Amazing how once we begin to settle into whatever idea of a new normal we’re supposed to be in, adversity comes and reignites the gun powder. Perhaps my blog in and of itself should be named “Built Through Adversity”, hm? The current events of late are riding on the back of the biggest elephant in the room: the systemic foundation on which pain and trauma are perpetuated toward the Black and African-American community. These past 4 weeks have brought to light what me, and others in my community, have deeply known for a long time, but is now being addressed ten-fold. It feels as if we are in a state where we can’t believe it (shock), and simultaneously, we are not surprised by the actions and aftermath (a painful cycle that keeps repeating). I’m grateful for the Power and Aiding of a Record Button because apparently the power of our spoken word, photography, and repeated written testimony have not been enough to relay our truthful accounts.

The significant trauma occurring leads me to reflect on what I’m doing, as a therapist in the mental health community. What am I doing? What am I a part of? How am I showing up for the clients I care for and work with, week after week? Lastly, what the hell is everyone else doing in the mental health community? Conversations I’ve had this week with my friends, colleagues, supervisor, and my father have brought a newly reignited perspective to old revelations of our experiences as people of color. These conversations meant… I couldn’t stay quiet – AND WOULDN’T. In the position I feel myself to be in, I recently posted my words, to an online therapist platform, as a call to action to those in the mental health community in Austin, and the greater Central Texas area. My words, that I’m also bringing to my blog and sharing with you below, are a small part of the greater evolving conversation I will continue to show up to have, as long as I am who I am.

*****

June 10, 2020

Good morning everyone,

I’ve noticed our group has been quiet around the events the past 3-4 weeks – brutal events that display another painful upheaval of trauma & violence surrounding people of color, and in particular, the Black & African-American community. I’m not here not to engage in inflammatory circular dialogue, so please keep that at the door. I’m here to encourage the mental health community to stay aware and responsive to what trauma is unfolding, yet at the same time, being released right now. As a therapist of color, and a multiracial Black woman, I’m no stranger to these topics as they consistently show up in my personal life conversations, and in my office. What I ask of our mental health community is to stay aware of any conversation a client may need or want to have around this, and simultaneously, check your comfort with having these conversations. When hearing stories around racism, inner racial identity tensions, police brutality, death (in-person or in the media), history of violence, the need for safety, or even the basic right to survive as a human being, it can be easy to stop listening. 
If there is a client you care for in your room that needs to be and feel heard, then please remember the person behind the story. Check in with yourself, too, as you do this. You and your experience matter, too. Every voice/perspective around this is different, as people are taking away what is triggering, moving, draining, or even, eventually, inspiring for them. Remember to breathe, if tension is high, and stay as present as possible. Lastly, I suggest sharing your takeaways via staying connected with your trusted colleagues around this – or even reaching out to new ones for help. Our conversations can bring a wealth of resources which can include our personal growth with this. The act of staying aware and in conversation helps in the day-to-day micro level pieces of this systemic work, especially if we’re not in a space to support more publicly. I’m wishing everyone well in their process with this, no matter what it may look like for you and for your client.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

In gratitude & with peace,
Sarah Akunebu, LMFT Associate

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