It may sound strange to ask someone if they are okay? However, when was the last time you asked a woman if she was alright? Women are not the only ones struggling, but we are often not asked if we are okay. In a world where we used to belong to our husbands, hysteria was once a woman’s diagnosis of stress. Even today, the rights to our bodies are not our own. It is no wonder many of us are probably reading this and thinking, when was the last time I asked my mother, sister, or friend if she was okay?
Upon entering my 30s, I decided I would no longer carry the load alone. I would let people in because I felt the “Strong Black Woman” and “Independent Woman” narratives needed to die. It needed to die because this narrative had transformed into me not needing anyone, carrying way too much, and thinking that somehow I could do and handle it all. I changed the narrative because it was slowly killing me, and a few months before my 30th birthday and for about a year after, living this narrative caught up with me.
By this time, I had been living the independent woman Destiny Child’s anthem for a long time. I was trying to take care of everyone, people please at work, and working for a paycheck, I was too tired to spend on the weekends. Soon, I began to think about the life I was leading, and I began to analyze why this narrative was not serving me and why I needed someone to ask me if I was okay?
Adulting for me began at the age of 25 years old. Significant shifts were happening in my life, including trying to determine who I wanted to be. Along this journey, everything I thought I knew about life was utterly wrong; that year, life became more survival mode, and I barely kept my head above water. By this time, I am scrambling to get my life together. If you guessed, my anxiety is getting worse because I ended up taking a job for two different employers. For various toxic reasons, I decided not to work at one of them, and the other was my primary income, so I was stuck.
Meanwhile, I am pushing through it year after year until entering my 30s. By this time, my mental state is hanging on by a thread, and so is my body. I barely recognized myself, and those big dreams I had faded away. The light had dimmed in my life and one day just looked like another.
By this time, I am at the doctor’s office often for all sorts of things, including high blood pressure, fatigue, and daily and weekly migraine headaches. These health issues are starting to hit me that something is seriously wrong, and finally, in my doctor’s office for the first time since my problems began. My doctor comes in. She says, “I just wanted to come in and chat with you a moment because the nurse has indicated that your blood pressure is high; how are you feeling? Are you feeling okay?” The strong black woman in me shrugs it off. I tell the doctor I am fine, and the blood pressure is now a weakness I feel I need to hide and cover up. She recommends I monitor my blood pressure a few times a day and schedule an appointment to see my primary, which I do without delay. When I arrive at my primary physician’s office, her tone is the same but much more motherly, “What are you stressed about, girl?!” I laughed nervously and thought about the doctors’ visits, my skipping heartbeat, and work stress, and suddenly I realized where the strain was coming from, trying to keep it all together.
If you are like me, trying to keep it all together, I am asking you, begging you to let it go. At that moment, I realized I needed to get my allies railed up because many of them didn’t know what I was truly going through and some still don’t, but now, when they ask me, “are you okay?” I don’t hesitate to say some days, “no, I am not.”
For a long time, I felt like this is what it means to be a woman, I have to be strong, I have to be independent, and I have to be dependable. Many others were carrying so much more than me, so I needed to say, “everything is awesome. Everything is cool!” Smiling and laughing through the struggle is what is expected of me. How did my mother do it, how did my grandmother do it, and guess what? They both died before the age of sixty. Do you know who was the wiser of us all? My great-grandmother lived nearly ninety years old because she wasn’t ashamed to rely on her husband and her family and rested when needed. She allowed people to care for her. She let people be there for her; in turn, she was there for them. Her family loved and admired and cared for her until her death, but only because she allowed them to. Allow someone to be there for you, allow someone to open the door for you, carry your groceries, or let someone ask you, “are you okay?” answer truthfully and will enable them to be there for you.