April was a beautiful challenge for Real Images and myself. We started the month with the program Women, Stress, and the SHEro complex and then I went into my 4th year facilitating My Cry in the Dark for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. on UALR’s campus. April is Stress Awareness Month and the board expressed to me the need to acknowledge it through our programs. I used some of my connections to get the panel confirmed and immediately I knew this program was going to be special. Beth White, Carmen Portillo and Yendel Jones were fabulous. They made my job of moderating easy. And thank God because I was celebrating April by being stressed to the max with family issues. It was refreshing for me to hear these women break down the importance of self-care. Carmen experimented with not listening to the radio while driving to her business appointments. Yendel has quiet time every morning before waking her teenage daughter. Beth actually led us in a mindfulness activity that she applies to her life and teaches to others. I walked into the event hiding my very frazzled state and left inspired and renewed in the mindset that it is pertinent that I take care of myself first. My family will not be in any better shape if I’m laid out somewhere.
With the 4th year facilitating My Cry in the Dark, the vision was to go deeper in conversation than I’ve ever done. I always bring reflective and critical thought to the group of college students but this time we were going "there". To the point, where we (Deltas and I) had to ask ourselves should we have counseling services in the room? I knew there needed to be conversations in the community about depression, suicide, self-injury and eating disorders. What I didn’t know was how Real Images or I would approach it in programming. So I took down some notes about the topics from the Arkansas Department of Health and the CDC and we just had an honest discussion about it. The bravery of these women sharing openly about times of depression and suicide attempts shocked me. It actually had me speechless for a moment, but I had to get it together…quick. I also appreciated the ladies of Delta sharing their stories and discussing how they utilized the counseling services on campus and encouraged the other women to do the same.
My heart went out to the women who said that when they attempted to share their feeling with family members (mother, grandmother) the response was “don’t say that again. That’s not what you’re feeling.” I fully understand the rules of the old school generation in the Black household. We don’t talk about anything that make us look weak or highlight troubles in the family. And I understand why that rule was so. However, in this age, we can’t tell our children to hide the pain. “We don’t talk about that” is killing our children. And you would know it if you heard how many women in one room shared the number of times they’ve attempted suicide. One young lady looked at me and said, “I kept waking up. I tried mixing all kinds of pills that should have killed me, but I kept waking up and I didn’t understand it.” So in the end, we didn’t need counseling services in the room. We needed to discuss the elephant in the room. The need was just to talk. It was that simple. And at the end of the event, the ladies took a balloon, wrote their issues and bad thoughts on it and we went outside and released those negative words in the air. I challenged all of the women to take action steps to truly release those things out of their lives. The balloon activity was great to see and feel, but it signified the work that has to be done to live a happy and healthy life.
All in all, it’s been a deep April! Women are under deep pressure to do everything, do it right, and look fly doing it. That level of pressure will crush the most formidable superhero. I say do what you can, use your power of saying no when there's too much on your plate, hang that cape up everyday and learn how to save yourself!