Published on Thursday December 20th, 2018 by Afrocks
I Can No Longer Style Hair But Don’t Let That Happen To You: Superwoman you are not!
Afrocks Hair and Business Consultant Simone, shares the inspiration behind the ‘Take a Seat’ poem. It may be hard to believe but self care is a new concept to many black women.
In the words of Tupac Shakur, “this be the realest s*@t I ever spoke”, or wrote in this case. Not only the realest but also the most difficult .
October 2018, my body decided it has had enough of me and would no longer cooperate. Joint by joint, starting with my hands and wrists, I began to suffer a series of painful symptoms as well as being hit by this constant wave of fatigue…not tiredness, not weariness but fatigue. I was baffled and alarmed as to what could have come over me all of a sudden. The truth is, it was not all of a sudden – my body had been sending me various reminders and cues to check my health and pay attention to myself for a while. However, encumbered by my commitments, mainly to others, I ignored the message my body was trying to send me and now it’s left me with no choice but to listen.
“I thought it couldn’t get much worse until my ankles and knees became affected. By the time my shoulders and hips became a problem I had already opted out of life.”
The day I realised my body has had enough…
As a young black woman, you can imagine how I felt when I realised I could no longer “wine” and “go down low”…Fun and jokes aside, when your body no longer functions the way it used to, it causes all types of distress.
People, when I say joint by joint, take it literally! I initially ignored the pain in my wrists, I even ignored the increasing pins and needles in my hands until the sensation moved to my arms. I soon paid attention once I realised I was no longer able to style hair, not even my own, as a few of my fingers went numb. I thought it couldn’t get much worse until my ankles and knees became affected. By the time my shoulders and hips became a problem I had already opted out of life.
I stopped engaging, didn’t go out. For some reason I felt embarrassed. Also, with a silent illness, it is draining having to explain to people that although you may ‘look ok’ you are actually far from it. Having to inform my clients (especially the children) was emotionally taxing; I felt I was letting people down. Most of all, I felt very angry…with me! Put your hand up if you are guilty of making yourself busy so you don’t have to face emotional challenges waiting for you. I had suffered multiple viral and chest infections prior and I never had the ‘time’ to address them, and now, my immune system is laughing at me. Knowing that a lack of care for myself contributed to this current situation left me feeling guilty, sad, scared and more significantly lost. I am Simone the stylist.
Who am I now that I can’t do hair?
I am the mummy.
What kind of mum can I be now that I am constantly fatigued.
I was the fixer, supporter and solution finder, what use am I to anyone now?
On the business side of things, and for the past months, I had spent all this time working on my confidence. Something you have to know is, like many, with the success of Afrocks, I too started to suffer from imposter syndrome and with support of the team I was making progress. And all of a sudden this was happening to me. I felt like I was back to square one.
How I fought back depression and got back on track
But it’s not all doom and gloom, through this I have gained invaluable insight and lots of cuddles – never underestimate the value of a good firm squeeze. Sharing is definitely caring and this includes your worries. Speaking to people in similar circumstances, in fact just speaking in general has helped me come a long way. Initially I felt like a top footballer who has gained a long term injury right before the FA cup or Champions League ( I don’t know the difference) with the gift of communication I no longer feel like that sad injured footballer destitute for the subs bench, now I’m able to go forward like a top coach as in, still in the game just a different position (maybe football analogies aren’t for me).
If you are already experiencing health issues, hold tight! You are not alone! My very wise and insightful friend (hey Sacha!) came up with a model that I found very useful:
“I believe the biggest (unintentional) mistake the matriarchs in my family made was not to cry in front of us young ‘uns. This superhero exterior is great when you are a young but as adolescence takes over and that transition into womanhood begins, you need to see the reality and complexity of human interaction and emotions in all of its glory.”
Strong Black Women are allowed not to be ok
This post was initially aimed at stylists, now it is dedicated to all black women. I am speaking of what I know, what I have witnessed, what I have lived. I am firmly on my soap box declaring that black women should SIT DOWN (please note that yes, these caps mean I am shouting at you).
When I first realised something was wrong and sought medical advice, I was told to take pain killers and rest. Simple enough?
Well actually, these basic instructions led me to write this. And I will tell you that this is the moment I discovered that I don’t actually know how to relax! During our last Afrocks stylist meet up, I must say I was not shocked at all to discover I wasn’t alone. As we all shared our stories of injuries and health concerns, it became apparent that our inability to switch off and refusal to listen to our bodies was an issue. As we exchanged experiences I realised, it is not a stylist thing, it is a black woman thing. Some of us just don’t know how to chill! Black women #WhyAreWeLikeThis
I am by no means suggesting men do not work hard but men are expected to take respite.
As the daughter of a West Indian woman, I was basically taught that ‘real’ women do not sit down, women do not need rest. I am telling no lies, I watched my mother undertake 2 jobs, look out for her siblings and raise 3 children and all it appeared, without breaking a sweat. And my mother, God love her, would take any opportunity to remind us that as we didn’t have to walk 20+ miles to school and didn’t have to wash our clothes ‘down ah cellar’, we had no right to claim tiredness. The issue with silent expectation is that it is perpetuated by observation. We witness our mothers and grandmothers wear the sash of ‘grafter’ with pride, we watch as they appear to do EVERYTHING – naturally we assume that we should be able to do it all too (and with no fuss).
I believe the biggest (unintentional) mistake the matriarchs in my family made was not to cry in front of us young ‘uns. This superhero exterior is great when you are a young but as adolescence takes over and that transition into womanhood begins, you need to see the reality and complexity of human interaction and emotions in all of its glory. Growing up with a Superwoman means you question your own strength. I get it, we are strong but I’m concerned that our inherited perception of strength is causing us to unknowingly harm ourselves. Sometimes we are not even ignoring symptoms on purpose; some of us are just so accepting of afflictions, so our bodies are in pain but we don’t expect no better. Others (like me), have lifelong membership in the “it can’t happen to me” club. Some of us have been fending off symptoms without realising they are symptoms. News flash! Maybe your constant tiredness is not a sign of you failing but an underlying problem making you fatigued?
“You have to give up on something, ladies…do not let it be your health. Let 2019 be the year of you!”
2019: Self-care and Wellbeing
There is a give away in the phrase ‘Well being’, as in being well – not, just ok, getting by, getting there, so-so or my fave ‘mi deh yah’ which is patois for simply existing. You should be well! I know bills have to pay, I know you need food in your fridge and if you are starting a new business, I know you are close to tears but trust me, learn to stop your body before it stops you. Not every day ignore your feelings, sometimes you have to rip the S off your chest and replace it with a ‘T’ for TIRED! (other letters are available; E for exhausted, F for fed up, G for get out of my face).
If you are not on social media, it may have passed you but let me tell you, the emergence of the black female entrepreneur has arrived in abundance. Trying to create and provide in a world that is new and previously uninviting is a stress all in itself. Many of us holding down jobs and our ventures, looking after families and dealing with finding our new roles in this new space. You have to give up on something, ladies…do not let it be your health. Let 2019 be the year of you!
Next step – read our guide to Health, safety and wellbeing! It could save your mental health!
Hello! My name is Simone, I am Head of Afro Hair & Business at Afrocks. I am a London-based self-taught natural hair stylist and braider.
You can also follow me on Instagram Hairpassion UK
Want to say hello? catch me on firstname.lastname@example.org.