A Mental Health Check-In with My Mom

With May saluting health, women, and mothers around the world, I wanted to interview my mom, as it’s been a bit of a difficult month for our family. As an educator and the head of her household, she’s carried the heavy weight of maintaining her responsibilities and independence for much of her life. If her story isn’t necessarily relatable to your circumstances, hopefully, you learn just as much as I have regarding her take on the appreciation of existence.

How’re you feeling today? 

“Annoyed, A-N-N-O-Y-E-D…annoyed.”

Why do you feel annoyed? 

“Because over the past few days, I’ve been through some very trying medical issues, and everybody around me seems to want things as the way they were. And for me – everything has changed, and I need a moment to myself to get my head right and to figure out what my next steps are. But people don’t understand that…”

Can you describe the pastimes that make you feel the most comfortable? 

“I’m most comfortable when I have my freedom to do what I want to do. I’m most comfortable when I can be myself. I love putting on my robe, wearing comfortable clothes, and just relaxing.”

What do you think would bring you happiness if you aren’t comfortable with where you are in life at this very moment, professionally and personally? 

“I’m not really sure about either right now because as I said, I’ve been through some trying times recently with my health and my mind has gone from everything to finishing out this school year, to resigning from my job – to just taking my check and just going somewhere and chilling for a minute, to being a writer. Personally, I really don’t know.”

When your mind drifts, where do your thoughts take you? 

“Sometimes to Jesus. I really, really believe in God, and I know He’s the reason why I’m still alive right now. I know that the doctors did their thing, and the nurses did their thing, and the medications – and even surgeries – did their thing, and family love, and friend love. But I just know that God has the ultimate say over my life, so my thoughts drift to Jesus a lot. And then my mom, my good friend Miss Parker, my grandmother, my little cousin, my pop-pop…Different ones who have passed on some time ago, and some more recent. I remember just how good I felt being around those people, and just would love to see them again. Sometimes my mind drifts to my kids. They always take care of each other.”

You’ve recently had multiple health scares. How would you want people in your life to best support you?

“The biggest thing that folk can do is just give me my freedom to grieve. To mourn. To be anxious. To be sad and standoffish. To be angry. I don’t like being pitied, and I don’t like being the topic of conversation – especially when I’m low. I’m still dealing with a lot of stress and pressure – not just from that situation but also from the many responsibilities that I have. The burden is just heavy.”

That’s why I like interviewing you. You always tell the truth. 

“Well, I’m not going to make anything up.” 

What scares you the most? How are you doing to overcome your fears? 

“I don’t know what scares me the most. I just don’t want to leave this Earth and my girls not be cared for. My biggest thing is I want them to take care of themselves when I’m gone. The beautiful thing is, I did get a chance to come home in the midst of sickness and see them handling their own, so I know they’re on their way but I just need them to be even better – in an even better place, financially especially.” 

As an educator, what is something you instill in your students that you wished you learned as a child? 

“Well, the thing that I learned from my teachers and mentors is to get an education while it’s free. And that’s the same thing I tell my students all the time. In other words, you got a K-12 education, and pre-K included in many cases. You should not waste it. At all. Whatever skills you’re gaining from whatever coursework you take can be translatable to income.”

What is your personal definition of mental health? 

“Mental health means that your mind is strong – that you can make decisions for yourself. That you can self-regulate. You can know how to handle your anger, know how to handle your confusion, know how to handle your stress – know how to manage it. Mental health also includes your spirituality – not denying whatever your religious beliefs are, whether you have them or not. It also involves self-esteem. Do you feel whole, entire, lacking nothing or do you feel like you’re always coming up short – you look at yourself in the mirror and find nothing that you like? Also, mental health means surrounding yourself with the right influences.”

As a Black woman, what are some resources you feel would best improve your mental health and those of other women of color?

“To be quite transparent, as a Black woman, Jesus is the way to go. I mean, I can’t speak for all women, I can’t speak for all Black women. I speak for this Black woman right here, which is me. I need the Bible. I need to be able to pray to a God that I believe in. I need to be able to sing songs of worship to Him, to uplift Him, and as I uplift Him, I feel uplifted too. I also feel that it’s important to have–and again, I’m just speaking for me–my babies. My babies give me hope and joy.

It’s a privilege to be a mom, so between Jesus and my kids, that’s really all I need. For other people, I applaud counselors, therapists, and psychoanalysts – I applaud self-help groups and different friend groups. I think it’s important to be social as much as it feeds you, as much as it allows you to flourish. Some people go on these journeys – different spiritual journeys – and it’s just about them getting whatever place they need to get to to be happy.” 

What do you look forward to 5 years from now? 

“Life. If I’m still around five years from now, I look forward to life. I would hope that financially I’d be better off. I would hope that both of my daughters are much better off in their careers, whatever relationships they have formed – I hope those are beautiful. Hopefully, I’d have gone to Belgium and a few other places by then – international places. If I’m still teaching, hopefully, my teaching certificate has been renewed. If I do pursue this ministerial license or certification, I would hope that I’d be finished that and be preaching in the churches once in a while – not full-time or anything.”

That sounds like a plan. Thank you so much for talking with me!

“Mhm. Now cut the light off so I can finish watching my movie.”

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