Mental Health triggers – racism

It is no secret the last 14 days have been hard for a lot of black people globally. In the backdrop of uncertainty and shielding against COVID 19, it is no surprise the levels of anxiety have shot up. With the murders in the USA and for those who have not read the news, the rape and murders in Nigeria and South Africa of women; and demonstrations in Kenya against extrajudicial killings. It was too much, I got my Personal Evacuation Plan out!

As I perused the news and found the video of George Floyd, I stared at it in shock and swiftly scrolled away from it. I did not want to see it. My palpitations started and I was breathing from the upper respiratory a sign of stress. I did not want to push my blood pressure up or trigger my nerves. I sat for a long period staring into space the only thought in my head repeating like a record was “someone can kill me casually just for the color of my skin”. This is not news to me but George Floyd’s death brought it home. I was most thankful that that in the UK policemen and women do not carry guns. There is just as much institutional racism, with stop and search and deaths in police custody of black women and men and the current stats of black BAME dyig of COVID 19; the world sounded like a nightmare. My mind could not compute this horrible killing.

Whilst mindful of my fibromyalgia which I forgot about, the rage started boiling, and my first incident of racism came to mind like yesterday. I could not compute that the white manager was being racist, a friend told me. I come from a country, Kenya where in my experience we were all Kenyans, save for when elections come around, and then ethnicity barbs are thrown at you in any discourse. What really was the difference people die during this time at the hands of their fellow brothers and sisters. In the slum areas, policemen have become trigger happy and it seemed the government was not doing anything about it.

I wanted to get a bat and hit somebody, I am antiviolence and have never hit anybody. Only a person who has been stripped of their being and humiliated would understand this feeling. As the pressure cooker found no release I had to sit with my rage, wondering do you truly understand the plight of the black person in the UK. Mindful of the stereotype of a big angry black woman, I sat on my hands because I could not say anything coherent. I watched the protests all over the world and thought we are at a pivotal point in history and change will take time. We needed to strategize and mobilize. I miss my trade union days and I wanted to get in there but my anxiety and fibromyalgia will not let me yet. I wanted to be part of the protests.

My mental health kit came out and I called my best friend Koko, and I let it rip. I swore like a sailor. A fact that I was not very proud of, I needed another African to here my thoughts without trying to translate what I was saying. You will be glad to hear I did not get a bat or hit anybody but I understood the straw that broke the camel’s back, George Floyd’s casual murder.

I want to get involved particularly in mental health to avoid the misdiagnosis syndrome of black people. I want to be part of educating professionals on us to help services. The pressure for change has to continue; get involved wherever you are, this is not a bipartisan issue. Educate yourself and have difficult conversations; ask us if you don’t understand and hold your politicians accountable for the change.

And please, for your mental health take a break from all the news, it will do you some good.