Mental Health (Self-)Awareness: 6 Tools and Insights to Support You with Yours!

Are you Aware that…ASKING FOR HELP IS COURAGEOUS? It is.

Here’s what you will get in this blog in a nutshell: Mental Health defined, questions and journal prompts that will help you identify the current state of your mental health, lots of affirmations, validation, some information regarding how self-judgment can lead to anxiety and depression, a list of 6 things you can begin TODAY to support you with your mental wellness and links below if you are interested in learning more!

When it comes to being consistent around mental health, many are still struggling. There are more people than ever, reaching out for therapy, wanting to learn coping skills to deal with life transitions and world events, explore past trauma, connect with their inner child, understand self-care, and acquire tools to support their relationship. The recent world events from the global pandemic of Covid-19, racial tensions, and escalating violence worldwide has led to an increase in the diagnosis of anxiety and depression. People who never experienced anxiety are having full blown panic attacks and experiencing depressive episodes without realizing what they are. Information on mental health is all over social media, which as a licensed psychotherapist and lover of all humans makes me very appreciative of the movement towards increased self-awareness. Our mental health impacts everything in our lives. It plays a part in all the dimensions of our health. Our mental health impacts every relationship, every interaction, and our overall state of wellness. What have you done to support your mental health lately?

Mental Health Defined: The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Mental Health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”

Now that you know the definition, grab a pen and get ready to write. I am about to ask you some questions about your own mental health:

  1. Do you realize your own abilities? If yes, what are they?
  2. Do you have and use coping skills to support you with the normal stresses of life? If so, what are they?
  3. Are you productive and making gains at work? If yes, what is the evidence/what are the gains?
  4. Are you making a positive contribution to your community? If so, what is your contribution?
  5. How are your relationships with others (close, distant, conflictual, etc.)?
  6. Would you say that you are currently experiencing a state of well-being? Please elaborate on your answer.

How do you feel about your answers?

The reality is, most people struggle with writing down concrete answers in regards to their mental health. Some believe that if they do not have a prior diagnosis, they do not have to do a wellness check in with themselves. The thought of needing additional support or not having control of our emotions can be scary and avoidance can seem like the best way to cope. The truth is we get to check in with ourselves daily around our mood, our emotions, and why we are feeling the way we do. When was the last time you checked in with yourself, asked yourself these questions, and actually gave yourself the time to think about them? If any of your answers concerned you, I am hopeful that you will continue to read and get information that may support you.

Balance looks different for everyone, have you found your balance? All dimensions of health matter: emotional/mental, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social. They all impact one another, perhaps it’s time to check in with yourself around what your balance looks like. You can always move things around and create something different.

While I believe that being aware of ourselves and our state of wellness gets to happen every single day, it is great to have an entire month dedicated to creating mental health awareness (thank you Mental Health America for starting this tradition in 1949). We are currently reinforcing and amplifying the need for more support around maintaining mental wellness and understanding mental illness as a collective.

Are you Aware that…MENTAL ILLNESS DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE? It effects all cultures, all ages, all genders, and all races.

Every person deserves to lead a fulfilling life. We all have a mind, we all have been hurt, we all have felt grief, we all have faced change, no matter the age group, socioeconomic group, culture, race, political and/or religious belief, we all have life experiences. If we are alive, we are experiencing. The fact of the matter is that sometimes we do not feel okay, sometimes we get mentally exhausted and frustrated, and that gets to be acknowledged. Not feeling okay gets to be validated. We get to not judge ourselves, our struggles, and/or our reactions. Unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding of self are required to be able to show up that way for others. How wonderful it would be to live in a world where we are able to accept ourselves in all ways, on all days, and be able to hold that space of love and acceptance for others! Even if you are not interested in the collective, you can learn a lot about yourself by observing how you think and talk about others.

Are you Aware that… WHEN YOU JUDGE OTHERS, YOU ARE REALLY JUDGING YOURSELF? Self-love and compassion are vital to your happiness and outlook towards yourself and others. Your pain, hurt, trauma, and mental illness do not need judgment, they need you, in the form of love and compassion.

Are you aware of the judgments you have of yourself and others? It is challenging to catch ourselves each time we are judging other humans, it is even harder for us to catch ourselves engaging in self-judgment/negative self-talk. When we judge ourselves, we limit ourselves and get in the way of our own happiness and state of well-being. Judgment shames, blames, and criticizes. What you can do instead is observe your thoughts and behaviors and if there is something you do not like, change it. If you can not change it, work on changing your perspective. Judgment towards ourselves and others creates a divide/separation at a time when we get to focus on love and acceptance. Self-judgment can ultimately lead to depression, anxiety, and isolation. It can separate us from our authentic selves because we are not allowing ourselves to be free flowing. Judgment confines. Judgment restricts. How can you be in an organic flow while practicing judgment? The answer is, you can not. Working towards quieting the negative chatter in your mind, can support you having a greater sense of connectivity to self and therefore increased mental wellness. Replace judgment with observation. You do not have to judge something about yourself to make a decision to do it differently!

Are you Aware that…..There are Things you can do RIGHT NOW? Here are 6 Tools that May Help: Pick at least one and do it today!

  1. Go Out in Nature and Get grounded through Earthing and/or Breathwork: Go out in nature, take off your shoes and walk barefoot or simply sit in the grass. There have been many studies that have shown grounding/earthing therapy to be beneficial. Thousands of people have claimed to experience elevated mood/decreased stress by connecting to the Earth’s natural electric charge. You can also get grounded by walking on the sand at the beach, walking in the grass at a local park, or swimming in a lake. Face the sun and get some natural Vitamin D. Studies have shown a link between a deficiency in Vitamin D and depression. While growing and keeping potted plants in your space is not considered earthing, there are many benefits to keeping plants/nature in your home. If you have an appreciation for nature and are not able to get out as much as you would like, consider keeping plants in your home.
  2. Start Drinking Plenty of Water: Dehydration May be Contributing to Your Anxiety and/or Depression: According to Medical News Today, as well as the Dent Neurologic Institute, our brain is comprised of at least 75% water. Serotonin is known as “the happy chemical,” in the brain is literally blocked when we are dehydrated. Serotonin is considered the most important or “key” hormone in our body, it impacts our mood, happiness, digestion, and sleep, along with other pretty important components to our health and well-being. Dehydration is one of the least talked about and/or known contributing factors to low mood and anxiety. When we do not drink enough water, our brain does not make enough energy or get enough oxygen which leads to less productivity and struggle with focusing. When we do not drink enough water our body sends signals to the brain that heighten emotions by making us feel anxious.
  3. Validate your Inner Child: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Inner Child is defined as “the childlike usually hidden part of a person’s personality that is characterized by playfulness, spontaneity, and creativity usually accompanied by anger, hurt, and fear attributable to childhood experiences.” Many of us have wounds that stem from childhood and adolescence. We also have dreams, hopes, and a sense of self that sometimes gets forgotten when we have become so influenced by the thoughts and opinions of others that we struggle to access our authenticity. Be good to yourself today, talk to yourself with compassion and give yourself the validation, warmth, and even the physical touch you wish you would have received as a child. Take care of your inner child and they will support you feeling better now. Inner child work is growing in popularity, I have done it personally, and use it in my practice. It may feel uncomfortable at first, I encourage you to stick with it as it supports healing the wounds of origin therefore decreasing the likelihood of operating out of your wounds present day.
  4. Start Writing, Visualizing and saying Affirmations out Loud: What do you want? How do you want to feel? What makes you smile? What makes you want to laugh? Write those things down and then visualize yourself getting what you want, envision your beautiful smile, perhaps even laugh out loud, just to hear your own laughter. Sometimes we need a reminder that no matter how drained or overwhelmed we may feel in a given moment, we still have the power to dream, strive, and hope. Below I have shared some affirmations, you can begin with one of them or create your own. Write it down and post it someplace you can see it, visualize yourself being courageous, exuding love, radiating joy, etc. and then speak your affirmation out loud every day to reinforce it!
  5. Be Present: Sit quietly and/or meditate and breathe deeply. After a few minutes of sitting in silence, ask yourself this one question: What do I need in this moment? (A glass of water? Are you hungry? Is your body tight and would a stretch help? Would you like to listen to your favorite song? Do you need a nap? Would you like to go for a walk? Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to forgive yourself? Do you simply want to continue to sit quietly and breathe?) Only you can answer that question. In this moment, what is something that you appreciate. Start teaching yourself to listen to the needs and desires you have in any given moment, then give yourself permission to do/get/experience it (I love to paint, so after I write this blog, I will create art). Now you try it…what do you need in this moment?
  6. Get Support and/or Start Supporting Others: Call a friend or family member and have an open, honest conversation around mental health. You can share ideas around self-care and how to experience a better sense of well-being. Let your friends be there for you, do not cheat the people who care about you out of the opportunity to be there for you. If you are in a relationship, talk with your partner and let the topic of mental wellness be something that you support one another with just like an annual physical check-up. Partnering around your mental health may support you as individuals as well as support your couple relationship. Support can also come in the form of a Podcast on mental health, picking up a self-help book, and/or scheduling an appointment with a mental health professional. If you have tried all of the above tools and are still struggling, I encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional.

Are you Aware that…DAILY POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS CAN CREATE A MORE RESILIENT BRAIN BY GOING INTO YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS AND CREATING NEW NEURAL PATHWAYS? Start affirming yourself today!

AFFIRMATIONS:

My diagnosis does not define me.

I am love, and deserving of love.

Today I will hold space for myself and all of my emotions without judgment.

I am healing my inner child, I am loving my inner child and therefore I am healing and loving myself.

Today, I choose to have a positive attitude.

I have made it this far, and I will continue to carry on.

Each time I fall, I have the courage to get back up.

Today, I will observe myself without judgment and grant myself love, compassion, and acceptance.

Asking for help is courageous, and I embrace the courage within.

I believe in myself and my ability to heal.

I am not my mental illness, I am ( ______ ), and I am living with and managing my mental illness.

My mental health and well-being matter because I matter!

I accept myself completely and I love myself unconditionally.

Where there is love, there is no place for judgment, they simply can not co-exist and I chose love.

I am strong, I am courageous, and I will persevere.

Are you Aware that…YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE? You are absolutely worthy of love. Say it out loud… “I am worthy of love and offer love to myself fully and without conditions.

There has been an increase in people seeking therapy and many are having a difficult time connecting with a mental health professional. Many therapists are filled to capacity as more and more people are reaching out. If you, or someone you know has been trying to connect with a therapist, I encourage you to keep trying. I know it is not an easy road and I am hopeful that you will be able to connect with a therapist soon. Keep being courageous, please do not give up. If you need support, please consider talking to a friend or family member who may be able to support you by lending an ear or doing some of the outreach around finding a therapist with availability. You can also reach out to your insurance provider and they may be able to support you with connecting with a therapist. If you have any thoughts of harming yourself, please call 911 immediately. Please see the following links for additional support and information:

For the latest information, support, and statistics on Mental Health conditions and Mental Illness:

https://www.nami.org/mhstats

https://mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america

https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month

How much water should you drink a day?

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20National%20Academies%20of,fluids%20a%20day%20for%20women

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-percentage-of-the-human-body-is-water

https://idontmind.com/journal/youre-probably-dehydrated-and-it-can-affect-your-mental-health

https://www.drinkoptimum.com/the-connection-between-dehydration-and-depression/

Everything you need to know about serotonin (the happy hormone):

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin

If you are interested in getting grounded through Earthing, you may be interested in the following article and The Earthing Movie Documentary (free on youtube):

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378297/

https://www.earthingmovie.com/

Are you Aware that…YOUR LIFE MATTERS? YOUR LIFE ABSOLUTELY MATTERS.

With love always, Tamara

Valentine’s Day Revamped: 13 Self and Universal Love Tips!

Valentine’s Day. The controversy around whether or not Valentine’s Day is a “real holiday,” and how it “should be” celebrated continues. Some people are all about the hype, the gifts, the display of devotion, the romance, the sex, etc. There are an equal amount of people who believe it is a made up “holiday,” rooted in consumerism and societal brainwashing around how people in committed relationships show their love on February 14th every year. Regardless of your stance, the fact is that we as a society are inundated with advertisements, articles, blogs, social media posts, etc. around this day of red heart shaped boxes filled with chocolate, glasses of wine, sexy lingerie, and love. Question, what’s so bad about a day of celebrating love? Actually, nothing if we keep it all about the LOVE, and not just romantic love. This Valentine’s Day give yourself some self-love and for those of you who like challenges, how about a Universal-Love Gesture?

I have clients that are single and/or in relationships with people who do not celebrate Valentine’s Day and they share that they feel left out. Many people who are single are struggling with being quarantined and unable to date and are dreading this day that has historically represented romantic love.

How about you create a day of love that focuses on you being the love, sharing the love, and spreading the love?

The thought of existing as a loving being can be challenging if you are not feeling loved. Self-love is the answer (it usually is). How will you be showing yourself love this Valentine’s Day? I recognize that sometimes people have a mental and/or emotional block. They decide not to participate because they have an idea of what Valentine’s Day is “supposed” to be and the thought of making it an opportunity to show themselves love feels like admitting defeat. I challenge anyone with that thought to reframe it and feel empowered by the thought of making a choice to love themselves fully that day and show it in action. Yes, action! The action of love.

You can do this whether you are in a romantic relationship or not. I am sharing this concept because self-love is essential for loving others and gets to never be off our radar or saved for later. Self-love gets to be ever present and always practiced, not instead of loving others but rather, along with love of others. So even if you are in a relationship, you may want to consider spending a portion of your day, acknowledging and loving on yourself while putting some good ol’ positive energy out into the Universe.

The following are concrete ideas for how you can spend your Valentine’s Day 2021, however, these ideas of self-love can be practiced any day of the year!

INTIMATE SELF-LOVE VALENTINE’S DAY GESTURES

  1. Cook yourself a Meal from Scratch – Ask yourself, if the only way I could let someone know I love them was by making them a meal, what meal would I make for them? If the answer is their favorite meal, how about making yourself your favorite meal? Show yourself some love and make it just for yourself!
  2. Order a Meal from your Favorite Restaurant – Give yourself permission to be as indulgent or as simple as you would like. You can show yourself love by treating yourself to a meal, while also showing some love to a local restaurant, and tipping the delivery person generously for their service. You can take it one step further by leaving the restaurant an amazing review!
  3. Treat yourself to the Beverage of your Choice – Perhaps it is a cup of specialty tea, homemade lemonade, hot chocolate with marshmallows, a milkshake, a healthy smoothie with all your favorite fruit, a cocktail you usually go out to drink, a bottle of your favorite wine, or perhaps your preference is whisky? Whatever your pleasure, you may want to give yourself permission to enjoy it(in moderation of course).
  4. Bring Music Into the Equation to Enhance your Experience – Have a dance party all to yourself, create a playlist of songs that make you want to move and turn the volume up! If the music makes you smile, go for it! Feel good music is super uplifting and if you want to be in a more positive space, picking songs that evoke positive/light feelings can support you. Perhaps you prefer a more mellow experience? Consider songs that evoke feelings of calm and/or gratitude, such as instrumental jazz, gospel, Tibetan singing bowl, and/or classical music. Tip: If possible, create the playlist ahead of time to ensure you do not come across any music that may trigger negative emotions.
  5. Buy yourself a giftIs receiving gifts a love language of yours? If it is, why not treat yourself to something you may have had your eye on for a while or make a spontaneous purchase? A new bath gel or candle? Perhaps a new electronic like a foot massager, speaker, diffuser, or anything that makes life easier or more enjoyable? Maybe a sexy little something that makes you feel beautiful, whatever makes you feel your best! Many people are into crystals now, do you have a collection or have any interest in starting one? If so, a rose quartz is a nice place to start as it represents unconditional love. You can treat yourself to an online meditation, yoga, or language class. Take some time, check in with yourself, what is it you would like to treat yourself to this Valentine’s Day?
  6. Physical Touch – Get to know your body. Currently, touch is not as accessible as it was pre-Covid-19/quarantine. In an October 2020, New York Times article, “What All That Touch Deprivation Is Doing to Us” by Maham Hasan he quotes Dr. Field of The Touch Institute who shares the concept/action of “moving the skin,” as a treatment for touch deprivation. Dr. Field provides a few different techniques, two of which are scalp massages and brushing your skin in the bath. If you are spending time by yourself on Valentine’s Day, you do not have to go without touch, you can embrace touch to the extent you are comfortable. Whether it is massaging your legs or feet while putting on lotion, or more sensual self-touch as you bathe, rest in your bed, or view yourself in the mirror, you get to choose the option/method you feel is a good fit for you. Who knows your body better than you do? So, if you would like to get to know your body more intimately, this can be the perfect day to do so. .
  7. Do Something YOU Love to doWhat makes you smile? What do you love to do? Write? Sing? Paint? Workout? Meditate? Binge Netflix? Watch old sports footage? Paint your nails? Watch documentaries? Puzzles? Play video games? It is a day of love, give yourself permission to do what you love!
  8. Use your Words and Tell Yourself Something Sweet – Is your love language words of affirmation? It may be time to speak to yourself lovingly. Words do matter, in fact some believe that we manifest that which we speak and/or put energy into. When was the last time (if ever) you wrote someone a love letter? Writing a love letter to self can be one of the most empowering exercises you engage in. You can use prompts such as, I love you because…, I will show you love by…, what I find most lovable about you is…, I think the most beautiful quality you possess is…, etc. Another way you can use words is by creating an affirmation rooted in love. EXAMPLE AFFIRMATIONS: “Love is my beginning, middle, and end,” “All that truly exists is love,” “I am love, I am light, and I will exude both in all I do,” “I am beautiful everyday, I am beautiful in everyway.” “I am strong, I am divine, I am worthy, I am whole, I am love, I am you, because I am.”
Rose Quartz Crystals in Raw and Polished Form – Stone of Unconditional Self and Universal Love

UNIVERSAL-LOVE GESTURES THIS VALENTINE’S DAY

Make this a big deal. Challenge friends, family, and co-workers. You can put it in your social media feed and tell it to everyone who will listen. This Valentine’s Day, let’s all hold ourselves accountable for a Universal-Love Gesture…Donate Money and/or Volunteer Your Time. The great thing about volunteering is that you are giving to others and giving to yourself at the same time. There is no greater, more selfless and fulfilling gesture than to donate your time to a cause you believe in and that is helping others, nature, animals, the environment, etc. In a 2019 article, “Does the Warm Glow of Giving Ever Get Old? in Greater Good Magazine, Science based Insights for a Meaningful Life of Berkeley, by Elizabeth Hopper, experts share scientific evidence of how helping others/volunteering/donating provides more happiness than giving/doing things for ourselves, at least in the short term. What does this mean? Spread love this Valentine’s Day, it will feel good! Volunteering also supports social connection, so whether it is virtual due to quarantine or you are able to volunteer in person safely, it can expand your community. What can you do to help someone in need?

  1. Volunteer Your Time – Go out into the community. You can do so by hands on support with local charities, libraries, hospitals. If Covid-19 has you home and under quarantine, perhaps you can volunteer your time with a service you provide. You can make an organization have more recognition with your social media presence. You can offer a workshop/tutorial around something you are good at for a small fee or free. A cooking class, craft, do it yourself home project. Anything that is supportive and can help.
  2. Donate Money, Furniture, Clothing, Office Supplies, etc. – Donating feels good. Identify an organization and make a decision to take an action that will offer support. You can donate money or things your already have, especially if you have an abundance. How are you sharing? giving? showing up?
  3. Gifts/support for the Homeless– A friend of mine, SR, shared the idea of going outside and giving masks away to the homeless. You can also give food, warm tea, hats, scarves, or anything you feel comfortable with during these times.
  4. Treat Someone to Something – If you are going through a drive-thru, pay for the person behind you, just because. Sometimes when you do something kind it is contagious and people are inclined to pay it forward. You can treat a neighbor to lunch or a home cooked meal, the idea is to treat someone to something.
  5. Positive Feedback – Look up organizations you think are doing a great job and write to them to let them know you appreciate the impact they are having on the World. Expressing appreciation to individuals and organizations goes a long way. Sometimes words and acknowledgment matter to people more than you know.

Valentine’s Day with Children

  1. Family Dance Party – Gather everyone’s favorite songs and create a family playlist alternating every family members favorite songs ensuring that it is fun and fair for everyone.
  2. Family Meal with Everyone’s Favorite – Make a meal with everyone’s favorite included, even if they do not go together. You may be eating hotdogs and kale or fried chicken with eggplant! If not the main meal, maybe have everyone’s favorite dessert! If you have never cooked dinner together, how about many Chef’s in the kitchen? Make it fun!
  3. Family Movie Night – Pick a movie everyone agrees on, make some popcorn and spend the day loving and lounging.
  4. Family Volunteer Project (I personally LOVE this one) – Talk to the family about creating a love project. You can work together to create anything you like with the goal of giving back and being a good human! Pick a cause, educate one another, and find a way to support the cause. If you can find a documentary that provides more information, even better. Perhaps it’s a project where you are giving to the homeless with money or donating clothing, animal rescue organizations, local churches, etc. Ask your children, “Do you know anyone who needs help and how would you like to help them?” or “How do you think we can spread love this Valentine’s Day?” Let’s teach this generation how to be considerate and loving people. It all starts at home.
  5. Family “What I love About You” – Create an activity where everyone in the home shares, “What I love about you,” and why. Examples: I love that you are always telling jokes and the reason why is because sometimes when I am feeling down, your jokes make me laugh or I love that you ask me how my day was the reason why is because I like to know that you care and I get to share my experiences. You can also include extended family in this one. Do the rounds with family on Zoom, Facetime, Skype, etc. Whatever the virtual platform, have your love messages ready and invite other family members and friends to join. It is a fun, free, and uplifting activity that supports sending and receiving love.

Valentine’s Day – Couples

If you are in a romantic relationship, you can tweak some of the self and family suggestions to meet your needs. You can even do the Universal-love gesture together! There are so many wonderful blogs and articles with suggestions around things to do for/with your partner and I am hopeful that you are able to support your partner with feeling seen and special to you, not just on Valentine’s day, every single day you are fortunate enough to have a person that is trying to figure this all out with you. Good luck and have fun!

New Year’s Eve gives people an opportunity to reflect on the previous year and create goals for the year ahead. Let Valentine’s Day be the reminder to check in with yourself around how you are experiencing and spreading love.

We really do have the power to create a different experience of our lives and this world. I often hear people asking the Universe for things, praying to God, asking about why they are not getting the things that they want. We get to be the love we want to get. One love, really, truly.

Mixed Race in 2020: The Conversations Among Us! Perspectives of Six…

When you look in my eyes, when you stare at my face, when you hear me speak, can you tell I’m mixed race? Alone in a crowd, treated like I don’t fit in. Aren’t we in this together? Since we are all human.

Being mixed race/bi-racial/dual heritage and having one black parent at a time when people are more openly discussing diversity and inclusion, microaggressions in the workplace, unfair treatment in the justice system, systemic inequality, and an overall imbalance due to the color of one’s skin can be complicated. People of all races are coming together in society via peaceful protests, marches, and workplace town halls to fight back against current day injustice towards Black people from the Government, the police, the school systems, and places of employment. Yes, although being mixed raced in this climate can be complicated, it has also presented an opportunity for conversations to take place within the mixed race family unit that can shed years of ignorance, subtle/covert racism, and feelings of otherness.

If you are a mixed race human (I apologize if you find the term “mixed” to be offensive) with one Black parent and have a parent that presents as non-Black or White and has a different ethnicity, there are unique challenges that you may be facing at this time.

Currently, many who are mixed race with one Black parent are not getting as much support from their non-Black family (and sometimes their Black family) members who may not necessarily see them as “Black.”

In many mixed families conversations around race were avoided. Usually because parents did not realize it was a conversation that needed to happen. Family members will say that they do not “see race,” while others struggled with how to talk to their children about how having one Black parent might impact them. This is a time where more Black people and POC are speaking out and actively using their voices to create tangible and concrete change. Our history provides evidence that since the mid 1800’s, Black people have been fighting for freedom, just treatment, and equality. Although slavery ended in the 1800’s, the battle for just treatment and equality exists today. It has been a very long journey. Acknowledgment of the history and current day challenges via open and honest conversation with family members can be validating, affirming, and connecting.

Challenges of being mixed race: Some of the challenges clients share most often are, having family members who are racist (especially the ones that think they aren’t). The feeling of not being enough of either race to feel as though they belong. Rejection by one and sometimes both of their races. Feeling confused around how to show up in the world and/or feeling forced to pick a side. There are times when filling out a demographic questionnaire can be consumed with guilt ridden thoughts around having to check one box. One box? So which one do I chose today? Which parent do I side with today? Oftentimes people will alternate between races to keep themselves balanced internally and not experience the guilt of having sided with one part of themselves, which in turn feels as if you are rejecting the other part(s) of who you are.

Advantages of being mixed race: Where there are challenges, you can usually find some advantages. Some of the advantages (that may be considered privileges) of being mixed race that my clients share most often are; Being accepted in more places and spaces. Being considered neutral and safe. There is also the exposure to different races, the window in to different worlds and a comfort level that is not always available to non-mixed race individuals. One of the biggest advantages is being able to know from an early age that people can look different, speak different languages, and have entirely different cultural backgrounds and still get along and actually love one another.

Many children of mixed race parents grow up never feeling enough of one race to fully fit in. There can be what feels like a constant tug of war between what feels like two parts of who you are and for some, it can be easier to pick a side. What happens when the side you “pick” does not accept you? and does picking a side mean that you deny a part of who you are? What are the consequences? How do you reconcile this and find a way to embrace all of who you are, especially when there are people in the world and maybe in your home (maybe even you) that reject a part of who you are.

Growing up with a born and raised Puerto Rican mother, who presents white and a Black American father from Virginia seemed normal as a child. I did notice that my mother and I did not look alike. Why was my skin so much darker? Why was my hair so different? As a child you think your mother is the most beautiful woman in the world, but if you don’t look like her, what does that mean about you? Are you not as beautiful? Not to mention all of the people who made comments in ignorance that I did not understand as a child.

My parents met in NYC, have been married for 51 years, and have been incredibly supportive throughout my life. Growing up they told stories casually about how they experienced discrimination and racism while dating and made jokes about how people thought my mother was my nanny. My mother made comments about how we did not look alike and how my cousin looked like she should be her daughter because she had lighter skin (colorism absolutely exists in the Puerto Rican community) and long, straight hair. All things said in innocence, and all things that impacted the way I felt about myself and my place within my family unit. My mother also called me beautiful and smart however, the mixed messages led to inner conflict. Luckily, the constant has always been my father, who thought (and still believes) that I am absolutely creative, intelligent, and beautiful from head to toe. It is my father who taught me and my brother to embrace and love all parts of who we are every moment of every day.

During this current time of increased racial tension, there seems to continue to be a disconnect around the fact that I am intimately impacted by how the world sees humans with darker skin. Although there is not an expectation on my end that my mother will ever completely understand (how could she possibly), there is a responsibility I have to myself that compels me to share with her what my experience has been and continues to be. In sharing with both my parents I learned that they are eager to show up, they just did not know how to start the conversation and needed to be given the opportunity. So many of my clients are living similar experiences, able to discuss injustices in the world yet are struggling to discuss with family members how current events are impacting their sense of self and overall mental health.

Conversations are needed. Getting to know one another on a deeper level is the answer. Blame, anger, hurt and disappointment are feelings that deserve validation, however, in order to heal the wounds, accepting who you are and sharing how you feel by using your voice is the most empowering tool you have. Lead with your heart and the words will flow. The gift of your voice is a way to honor yourself and your unique experience.

THE INTIMATE PERSPECTIVES OF FIVE

Recently, my clients have been sharing how they are experiencing the current state of the world in regards to racism. I asked current and past clients who are mixed race with one Black parent to feel free to contribute to this article in hopes it might shed some light for others and five of them shared their perspectives. Each person, ranging in age from 22 years old to 45 years old used their voice vulnerably and courageously in support of themselves, mixed race individuals, and humanity as a whole. The intimate perspectives of five:

“Being with my white mother right now in the middle of a pandemic and now with the Black Lives Matter protests has been such a discombobulating experience for me. I have never been with my mom during a time of racial unrest (at least not that I can remember in my adult years), and I am finding it really hard to figure out how to talk to her about it. Reminding your white family members that you are black in this world, even as a mixed-race human, is hard at any time, but right now I am realizing that I don’t have the energy to educate. Between the pandemic and everything else happening in my life, I am having to prioritize self-care in order to stay sane, and self-care at this moment means not having hard, uncomfortable discussions with my white mom. I plan to talk about this time with her when I’m feeling more whole, but for now, I’m focusing on my mental health. When I need to talk about it, I reach out to my black community.” – NC

I was always unsure of how to identify growing up. I was unsure if I was black. How could I tell? Did my skin need to be darker? Did my Puerto Rican family mean that I wasn’t. But look at my cousins, they are “negro”. I was questioned often if I was really Puerto Rican. “Por que no hablas Español si eres puertorriqueña?” Somehow I felt like a fraud on both sides. Having these conversations today, in the midst of this movement, I’ve finally realized that I am 100% both, and so damn proud to be. My heritage, from every branch of my family tree is who I am, and my empathetic heart beats for each part. Right now, it’s beating in full support of all black lives. – KNV

I am Black and Japanese. I was born Brooklyn and I have spent the majority of my life here. My relationship with my Japanese culture is not as strong as I would like. From a young age I was very embarrassed of my Japanese mother because I looked nothing like her. I remember questioning her often about why we looked nothing alike. My mother was the type to just say things like “it doesn’t matter you are my daughter”. In hindsight I wish she was more supportive and put more effort into talking about our differences. Right now things are difficult because my mother has been turned a blind eye to the racial issues, and hasn’t been able to show up for me when there are racist acts against Black people in America. We recently had a talk and it was very difficult because of the language barrier. I know my mother truly believes in peace for all people, but it was important that she understood that it’s about Black people right now, and I am your Black daughter. But because of this language barrier it is difficult for me to say that without me catching all of the wrong and inappropriate things she might be saying in between. I often find myself reading between the lines with her, constantly filtering her words so that I don’t get attached to any words she may not even fully understand. I know that I have to keep trying with her because it is important that she is aware of the things her children are going through, and how she can show up for us in times like this. I do not expect her to know all the answers or be able to delete these feelings. But it is important for me to make sure that she knows about these things so that she can educate others too. Recently I have found a bunch of videos of people speaking on racial injustice and they have been translated in Japanese. This has been really helpful and my mother has been better at checking in on me when these things happenAB

Being a mixed-race (African American and Mexican American) man, makes me feel like I live in two different worlds. I was raised in a dual parent household, but only felt and experienced a connection to my mother’s side (African American). Due to pressures of social conformities, some individuals have felt overwhelmed by having to choose a particular side, however, such has not been the case for me. Growing up, I didn’t really feel accepted by my Mexican side therefore, I wholeheartedly and unapologetically connected and lived life through the lens of an African American. What has been difficult, is the awareness/knowledge of the plethora of  political, economical and social challenges that are faced by both African-Americans and Mexicans in this country.  As I grew older (which I feel is typical for some mixed race persons) I came to recognize and proudly felt the strength and honor of both my African and Mexican heritage. During these times of social unrest, I go through all of the emotional feels, voice my indignation, pause for moments of reflection but then I get back in the race because that’s what those before me have done...The work continues! Anthony G.

“I’m multiracial. My father is Black. My mother is mixed Indian and British, she was raised in India. The lineage of the oppressed and oppressor flow within my veins. At times it feels heavy, I am conflicted and feel lost. At other times, I feel so blessed to be part of such rich cultures and traditions. 
These last few weeks I have gone from heartbreak, to rage, back to
deep sadness & grief, returning to a rage that feels numb to feeling hopeful, for a moment. America and the whole world is reckoning with the legacy of systematic racism and murder of Black bodies and lives. 
What has given me hope and solace is my conversations with my mother. She is learning, understanding and finding ways to participate in this historical moment. She attended a vigil for Black lives, donated to many organizations; we’ve had conversations about racism within the South Asian community. Most importantly she has shown up for me as my mother, while also holding that she is limited in her experience of understanding, that she is not a Black woman and her daughter is. This has been healing. I feel my mother seeing me in my fullness and also protecting and supporting her daughter.
I am grateful.” – SE

I am hopeful that the contributions above are able to provide deeper insight, validation around a similar experience, and/or additional support. Each person alive has their own uniqueness based on their experiences. You get to embrace and honor yours!

TOOLS: JOURNAL PROMPTS, ACTION STEPS, RESOURCES AND AN AFFIRMATION

MIXED RACE INDIVIDUALS: Start with identifying what has come up for you around race throughout your life. Identify the messages you received from family, friends, and your community about who you are. If you ever felt like you had to pick a side, did you? Do you feel more connected to one race and if so, how come? Have you felt accepted and/or rejected by others? Have you accepted and embraced all parts of who you are? Have you identified the challenges you have encountered throughout your life because of being mixed race? Can you identify what privileges have been afforded to you? Are there still remnants of wounds that show up for you today and if so, what are they? what are you doing to heal? How are you impacted by the racial tension that currently exists and who do you turn to for support? Are there people in your family unit who have inadvertently or blatantly put down your other race? (which is putting down a part of you) and if so, are you ready for the conversation?

Some of the most hurtful and harmful comments come from family members and people who identify themselves as allies, understanding this and having an awareness that it happens can support you taking action by way of conversations to spread that awareness. The way you honor yourself most is by getting to know yourself and accepting all parts of who you are. Using your voice differently with family members can be scary and uncomfortable. You may be bought into the thought that it will not matter or make a difference or your fear may be that you will hurt a family members feelings. You get to validate family members AND show up for yourself. An unhealthy dynamic will not change if you reinforce it by continuing to show up as you always have. If you want it to change, use your voice, honor yourself, and make the decision to change it!

AFFIRMATION: I am enough because, I am. I am whole because I exist. I belong because I am living this human experience. I am a part of you, whether you accept me or not. I accept myself as whole, as beautiful, as enough, and in that acceptance, I am free.

INTERRACIAL COUPLES WITH CHILDREN: Begin the conversation early. Start discussion with your partner about your different cultures, traditions, and how race and racial tensions have impacted you. Share with one another your concerns as well as the challenges you believe your child may face. Get on the same page around how you are going to expose your child to all parts of their culture. Teach your child to see their own beauty and appreciate the beauty in both of their races, as well as other races and people. I have attached two children’s books to this post, which I am not personally affiliated with, that may support beginning the conversation. There are also quite a few other books on the market that you may feel would be a better fit for your family:

Remember that although you may not see race and color, the world around you often does, and having those conversations with your children early can make all the difference.

Who are your people? Where is your home? We are all part of the Universe, it is impossible to truly be alone. Always searching for belonging, we should not have to fight to fit in, because true belonging is inherent in being human.