Tag Archives: ASK JANICE

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Obsessive Love Disorder (OLD)

Have you ever heard of Obsessive Love Disorder (OLD)? I wish I could definitively cite where I first read about this. But I can’t. I accidentally stumbled upon this term while researching something else and fell down a rabbit hole. If you want, you can check out psychcentral.com, healthline.com, or any other prominent mental health publication to learn more. What follows is my interpretation of what I learned, so don’t sue me for not citing more specific sources!

First of all, Obsessive Love Disorder (OLD) is not currently classified as a distinct mental health disorder in the DSM-5. Don’t know what the DSM-5 is? Don’t worry – I got you. The DSM-5 is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, a book by the American Psychiatric Association. So basically, it’s like the psychiatric Bible of mental diseases. It’s the official last word on whether a condition is considered by the professionals as a specific mental health disorder. Back in the day, being LGBTQIA+ was considered a mental health disorder and listed in earlier editions of the DSM. Hence the need for a 5th edition, which is the most current.

Anyway, OLD isn’t a distinct mental disorder, though some mental health professionals think it should be. So stay tuned for later editions of the DSM-5. In the meantime, while it’s not considered an official mental illness, it is a serious condition that can be diagnosed, and often accompanies other mental disorders. More on that in a bit.

When a person has OLD, they become fixated on someone with whom they believe they’re in love. But symptoms of OLD go way beyond the boundaries of healthy relationships. A person with OLD becomes obsessive and controlling to the point where it not only adversely affects their own life, but also the life of the object of their fixation. This person feels an overwhelming need to “protect” and control the object of their obsession and often feels jealous and insecure. They become possessive and can even socially isolate themselves so that they can focus all of their time and attention on the person they believe they love. These feelings can lead to stalking, harassment, abuse, and even murder. Especially when the object of their desire rejects them.

Symptoms vary, of course. However, there are some commonalities among people diagnosed with OLD. Here are a few:

  1. An overwhelming feeling of love and attraction to someone, whether they’re in a relationship with them or not.
  2. A reduced ability to function and live a normal life.
  3. A need to constantly contact the object of their obsession, like sending constant texts, dms, etc.
  4. A total disregard for boundaries, including time, physical space, social life, work, etc. (like showing up to your job).
  5. Extreme insecurity requiring endless reassurance.
  6. Low self-esteem.
  7. Jealousy and an overwhelming need to “protect” and control.
  8. Extreme possessiveness and a need to control who the object of their fixation sees, wears, and engages with; as well as a need to control where and when the subject of their obsession goes and why they do.
  9. An inability to maintain normal relationships.

As I said earlier, people with OLD often have other mental illnesses, the most common of which include Borderline Personality Disorder, Delusional Jealousy, Obsessive Jealousy, Reactive Attachment Disorder, and Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder. I don’t have the time or space here to define all of these for you, but feel free to use context clues to get a general idea of the kinds of mental disorders often accompany OLD. Or Google them like I did.

The most interesting thing to me is that while very rare (it only affects about 0.1% of the population in the US), it affects women more than men, and no one knows why. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve watched too much “You” on Netflix, too many true crime videos, or because of all my research on domestic and intimate partner violence. But I was totally shocked to learn this affects women more than men. Who knew?

Anyway, that’s what Obsessive Love Disorder is all about in a nutshell. Have you ever experienced anything like this in your life? Ever been stalked? Ever done any stalking? Let us know in the comments below. And if you answered yes to either question, help is available!

(No, really. Please seek help if you or someone you know displays any of these symptoms. Please.)

Until next time, stay safe out there!

 

 

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: COME ON, 2023!!

BRING ON 2023!!!

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m so ready for the ball to drop on 2022. I’m super excited about 2023 and can’t wait to get started!

Now, I’ve never been big on New Year resolutions, vision boards, or anything like that.  As a single mom, I was always too exhausted from the frenetic pace of the holidays to really get excited about the New Year.  Plus, my kid’s birthday falls exactly one week before Christmas, which about doubled my holiday stress levels. For more than two decades, by the time the end of the year rolled around, I was running on fumes: financially, physically, and mentally.

This year felt different, though. Medical issues, bad weather, and rising COVID/flu/RSV numbers kept me home and alone for most of the holidays this year. But don’t feel bad for me. I mean, I definitely missed seeing everyone irl (thank God for Zoom). However, I was finally able to some much-needed rest. And so, for the first time in decades, I finally have enough energy and the emotional bandwidth to actually look forward to the New Year.

I still didn’t make any resolutions or create a vision board because I’m just not organized or crafty enough to pull it off by January 1st. But I do love making lists and writing them down, so …

In addition to all the good I plan to manifest for myself in 2023, here’s a short list of my hopes & dreams for all of us in the coming year:

  1. Federally Codified Reproductive Rights: I know, I know. The recent SCOTUS decision on abortion may make this a pipe dream. But I’m actually optimistic about this one. Even though more than 2 dozen states raced to ban abortion with no exceptions since Roe was overturned. You see, dismantling Roe will work against the radical, far right. Because it’s galvanized all those women who’ve been politically “quiet” to finally join our fight. They finally have some skin in the game. So, I’m hopeful for 2023. Or maybe I’m just delusional and still riding high from getting our first Black woman Supreme Court Justice.
  2. A Reduction in Violence Against Women (Especially Black Women): Admittedly, this may be a stretch given that violence is on the rise worldwide. However, the recent guilty verdict in the Tory Lanez case (from when his drunk ass shot Megan Thee Stallion back in 2020) gives me hope. Remember, this verdict comes on the heels of the “Me Too” and “Times Up” movements. And it follows both the Bill Cosby and R. Kelly convictions, which sends a clear message that times really have changed. In the past, powerful men easily got away with violence against women. Just look how long it took to finally convict Cosby and Kelly? So, this recent win for Meg is a win for all of us. And it shows that are we’re moving in the right direction when it comes to holding men accountable for harming women.
  3. Increased Mental Health Awareness and Resources (Especially in the Black Community): As heartbreaking as it is when a celebrity dies by suicide, it at least pushes conversations about mental health into the open. The recent suicide of Stephen “tWitch” Boss, a famous 40-year-old Black man has done just that, and in a major way. Boss was a multi-hyphenate entertainer, loving husband, and devoted father. His suicide reminds us that Black men experience depression, anxiety, and other mental illness, but rarely have the space or freedom to talk about it without stigma. Boss’ death may just be the catalyst to change that going forward. I certainly hope so.
  4. Better Healthcare and Better Health Outcomes for Black women: Healthcare inequality among Black women is rooted in white supremacy. It’s resulted in untold numbers of unnecessary, preventable deaths. You know this. I know this. And thanks to the recent spotlight on this issue, damn near everybody knows this. So, here’s why I’m optimistic going into 2023: we’ve seen our broken healthcare system pivot hard in the face of a global pandemic, during which all of its failings were laid bare for all to see. For example, the pandemic forced the healthcare industry to increase pay for everyone from nurses to EMTs and invest heavily in new equipment and technology. It only stands to reason that grappling with the rampant healthcare inequity among Black people would be a priority going forward, as well, right? Right??

So, there you have it: my short but ambitious list of hopes and dreams for 2023! The cynical among you may consider this list a delusional pile of wishful thinking. But I’m not gon’ let y’all steal my joy. For the first time in years, I believe that we can make real strides in these areas and change lives for the better. After all, something good has to come from the shitstorm of the past few years, right? It’s going to take all of us to pull this off, though. And it won’t be easy. But I’m ready to do my part to make this happen. Will you join me?

HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Grieving During the Holidays

The Holiday Season 2022 has officially started! Happy Holidays, everyone … especially to our readers who may be grieving.

Listen. Everyone experiences grief differently. But grieving the loss of a loved one is especially hard during the holiday season. Try as you might to remain upbeat and festive, you can’t help but notice the empty chair at the table. And it doesn’t really matter if it’s your first holiday without your loved one or your tenth. When that wave of grief hits, it feels like a punch to the chest.

The holiday season is for spending time with family, reminiscing, and making new memories. That’s why we tend feel our grief more acutely at this time. All those strolls down memory lane remind us of the loved ones we’ve lost. And that makes us feel awful, even as we enjoy the company of those loved ones still here.

So, if you’re grieving and your emotions are all over the place these days, you’re not alone. It’s both understandable and totally normal. Don’t feel bad for feeling bad. That’s just how grief works, and you have to go through it to get through it, if you know what I mean.

Here are a few tips for coping with grief during this holiday season (Source: Vitas Health Care).

  1. Set realistic expectations for yourself. Remember things are different this year, so go easy on yourself. Consider not taking on all of the holiday tasks you’re used to and scaling back a bit. Your loved ones will understand if you’re not up to cooking an entire dinner for 20 this year. They’ll also understand if you need help, whether it’s with shopping, cooking, wrapping, or hosting. Let someone else do the heavy lifting this year if you’re not really up to it.
  2. Surround yourself with people who love and support you. You may be tempted to burrow under your covers and isolate yourself until after the New Year but try not to do this. I know it’s hard but communicate with those closest to you and let them know how you feel. Inform them of any changes to your holiday routine so that they’re aware and can adjust. Most importantly, keep those lines of communication open so that your loved ones can love on you and support you through your grief.
  3. Don’t cancel the whole season! I know it’s tempting but don’t cancel everything. It’s ok to avoid some circumstances or events if you’re truly not up to it. But don’t totally isolate yourself. Make some time for solitude but balance it with planned social activities.
  4. Allow yourself to feel “All the Feels”. You’re going to feel joy, sadness, anger, and everything in between, so let yourself feel them. Experiencing joy or laughter during your bereavement doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten your loved one. It means you’re human and still living! Trust me. Your loved one would want you to be happy.
  5. Give back. You can draw a lot of comfort from doing for others. If you’re in a position to do so, making a donation or gift in memory of your loved one is a wonderful way to honor them. After all, doing for others is an instant mood lifter. It doesn’t have to be monetary or material gifts, either. Sometimes, the best gift we can give is the gift of our time. Consider volunteering with a charity like a soup kitchen, or your favorite church charity. Or maybe invite a guest who might otherwise be alone for the holidays to join your family. Giving back gives back in so many ways.
  6. Take care of yourself. Self-care may seem like a cliche these days, but for real. Take care of yourself, Sis. Enjoy that fattening holiday fare with moderation. Try to get in some exercise several times a week, as exercise is a proven antidote to depression. Treat yourself as well as you treat others and indulge in something frivolous just for YOU!

Finally, if you’re really struggling with your grief, please reach out and seek professional help. If you or someone you know is in real crisis, please reach out to the hotline by dialing 988 in the U.S. Help is available.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE!

 

ASK JANICE DVAM SPECIAL: Stop Asking “Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?”

Why doesn’t she just leave?

This five-word question, often asked somewhat in good faith, makes my teeth itch. Sorry, not sorry, but this post is a bit of a rant.

Listen. It was one thing to ask “Why doesn’t she just leave?” years ago, when even talking about intimate partner violence was taboo. Or back before social media blew up with its endless supply of awareness months, keyboard activism, and true crime podcasts. This was long before we had newsfeeds that were jam-packed with horrific stories about violence and murder.  Remember those good ol’ days? It was easier to bury your head in the sand and ignore such topics unless they affected you or your family personally.

But it’s 2022. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, by now you’ve seen, read, or heard countless stories of women dying at the hands of the men they loved, most often after they’ve left (or tried to leave). You already know that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), and have at least a vague knowledge of the stats, like how every 9 seconds a woman somewhere is physically assaulted by their intimate partner. Or that 1 in 4 women (and 1 in 9 men) have been victims of severe physical assault in the United States.

But if you’re still asking why a woman won’t “just leave” her abuser, then either you haven’t been paying attention, or we (activists, survivors, and allies) haven’t done a good enough job of getting the message out there.  So let me make it plain. According to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, intimate partner violence is the single greatest cause of injury to women!

Wait. There’s more:

  • Only 34% of people (women and men) get medical care for their injuries after a DV/IPV incident.
  • Only 27% of women report their attacks to the police.
  • Domestic violence hotlines get more than 20,000 calls per day.
  • A woman’s risk of dying increases by 500% when a firearm is present.

Not only that, but domestic and intimate partner violence is deadly. And here’s the kicker (and the reason for this rant): the deadliest time for women experiencing DV/IPV is from the moment she plans to leave to up to a year after she does leave! In fact, women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving than at any other time during the relationship!

Read that last sentence again.

Now read it one more time.

In 2017, The Huffington Post calculated that the number of women killed by a current or former male partner added up to nearly double the soldier lives lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the same 11-year period. More women were killed by intimate partners than soldiers died fighting in two wars, and y’all still wanna ask why she didn’t “just leave”? GTFOHWTBS

While “just leaving” isn’t always feasible, there are ways for a woman to extricate herself from a dangerous relationship with the help of experts and proper planning. Now, I know that sometimes, a woman has to quickly leave when her life is in immediate and imminent danger. But most DV/IPV experts recommend first developing a comprehensive safety plan to leave. This will require stealth, as abusers tend to isolate and monitor their victims’ online activity. That’s why most DV/IPV websites and hotlines have safety features to protect and cloak a user’s searches. The most important thing is that a safety plan be developed with the help of experts and other trusted individuals to ensure the woman can leave, stay free, and live.

Even if she wants to, more often than not, an abused woman can’t just up and leave. Not without a comprehensive safety plan to ensure she survives her escape. Because an abuser is most dangerous when he feels like he’s losing control, and that’s often the case when she tries to or does leave.

You’ve seen the statistics. You know the facts. And hopefully, you understand that the responsibility for the abuse lies solely with the abuser. So instead of asking her “why don’t you just leave”? Ask him “why does the abuse keep happening?”

Ok. Rant over.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you or someone you know is experience intimate partner abuse, help is available. You don’t have to do this alone. Please reach out to the experts who can offer you confidential counsel, resources, and assistance, regardless of your situation. The best place to start is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or Text START to 88788. 

Be safe and take care

#DVAM2022 #DVAM #DV/IPV #domesticviolencekills #enddomesticviolencenow

ASK JANICE: Are You Being Love Bombed?

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Beware of Love Bombing!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and as usual, the team here at SuzyKnew! has a lot to say about it. We’re kicking off this #DVAM by bringing attention to a common feature of abusive intimate relationships: love bombing. Specifically, we’re going to talk about love bombing within the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse.

But first, some definitions. Let’s start with narcissistic personality disorder, which the Mayo Clinic defines as “A disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance … found more commonly in men … Symptoms include an excessive need for admiration, disregard of others’ feelings, an inability to handle any criticism, and a sense of entitlement.” Given this definition, it’s no surprise that abusers often have narcissistic personality disorder.

Next let’s define love bombing, since it is the first stage of the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse. It’s important to understand this concept because it can easily be confused with the giddiness of genuinely falling in love. That’s why it’s so dangerous and confusing.   

In her article, “Love Bombing: Definitions, Signs, and What to Do” for Choosing Therapy.com, Nicole Arzt describes Love Bombing as “intense emotions, affection, and admiration someone gives to another person in a relationship … (that) can happen at any stage of a relationship, but it’s more common when two people first meet. While all this attention may seem flattering, it can be dangerously manipulative. Some people use this tactic to gain trust and build intimacy quickly.”

Love bombing tends to be the first stage in the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse, which has a total of four stages:

  1. Love Bombing: (see above)
  2. Devaluing: This is usually in the form of criticism, put-downs, passive-aggression, or gaslighting specifically used to hurt someone.
  3. Discarding: The abuser ends the relationship, usually suddenly and with a lot of drama.
  4. Hoovering: Even though the abuser is the one who ended things, he’ll often regularly check on his ex. Then he gaslights and manipulates her in order to, like a Hoover vacuum cleaner, suck her back into his chaos and drama.

Love bombing can take many forms, like gifts, frequent and heavy social media interactions, and early, passionate declarations of love. The recipient of all this attention may relish it at first. Because who doesn’t like receiving gifts and being fawned over? But once that Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse starts, it gets harder and harder to leave. And often, the abuse escalates into other kinds of abuse like physical, sexual, and financial.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

That’s why it’s imperative to recognize the signs of love bombing and narcissistic abuse before it’s too late. Remember, domestic violence and/or intimate partner kills.

In her article, Arzt lists 11 signs of love bombing, which I’ve paraphrased below:

  1. They want to know everything about you right away. This can feel wonderful at first. Finally, you’ve found someone who really listens to you and seems genuinely fascinated by you. But a narcissist will use your more sensitive information later to control, exploit, and manipulate you.
  2. Dumping their personal details too quickly. At first, this may seem like he trusts you, but it’s inauthentic. He may divulge his information to establish empathy and closeness, like you’re the only one special enough to really know him.
  3. They want constant validation. A love bomber seeks constant reassurance of his greatness and worth because deep down, he’s terribly insecure. This can be exhausting for you, because no matter how much you reassure him, it’s never enough.
  4. Intense Declarations of love. He’ll use words like “soulmate” and constantly tell you that you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to him. But as Arzt points out, “While these compliments can seem flattering, they should be a red flag. First, it takes time to know someone, and falling in love shouldn’t happen overnight. Furthermore, true commitment and closeness transcend grandiose words.”
  5. Pressure to make you commit. These guys move fast, often wanting to make things “official” right away. Relationships move at their own pace, but if you feel pressured to move faster than you’re ready to, be careful.
  6. Saying all the right things. Love bombers always know just what to say, as they’re very charming and skilled at social intelligence. They pay close attention to say the right words, but it’s disingenuous and performative.
  7. Intense Clinginess. He always wants to be with you, and when he’s not, he will call and text you constantly. He always demands more of your time and attention because he wants you to always think about him. He wants to be your entire world!
  8. Over the top, expensive gifts. Instead of one bouquet of flowers, he sends six. He buys you expensive jewelry very early in the relationship. That may sound wonderful on paper, but it’s actually awkward and excessive because he’s doing too much. This form of love bombing is manipulative and often an effort to get you to feel indebted to him.
  9. Immense Jealousy when you’re with ANYONE else. Some jealousy in a relationship is normal. But when he’s jealous of the time you spend with your family, your friends, and even your job, that’s a problem. He’ll even resent your hobbies! This is extremely toxic and bad for you.
  10. Things just feel “off”. In your gut you already know something’s wrong. You may even feel embarrassed about the intensity of your relationship and downplay it to others. Trust your instincts.
  11. Sudden coldness or withdrawal. Everything seemed wonderful … until it wasn’t. Maybe you finally set a boundary or had too much fun at brunch with your friends. Or maybe he just couldn’t keep up the love bombing any longer. Either way, he starts seeing your flaws and begins to act distant, annoyed, or even angry.

For more information, I suggest you read Arzt’s article. She even shares ideas on what to do should you find yourself being love bombed. It’s a fascinating read.

The bottom line is that love bombing is a dangerous stage in a larger cycle of narcissistic abuse which can, and often does, lead to other forms of abusive behavior. Love bombing is manipulative and controlling. It’s toxic. And if you find yourself in this kind of situation, please be careful and make a plan to leave. Leaving may be difficult, but it could save your life.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, help is available. In the U.S. call 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788.

Please stay safe out here.

#domesticviolencekills #DVAM2022 #enddomesticviolence #BewareofLoveBombing #LoveBomb

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

A FEW CAVEATS

I have a few caveats before we dive into this important topic. First of all, I recognize the problem with the term “minority” in 2021. Same with BIPOC or any other alphabet label out there. But debates over labels shouldn’t take away from the importance of raising awareness and advocating for mental wellness specifically for people who’ve often been left out of these conversations. Here in the United States, that usually means anyone who isn’t white, cis-gendered, non-disabled, and hetero.

Secondly, I also understand that we’ve gone a little overboard with all these awareness months. Prior to social media, was there even such a thing as an awareness month? I honestly can’t remember. But these days, there’s an awareness month for every cause imaginable. Which kind of makes you wonder if they’re even effective anymore.

My final caveat is that my advocacy focuses on mental health and wellness for Black people, and not all so-called minorities. My reason for this is simple: I’m not a minority mental health expert. I’m just a Black woman who has battled mental illness for almost four decades. I only know what I know based on my lived experiences and non-scholarly research.

WHY OUR OWN AWARENESS MONTH

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), July is actually the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Campbell authored several best-selling books and used her platform to advocate for mental health. A Black woman who sadly died from brain cancer in 2006, she was also a member of NAMI who battled mental illness.

You can go to NAMI’s website and learn that the awareness month was established in 2008 to start changing the fact that “background and identity can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult.” As NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison says on their website,

“The effect of racism and racial trauma on mental health is real and cannot be ignored.”

Read that again.

When it comes to mental health and damn near everything else in this country, white people and Black people have very different experiences. Like the title of my favorite Bebe Moore Campbell book says, “Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine”. 

The COVID-19 pandemic amplified the vast disparities between Blacks and whites when it comes to health care, in general. With mental health, those disparities are exponentially worse.

So, yes. We do need our “own” mental health awareness month.

REALITY CHECK

Because the reality is that a lot of us are not ok. The so-called “racial reckoning” in our country, coupled with the rise in racist attacks and incidents affects us all, whether we acknowledge it or not. You can’t be a Black American and not feel the weight of the past few years. Unless you’re a member of the “coon class”, as I call it. (Y’all know exactly who I’m talking about here.) Add to that all the historical baggage we carry, and you have to recognize that white supremacy and racism has messed us all up pretty bad.

Then we had the pandemic, which ravaged our families, and kept us isolated and scared for more than a year. Statistics show increased substance abuse, domestic and intimate partner violence, and suicide attempts as a direct result of COVID-19. Not to mention the devastating economic impact the pandemic had on Black people, in particular.

With all that’s been happening, it’s no wonder so many of us suffer mentally. As the young folks say, it’s been a lot.

ERASE THE STIGMA

It doesn’t help that despite the valiant efforts of mental health advocates, there’s still such stigma surrounding mental health and illness in the Black community. And stigma keeps people from getting the help they need.

Bebe Moore Campbell herself once said, “People of color, particularly African Americans, feel the stigma more keenly. In a race-conscious society, some don’t want to be perceived as having yet another deficit.”

Fam, this stigma stuff has got to go! Black folks have to stop sweeping mental illness under the proverbial rug and start TALKING ABOUT IT! Stigma keeps too many sick people from getting the help they need. Shame keeps too many sick people from taking life-saving medications because “I don’t want to have to take happy pills for the rest of my life”.

Folks are out here walking around sick, hurt, and untreated because they don’t want to be seen as “crazy”. And untreated mental illness leads to (or is caused by) so many other societal problems like rape, substance abuse, domestic abuse, etc. So that it all becomes one, big cycle of dysfunction where everyone suffers.

(And besides, y’all are out here worried about being seen as crazy are already seen as crazy, so there’s that.)

IT CAN GET BETTER

Listen. 1 in 5 people experience a mental health condition. Actually, that number is probably much higher among Black people, because so few us actually admit to having a problem. But even 1 in 5 is a lot of people. So you are not alone if you struggle. Help is available.

Now having said that, let me also acknowledge the many barriers keeping Black people from getting the help they need. For example, finding culturally competent therapists can be very challenging. Last I checked, only 2% of American psychiatrists are Black. And that matters, not just because Black people make up 13% of the population. I can’t tell you how many ineffective therapy sessions I’ve had with completely clueless non-Black mental health professionals.

Many Black people lack adequate health insurance to see to their mental health needs. And even with insurance, quality mental health care can be cost-prohibitive.

Still. If Black folks know anything, it’s how to make a way out of no way. Even with these very real barriers, we can still get help. For example, many mental health care providers offer virtual services, which can reduce costs and eliminate transportation concerns. Many providers also offer sliding scale fees, payment plans, and even pro bono services, as well.

The bottom line is that everyone has access to Google, and with just a few clicks, can find extensive information on getting mental health care. If you’re having trouble getting started, visit www.nami.org for guidance, and go from there.

We all need to do better and feel better. And that starts and ends with our health, both physical and mental. So, use this Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month as an excuse to prioritize your mental health. Do it for your loved ones, because they want and need you to be ok.

But mainly, do it for yourself, because you deserve to be ok.

#mentalhealth #MinorityMentalHealthAwarenessMonth #MinorityMentalHealthMonth #BlackMentalHealthMatters

 

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Naomi Osaka Centers Her Mental Health Ahead of The French Open, And We Love It!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! I can’t think of a better way to close out the month than by celebrating tennis star, Naomi Osaka. The #2 ranked tennis player and our favorite little sister decided to put her mental health first and skip the post-match press conferences at this year’s French Open. Japan’s legend-in-the making announced her decision via Twitter and Instagram this past Wednesday May 26th. And tongues immediately got to wagging.

Citing the toll news conferences take on players’ emotional well-being, Osaka said, in part, “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one”. Post-game or post-match pressers in any sport can be brutal, especially when the athlete loses. Even I, who doesn’t watch a whole lot of sports programming, have seen athletes reduced to tears by the relentless members of the press.

Osaka, who’s Japanese and Haitian, has certainly done her fair share of press conferences. She’s also no stranger to taking public stands on important issues, including racial equality. Remember at last year’s U. S. Open how she wore 7 different masks, each with the name of a victim of racial violence? She’s not new to this. Lil sis knows how to make a statement and raise awareness.

This current stance will cost her, though. Players can be fined $20,000 for skipping post-match press briefings at Grand Slams, unless they’re injured or physically unable to attend. Naomi earned more than $55 million last year, a record for a female athlete. So that $20,000 fine won’t hurt her as much as it would hurt you or me. Still, she obviously believes her mental well-being is worth it. Good for her.

Osaka’s courageous decision to put her mental health first in such a public way doesn’t just help her, it helps everyone. Because she has such a huge, international platform, her candor about her own mental health care gets people talking, especially Black women. We see ourselves in her. And if she can center her emotional well-being, then so can we.

Sadly, affordable, quality mental health care is out of reach for so many. And that needs to change. Still we must, within our own budgetary limitations, make a real effort to prioritize our mental health. After all, you can’t really put a price on mental wellness, can you?

As for that $20K fine, at the end of Osaka’s social media post on Wednesday, she made this cheeky dig at the tennis establishment, “Anyways, I hope the considerable amount that I get fined for this will go towards a mental health charity.” That puts the ball squarely in the French Tennis Federation’s court. (See what I did there?) Hopefully her stance here will prompt the governing bodies of all sports to reexamine the ways in which they support (or don’t) the mental wellness of their athletes.

In the meantime, big ups to Naomi Osaka, not only for her prowess on the court, but for the way she lives her life. She constantly brings awareness to issues which affect Black people and people of color, especially women. Thank you, Naomi. And go get ’em, Sis!

As for you, how do you plan to better prioritize your mental health going forward? Let us know in the comments, and remember, mental health care is health care. So take good care of yours.

#mentalhealthawarenessmonth #mentalhealth #naomiosaka #fenchopen #tennis #blackwomen #blackwomen

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Not Your Usual Mother’s Day Post

Happy Mother’s Day!

I know this is a tough weekend for many, especially those of us whose mothers have passed on. It’s my sixth Mother’s Day without my mom, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m struggling. On the other hand, it’s also my first Mothers Day as a grandmother, and I am elated! Because yes, I can be both things at once: deeply saddened because I miss my mom, and joyful that I get to spend my first Mother’s Day as a grandmother with my grandson.

I think Mother’s Day brings up conflicted and complicated emotions for a lot of people. We just only talk openly about grieving our dead mothers or celebrating our amazing living ones. But you know who gets left out of the Mothers Day conversation? Those people who have or had difficult, violent, or estranged relationships with their mothers. I mean, we all know there are awful mothers out there, even if we don’t like to talk about it.

So this weekend, I’m holding space in my heart and prayers for anyone whose relationship with their mother is, or was, a bad one. I can only imagine how painful this particular holiday can be. It’s telling that people kind of just assume everyone has a good relationship with their mother. Although what exactly it tells, I don’t really know. But it just doesn’t seem right.

There’s a meme that goes around at this time of year. I’m paraphrasing, but it says something like, “If you’re blessed enough to still have your mother with you, show her some love. Because you only have one mother, and one day you’ll miss her when she’s gone.” The actual meme is shorter than that, but that’s the message.

First of all, not everyone has only one mother. Yes, everyone only traveled down ONE person’s birth canal. But passing another human down your birth canal isn’t a requirement for motherhood. But also, not everyone misses their mother when she dies. That’s just a fact. Because not all mothers are good mothers.

(And no mother is a good mother all of the time. But y’all aren’t ready for that conversation.)

Some mothers do real harm to their children: mental, emotional, sexual, and/or physical. And their children, especially if they’re on a journey towards healing from that harm, might feel some kind of way about celebrating Mother’s Day. And we need to do a better job of making that okay.

That’s why I send love and light to anyone who has or had a bad mother. As a society, we too often make these people feel guilty for their ambivalence towards such a sacred thing as motherhood. We tell them “at least she gave you life – you should celebrate her for that”. Or, “celebrate the women who ‘mothered’ you in your mother’s place”.

Who are we to police their feelings or actions? Why is it so hard for us to accept that not everyone has a reason to celebrate Mother’s Day? We should extend grace and understanding to anyone struggling this Mother’s Day, even the ones who have their reasons for not celebrating.

Whatever kind of relationship you had with your mother, I hope you find a reason to enjoy this day and every day.

#mothersday #happymothersday #askjanice #suzyknew

 

 

 

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: We Have A Black-Asian VEEP, And She’s A Woman!

Vice President Kamala D. Harris. Writing and saying those words will never get old.

On Wednesday, January 20, 2021, the United States of America swore in former Senator Kamala Harris as the 49th Vice President. For the first time in its 245 year history, the nation known as the world’s greatest democracy has its first woman seated just a heartbeat away from the presidency. And not just any woman: a Black and Asian woman!

This. Is. HUGE!

First of all, Vice President Harris had to resign her position as U.S. Senator to step into her new role. Remember, she’s only the 2nd Black woman in history to be elected to the Senate. With her ascension to the vice presidency, there are now ZERO Black women serving in the United States Senate.

But here’s the thing: as Vice President, she’s now the president of the Senate. That’s right. She will now PRESIDE over that body’s daily proceedings. And all the Senators now have to call her “Madam President” while she does! Even that cruel seditionist Mitch McConnell has to address her as such. In other words, Sis got a double promotion: 2nd in command of the country and president over her former Senate colleagues. #BossMove

Of course that Vice President Kamala Harris is the first WOMAN to hold so high an elected office is also a VERY BIG DEAL. It’s been over 100 years since the 19th Amendment gave (some) women the right to vote in this country.  Over 100 years and we FINALLY have a female Vice President. It’s kind of wild to consider that, in the Great American Melting Pot that is the United States of America, every single one of the previous 48 VEEPs were white men. That’s because the framers of our republic never envisioned an America where women would have a say in our government, much less hold public office. Back then, women couldn’t vote, own property, or do much of anything without the consent of men.

Nor did the framers imagine an America where Black people would have equal rights under the law. After all, these were the men who, after much argument, decided that Black people weren’t even whole humans! Back then we were only considered 3/5 of a person for the census. Not to mention most of us were enslaved.

So when we fast forward from our nation’s founding to January 2021, the fact that our Vice President is a Black and Asian woman is a VERY BIG DEAL, indeed. Because not only is our VEEP a Black and Asian woman, she’s also an HBCU graduate (Howard University), a Divine Nine member (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.), a former president of UC Hastings’ Black Law Students Association, and an honorary member of The Links, Inc. In other words, she’s Black af.

She’s our sister.

She’s us.

And she’s Asian, too. Specifically, her late mother was born in Tamil Nadu in India, though she came to the US when she was 19 years old. In fact, both of Vice President Harris’ parents emigrated to the United States, her father having come from Jamaica. Completing the near-perfect picture, America’s first Latina Supreme Court Justice (Justice Sotomayor) just swore this Black and Asian daughter of immigrants into the Vice Presidency, y’all! Talk about breaking barriers! Talk about HERstory!

Listen. No matter how you felt about then-Candidate Harris before the General Election, you’d have to be dead inside not to feel the immense gravity of her inauguration as Vice President. I’ll admit I voted for another candidate during the primaries. In fact, I didn’t vote for Biden, either back then.

But today, watching my sister place her hand on Thurgood Marshall’s Bible to take the oath of office, my heart filled and my tears flowed freely. No, really. I ugly cried. And I called out for my late mother, who never could have imagined that someone who looked like her could ascend to such heights in this country.

I thought about my Delta Sigma Theta soror, the late, great Shirley Chisolm, the first Black woman elected to Congress. Shirley Chisolm was the first Black woman to run for President in 1972. Her courageous run paved the way for a Kamala Harris Vice Presidency nearly half a century later. I know Soror Chisolm and all our mothers and grandmothers who fought for fairness and dignity are smiling after today.

Most significantly, I thought about my precocious four year old grand Goddaughter and what this all means for her. For one thing, it means that despite living in a country where nearly half of her neighbors consider her “less than” simply because of her race and gender, she can still aspire to and attain the loftiest of goals. Because there are more people in this country who understand that experience, knowledge, facts, decency, fairness, and honesty aren’t corny characteristics to be mocked, but are the basic tenets upon which any democracy must rest.

The road from our nation’s founding to today was a long and arduous one. Our republic has withstood foreign invasion, civil war, civil unrest, and presidential assassinations. We’ve survived Reconstruction, Jim Crow, two World Wars, and a long Cold War. Together, we’ve faced down foreign and domestic terrorism, endless wars, and recessions. Somehow we even managed to survive the most corrupt and dangerous president in our nation’s history. Actually, 400,000 of our fellow Americans didn’t survive, thanks to our former president’s gross mishandling of the global pandemic that still threatens us.

Even after everything that could and should have broken us, our republic still stands. Thanks to the boundless efforts of so many, Americans have shown the world that our democracy still works. The American people have spoken, and a new era has begun. Vice President Kamala D. Harris is a Black and Asian woman who now sits a heartbeat away from the most powerful office in the world.

And that is a VERY BIG DEAL, y’all.

#BidenHarris #VicePresidentKamalaHaris #KamalaHarris #VEEP

 

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Ready For A Better 2021? Set Intentions, Not Resolutions!

Happy Holidays, SuzyKnew! Readers!

2020 has been BRUTAL, hasn’t it? COVID-19 proved to be a real game changer, and not in a good way. Here in the US, we also had to endure an especially gangrenous election season, a failing government and economy, and a whole heap of civil unrest as we Americans continue to grapple with our white supremacist origins.

In other words, 2020 sucked. Big time.

I know it’s tempting to hope that the new year will make all the bad stuff disappear, as though all our Fairy Godmothers will wave their magic wands at midnight on January 1st and make everything better. But, we all know that ain’t happenin’. Come 12:01 A.M. January 1st, we’ll still be in a pandemic, our economy will still be a mess, and the United States will still be a racist-ass country. At least we’ll have a new President on the 20th, though. Finally. Thank God.

Many folks, eager to put this awful year behind them, will rush to make New Year’s resolutions, setting lofty goals to ensure that 2021 is just … better. Sadly, “better” is a pretty low bar after this shitstorm of a year.

But what if things could be better than just “better”? What if, rather than making a bunch of resolutions that will be long forgotten by Valentine’s Day,  we all purposefully set intentions that more truly align with our core values? Wouldn’t it be great if, rather than set ourselves up for failure by trying to reach rigid and unrealistic goals, we actually took the time to figure out what truly brings us joy and contentment, and aimed for that, instead?

Well, let’s do it, then! Let’s ditch the stale, old resolution game and get about the business of truly manifesting our hearts’ desires. Let’s set intentions instead of making resolutions!

Setting intentions makes sense if you really think about it. Resolutions are goals which, by their very nature, put a lot of pressure on us and don’t allow for errors or mistakes. But intentions align us with our true purpose. And unlike goals, intentions allow for missteps, pivots, and errors. Resolutions are often borne of lack or need. For example, your resolution may be to “lose 50 pounds by summer” because you want to look good for the beach. Which isn’t a bad goal to have, necessarily. Except that wanting to “look good for the beach” implies you don’t look good now.

On the other hand, intentions are more powerful because they come from a place of introspection and peace, where the objective is to live a more fulfilling life that matches your core values. Intentions are about being being in tune with the desires of your soul, and seeking contentment and wholeness. That’s way more appealing than simply setting goals, isn’t it?

We here at SuzyKnew! want you to have an AMAZING 2021! So, here are our Seven Steps for Setting Intentions for the New Year:

  1. Begin with Gratitude: This may seem like an obvious place to start, but we all need reminders to be grateful for all that is good in our lives. It’s also equally important to appreciate the bad times because that’s where the growth happens. Bad times forge our character and clarify our purpose. And hey, if you’re reading this, then you’ve survived every bad thing that’s ever happened to you. And after a year like 2020, that’s really saying something.
  2. Honestly Evaluate Your Failures: It’s important to take stock of where you fell short so that you can figure out why you fell short. As much as we hate to admit it, everything bad in our lives in 2020 wasn’t due to COVID. You need to own your part in what went wrong, so that you don’t go into the New Year with those habits and behaviors.
  3. Do Some Soul-Searching: Here’s where you need to dig deep, Sis. Only YOU can determine what it will mean for you to Live Your Best Life in 2021. You need to figure out what you need to be truly content. What inspires you and fills your soul with purpose? More importantly, what do you value? If our intentions are to help us align with our true purpose, we need to determine what that purpose is.
  4. Create the Vision: This is the fun part! Some people make vision boards, others make lists. Whatever you choose, create a physical representation of your intentions, something you can come back to, amend, and adjust as your needs change and your vision expands. Get creative, but keep referring back to step 3 to ensure the vision you create is truly aligned with where your soul wants you to go.
  5. Write it down: Write a brief paragraph about what you want to change in your day-to-day routine to make your life more fulfilling. You may even want to send your paragraph to a trusted friend who will gently hold you accountable. Either way, keep your paragraph handy so that you can refer back to it throughout the year.
  6. Create a Mantra: Carefully and intentionally select a word or phrase that sums up your intentions. Meditate on your mantra throughout each day, repeating it until it becomes a habit. Write it on sticky notes to place on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, or any other place you’re likely to see it throughout the day. You can even take a picture of one of your sticky notes, and set that picture as the lock screen on your phone.
  7. Trust Yourself, God, and the Process: It may take more meditation and prayer, but you really need to get to a place where you trust yourself and your Higher Power to fulfill your intentions. Relax into it. Don’t get consumed with success vs. failure. Remember, these intentions come from your heart and soul, and are aligned with your core values. So let go and let God. Trust the process. Believe that you have the power to manifest your vision in 2021.

There you have it, Sis. Follow these steps and reach for a more fulfilled life in 2021. We may not be able to control the pandemic (except we can all stay home as much as possible and wear a damn mask), the economy, or the racists. But we can be more intentional about seeking peace and contentment.

I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to live my best life in 2021. I know that starts with me and my vision of what my best life looks like. So join me in ditching the resolutions for intentions. Let’s make 2021 our best year, yet!

Stay safe, wear a mask, and have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

#NewYear2021 #NewYear #IntentionsNotResolutions