Courage in Relationships

October 7, 2016

Please take some time to listen to this couple struggling with depression in their relationship.  All relationships take work.  It can be even more complicated when one is struggling with mental health issues.  I love this couple’s honesty and courage.  The ultimate strength is in knowing yourself.

 

OWN UP

April 29, 2013

You don’t get very far in helping people who have addictions when they are not ready to receive the help. In a recent FIX MY LIFE IYANLA episode which aired on the OWN network, Iyanla was quite determined to produce some kind of breakthrough with DMX. He seemed, for the majority of the time, to be rejecting her help. Even when she agreed to back off, she did not. Even when it was all said and done, she came up with some sort of twitter site to ” SAVE DMX”. I thought this was so patronizing. In fact, I thought the airing of the show was exploitative of him. He is obviously in pain. Offer your support, then back off. When and if he is ready he will get help.

It is understandably hard for the people around a person with addictions to watch them deteriorate. This is painful business. But there is no magic answer. Often the addicted person has to have very unpleasant consequences like severe illness, or incarceration to stop them. Addiction is mind bogglingly powerful and illogical. Sometimes “hitting bottom” doesn’t even work.

So, I say to OWN and Iyanla, you cannot FIX everybody. I actually think you cannot FIX anybody. You can only offer support and guidance when they are ready to help themselves.

For people who are ready there are many ways to get started in recovery. Not everything works for everyone, but motivation to stay clean must be at the bottom of any approach you choose or you will waste time and or money.

There are self-help meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous. There are detoxes if you have physical addictions and have withdrawal signs like shakes, tremors or flu like symptoms when you stop using.

There are rehabilitations and multitudes of treatment programs. If you are ready it can be done.

Gina Yashere: Pretty Funny

January 29, 2011

 

I just happened to catch her stand up on  a Showtime Special.  It had a freshness to it that reminded me of Margaret Cho when she started.  She handles cultural identity so beautifully as she is a citizen of the world, Nigerian, English, and American. A true woman of the diaspora, she has seen a lot and is able to integrate it all.   With her comedy, you can laugh at yourself without feeling insulted at the same time. 
she said it. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZV9DmtmpaDw

Dr. Laura: Rat Scientist

August 16, 2010

I really wish she would stop masquerading as someone who knows anything about mental health.

Please do not look at this woman as any sort of representative of mental health, personally or professionally.  She will surely scare you away.  I knew that she was not a trained mental health practitioner, although I could not remember her training, so I looked it up and this is what I found on Wikipedia.

Schlessinger received a bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University and a Ph.D. in physiology from Columbia University in 1974. Her doctoral thesis was on the “Effects of Insulin on 3-0-Methylglucose Transport in Isolated Rat Adipocytes”.[8][9] She lectured at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of California, Irvine, and Pepperdine University.

Nothing there at all about training to be a mental health practitioner.  Nothing.  What really concerns me is that she has practiced “Marriage and Family Counseling” and has no training in this work that I could find anywhere.   She has built a career on being a sort of morality policewoman, but to me her practice is akin to psychopaths who perform surgeries with no training.  Completely unethical.  Do I sound mad?  Good.

Do not call this person for advice.

As I have said many times before, shrinks are not perfect and I am sure some are even racist.  But if you are going to have any chance of getting help with your problem, at least start with someone who has some training in providing  that help.

Taking our lead from the people who had the courage to make this movie, let’s be a community of people who will become more proactive in terms of abuse issues. 

Several years ago I had a three-year-old in treatment.  When I told people I treat children as young as three their response was often:  “What does a three-year-old have to be upset about?”.  Well this boy was molested by his babysitter who promptly fled the country when the abuse was discovered.

I just want to leave our discussions about Precious with some statistics: 

1 in 4 girls are sexually molested before the age of 18.

1 in 6 boys are sexually molested before the age of 18.

1 in 5 children are solicited sexually while on the internet.

Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children 17 and under.

An estimated 39 million survivors of sexual abuse exist in America today. 

30 to 40% of victims are abused by a family member. 

Another 50% are abused by someone outside of the family whom they know and trust.

Only about 10% are abused by strangers.

I am not trying to turn us into paranoid parents and loved ones, but I am saying to keep your eyes and your ears open. Behaving as if there is no problem is apparently a problem.   Teach young children about inappropriate touching. Review safety strategies.  Encourage open communication with your children.  Watch for a child’s sudden change in mood or behavior, changes in school performance or any other uncharacteristic behavior. 

Unfortunately, I have noticed that parents who were themselves sexually abused tend to have a blindness, so to speak, when it is happening to their own children, so if you are a victim you may need to be extra aware or consult with a professional for guidance.

The effects of sexual molestation are often correlated with:  addictions (for Precious this was eating, and when I worked with substance abusers, I would say most of the women had been sexually abused), dissociation (Precious had brief splits from present reality, some people block out entire parts of their life in memory;  it is a way to prevent feeling the intense negative emotions associated with the abuse), running away, promiscuity, becoming a sexual offender, and I have seen severe mood swings and erratic behavior, along with many other problematic symptoms.

For a complete list of references from which the above facts were obtained, please visit: http://www.darkness2light.org/KnowAbout/statistics_2.asp

I had several women approach me after they had seen the movie.  Many were quite upset about the abusive mother and wanted to know what would cause someone to engage in such monstrous acts.   The mother’s explanation at the end of the movie about needing “love” was not enough for the women who approached me.  They were right.  That wasn’t enough of an explanation.  Most people wish to have love but they do not necessarily become abusers when they do not receive it. 

Precious’ mother probably suffered from deprivation of love and trauma early in her life that was more than likely extreme.  The mother experienced, most likely, a chronic lack of empathy.  The result is that she did not gain the ability to empathize with others.  So there is usually a cycle of abuse.

These personality types may be so damaged that they are unable to even see their children as real people with feelings and needs.  They have such a hole to be filled themselves that they can only think about their own needs.  I would diagnose this person with severe Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  I think many parents who physically abuse severely, and engage in sexual abuse fall into this category.   http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder

For the abused children, they do stand a chance at recovery if they find people who are able to offer them empathy.  For Precious this was Blu Rain.   The teacher helped Precious feel present (to “break through” ) and find her voice, to feel human.  

As for the narcissist, most people who have had relationships with them by choice or by kinship will tell you there is no hope because they are damaged too greatly, and the best thing for you to do is distance yourself from them lest they destroy you.  Usually, they are not willing to participate in therapy because they may lack control of the situation.  They have issues of grandiosity often, and may believe (openly or secretly) that the therapist is beneath them.  Milder forms of the disorder may be treated but it may take at least a decade.

**For the record, I do understand that this movie unfortunately falls into the class of disproportionate negative portrayals of African Americans in the media.  While this needs acknowledgment, I believe there is a great deal to be learned from the movie.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not limited to or more prevalent in the Black community.  If you want to understand more about narcissism but need a different portrayal, there was a movie called “Savage Grace” with Julianne Moore, which is a few years old and came and went with little fanfare.  This movie is not nearly as violent but I found it to be equally disturbing.  It is about a white middle to upper middle class family where sexual abuse takes place.  The mother/narcissist in the movie is out of a textbook in terms of the disorder. 

If you find that you need a stronger dosage of positive images of African Americans images I hope you have access to TV One.   They have some limitations but I find they excellently represent a variety of African American characters and issues.

Based upon a true story, the lead character of this movie has been abused so severely by her parents that she has developed a whole host of issues outside many people’s understanding. However, so many seem affected by this movie. My mother told me she saw a line, comprised mostly of African Americans, wrapped around the block to see “Precious”. I believe the movie addresses issues rarely openly discussed in our communities.

On a basic level, the desire to be a white woman and have a “light-skinned” boyfriend shown when she is in a dissociative state (dream sequence) is a form of cultural low self-esteem that is rampant in our communities. It has become so internalized and in the back of our minds but always there. We do not even see the need to have discussions about this most of the time. I had a 9 year-old girl I was seeing for therapy whose classmates were calling her “Flava Flav” simply because she had dark skin. She was a resilient child, but frequently depressed.

Another issue is Black intellect. Until she enters the alternative education program people expect very little from Precious. As a result, she delivers what is expected. Recently, some high school students told me that they were regularly teased by other African American children because they were bright. In fact, these kids were told (in 2009) that they were trying to be white.

What can we do?

There is nothing new about these issues, but we have to do something for the sake of our children. How will they be able to succeed, and feel confident if they believe that there may be something wrong with fundamental aspects of who they are?
Having open discussions with African American children about their beauty and value is important. I know so many families are already doing this, but the assault from the media is so pervasive that it is a difficult battle. Whoopi Goldberg, in a recent interview, said that she did everything she could to teach her daughter that Black is beautiful, but when her daughter was a certain age, much to Ms. Goldberg’s surprise, her daughter wished to have long straight blond hair.

Because we have been exposed for so long to these media culprits (television, movies, magazines, etc.), we often devalue African features and intellect ourselves. Therefore, we must get in touch with our own self-hatred since we are all victims of the assault. So, if you believe “good hair” is straight hair, or lighter skin is better skin, you need to acknowledge and examine those beliefs because they are not in and of themselves true. Even though I cried about it as a child, my mother would never let me have a Barbie. She thought it was an unhealthy representation of beauty for a young African American girl. Now, looking back I know she was right (but it was hell trying to fit some of my oversized dolls into the Barbie Townhouse that she did let me have).

A recent study noted that African American children who have positive feelings about their ethnic identity tend to have fewer mental health problems. See, http://www.thegrio.com/opinion/ethnic-pride-can-improve-mental-health-in-black-children.php and http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091113083259.htm.

When the children you know are old enough, I say by middle school age, speak openly about the assault so that they will be able to consciously resist it.

More blogs to come on “Precious”. There is so much going on in that movie to talk about.

Hello world!

February 27, 2010

This site will be informative and educational, addressing issues that are relevant but not limited to African-American mental health.  So much useful information gets stuck in academia, so the site will attempt to take some of that information and make it plain for you.  The site will often use real-life examples or examples from the media to illustrate ideas.   Look  for the first blog this coming week about the movie “Precious”.