I am happy to be in a position that allows me to have open dialogue with women who inspire me in various ways. The NPN space has provide me with the opportunity to finding our what makes successful and ambitious women of colour elevate, evolve and excel in all that they do.
In this installment of Her Truths, I interview Mikel Ermine; a friend, a Masters graduate, and an aspiring education physchologist, to discuss how aspects of peace, positivity and purpose align.
Why is maintaining your mental health, as a Black woman, important currently?
Mental health wasn’t always important to me, I felt growing up that mental health was known however, the stigmas that surrounded it made you feel embarrassed if you spoke about feeling depressed, low and anxious. As a black woman, there was always this sense of needing to be strong and “just getting on with it”. So, there was no time for processing feelings understanding feelings we will just taught to ploughed on and just get on with stuff no matter what struggles we were undergoing. I witnessed in family from grandparents to mother to aunties that the women were carried a badge of honour for, just getting on with life no matter how much they struggled So, for a long time I just didn’t really talk much about feeling low, feeling alone feeling weak , because we didn’t talk about our inner secrets or business because we were just taught that’s life and you have to get on.
Now it’s important for the black woman to be expressive and share and seek support with mental health because a lot of us play vital caring roles whether we are sisters, auntie’s, mothers, girlfriends or wives. I strongly feel that it is the time for us to turn some of those caring responsibilities we assume and dedicate that energy to ourselves. So, speak when you are feeling low, share burdens with love ones, be honest if we’re taking on too, and say much say “no” to things that we don’t have time for and reduce responsibilities that we take, and re-evaluate our current responsibilities.
What are your 3 top tips to taking care of your mental health?
Learning to say the word “no” when we truly can’t commit to something. Just because we think we’ve got time in the diary or capacity it doesn’t mean we need to take on every little project or every favour a friend or family member is requesting of us, some of that time that we have spare we can put in our reserve bucket and put into ourselves. Taking time to forgive ourselves and make peace with any worries.
A lot of times we talk about forgiving others and forgiving situations nevertheless we miss the most important person which is ourselves. The act of self-forgiveness is incredibly powerful because it brings us back into alignment with a new starting point where we can start afresh. Leaning on our own self belief systems: so, whether you have practices or its your faith, anything that forms the basis of our core beliefs. Lean on those beliefs when there seems to be no way of a struggle or problem.
What made you want to get into the field that you are currently in?
Currently, I’m aspiring to become an education psychologist, I got into the field at a very young age working with young people in the community. I grew up in a youth centre which I ended up becoming a youth leader and trustee for the charity that houses the youth project. Alongside that, I have worked in the corporate world in a few local authorities working with special education needs young people who struggle in mainstream education. as I progressed in my career, I realised that I wanted to do more than just be an assistant or a key worker but to support policy and assess new way of identifying these needs. I also wanted to impact policy around how we supported young people not attending education training employment (NEET). After, completing my Psychology Masters I decided to specialise in Education Psychology, more specifically to produce research around the NEET phenomena.
What does self-care look like to you?
Self-care for me is ever-changing, what I thought self-care was maybe nine months ago is not what it is now. So, when I first started my kind of self-care journey I had to be honest with myself about how I had mistreated, spoken negatively to and disregarded myself for the best part of a decade. This led to somebody that was approaching 30 years of age and was completely broken. So, my self-care journey started off, by allocating time in the morning to pray, meditate and read my daily word. Starting off my day like this, help me feel more productive and positive. Physically I had to admit to myself that my physical elements and health issues was an external manifestation of where my mind-set was at.
Lastly, being at peace with the fact that perfection didn’t exist, I could never be the ideal self or even the image that I had in my mind because it wasn’t feasible; it wasn’t even me. So, the minute I stopped trying to be that image I had in my head. I began a new outlook on got to know the real me, the me that was living day to day.
Why is it important to have a self-care routine? What are the benefits?
It’s important to have a self-care routine because we have a routine for everything else. Our minds and our muscle memory remembers us working in a series of patterns and behaviours so, why would we not have a routine or a pattern of behaviours to look after the same body carries out all the other routines and responsibilities we are required to do. The benefits that I’ve found, is life feels a bit more structured, I catch negative thoughts in the early stages and reduce self-loathing. I take time to manage my feelings, emotions because my self-care routine allow me time to slow down and process.
In what ways do you celebrate yourself as a Black woman in an industry that is saturated in patriarchal Whiteness?
This is a really hard question because in the area of work that I am in. I don’t believe I have reached the point where I can celebrate my position as a black woman. Unfortunately, because there is such little acknowledgement of the lack of ethnic and black women in the area of psychology there needs to be a louder acknowledgment that we are underrepresented. For now, we are just trying to have a seat at the table.
Describe yourself in 5 words? Why have you chosen these specific words?
So, coming from a woman that struggled to take compliments, to take any positive affection I would probably say this is very difficult. So, my five words would be: Caring, Kind, Loving, Open and Naive.
If you could change one thing in this current climate what would it be?
That there is still room and space to find your purpose. In this time where we are feeling uncomfortable with its presence, embrace the change, embrace the disruption and uncomfortable a review where you’re at. Meanwhile I am choosing to try and see things more positively, I won’t change anything.
How has your blackness impacted upon your career?
This can be positively and/or negatively.
I’ll try and keep it brief. Being black has impacted my career positively and negatively, early in my career I experienced racial discrimination in the workplace in my first job it was in an incident with senior management that I realised what it meant to be black in the white dominant industry.
On a positive note, I have been able to implicitly use my race as an example to some of our black young people. I hoped that in my interaction with them and supporting them through their educational barriers, that they could see a type of example and that a woman who had her own special educational needs could get through the education system unscathed.
What message of compassion do you want to share with your melinated female counterparts?
My message is this: We are more than what they say we are, we have turned the ties of history and have rewritten what it means to be feminist, we are beyond on unstoppable. Our beauty runs deeper than the colonial Darwinian ideal that was forced upon us and our ancestors. Our beauty runs deep because our beauty is spiritual.