are currently facing in an effort to keep our past present.
Mental health is such a taboo topic in the Haitian community I find it somewhat funny as well as coincidental that our heritage month lays in the same nest as mental health month. In this month we boast with pride and show out wherever about who we are, where we came from and where we are going while turning a blind eye to an issue that has been well hidden in our community because well there are people praying for you.
Junior high was a time. I was all about love and friendship and just togetherness but that soon all changed when I got to high school. Diving into the ocean known as Brockton High was a new, overwhelming type of experience. My friends from junior high were all in different buildings which lead to us not seeing each other often forcing us to blend and mesh into new friend groups. Now, take a young girl who is struggling with body positivity, suffers from anxiety/panic attacks and migraines and throw her into a pool of roughly 4,000 students…what do you get…a hot damn mess. I was an actual mess although no one could ever tell because boy could I keep up appearances. Making my mom proud, keeping my family happy, making sure I didn’t disappoint my church…etc. etc. Mentally and emotionally i was dwindling little by little. My panic attacks got worse and followed me well into college. Physically I was starving even though I was eating…developed an eating disorder that many people never knew I had until this post and which somewhat plagues me still today. I hated my body and my body equally hated me and I was somewhat okay with it because I didn’t know how to deal. I had days in college when I could barely get out of bed. Days when I felt numb and incapable of eating anything. I couldn’t tell my my mom for fear of her reaction well over reaction but I knew eventually she’d catch on to my terrible eating habits. I was slowly but surely taking myself out. So I sought out help…I had confided in a friend that often times I’d wonder what would my world be like without me in it…it was a passing thought that rode into my thoughts often when I felt like my walls were crashing. She told me not to think like that and to think about the effect that something like that would have on my family and friends. In the end, she’d pray for me. That was really the last conversation we ever had on the topic.
Now I’m not knocking prayer at all because without it where would I really be but we live in a culture where the first reaction about being told something off putting is to pray and only pray. Are we having open conversations about the things that our plaguing our young peoples minds? Following up with them when they confide in us about their thoughts? Are we checking on their mindsets? Well-being? Environment? As I wrote this I searched for statistics about mental health in Haitian communities and low and behold my search only brought up mental health relating to the earthquake in 2010. Speaking on mental health in our community is so taboo that it is heavily under researched. You can barely find articles that place the words mental health and Haiti together in one sentence. We need to do better.
There are more of us out there in our communities struggling. They are ashamed, scared, and worried about what will happen if they bring their fore thoughts out into the open. Conversations are necessary. Follow up is necessary. Help is necessary. Love is necessary. Understanding is necessary. Prayer with follow up is necessary.
To all my friends, whether you are Haitian or not that struggle with a mental health issue please seek comfort…seek help. There will be dark days. Days when waking up is a pain and you ask yourself why…The hardest thing to remember on those days is that you are not alone. There are people here for you waiting to talk to you. Please, please, please talk to someone. There are others just like you and others relating to you waiting to help.
You are not alone.
You are valued.
You are worth it.
L’Union fait la force