I am concerned about black girls. I am concerned about black girls dealing with depression. I am concerned about black girls dealing with depression while trying to define themselves. I am concerned about black girls dealing with depression while trying to define themselves in a world that doesn’t care. I am concerned about black girls dealing with depression while trying to define themselves in a world that doesn’t care about them or their bodies being violated.
I am concerned about me.
During finals week of my sophomore year of college, I was depressed. As fuck. Grieving the death of my grandmother collided with the stress of final exams. The stress of final exams collided with the fear of being alone. But, in retrospect, the depression really stemmed from disappointment of not being where I wanted to be at 19 years old.
I mean, in terms of my aspiring journalism career, everything was in tact. Shit was beautiful. Pristine. I was getting closer to my dreams of being like Sanaa Lathan’s character in “Brown Sugar”, writing about my love for music for a popular platform. I had accepted an internship. I was on the cusp of finishing a journalism fellowship with one of my favorite writers that resulted in a byline with a major publication, and I was looking forward to furthering my college reporting career with my school’s student newspaper.
On the outside, it would be easy to describe me as someone who had her shit together, but on the inside, I was fucked up. I was disappointed that I ended my sophomore year in the same way that it started—— very depressed and lonely. I couldn’t shake it. Before the school year started, I was on the path to recovering from the trauma of ending my relationship with the church and re-evaluating one with God, so I had every intention of ending the school year with more friends, a better social life and having a life less traumatized from the burdens of depression. But I found myself more unhappy as none of those things came to fruition.
I wanted a different reality for summer 2018.
I was ready to leave all of that shit behind and bury it deep in the Kansas soil to start a new life, one in which I was able to meaningfully define myself and what I truly wanted and didn’t want. That included making new friends, having some sort of social life and starting my new internship. I was set to do all of those things in Detroit, a place that conveys of sense of home and broken promises for me, but I was determined, nevertheless.
It started off pretty well during the first month and half there, too. Amid the scenes of abandoned homes and neighborhood decay tied with prevalent gentrification and a budding renaissance, I started my time in Detroit off pretty well. I connected with friends, smoked weed for the first time, had sex, had more sex and surprisingly became less committed in my relationship to my boyfriend. I finally got my driver’s license and a car. I was finally able to realize what I wanted in my life, and being in a committed relationship wasn’t one of those things.
I just wanted to fuck. And I only wanted to do that with one person. However, now I’m not really sure if that’s what I really wanted. I am sure, though, that the DeAsia nearly two years ago would have judged the sex-having, weed-smoking DeAsia of this summer. But I realized that this was a part of the process of becoming the woman that I envision myself to be: free from the limits of patriarchal thinking, a rigid church culture, and a close-minded attitude. I realized that true happiness is being fully aware of and content with who you are without worrying about others opinions. And I couldn’t judge that.
I thought I was truly at the finish line to finally discovering that happiness and embarking on that newly found freedom, but some life-altering experiences took me off course:
- I wasn’t in love with my boyfriend like I thought I was.
- I was sexually assaulted by a family friend’s cousin in July.
- A potential friend died in the exact location where I was the week before.
- I was betrayed by people I thought were friends.
- I didn’t feel comfortable in the home where I was staying.
Somehow, I managed to suppress all of these feelings while going to my internship every day. There were times when I wanted to go to my boss, explain what happened and suggest needing a day off. I couldn’t do it. I was the only black intern, and I knew that I had to follow the unspoken but extremely felt rules of being more than enough, regardless of whatever I had experienced. I knew that it would look typical for the black female intern to take a break from work due to personal issues while none of the white interns asked for something even remotely similar. This isn’t to say that my boss wouldn’t have understood. I just knew that everything that I went through was too much for me to explain, and I couldn’t bear the self-inflicted disappointment of not being able to successfully finish my internship. I didn’t want to succumb to any stereotype, and I wanted to prove that I deserved to be in that newsroom.
So, I left my depressed face at home only to pick it back up when I returned from work. I went on long drives at midnight to escape the home where I was staying and the pain of feeling alone and unprotected from everything that happened.
Amid all of those things, the person I was trying to avoid was the person who needed me the most—myself. The girl who wanted to cry herself to sleep after the assault, the girl who contemplated suicide, the girl who contemplated about becoming Jennifer Lopez during the ending scene of Enough and beating dude’s ass who assaulted me——she needed to love on herself a little more. And that included not giving one fuck about people’s opinions.
In trying to appease everyone’s feelings and thoughts about what I was doing and how they could make me happy about the aforementioned situations, I neglected myself. I abandoned myself in search for a happiness controlled by other people, ultimately setting myself up for disappointment. I was more concerned with others (and my own) expectations of where I should be in my life instead of enjoying the moments and experiences I’ve already had. I wasted an entire summer desperately relying on others to make me happy.
I won’t do that again.
I’m currently beginning the process of self-love, and I’m finally in a spot in my life where things seem to be more clear. Some of those things include:
Niggas ain’t shit
I never truly grasped the understanding behind this motto when I first heard it because I believed that everyone deserved the benefit of doubt. Therefore, it wasn’t entirely fair to just deem an entire demographic unworthy of any acceptance or understanding. But after I was assaulted in July, the depths of patriarchy became visibly clear. This was the second time I’ve had to experience this in my life, and I wasn’t sure what I had done to deserve any of it. Was I too forthcoming? Were my shorts the visual translation of “Yes, I want you to touch me”? I didn’t know what to think.
It was only a week after the incident that I realized that this nigga simply wasn’t shit.
In retrospect, he’s not the only nigga who isn’t shit. There are many. There are many niggas who are raised to assume control over women’s bodies. The assault made me think about how I, and other girls I grew up around, were raised to hide their bodies for fear of pregnancy, which is treated like the Black Death in the Black community. Meanwhile, I never witnessed the same amount of attention toward a boy’s sexuality and his appearance.
The assault also made me think about how Black girls are taught to be docile. At least that’s what my childhood socialization led me to believe. I was taught that my obedience to authority, and especially God, would ultimately lead to my success. I was taught to be homely, modest and refrain from thinking about sex until the man “chosen” for them sweeps them off their feet and marries them.
Some black girls are perfectly fine with this lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong with that. It becomes problematic when that way of life becomes the only route for every black girl to follow.
After the assault, it dawned on me that maybe the guy who assaulted me was fully aware of this unspoken rule of docility for black girls. And I think it’s the reason why I was targeted that night——because he knew that I would be quiet and act like the situation never happened.
And I did stay quiet about it. I didn’t speak up until hours later and told the guy’s cousin, someone who I considered a friend, someone who I had allowed to have sex with me, someone who I thought would protect me. I was wrong. He brushed it off as if it was something that didn’t need to be dealt with immediately. I believed him, and didn’t say anything more about it until hours later. That moment reminded of a time when I was in A.P. government class in my senior year of high school. During a group project one day, an Indian girl in my group would almost instinctively write off any answers that I gave her as if I had no idea what I was talking about. It was almost like she didn’t believe what I was saying to be true. I’m not sure if that’s how she truly felt, but she made me feel that way, and I turned that feeling into a reality when I stopped participating in group projects for fear of saying the “wrong” answers. Similarly, the guy that I told about the assault made me feel like I wasn’t worthy to be believed and reduced the situation. And, considering that it was his cousin that was being accused, maybe that’s not how he truly felt, but he made me feel that way, which is why acted like nothing happened.
As I was driving away from the home that morning, my body didn’t feel right, and I instantly knew that I wasn’t wrong about what happened. I told someone else in the guy’s family, and she handled the situation immediately.
In the aftermath of everything, I didn’t feel protected (not even by my dad and step mom at the time). I never pressed charges, and I don’t think I will. I also felt unsafe in my parents’ home. I know it wasn’t their intention to make me feel that way, but they did. And I learned a long time ago that I should never apologize for the way that I feel.
That’s why I’m not apologizing for feeling the need to embrace the idea of niggas not being shit.
I like sex
I was raised in a Christian household that praised docility and being prude. According to the way my family and the church perceived that behavior I graced for most of my life, I was well on my way to success. I was socialized to believe that me being prude would ultimately ward off pregnancy and lead me to marriage. I was also taught that guys respected that behavior more than a woman who embraced her sexuality.
I considered all of those things to be true, and lived most of my teens abiding by those rules. However, when I came to college, I realized how fucked up all of those rules were. I started reading the feminist works of Morgan Jerkins, Brittney Cooper, Candice Benbow and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie— black women who are of a Christian background——, and I saw myself. Their words became my Bible during a time in which I wasn’t clear about my relationship to God. They gave me clarity on things that I wasn’t receiving within the four walls of the church. They became my spiritual empowerment. And it didn’t seem blasphemous, either because I truly believe my God to be a black woman.
By reading their works, it was confirmed for me that those things I was taught about sexuality do nothing more than oppress women and uphold patriarchy. Furthermore, I realized that religious ideas of sex and love pertaining women revolved around men and how they feel. Women shouldn’t have to hide their bodies until a man, who finds them worthy of marriage, gives them the leeway not to. That basically gives men the control of a woman’s sexuality.
And it was that same control that made the guy who assaulted me that night believe that he had the right to touch my body without my consent. It’s the same narrative of control that leads many more men to think that any part of a woman’s body is freely at their disposal. It’s the same narrative of control that protects rapists and perpetuates a lifelong feeling of abuse and brokenness for women.
I had a sexual reawakening after learning all of these things. I had more sex. And I liked it. I enjoyed it without having fear of an unwanted pregnancy or religious consequences, and it really felt good. The best part about it was that it was something that I really wanted to do. It was the first time in my life where I really felt secure in my sexuality, and I’m not afraid to explore my sexuality more as I enter my twenties.
I plan to have more sex. But I should be aware of not catching feelings for the other person while doing it because Lord knows that I’m not ready for any relationship yet. Because I was taught that marriage/commitment and sex are related, it will be hard to deconstruct this idea, but I’m learning and I haven’t fucked up yet. But if I do, then I know that having casual sex certainly isn’t for me.
Self love is a journey
I started therapy a week after I was assaulted. I desperately needed someone to talk to, and I didn’t think I could get that from my parents. Seeking counseling isn’t something that would’ve been natural to me two years ago because prayer was always the resolution. I’m glad I was able to overcome the stigma of being vocal about my mental health.
Considering that I only had three weeks left of my internship before heading back to school, I could only attend three sessions. But they damn sure were worth it. I felt a huge burden lifted off my shoulders as I was able to tell a complete stranger about my feelings without the fear of judgment. I learned that I don’t focus on the positive aspects of myself during my second session as it became blatantly clear that I couldn’t tell her three things that I liked about myself. She told me to start writing down things that I liked about myself, and I’m committed to doing that now.
The biggest realization of myself came at the end of our last session, when I had an epiphany that I rely on men to make me happy. I don’t know why I do it, but I know that it’s wrong. I often neglect long-term relationships with friends and family for an opportunity to be in the presence of a man that I’m attracted to. That’s a huge problem because I’m just walking right into disappointment and unhappiness, and I’m ready to explore the root of this issue so that I can get rid of it. I think seeking therapy near my school to tackle this issue will be best for me, and I don’t plan on getting into any relationship until this problem is gone. I cannot be in a different relationship with that unrealistic expectation. It’s not fair to me or the other person, and having those expectations is what went wrong in my previous relationship.
I won’t do that again, either.
Therapy taught me that truly loving myself is going to take some time. It’s not going to happen when I want it to, and I’m going to have to put the effort in to make it happen. Love takes time. I’m in a fully committed relationship with myself, and I’m ready to explore the depths of all the things that make up who I am. I’m still getting to know myself. That’s ok. But what I do know is that I just finished two bomb ass writing opportunities within the same year and fostered important relationships in my professional career. And, for now, I’m going to allow myself the space to take pride in that. I’m a great writer who has many things to learn, and I’m excited to discover myself more with my writing.