I couldn’t leave the house yesterday.
That’s really hard to admit. I’m a Warrior Mom® Ambassador. I run the Facebook group for our Warrior Mom® Conference attendees. I lead a support group. I help coach women through pregnancies after a PMAD. I am the strong one, the one you count on, the one with the resources and the answers and the shoulder to cry on.
I’m also a black woman, mother to a black son, daughter to a black father, sister, friend, cousin, aunt. I grew up hearing stories of my father registering people to vote across the South. They were stories of terror in broad daylight and nights spent driving with no headlights on. I grew up on the narrative that my parents, and their parents, and everyone who made me possible had paid a debt so that I could be free, so that I could be safe in this country.
Last year I was followed and harassed by a police officer here in my home town. I was pregnant with my second child at the time and had just made it to what I considered my new normal after battling postpartum depression and anxiety. I didn’t know then that I also had PTSD. All I knew was that I was vomiting, sobbing, and shaking in a parking lot and praising the lord that I was alive.
My daughter is eight months old. I’ve been so lucky to not experience any major relapses in my postpartum depression or anxiety and to have my PTSD under control. I see a therapist every week. I take my medication every day. I practice self-care and I reach out for help when I need it.
I have so many privileges: financial, educational, heterosexual, light skin, in a relationship with a white partner. And still. I’ve spent the last two nights unable to sleep. First because I couldn’t get the voice a four year old girl trying to comfort her mother out of my head. Then last night it really felt like the world was falling apart.
As I write this we still don’t have details on the sniper(s) in Dallas. I know that one is dead and the others are in custody. The officers who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are both on paid administrative leave. They haven’t been arrested. I have no reason to believe there will be any arrests, convictions, or any type of punishment at all for the deaths of those men. Or for the murders of scores of boys and girls, men and women of color before them. Or for me if an officer decides to take my tone of voice, my reaching for my license, my skin color as a threat.
When I say #BlackLivesMatter, it is in desperation and defiance. I say it because I see no evidence that it is believed to be true in this country. I say it because after everything my father went through, after everything his father, and his, and his went through so that I could live free I still don’t feel safe.
I know that I am more fragile than I seem from the outside. We all know that you can’t see postpartum depression or anxiety. You can’t see PTSD. When the panic attacks came at the thought of leaving the house and taking my son to camp, I had a choice to make. I chose to be honest with my partner about how I was feeling. I chose to reach out to my therapist and let her know I was not okay. I chose to keep my kids home with me, where I feel safe. We watched Disney movies and played with the baby, and dumped way too much bubble bath into the tub. I jumped at every sound and shook when sirens passed my house. I touched base with my relatives and made sure that I knew they were all safe. I tried my best not to get sucked into debates online.
This morning I left the house. I drove my son to camp. When I got home I fell apart. Then I put myself back together and sat down to start work.
I want to be the strong one. The one with the answers, and the resources and the shoulder to cry on. I want to be an ambassador, and a moderator, and a coach. I want to be the strong black woman that I am expected to be.
But I’m not. I’m scared. I’m scared that I will never feel free. I’m scared that someone I love will be the next hashtag. I’m scared that I will be the next hashtag. I’m scared that I will forever be shouting #BlackLivesMatter into the world and it will never, ever be true.