By: Ikeoma Divine

In recognition of National Wellness Month, I’d like to discuss an issue that’s prevalent in our community…. the phenotype of THE STRONG BLACK WOMAN. It’s a role that has put many of us in an early grave. We were taught that our worth was determined by how well we took care of others.

A prime example is a woman I knew who was taking care of her husband with dementia, and her adult son who had schizophrenia. Both needed constant supervision, but they had different sleep schedules. One would be awake and active all night and the other one would be alert during the day.

With minimal support from family or her community, she would rely on mini-naps whenever she could sit down. By the time I was introduced to her, this had been her routine for years. It finally caught up with her. She had a stroke which left her disabled. The family who did not support her when she needed help, swiftly came in and put her, the son, and husband in nursing homes while taking over the woman’s assets that she had worked all her life for. Right before her stroke episode, I had a conversation with her urging the importance of self-care and sustainability. Although she agreed, the love for her husband and child fueled the determination that became her detriment. 

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Many chronic diseases and illnesses are not only preventable but are secondary to stress. No matter your budget, take off your cape and make time for yourself. Nurture your physical, mental, and spiritual aspects. A lot of us are the center of the machine that run our households. Without us, it may not sustain. We owe it to ourselves and all who depend on us to make our health a priority. Don’t allow the “honorary cape” to define you or be the catalyst to your early demise.

Ways to relax physically include a spa day (either at home or a facility) and/or mild exercises such as walking, swimming, and Yin Yoga. The best relaxation and optimal body repair process happens during sleep. Cut your phone off, darken your room and sleep until you wake up without alarms.

More Ikeoma’s Eye articles:

Introducing ‘Ikeoma’s Eye’

Juneteenth message of understanding: You are descendants of the ‘strongest of the strong’

Confessions of a Black mother

Rootwork: Deconstructing the myth of our ancestral practices

News in Health’s article, “Good Sleep for Good Health,” stated, “not getting enough quality sleep regularly raises the risk of many diseases and disorders ranging from heart disease, stroke, obesity and dementia.”

Undiagnosed mental illness is prevalent in our community. Fortunately, there has been a surge of mental health professionals (MHP) that understand our cultures and can recognize what mental disorders look like in “us.”

As an example, we often confuse “bad mothering” with postpartum depression – which is a clinical illness related to hormonal imbalance. MHPs are able to assist us with coping skills and possibly medication that can help us navigate through our mental challenges. Discovering a hobby, traveling, and making new friends are also options to improve one’s mental health.

Spiritual health has been known to be a staple in most of our lives. It seems to be the source of our super strength. It’s also important that we understand the difference between religion and spirituality. Religion is a vehicle used to connect one to their spirituality although it is not necessary. Discover and utilize any spiritual practices that you resonate with. This is YOUR journey.

Is your cape choking you? Who could you be if you were no longer drained energetically, physically, mentally, or spiritually by being other people’s mule?  It’s ok to help others but not to the detriment of your health. Self-preservation is nature’s primal instinct. We’ve been sold this “shero ideology” that is literally killing us and only benefits those we serve. Yet, despite our dedication, we’re met with resentment, ungratefulness or nonreciprocity when we need help.  Stop windmilling, marching, and campaigning for people who don’t reciprocate your loyalty. Set boundaries unapologetically. In this society, self-love and avocation is a revolutionary act. Be …. That …. rebel.