Texture of Change: My Hair Journey, Pt. I

I had hair issues. I fondly remember the days of having my hair pressed before church and being burned. Right smack in the middle of my forehead too. (Thanks Tenisha) There was also the barrette can and countless instances of contorting my body every which way so that my mom could braid my hair into various styles. Then one fateful day, my hair was permed.

I was about 6 when my mom came home with that box of Just for Me. I should have been terrified but I didn’t know any better. She snuck me, B. I recall going back to school after summer vacation with relaxed hair and being confused by the shade my BFF from the previous year was throwing. My hair was hooked up in a French roll; my mom was some sort of beautician. A couple years after that she was hooking up weaves, fingerwaves (which are making a comeback, idk why), and the bane of my existence; the box braid.

Box braids ruined my life. I wore them from the time I was 8 years old until I was 12. In elementary school it was no big deal. But junior high? I was a social misfit. Funny thing was, I didn’t even care. Everything about me was different. I was from out of town, I dressed differently (S/o to Tasha & Mom!) and I was a nerd. I spent time in the library reading books on the high school reading list, I was in specialized clubs and I always had the newest sneakers. I wasn’t trying to be anybody else. I introduced the stretch bell-bottomed leggings to Oneida Middle School. But the braids often left me to the public ridicule of a few other students, usually boys. One joke I remember in particular was when someone said I had a horse chained up in my basement. I laughed, because it was actually really very funny. I also knew that my kind of hair was synthetic because it was burned on the ends. I never said that because it would just be the onset of more jokes.

I’m certain that I always had my hair that way because my mom was a working single mom who also had a life of her own. I would take out my own braids and she would perm and rebraid my hair. Completely damaging. I didn’t even know what my own hair looked like after a while. There were some periods when my real hair would be out but that, too, would be braided up. On rare occasions I wore a ponytail. It was only after my mom realized I was maturing that the braids stopped for good. I started experimenting with my own hair toward the end of the 7th grade. From braided up bangs to the pony tail puffs I rocked in kindergarten. It generated a buzz. I wore hair clips that soon spread like wild fire throughout my school. You notice these kinds of things when the student body is only like 300 people. Shortly after that I had just started wearing my hair back in a bun like my bestie did. That was pretty much my style for all of 8th grade.

The next year, at the start of high school, I got a short hair cut. It was great. Of all straight hairstyles, I love short cuts the most. I wore my hair like that until it grew out. In 10th grade I went back to experimenting with my hair. Wrapped and combed straight down, flat twists, ponytail pieces, and tracks. By then I was relaxing my own hair. I used to use Optimum or Soft & Beautiful. Some of my friends wanted to know what kind of perm I was using because of how fine my hair would turn out. But I was using the same kind as they were. My hair was just thin. I didn’t have the same thick lustrous strands of hair like they did. My hair also wouldn’t grow and it would get flaky and dull after 7 days or so. I had burned sores in my scalp that caught strands of hair and would shed every time I combed it. Even switching back to Just for Me didn’t help matters.

This was not the business.

Part II

Why Black People Need Therapy

I’m going to try to make this make sense to you. Severely mentally ill people go to therapy but not all people who go to therapy are severely mentally ill. Now, mental illness is very well existent within our society; but the media portrayal of mental illness has probably played a significant role in why people who may otherwise need it, shun therapy.

We often carry the unfortunate events of our lives with us and they affect us in a variety of ways that we don’t always realize. Some of us have many failed relationships and friendships, some of us hold so much bitterness toward the opposite sex that healthy relationships seem impossible. Most of these issues usually stem from our parents and/or someone or something that has hurt us very much. The occurrence of deep rooted issues like this may cause depression and very severe events can result in post-traumatic stress disorder. Consistent everyday problems with work, negative relationships or financial crises take a toll on us. What do we do when there’s no one to talk to or the people we do talk to have heard it all?

Do you regularly cry at night? Heartbroken? Are you constantly irritated and angry or overwhelmed? Do you feel tense, anxious or nervous in public settings? Are you often feeling sick and for no explicable reason? Unhealthy relationship with food? Suicidal thoughts? Yes?

Then, honey, you could probably use some therapy.

The Black community allows itself to be victim to a myriad of illnesses just because of our ignorance to available treatment options and preventative care. Some of this ignorance is innocent but I’m sure most of it is not. People don’t want to be associated with seeing a mental health care specialist because they don’t want to be assumed crazy. But what’s more sane than to be proactive about mental health? What’s sad is, I really wanted to add a bit about how we care so much about our physical health, but unfortunately, I have serious doubts about that. What I don’t have a doubt about is that the state of our mental health dictates what we allow to happen to our bodies and the risks we take. If this isn’t enough to cause us to at least consider getting information about speaking to a therapist I don’t know what is.

Those who have family members who have had a history of mental illness are at an increased risk of also developing some type of mental illness. If you know for sure that a family member suffers from some type of disorder, pay extra attention to the state of your mental well-being. It may be difficult to trace because a lot of people don’t even recognize any signs or symptoms for various conditions. Many of our family members may have actually suffered from something but never had it diagnosed.

When someone we know explains that they’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression for example, we tell them to get over it. Many of us don’t embrace people who come forward about the state of their mental health. A lot of our family and friends mean well because they want to encourage us to snap out of it and be strong but something like depression isn’t about weakness. It’s about chemicals, it’s about genetics, it’s about feelings and life events. When our friends and family just don’t understand or simply cannot relate, having a weekly sit-down with an objective stranger who doesn’t know every intimate detail of your life, can enrich your future. Or, at the base level, almost ensure you one.