As womxn of colour, we walk through the world as an image of our skin. We’re mistaken for service workers when we’re shopping on our own time, we’re fetishized for our hair or perceived identity, we’re marked as unbelonging, whether through a covert look or an outright comment to our faces… the list goes on.
Racial trauma is the accumulated stress we experience on our psychological and physical health from any form of racism we experience. This can manifest in our lives in silent ways, or in ways we ourselves have normalized, a large part of which is due to our experiencing racism every day, either micro or macro, and being numbed to it. But because we may not be recognizing it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t affecting us.
During a Villij Talk, we spoke to Kristin Winchester, a licensed therapist from Washington, DC and the Founder of Her Therapy Space, about racial trauma and how we can heal from it. She shared five valuable ways with which you can begin your healing journey.
Be okay with not being okay.
We often get wrapped up in avoidance or denial of the trauma we experience, and sometimes our way of dealing with racial trauma is to throw ourselves into our to-do list or social activities. Sit with yourself. Dig deep. Acknowledge your emotions. It’s okay to not be okay. From naming the things we are feeling, we can begin taking steps toward our healing.
Keep a journal.
Taking the time to write down our thoughts and feelings is a useful and effective way to check in with ourselves, get to know ourselves, and face our emotions. A journal is also a safe space. No one else will see it; the pages and the words are for us and us alone. Be vulnerable, be honest, be yourself.
Remove what triggers you.
While racial trauma can take effect whether interactions, social media, or the news are not immediately in front of us, taking a break from them can help to reduce triggers. Turn off your phone. Be easy on yourself and spread the to-do list out. Watch that TV show. Indulge in your favourite food. Remove yourself from things that are not serving you. You deserve to feel joy.
Utilize your support network.
While you may feel alone, you are not alone. Think that. Believe that. Know that none of us are alone in this, whether that be from knowing others in our communities who experience the same racism every day, or from taking the chance and expressing our pain to a loved one. Having our feelings validated by those who see us and who know us is huge. Talk together and cry together, because together we will heal.
Find a therapist that is culturally aware.
Your therapist is for you; don’t forget that. Before you begin looking, write down what you want to achieve in therapy. And when you begin interviewing potential therapists, don’t be afraid to ask them questions to determine if they are capable of helping you with what you need. What work have they done to make sure they’re culturally aware and competent? What do they actively do to provide a safe environment? Take the time to look; there is a therapist out there who is doing the work and will be the right fit for you.
Healing racial trauma is not easy--after all, the events and memories that brought us to a place of harbouring trauma were not easy. Any step you take toward healing, however small, is still a step toward healing. Remember, you deserve to be well.
Here are some resources to aid in the healing process:
Guidance for finding a therapist
We know finding a therapist (and especially a therapist of colour) is daunting. Healing In Colour has a directory of BIPOC therapists across Canada committed to anti-oppressive values in their practice.
If you’re not sure where to start with journaling, a guided journal may be what you need. Try:
Today I Affirm: A Journal That Nurtures Self-Care by Alexandra Elle
Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration by Meera Lee Patel
Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice by Michelle Obama
Take a self-care course
Wellness Artist and Meditation Guide Dora Kamau is offering a 10-day course on Self-Care In Times Of Uncertainty