Content Warning: eating disorders, self-harm, trauma
Sometimes the Golden Child lacks the luster of a trophy. Growing up in a divorced household, I often felt I was on the outskirts of my family. I suffered from depression, anxiety, bulimia, self-harm, and stress yet I maintained the facade of a normal, progressing teenager. While I was an Honor Roll student, played sports, and was an ideal student, I felt alienated from my peers, even though I consistently interacted with them. I carried my trauma daily, hiding it from my immediate family, and the weight became heavier and more unbearable. I could not let my pain go as it was all I knew, and I was too afraid of change.
When I got to college, I decided to address my mental health. I choose to attend Xavier University of Louisiana, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). I wanted to gain a new world experience from an institution assembled for people like me. At first, I was filled with joy to be in a new space with new peers, a fresh start to my chaotic upbringing. However, as I dove deeper into my first semester of college, I realized I didn't know how to swim. I reverted back to how I was in high school, but much worse. I got a maximum of 3 hours of sleep a day, dedicated no time to my studies, and neglected my self-care and mental well-being. During my first winter break, I decided to pull myself out of the hole I had dug.
Until that point, I thought self-care was a face mask and your favorite movie. I did not know self-care was truly healing– discovering the root of your problems and breaking down the destructive thoughts that keep you inside your head. . I started journaling, manifesting, and affirming the standard of woman I wanted to become. My second semester was better, but I was still holding onto those destructive habits, holding back on giving myself a chance to change.
I believed that I had experienced enough hurt for a lifetime, and I knew that with change, I would get hurt and feel those similar emotions I did growing up. However, if I took the self-care solutions I learned, I could heal and plant that recurring trauma to blossom into growth. I learned self-care was moving forward rather than remaining stagnant. By the first semester of my second semester, I added counseling, prayer, and meditation to my self-care regimen. I understood that no matter what, I could no longer fall victim to my trauma. I told my closest friends some of my most difficult experiences, and they immediately comforted and reassured me. For the first time, I no longer needed to hide from those I loved. I could not shut myself out from society and become stronger than I was.
I have always been a passionate significant advocate for Black Resistance and Black Mental Health. In 2023, there are more tools available to resist race-related oppression and trauma compared to when I was younger. Although I have not experienced direct oppression as a Black woman, I feel I got the backhand of oppression and trauma because I am a Black woman. I viewed a Black woman as a powerful being who did not succumb to failure or weakness. I believed that showing weakness made you weak, and Black women could not be weak. For a long time, I went without asking for help, too scared to face the possible consequences of my self-harming actions. I was afraid to ask my family for support, thinking they would call me crazy and ship me off to a mental facility. thought I had to do, experience, and feel everything myself, regardless of how much it took from me.
Watching my mother work to raise me and my siblings alone, even though my father lived in the same city, taught me that I did not need anybody to save me. I wanted to believe that by suffocating my emotions I could allow myself to breathe. I never got to experience the golden years of childhood that most would, and if I could, I would have loved and appreciated myself on a greater scale. But, I know better than to live in the past, and I want to help those who still have a chance to change their mental prerogative. Even though I wish I knew how to love and appreciate myself as a child, I am glad that I can love myself now. I have grown to love myself and my child self and put that same love into my actions. I grasp my feelings and learn to take my experiences and make them a teaching lesson rather than a battle. I hope to continue using the tools I have learned and my community involvement to break the generational trauma of society.