Essays, issue 4: dec 2015
Comments 7

THE IMPERFECT ART OF A BLACK WOMAN’S SELF-CARE by Zoe Chiesa

THE IMPERFECT ART OF A BLACK WOMAN’S SELF-CARE.

Her past gives her strength that her future does not know about – ladonalex.


Big fat drops of rain are playing a sing song outside my window. I love end of summer rain – cleansing rain, goodbye rain.  Two lavender and coconut soy candles are letting off a beautiful blend of calming scent, the blue and grey sky and green tops of trees beckon to me from my favourite perch by the window sill. I like rain. I never used to but lately I find it soothing and cleansing whether I am in it or safely cocooned away from it like now. My name is Zoe and I have a confession. I always hide this and no one knows so please handle my secret with care. I am a black woman and I have struggled with depression and anxiety since early childhood and I have always been ashamed of it.  I never learnt self-love. Instead I am very well versed in self-loathing through those things that masquerade as self-love but are undercover hate. Things like staying in bed and avoiding life or eating for comfort and procrastinating periodically. They feel good in the moment but are unhelpful in the long term so I am learning to do them less and less. Self-Caring has become more a way of life.  In the past five years I have made progress in being more self-aware and more tolerant of emotional pain and in the process learn to love myself one inch at a time.  Emotionally I have struggled and I think the weight of all I have been carrying is starting to sag – it’s too heavy for my shoulders. Sometimes it feels like I am literally unravelling, however I sew myself back together again, tenderly and sometimes I hate this black woman’s struggle but I stop short of blaming myself. There is self-blame and then there is self-responsibility.   Now I acknowledge that I have valid reasons for being this way. Being a little black girl I was never allowed to acknowledge pain and I can see how a 4 year old can start believing that they are powerless and that even if they are emotionally, physically and sexually violated they have no right to do anything about it. I can see I still carry the burden of a 4 year old but I have empowered myself to start laying bits of it down a little at a time and to speak out. Audre Lorde’s quote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,’’ has resonated with my life and I can say I am definitely her legacy despite the often sketchy emotional journey.

The distance between where I am and where I need to be is vast because as it has sadly dawned on me my discontentment and struggles have become comfortable and safe. Becoming well really is an imperfect art but also a revolution.  No one day is the same, no method is perfect. To be honest I don’t know why I must bother trying to get myself better – that is an underlying belief, so buried underneath all my positive plans, the stealth saboteur of my dreams and wellbeing. There are other sabotaging thoughts I catch like I am not good enough. For so long I have believed I am not good enough and valueless and now that I am fighting against this lie certain things happen to try and reinforce the negativity and brings me back to the place where the person who violated by young body told me I was unattractive when I was 13  because I did not look like the light skin girl I went to school with and  once these beliefs sink into a 4 year old, and get reinforced when she is 8 or when she is 10 , you get what I mean, if not corrected a life is possibly crippled. I am fortunate to be strong even in my vulnerability and for black women I think that it part of the problem. This show of strength is often a façade, a way of trying to just survive rather than thriving.  I should not allow being strong to be a barrier to my healing so today I am relinquishing strong as it does not serve me anymore on the road toward being authentic. I just want to be the care free black woman I know I am. I wish I had known this five years ago. I was a medical student, looked good with lofty dreams yet I did unravel – no one knew and no one cared to know because as a black woman I know now that I am not allowed to speak on pain and struggle – that is only the right of white girls. I know this because I counsel them daily in my day time job.  So I came apart at the seams, it ripped right in the middle and I sewed myself again, crooked seams that never really went with the fabric of who I am. Sometimes I am grateful that it happened and at other times I wonder if I just took the easy way out because of that and told myself it is not safe to try and take risks. I convinced myself that one failure was really a whole life failure and I could never be a doctor or anything else – I took the easy narrative, a long slow painful death.  Yet life is this rise and fall and you are the superhero who navigates all the different seasons. Today I will on purpose affirm that it is ok to believe again in rainbow possibilities. I believe I am becoming well with each rise and fall of my chest. I am a black woman focusing on the practice of self-care as a form of self-preservation. It is my birth right.


Zoe Chiesa is a 33 year old Black British woman living in London. You can find her on twitter and her website.

Image not owned by Sula Collective. 

7 Comments

    • Thank you Cherie for reading and commenting. I am so glad it has resonated. I was so scared to post this but it was definitely worth it. 🙂

      Like

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