Vulnerability: The Hidden

There are a number of reasons that I have wanted to specifically work with Black Men/Men from the African Diaspora engaging in therapy. There is an overwhelming amount of misinformation about the strong, fierce, angry Black Man. There is also an unacknowledged backstory of why these perceptions have been allowed to exist. It is far easier to continue the lie. Pulling misinformation apart is the long slow and hard road.

Edu-
The Introductory course is styled for someone like myself, willing and able to be vulnerable with others – open to learning about themselves and being *edu-trained with others. It’s the therapy course I could have used when I was 13 or 20 or 37. I could probably do with a black men’s group now! Queue Dope Black Podcast.

Mini deaths x 3
I have 3 deaths that I want to acknowledge in this piece. The one that cut the deepest is the one I will write about last. It was an insidious and traumatic cut that has gone on to hurt many. Possibly does still. I now understand this wound. I can now forgive the persons that have directly and indirectly hurt me. I believe that pain is at the core of the reason for wanting to support others. The many…

1st Loss
My 1st death wrapped me up,
shut me down and
had me mute about the pain of my loss
was the death of my mother.
Back in November 1993
Rita Margaret Drakes.

She died some 25 years ago and her terminal fight with cancer has been a model of my own struggles with Multiple Sclerosis: Part denial, part anger, part bargaining, part shock and then ambiguous acceptance that always seems out of reach. Tantalisingly close but defyingly, just beyond my outstretched arms – unable to connect…

Death 2
The 2nd death is of my friend Ade through suicide. His death was both shocking and hard to accept. Recognising that I had no chance of saving him offers some relief. Only some. He made a choice much like a character in a Star is Born. The incident much like Jude in A Little Life, the encounter with almost dieing happened many, many times before.

Death 3
The 3rd is a story I have not written or talked much about. I have shared with only a few. Some members of my family know.
This death.
This loss is of innocence, of trust and the insidious nature of the harm caused to me. I have held myself in a place just out of reach. Believing that I am wrong, bad, mad and sad. That the harm caused was of my doing and that I deserved it. That I continue to deserve mistreatment. That if I hold myself just out of sight, my hurt cannot infect others. But it had.

Unreported
I was about 6 or 7 when I was sexually abused by someone older than me. The events are uncomfortable to describe and I will choose carefully what I share. Being shown pornographic images elicits an uncontrollable physical response in some people. It did for me! I became aroused and that arousal was used by them to perform their sexual acts.

I recognise the crime committed against me. As well as working in corrections (Criminal Justice) I have seen this pattern replicated for a significant number of men and women I have supported. Abuse happening to them including; physical, emotional, sexual, psychological, financial and domestic and then perpetrating a similar crime against another or others.

Tankerton Reflection

The pattern is of ever diminishing returns and a debased sense of self can be and often is the outcome.

Broken Loop
A person who has been hurt can act out in ways to inflict pain on others. But I feel it is more than that, the person is after. They could be after an understanding of what happened to them first, by behaving in ways that evoke fear, obedience, power and getting a secondary gain from the sense of control this may have over another.

Reconnecting
I write this as an origin story of why I have created a course for Black men to access healing. I write because if I am unwilling to recognise my own experiences of pain and trauma how can I then support others begin working on theirs.

As with most things dealing with change it has to start with us first.
Admitting that the hurt happened is primary to begin the process of healing.

Mend
What comes next is action.
This is where the fun and pain coexist. Getting to decide what happens next, where to go next, whom to speak with after, how to work it through and beyond so that it can no longer hold you from getting there.

There where you belong.

Safe, Resilient, Free, Successful, at Peace.

Resources
Episode 7-10 of New Amsterdam is a must see for the development of a story similar to mine.
Where Shall We Begin. Trauma Doesn’t Like to be Touched
Lisa Nichols
When they See Us

CTA
The Black Men’s Introduction to Therapy begins on the 13th of November.
Visit www.michaelforfiehcounselling.com or www.equilibriumtc.com for more information.

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Men of the Diaspora: It’s Time

On 13th of November 2019 a colleague and I will begin a group therapy experience for Black Men. The group will be run as an introduction to therapy and group psychotherapeutic support.

Inspire Them
The idea came from a former client who is featured in a testimonial. He was a client who in the span of 2 short seasons of work transformed his outlook on life. He mentioned the idea last year (2018). An introduction to therapy for Black Men or Men of the African Diaspora crystallized. In April 2019 when I went to The Man Talk in Brixton, I was moved to begin something that men who perceive of talking therapy as not for them – could be introduced to the idea of therapeutic support.

Sharing Vulnerability
At The Man Talk, seeing a group of men talking about issues they have lived through including: suicide, prison, depression, bereavement, life plans overturned and offering support to others, was amazing. The event brought the need for specialised low cost support to me in an impactful way. So impactful that I wanted to start something too.

Authority
Working with case discussion groups and process groups at Universities across London beginning at University of Greenwich (Sept 2015), presenting at UEL to students on their psychology programmes I paid attention to the amazing power of group work.

Unkown Knowns
I use the word power with intention as I feel there is an unknown element that affects working with groups. The bereavement group I currently support at one of the prisons I work at in Kent, is a perfect example of the wonder and amazing effect group work has on individuals and the group overall.
The group becomes it’s own entity. Factors from outside the group space interact with members and push and pull what is shared in directions that are unknowable.

Summer Captured in Fall Colours

Wellness
Reading the work of Irvin Yalom and his experiences of group work especially in Loves Executioner offer the reader a clear understanding of what group therapy does.

Call To Act
If interested to know more about the group please contact either myself or Sheila Samuels who will be co-counselling the space with me. The group begins on the 13th of November 2019 at the Wellness Hub, 7 Burnt Ash Hill London. SE12 0AA

Review: Shit I Can’t Say

Seeing a one person play spring from the pages of a gifted writer to life on stage is amazing. To have the writer be someone you coached as a basketball player as a teen. An ever larger sense of amazement. To see the focus of the play greet, embrace and thank his son – priceless.

All The Shit I Can’t Say to my Father
I went to see All the Shit, in August 2019. A friend, an ex baller, I coached – Abraham Adeyemi has written a modern day sensation. The night was the performance of sublime art.

Charming
The performance was led by a young charismatic actor, Zackary Momoh, who reminded me of a younger Chiwetel Ejiofor. There was something about his delivery that was precise and filled with presence. The audience were appreciative of his deft delivery and intimate bringing to life of Abraham’s words.

Autumnal Feelings

Partial Delays
News broke earlier in July that due to unforeseen circumstances ‘The Shit…’ was going to be changed to just a reading and a performance (How does that work you may ask?).

It’s part rehearsal, part working through of the words to the stage, set and possibly with an audience. The actor reads through the script aloud like a read through. Similar to a sound check for a music performance.

I thought the reading was a brilliant way to introduce the concept of what we were doing there. What we potentially could be see. A one person play engaging and interacting with the audience. Seeing the finessing of the script was seeing a craftsperson work their skills to a High Art Finish.

Throughout the play Zackary read and cast aside the pages almost as though this was part of the play. Him screwing up a few of the pages at one moment (after he had read them). Then came the toss towards a wastepaper basket was thrilling. I smiled ridiculously at that and may even have clapped. I instantly recognised both Abraham and many peoples dream of being a top performing NBA/WNBA star.

Engagement
The show felt both lyrical and compassionate. ‘The Shit…’ entertained me fully. The audience and I, were involved to see AK the protagonist’s journey. As he begins to acknowledge and unravel his taught relationship with his father.

The AK’s father is Nigerian. A Christian. A multi-talented labourer, a craftsman of often obscure and unwanted jobs. It was at this point the flexibility of the play shone. AK asked a member of the audience what her dad did.
She replied “Carpet layer – Handiman”
AK “Yeah, my dad probably did that too”
Audience – Whoops of laughter and applause of recognition.

The father, AK’s father should have been an engineer, but due to the racist notion that countries outside of the more favored commonwealth countries like Nigeria couldn’t possibly educate to the standard of British trained engineers were denied entry to the professions they trained for. Took what roles and jobs that they could and raised their families as best they could.

Off stage
The scene that caught my imagination was of seeing Abraham stand with his father. The moment happened off stage after the crowds milled out. I do not know what was said. That moment being private – Abraham’s and his fathers. What I perceived was a bridge of admiration begin to form. An acceptance of something that had been lost. The awareness that maybe something new has possibly been found. This meeting between father and son, through drama, through ‘All the Shit I Can’t Say to My Father’ is the making of new stories and about letting go of old ones.

My Bridge
I realise now that reconciliation was an impossibility for me and my father. A dream unobtainable. A number of significant changes would have to have happened in both of us first. To have approached a turning point that began a new start for us. The moment of second chances and water under the *bridgedness passed aeons ago and I am invited by circumstance, to allow it to pass too.

Duality
He was a man of the late 1930’s Ghanian, African, lacking in humility, compassion he believed, was a concept for the weak and foolish, arrogance and bull headedness was his way to confront the world. His religion was dual Christian and Muslim. A Ghanian former politician living abroad was how he saw himself. UK politics was of mild interest behind his own ambitions. Fatherhood suffered. 

We never found ground between us that felt comfortable for each other to be on. His death on October The 31st 2016 ended without a neat bow. Ours was not a story book ending. My father left not speaking to any of his children and without making amends for the pain he caused. That will be ours to tidy and pack away.

Reflection
For Abraham the play appeared redemptive and restorative. Like a deep cleanse. I was happy I got to witness that for him. For me and my siblings I hope that the clearing and cleanse happens with acceptance moving on in to forgiveness. The chalice was never ours to sup from.

The intention is set for me to start from near the beginning. Refreshed and unburdened. Again.

Resources

The Dope Black podcast – Raising Kids While Black
Revisionist History – Talking to Strangers
2 Black Guys with Good Credit – Black Power Money Power
The Stoop – Unexpected Family

Working out the steps

Oh No. Not another one about dance?
This one’s about Multiple Sclerosis. Again.

Overall my health and physical ability have been steadily declining. The decline is because of inaction.

Disabled But Not Really

(sloth and laziness and for sitting and writing and planning and getting all up in my mental for far too long. Here, mentally, at least I am not disabled. My mind for the most part still works.)

Possibly due to a range contributing factors that include time management, MS, experiences of low mood and high frustration.

Noticing Selma Blair stand on the Black and White Carpet with a cane earlier this year, brought to mind the significant journey I have been invited to take part in.

(Unwillingly. At times kicking off. If I were to be 100% honest!)

There has been resistance. Lots of resistance. As the Borg in Star Trek have stated ‘Resistance is Futile!’ And so acceptance has been my next begrudgingly shrugging shoulders move.

Core Work
I would say I am limping into this one, with balance issues, drop foot, lowered centre of gravity, weakness in the back and legs, not to mention the burning pain in what feels like the spinal column near to the pelvis. It’s been an experience of ever diminishing returns.

The aim of writing this piece is to explain what I have done to check and correct the downward health spiral I have been forced to look at.

I contacted a personal trainer that I know and an osteopath. They both put me through my paces exploring my limits, stretching me beyond them and explaining what has been happening to my body. They have both then followed the assessment with the support to help me blow past the limits that my body was attempting to put on me.

Hand Written by Anna Snow, a comprehensive breakdown of what exercises to work on

An example of Anna’s outline.

The MS Treatment
As a 2nd rounder of Alemtuzumab/lemtrada treatment, I had thought that the physical elements of Multiple Sclerosis had been checked off and put behind me. After years of neglect, my body has come back screaming and yelled “Ahem, what about me? Uh uh, uh, that’s right if you don’t pay attention over here it’s gonna be pain!”

Both Daniel (Osteopath) and Anna (PT) in their own way stated that
we should be
(that’s you out there reading these words and me)
putting more importance and time to making our bodies work better. Just 10 -15 minutes a day. For pain free movement.

Daniel even suggested I do yoga. Yoga? I have been thinking about attending a local class for about 2 years. My thoughts are to help increase my body’s flexibility and overall brain body connection. I will let you know how this goes. If and when it goes and if there any of the desired gains made.

Flip It
So the point of all of this is to invite you to take a few moments to reflect on what ails you. Spend some time putting right what is going wrong or has the potential to and get moving to make what troubles you most – better.

As a Consultant, Coach, Counsellor, Supervisor, Writer there is help available for every situation that you would like to tackle so make that enquiry and ask for the help to get better.

Exercise Routine

Daniel the Osteopath further exercises and stretches.

So what did Anna and Daniel do? Anna helped me to identify the root problem – which are my core muscles in my back and stomach areas. She put together some exercises and routines that focus on improving my core strength. The aim here was to improve overall stability, flexibility and strength. As an MS client I found her approach enabling and supportive.

Simple tasks like crunches or lateral planks were broken down and carefully explained with what the benefits of getting into these positions are. As a Personal Trainer (PT) Anna also observed my gait, eating and other exercises I was doing to make sure the routine she had planned was not going to compromise me or add to my physical output load for the day/week. Which would be counterproductive.

Daniel was equally supportive and informative however as an Osteopath his approach was hands on and caused some pain. Okay, hands up who likes prodding a bruise or massaging a sore muscle? Well if you do, this is what I experienced. There were shouts and yells and then serene moments as the muscles bones and tendons were coaxed back from atrophy to life once more. There’s a glute stretch that was performed on me that did all of the above.

Daniel was patient and explained the 4 steps he was going to take to assist me working it out and back to health. The walking assessment and then the assessment of the tender parts of the spine with touch. The muscles that support to gain a sense of what is going on were also carefully reviewed. Not much pain here. Stages 0-1. This part was like a rudimentary vehicle check.

Stages 2-4 Pain and release and sore relief.
This is the part where my legs were stretched and pulled and massaged to ease fluidity of movement. Ham strings and quads were focused on as were my calf muscles. All of this to resolve pain in the back?

Daniel’s Outline
Yup. It’s hard to believe.

The back is the highway for everything you are. It connects the upper body to the lower body. My lower back is where I have been experiencing a lot of pain. Disabling pain. Pain that simply won’t leave. Ibuprofen lightly touches it but doesn’t nullify it. The help of Anna and Daniel have helped a lot!

In short don’t leave getting in to shape until the last moment. When all that can be looked forward to is the end of, the bike ride, swim, row, pilates, kickbox, gym session, walk, sail, kayak, surf, climb, garden, football, basketball, netball, volleyball, badminton session, horse ride, cross country run, tough mudder assault courses. Find enjoyment whilst doing them.

Set small achievable targets and No Matter What it! Do it, sign up for that event be it a park run with friends and attend no matter what, or surf event in SA. The point, your wonderful life is counting on it.

So do it.

When you do, share what you find!

Further thought/practice

Science of Success Hack Your Bio-Chemistry

Tim Ferris The Art of Getting Things Done

TED Talks NPR The Big 5

In Conversation with Lenny Henry: Who Am I Again?

I had waited a long time for this moment and was glad of the chance to see a living legend. Lenny Henry in conversation.

Wooph
I had little expectation of what an evening would be like spent with Lenny Henry and Romesh Ranganathan. Perhaps it would be 2 brilliant men one-upping each other. Laughing at the loops wound around the audience and themselves that the other tried to vault over. Clumsily failing and falling. It wasn’t like that at all. I came away from the evening feeling lighter. Like after a therapy session. Wooph describes the reaction in energy that Lenny would get at a show when an audience laughed uproariously at a piece in his set.

Without Me
Arriving a few minutes after the show began, due to train cancellations and me not being able to run for the 18:36 train (another loss MS has had me suffer. It’s either MS or age. I just don’t feel old in my mind, at all. I want my body to know and hold on to that fact too).

The Train pulled off, with me looking on, deflated. Shaking my head then looking up at the board for the next one. Hither Green Monday evening – the choices were limited. 2 Choices I was invited to take. Wait for the train that might get me to there on time or try and hop skip and jump at London Bridge to get a connect for a faster train to Waterloo East?

Selection
The choice I made was to wait and hope. Hoping and waiting got me there late and frantic. I eventually walked in and Lenny was mid flow through the end of his set introducing Romesh. He was finishing with something about the physical abuse he experienced at the hands of his mum. Had I made it on time I would have been laughing too, like the already seated audience.

Sit Down
I took my seat in the Royal Festival Hall and for the hour and 25 minutes I had left sat and was amazed by Lenny’s and Romesh’s mutual appreciation of what they had contributed to the cannon of British comedy and to reversing the march to an un-coloured comedy and TV scene.

Context
My moment I had not anticipated came when after a flurry of mutual appreciation both men took stock of where they were and fist bumped like two men on the street. Only these two men were some of the funniest, most daring, Black and Brown men sat on stage at the Royal Festival Hall watched by several hundred people. Taking stock of how far they had come and what it had taken for them to get there. Both men could scare you with their intense observations and perspective and have you crying with pain and laughter as their on point humor bit.

Represent
I was saddened by the number of Black and Brown people that I did not see there. I had wanted the theater full to the rafters of people that looked like me and Romesh. Lenny was our champion. A winner of a fight, he won by not throwing punches with his fists, but with the wisdom of a sage.

That fight – won – has enriched him and lightened the hearts of many. I was saddened that Lenny’s brilliance, his story may have been
too political,
too sad,
too funny,
too hard to accept for many to make an effort to be there for a wet Monday night attendance.

Those that were there laughed and laughed hard at some of the memories Lenny shared. The fight at school, with the bully where Lenny beat him with words and had a crowd turn on the aggressor. Another story was of having things thrown at him by his mum, that always found their mark – even around corners.

No. They. We. Missed this. Him talking about his new book. Who Am I again? About the process of writing being like therapy. About his experiences of playing at clubs around the country and being racially abused and slowly winning these difficult crowds round. I was saddened because I would have wanted the under represented to be over whelmed by his story’s show of strength. That even through his saddest times, success and challenging adversity became towering achievements.

Pull Up
I was saddened that for the ‘community’ not to have come to support and show appreciation for a sage that has worked hard at his craft and worked at demands of the BBC and ITV to make. The face of British TV and the widening scope of achievement and attainment of BAME communities has been altered. Those that may want to make a career in the media, either in front of the camera/mic or more importantly behind the camera/mic will pay attention to what Lenny has pointed at. He has called it ‘Rubbish’ and said ‘this thing here, needs changing. NOW!’

Shouldering
For me, what I came to see, what I was waiting to see was Lenny’s passion at wanting to change the culture and face of British media. His deft, clever brilliance and memory of both his ups and downs of his career showed his resilience and how he has put his weight behind wanting to shift the colour line to be more representative of the young, the forgotten, the talented and the Black.

Who Am I Again is his 1st Autobiography available at all good book stores. With luck there will be others. My only CTA…