I'm Black & Burnt Out. Now I know that is an interesting way to introduce yourself, but the struggle is real. I am a mental health professional who identifies as a Black cisgender woman. Some of you reading this may not be able to identify with my race, sex, career, etc. but you can relate to being burned out either at home or at work or both. Burnout, according to helpguide.org, is defined as "a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. " Being black is draining, being a woman can be tiresome, and my career as a therapist is exhausting. Now don't get me wrong, I love being a Black female Therapist, but I was not adequately prepared. Growing up in a black household, it was ingrained in me that I had to be better than them (them meaning white people). That I had to work twice as hard or more if I wanted to be recognized for my talent and skill and not just my skin color. As a woman, I remember the first time I asked for a pay increase at my college job. My white female boss was so proud of me and told me that this would be a skill that I will need when I get out into the real world because of gender inequality in the workplace. In my counseling program, burn out was mentioned in a few of my classes but besides that we were left to figure it out on our own.
We live in a society that values hard work, determination, persistence, prosperity, and wealth by any means necessary. It wasn't until recently that discussions about mental health, wellness, and self-care began to be more mainstream. Yet, these things seem contradictory to what we consider to be the American Dream where everyone is happy and stress-free, but that is not always the reality. What did you say to the last person who asked you how you were doing? Did you say, "I'm great," or "I'm okay," or "I'm fine," (as someone once told me, fine stands for Feelings I am Not Expressing)? Now was that what you were really feeling or did you just say that out of common politeness or because no one would care. I used to say all of those same phrases too, because who wants a Therapist that is stressed out. Then one day, I decided that I would live in my truth. One of my colleagues asked me how I was doing and I said very emphatically, "I am Black and Burned Out!" She laughed and said, I am tired too. At that moment, my conversation with my colleagues, my supervisor, friends, and family became more about our mental health, self-care, and wellness. Even with my clients, I no longer ask "how are you doing" or "how was your week", but instead I say, "How did you take care of yourself this week." That started to change the tone of the session and help my clients to focus on their self-care as a way of personal growth and development in therapy. Nowadays, I am still Black and Burnt Out but I am learning how to navigate it better by practicing self-care by going to the gym, eating healthier, and texting wellness/self-care quotes to all of my friends (which they are probably sick and tired of by now). So how are you going to take care of yourself this week?"
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