Speaking Out About Racism Boosts Your Mental Health
Suppressing the anger and pain can actively damage what psychology researchers call ‘psychological fortitude’
I bottled up my rage and despair for the first few days after George Floyd’s death.
It wasn’t because I wasn’t full of rage and despair — I was. My brain was slowly frying. The video of Floyd’s last moments was unavoidable; my mom, who I live with, kept the news on 24/7. But I was concerned that anything I could say out loud had already been said. There were so many activists, writers, and thought leaders speaking out about being Black in America. I wasn’t sure how to add to the conversation.
Finally, at my teletherapy session the Tuesday after Floyd’s death, I began the work of unspooling my pent-up despair. I told my therapist how I was even more afraid to leave my house now than at the start of the pandemic. I admitted to her, and to myself, that most of my despair stemmed from feeling like the people in charge of this country didn’t care if I lived or died. It was the first time I’d expressed that out loud.
My therapist’s suggestion: Write about it. Put it down on paper, even if no one but her would read it. “You’re a writer,” she said. “Expressing yourself is so important. You need to get these feelings out.”
Since then, I’ve been making an effort to unpack — in writing and in conversation — how interpersonal and systemic racism has affected me, both in the past and currently. There’s been a lot to discuss in the past two months. Marches and protests in support of Black lives have reached nearly every town in America. Multiple industries, including media and publishing, have had public reckonings on how people of color are discriminated against and paid less than white people doing similar work. Every time one of these movements has touched my life, I’ve talked about it to whoever will listen: my wonderfully Black therapist, my friends, my family. I do get afraid that I’ve become a broken record, but also? My head doesn’t contain a fog of despair anymore.
“By you personally sharing the story of your experience and naming it as racial trauma, it allows you the…