Boundaries Slipping: CoViD19

With the experience of COVID19 being an extended period of strange, I am noticing things blending that perhaps would not have previously met. Such as home and work. Children and colleagues. Priorities and leisure activities. Tele-video conferencing and unlimited screen time. The challenge is with the frequent chopping and changing to meet a chaotic stream of demands. The ongoing effect of an ongoing strange situation is that of feeling, irksome, bored and fatigued. Can all responsibilities be equally met realistically?

Homogenised
Currently I am working from home. I have not gone in to work since mid March. A warning from a friend who manages a number of hospitals was “if the virus gets in to a prison it will be like being on a cruise ship” she said. I took the cruise ships warning, to mean that if the virus got in to HMP X, it would run rampant and be unstoppable! Me with a compromised immune system and now as of mid May 2020, also being in the high risk category of being a Black Male I have relented and stayed home.

Unease
Regretfully having not returned to my duties at Prison a feeling of malaise is growing. Now at 10 weeks in to self isolation I note that working from home has a number of common/uncommon challenges.

Full House
Everyone is here! Dr CW and my two boys, are home. Where else would they be? I try to juggle a responsible role amongst making lunch, attending to squabbles between the 12 year old and 10 year old. I am also the unofficial teaching assistant (TA) for the boy’s learning. Dr CW is the qualified teacher, dedicating herself to managing the older one’s learning. I am grateful for her insights and perseverance through #Lockdown. I struggle with thoughts of ‘Am I doing this TA thing right?’ or ‘I don’t wanna ask her, but…’ and thoughts of doing not enough or too much.

Distant Guide
I am also supporting my team that do go in to work at the prisons. I supervise remotely either by msn teams, Zoom or WhatsApp video call. Here too elements of guilt seep in to my awareness. Me at home, them there, putting themselves at risk and against the impossible task of welfare checks and keeping themselves safe in a prison! The thought of I should be there too, drags at me.

Lane Change
I have given up the hour long commute – a 3 month old distant memory. The leaving the house at 7 a.m. is no more. The wondering about what to have for lunch at work is absent. The many other trivialities of getting ready for work seem a faint consideration now.

WFH
The challenge for me currently is the blending of environments. Baffling and causing me to reminisce of the times had before the Lockdown. Work and home. Responsibilities of both now being mixed. Competing for dominance because they are both independently more important, urgent, and demanding of my 100% attention.

Pre CVD19
How were things before? They were in neat enough little boxes. Tidy. Distinct. Recognisable. Acknowledgeable for what each box contained. And I knew where those boxes were. And I knew how to open one and close another. There was an order, a schedule, a pattern.

Squared
Now it’s like all the boxes are open. Things are leaking from some boxes into others, some are neglected or forgotten. The reasons for the negligence is that there are fires raging in some and rain pouring against others. Soaking some and threatening to utterly destroy the collection. It is Monsoons and Volcanoes. The Cardboard boxes don’t stand a Chance!

Reflection for Understanding
I mentioned to 2 peer supervisees and to a friend that this time of ours in COVID19 Lockdown feels more stressful and anxiety provoking than anything I have lived through before. There have been other large seismic events that were as incredible as they were terrible. Tiananmen Square, the Zeebrugge Ferry disaster, September 11th, the Boko Haram kidnapping of school girls, the ongoing slaying of Black Women and Black Men in North America by police and security officers, Hurricane Katrina and the July 7 attacks in London all have pock marked my memory indelibly.

Conversations leading to discovery and creation

Never Ending
But this enforced captivity and forgive the crude analogy, is like being sentenced along with family to an IPP indeterminate sentence. With little information as to our possible release dates. Parole options remain hidden. Being able to work towards a release date with good behaviour with our probation officers is off the table. The analogy here looks at those responsible for the management of the Pandemic (Governments). The offence would be catching the disease and spreading it by not socially distancing or non observance of WHO guidelines. With the suspected crime being committed we are then to be summarily mass incarcerated at home: indefinitely.

Tiny
I mentioned in an earlier post that this virus, so small, is like a mushroom fungi spore. Altering the biochemistry of it’s infected hosts turning them into cadavers for birds and other feeding creatures to spread the fungi’s spores as far and as wide as possible. This virus has changed our view/experience of our world in ways that are similarly inconceivable.

Call Time
Maybe I am not alone in thinking I’ve had enough. My fill of Netflix and Prime is replete. Being with the family and Zoom calls with friends, colleagues and clients a depended must. Contact with family overseas was good wholesome and necessary in the beginning of the outbreak. Now seems as tiring as the push me – pull you antics of the UK government. The experience being a blend of missing the simple act of human to human connection and dislocation/dissociation/disruption from what is and what is not real.

Summarise That
Post COVID19’s tag line might read ‘Life Just got Tougher and Now Closer to the Impossible.’

If you contract the illness there is a fair chance you will survive but you might not be the same after you recover! It is probable that our world won’t be as well.

Walking whilst Black through this though, may be another type of story. This tag-line might read: Life was tough before. COVID19 brought out the worst. We are to gather and be limitless!

Demanding better futures and an honest retelling of our world history. Insisting on a closer, more informed and equally educated society, fearing less, eating healthily, thinking clearer and inclined to critical analysis and desiring to be ready to make meaningful change for our lives and for the lives of generations to follow. Perhaps with an idea of a sense of responsibility is a reason for fatigue?

Remembering
There was something about those boxes (mentioned above) that gave a sense of knowing that also comforted and fatigued in a naturally expectant way. Life back then was manageably unpredictable. Now – exhaustively confusing. An old saying is –
‘Life is simple, it’s just not easy’.

Life is also tough but ultimately, it is an ongoing process of change adaptation and learning. I advise us to simply be open to what happens in the years to follow.

In answering the query at the top of this piece, all responsibilities are not equal and so cannot be prioritised equally or fairly or at times rationally.

Resources
Thrive – 20 things to do during lockdown for wellbeing.
The Coronavirus is a Disaster for Feminism I thank EK for this resource. A true reflection of how it really is.
Couples Under Lockdown: Lagos, Nigeria from Where Should We Begin?
with Esther Perel.
After The Storm from The Moth Podcast 9th Ward Burnell Cotlon

Images
Cover photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash
1st inlay photo by Daniel Fazio on Unsplash
2nd inlay photo provided by @therapy_with_kae

Investment in Therapy pt 1

Running the Black Men’s Therapy Group has gifted me and my co counsel Sheila Samuels with more evidence of how necessary the Introductory course/workshop is for Black Men.

A previous post Jitters, observed the negative side of what too often happens, when someone does not get the help so often not looked at as a support. Therapy is often a last resort and sometimes barely that. How can therapy be successful when there is so much at stake? There are a number of reasons for the reluctance to engage. Cost. Culture. Cures and Cons.

Cost
Therapy is not generally a low cost investment. See Kwanda’s initiative to redress this. IAPT was seen as a possible panacea for the masses to engage with psychologically trained individuals to access C.B.T. (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).

Helping those who wanted psychological support to begin resolving and managing their experiences of depression and anxiety well. The NHS support was provided through GP services for those who either expressed need or were found to be able to access C.B.T. support. The cost for a person wanting C.B.T. is nothing but time. Current waiting lists are between 6 – 18 months in some areas.

Culture
For many people there is a sense of unknowing and unconscious/conscious fear when thinking to access talking therapy (a stigma). TV shows like In Treatment, Queer Eye, In Conversation with John Bishop and Couples Therapy allow viewers to see the process outside of themselves. Sort of like a fly on the wall. Viewers don’t get the first hand raw experience of what therapy does. Therapy can often be a truly eye opening experience. It can be scary too. Don’t let fear prevent you doing great things, again!

Uncoupling
However living with the pain of what potentially is lying hidden could be seen as worse. On a number of levels the person living with the pain knows this too.

Many cultures across the globe have differing ways of managing internal scars. Some attend to these scars in community settings, some go to see a Doctor or psychotherapist, some a faith healer, shaman or spiritual leader a wise elder in the community. The aim is similar – to unbuckle the experience of (emotional, physical, psychological, historic) pain from the present.

Not for Me
Therapy supports a person or group to achieve this aim of unbuckling. In a Western technology filled world. Some cultures have developed a socially accepted space in the minds of their people for therapy to be an acceptable form of treatment. For some cultures including the African Diaspora, Asian Diaspora and South East Asian Diaspora, therapy is often seen as something that is not to be touched. Therapy is for other peoples.
“We don’t speak our family matters to outsiders.”
“It makes us weaker as a community that has already suffered and is going through our own ongoing struggles with it’s identity purpose, history and future.”

Cures
Therapy is not a cure. It has helpful elements that have curative affects for individuals and for groups but it by no means can wipe out past traumas and pains in a single shot. The process can take time – sometimes for a few years.The accumulative effects are like a river cutting through rock or an overnight heavy snowfall. Therapy cannot undo centuries of pain. What therapy can do is support a better understanding to support groups and communities resolve current and past experiences.

Finding a Heart

It is Written
Books like The Body Keeps The Score and It’s Not Always Depression support an individual and groups to begin reviewing their current lived experience and review them critically. The two books highlighted above and therapeutic encounters generally encourage people to take out the parts that are not working for them anymore. Observe the learning from an array of differing experiences. Begin implementing another way to live and live well. I can think about a number of clients I have worked with for 1 – 5 seasons who have all gained somethings from therapy and found a way to let their past demons die and accept their now to live as best as they can making improved choices.

Cons
Therapy has it’s good, bad, and indifferent encounters between therapists and clients. The right mix often happens when skilled therapists meet willing clients to address their difficulties. At times an incompatible mix can happen of cultures, sexes, compassion fatigue of therapists, unconscious biases, identities and egos are amiss and both the client and therapist cannot make the therapeutic encounter work. The fatigued battle weary therapist and enthusiastic risk aware client would be an interesting dynamic to supervise.

Cons?
The thinking behind IAPT’s 6 appointment model is that a short focused piece of work can be effective when a single problem is looked at solely. This is equal to 300minutes of considered time and can be effective to resolve an issue. The difficulty arises when more than one primary concern is activated or pulled through. Which can happen as a result of discussing the other factors around the initial reason a person engages in therapy.

Time is a valuable commodity as is a
successful outcome for the work for client and therapist.

Cons??
Six appointments at times does not touch the sides of heavily affected people’s challenges like complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). Another difficulty that the Global Majority has with encountering therapy are the historic experiences of colonisation, criminalisation, cultural appropriation and theft, villainizing communities and splitting groups of people along tribal, ethnic and gender lines. An implicit encouragement of groups to fight politically or physically inside of these constructed divisions, and then them to be offered a westernized approach to heal communities seems like an insult to a historic injury.

Cons!
Where would trust exist within these paradigms to complete a piece of effective work? Western approaches to therapeutic outcomes were developed originally for a small group of people in Europe!

If we were to widen the lens and take in the planet through a global and pan view, communities from Central and South America, the indigenous populations of Australasia, Inuit communities, Sub Saharan Africans and Northern African communities may not access therapy marginally or fully because of their own senses of culture, their community understandings, religions, beliefs, sense of collectivism and historical legacy experiences with the West. A Eurocentric approach with therapy would need to be de-colonised and become incorporated within the cultures therapy hopes to support.

Cons!!
There are also the experiences of what White psychiatrists, and White therapists have perpetrated against Global Majority communities which adds to the sense of historic mistrust against westernised approaches to healing.

Resources
Black Issues in the Therapeutic Process – Dr Isha McKenzie-Mavinga
Black Bodies TEDx Devante Sanders

Images
Photo by Shane Avery on Unsplash
Photo by Roman Kraft@romankraft Unsplash Autumn Love Signs

The Black Men’s Therapy Course: The quiet revolution

I have been asked over the past few months how the Black Men’s Therapy course has gone. Wonderfully would be how I would answer the question. The initial jitters and experience of serendipity became a rounded experience of therapy.

Wary
Topics covered included included Low Mood and Depression, Anxiety, Mood Management, Addictions, Loss and Self Care. The initial group of men that came were initially in the first few minutes wary. There was good enough reason. None of the course attendees had previously met. They were also new to me and my co-counsellor Sheila.

1st Block
For the first block of 6 appointments, in order to assist the conversation and support holding the group, the frame was to offer
a check in,
review the week just passed through and
towards the end of the meeting provide a
check out.

The first day of the course gave opportunity for the 5 men that joined to meet and greet each other. Get to know who was in the room and know their reasons for being a part of the course. The first day went very well and gave a sense of what the rest of the course would look and feel like.

January 2020
The 2nd block of 6 appointments were looser in their formation. 3 previous attendees joined the follow up course with 1 new attendee. Check ins became a way to engage with the subject material of that night’s discussion. Topics included Intergenerational/Trans-genertional Traumas (PTSS), Micro-Aggressions and Stereotypes.

Refocusing

Congruency
One of the outcomes that I was pleased to notice was the willingness of the group to engage with challenging and difficult material in an open and honest way.

Showing who they are amongst other men without the need to hold up a mask pretending bravado or being a braggart. The vulnerability I had hoped would be a consistent and precious part of the meetings was consistently realised.

One of the reasons a level of congruence was achieved was the sense that we had all come together for a specific purpose. To talk on a level with others that look like us about experiences that intimately impact on our lives, the lives of our families and those we consider friends allies and our community.

Membership
The next block of 15 appointments is to start on the 18th of March 2020. The course will be an open group – and will accept new and previous attendees to attend as often or as infrequently as they would like.

The idea of a closed group became muted within the 1st block of 6 appointments. The idea of not admitting new members after the 3rd meeting was tested after 2 new men joined the course in week 4.

The group successfully negotiated how to accept and work with new members. From January going forward the group were settled in themselves and were willing to engage with difficult personal histories. The men were able to discuss concerns related to identity and being in hostile work spaces.

Sign Up
If interested in joining the next group send an email to either myself or to Sheila Samuels via our websites. Click on the links above.

Resources
Yannick Yalipende
Therapy Today October 2019
Kwanda the Online Village

Image
Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash
Self Portrait Tankerton pebble beach

Re-imagining Loss part 2

Expansion beyond 5
I wonder if there are stages/experiences that follow Denial, Bartering, Anger, Depression and Acceptance that could be added to the stages of dealing with death.

That may provide a better frame to the slim paradox of grief and loss? Maybe a healthier way to manage the tumultuous feelings that accompany loss?

Yes go through the 5 but what about
Celebration
Rest and
eventually finding Peace?

Allowing space for a quiet putting down of all those years of turmoil, self-questioning, doubt, pain and other uncomfortable emotions and thoughts.

Expulsion
Nine Night as a Caribbean/African tradition of helping to move the deceased on. Nine Night allows mourners time to remember, tell stories, curse, swear, holler, cry, sing, dance, play cards, pour libation and offer to anyone who has ears to listen our best, worst and most treasured memories of the them that has gone on.

Hammer Toss
My favourite story of my mum that has left an indelible imprint on my memory is the story of the hammer. Caribbean’s know of pick up and throw as a rule to instruct and discipline children. Especially the ‘fleet of foot’ child, which I was fortunately. Well. When we meet allow me to share that indelible memory…

Reflect
In celebration we hold up a mirror to them (The deceased). Not only do we see them but we also see the time we had with them and ourselves. It’s a funny thing because these memories contain them and us. By remembering, we invite in a retelling of a time before, with them in it, alive, vibrant. Unforgettable. Until even those memories fade and change over time.

Remember Blockbusters
If anyone knew my friend Jamui Adebiyi you would know of his acting ability and of his harsh criticism of B rate movies. Imagine Blockbusters, the now defunct movie loaning business chain, at Clapham Junction 1999. Myself, Mobolagi and Ade negotiating between us movie choices, this was long before Sainsbury’s rolled in. I ventured that we should watch a said B rate movie and his reaction was classic Ade. He jumped up and down and said that that movie is crap, it’s crap, it’s crap, timing his jumps with each brief statement. I was about to say Ade is…

And now I remember, he died 8 years ago. That memory lives on as does he, in a time framed by a Clapham junction with a Blockbusters in it, in a very different London.

A deep dive reflection

Revel
Celebrate them for the memory they have left us with. In celebrating our time with them, it can allow the sadness to change to something lighter.

Transformation is about an enlightening experience. Allow for it. Make time to celebrate them for all that they were. Who they had been for you. The singular narrative is for those who may have positive affable memories of the person or people that has/have died.

To complicate the narrative, a challenged earlier relationship with the deceased may be harder to muster the mental energy to celebrate who they were. Perhaps, here one can choose to thank them for the lessons learned or let go of the discomforting memories.

Forever…

Tranquil
By arriving at a piece of peace and finally then rest, death can be allowed out too.

Like a bee trapped in a hot glass house.
Once freed – buzzing away back to it’s hive.
The frenzy at seeking an out
Causes the din of Bee head butting
n buzzing to reverberate in ones
Head minutes after the bee let fly.

So too this and death.

Unless released reverently it (death) remains abuzz. Pass through all eight stages for as long as they are needed. Then release and accept/receive the peace willingly.

Restitution
Once a person arrives at the point of Rest the energy used to move through the other 7 stages of grief may have waned. One may want to sleep for a while. There are moments where I flip back to the point of being angry with death, sometimes.

It is possible that the only act left is to simply be still. The need to stop running and avoiding the pain is given chance to subside. There is little left to do. The rest point could represent the end of the grief journey. Fully completing the path as it winds down towards the sea could take months or years. Travel well. Remember to let go. They, You, We deserve it

1 Denial
2 Bargaining
3 Anger
4 Depression
5 Acceptance
6 Celebrate
7 Peace
8 Rest

Resources
Two Guys on your Head Memory-Imagination and Happiness
Philosophy Bites – Death
Griefcast with Meshel Laurie
Unlicking Us Podcast Brené Brown and David Kessler

Images
https://unsplash.com/@whoislimos In despair, but not lost. I try to remind myself, trials may come yet hope lies at dawn Chicago Dawn
https://unsplash.com/@thoughtcatalog/portfolio

Serendipity: Day 1 The Course

The Black Men’s Introduction to Group Therapy Course began on the 13th of November and was a Kings and Queen making experience with my co-counsellor Sheila Samuels. I borrow the term from Ron Brown High School and Dope Black Dad’s Podcast’s chief presenter Marvyn Harrison who addressed me recently as King.

The moment stood out, fresh like beads of sweat dotting a brow furrowed in deep concentration. Mentally I did a double take and thought…
Who is he speaking to?
Me?
Really?
King?
Oh I get it.
Those are large shoes to fill.
I’m ready to put that mantle on.

Now.

Collaborative Communication
5 men attended the group and told their stories of why they saw a need for the group. The men held out their independent requests for the room to see feel and identify with. There is a unity to be had in sharing hopes with a room who know what you are saying because they, I, we, have said similar things too.

The Philosophical meets the Practical

Safety
Groups are always nervous in the beginning. Leaders/Facilitators are too! With a new venue.
New people to get to know.
A new course.
Not knowing met with new, then came upon nuanced and introduced those who attended to what has the potential for being made to exist in the now.
For this group it was a Black safe space. Rare. A space curated, created and secured for men of the African Diaspora to meet and talk and discuss and experience warmth from a forgotten Sun. The aim – to discuss Black Mental Health with other Black Men with 2 highly skilled counsellors.

Knowing
A good therapy group often operates well with 2 counsellors steering the conversation. Having worked with Sheila at the prison a few years ago I knew she would be a great co-facilitator for this group. Knowledgeable, flexible and able to support the group engage with the sensitive topic of Black Mental Health.

Diversity
The group of 5 men with differing ages, professions, from a range of different London Boroughs, from a collection of countries of origin all came with a singular focus: To open the sometimes locked box and speak about mental health, as vulnerable, sensitive, engaged, intelligent, responsible, aware, concerned advocates and as Black men.

Sensate
There was laughter, there was a felt sense of wanting to support and be simply acknowledged as friend, brother, seeker, father, colleague like in the classic Ralph Ellis book Invisible Man being seen and understood is a priceless gift.

I could just about keep my hands from clapping all the time or staying on my seat from sheer giddy exuberance: This Was Actually Happening! Finally!

It did, and there are more to follow, on the 20th 27th November 4th, 11th 18th December.

One attendee asked if there are plans for the group to continue past the 6 weeks… Both me and Sheila looked at each other and answered “Well that all depends…”

Who Knows by Ram Dass
Thank you Anne Willoughby for introducing me to this tale…

*Cover Image from This Book Could Help

Musical Interlude

1986

Waking up to the sounds of Hip Hop in 1986 was like a coming of age experience, but now as I think about it the experience was matched by Musical Youth a year or two earlier. In 1982, aged 8, Pass the Dutchee was a huge phenomenon and spoke directly to my youth and Joie de Vivre of living on a council estate in Tottenham, North London.

Autumnal Graffiti Lewisham London

Old School
Before Musical Youth, music consisted of my mum and dad’s records, 70s classic soul songs from Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5, Gloria Gaynor, Aretha Franklin and some West African Hi-life music that if I could find now I would wrap my arms around and release – never. There is something I find undeniably uplifting to the energy of high-life music.

Making It
In the late 70’s and early 80’s the Bob Marley phenomenon had phased in but not affected me as much as Musical Youths song had. I couldn’t get enough of Pass the Dutchie. Hoping for a repeat every time ‘Pass the Dutchie’ was on the radio. I must have driven my mum mad, eventually she bought the single! In the 70’s and 80’s Black representation in popular culture was minimal whether on the radio or on TV. Back then social media, the internet and Youtube were simply not invented and getting access to an African Diasporic influence was rare in the UK. Musical Youth for the 2 weeks that they were in the charts topping sales and appearing on various shows including top of pops felt like an important arrival.

The Tail end of Autumnal Graffiti Lewisham

Hippidy Hoppidy
Than came 6 minutes you’re on by Doug E Fresh featuring Slick Rick! And this song blew my mind. In 1983 we had moved off of the estate and our landscape and environment looked very different. We were nearer to Wood Green and that shopping experience, nearer to Green Lanes and that shopping experience and also closer to West Green Rd and that shopping experience too. A Trifecta of sorts. We had moved into a neighborhood of houses and streets. The vibrancy of the estate was replaced by a quieter more progressive neighborhood and Doug E was inviting me to not forget the ‘hood I was from. Scratching, mixing, breakdancing, graffiti, MCing took my Musical Youth experience and flipped it up 100 notches. I was also entering puberty and all of the upheaval that brings.

Giving Life
Listening to Jazzfm a few years ago and hearing the Jackson 5’s Never Can Say Goodbye and Foster Sylver’s Misdemeanour brought my youthful musical musings and wanderings full circle. The youthful exuberance and joy of music came immediately flooding back to me.

Using the words of ‘Gene Denby and Shereen Marisol Meraji of Code Switch fame, “What song(s) are giving you life, right now?” List below, comment, let me know your thoughts…

Songs that Give Me Life: It’s Time
Radio Silence Radio Silence Talib Kweli Amber Coffman & Myka9
Write At Home Radio Silence Talib Kweli feat Datcha, Bilal & Robert Glasper
Day to Day Art Science Robert Glasper Experiment

Beautiful Purpose

Ikigai – Purpose of Being

Ikigai

Is a Japanese word whose meaning translates roughly to a reason for being, encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and meaning and a feeling of well-being.

The word derives from:
iki, meaning life, and
kai, meaning the realisation of hopes and expectations.
From what is.techtarget.com

Tools
Wanting to heal and providing a number of tools, resources and ideas that support others to heal too I believe is my path, my passion and my pastime. A therapist no longer. I am doing something more. It’s surprising this level of experience because I had no idea that I would arrive at a point like Jonathon Livingstone Seagull: Above the clouds, looking for others to soar up here too.

Psychotherapy as Art
I was supposed to be an artist or an architect, at the very least an Interior Designer. But life did what life does best – took me where it needed me to go. From London to Peterborough, Leicester, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, North London, South London. Hamilton Ontario?

Walk and Talk Therapy, Autumn creeps in the mist
Walking and Talking in a London Park. Psychotherapy meets Artistry

Mr Ben
A host of jobs I have played an active role in, that has included; a McDonalds employee, a night packer at Walkers Crisps Leicester, working in a nightclub as a bar person – University experience Leicester, packer and sorter for freeman’s catalogs Peterborough, office mover and delivery person for English Heritage and Manpower staff agency – London, a barista and store assistant manager at Seattle Coffee company, a youth worker/manager for the place in Woolwich.

Speeding Up
It was here as a youth worker, that life began to accelerate and I began to notice the power of influence within conversations I was having with young people and what the effect of being supported could do.

I continued supporting young people at the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Wandsworth which lead me to being a school sports co-ordinator at Harris Girls Academy East Dulwich, I completed an introductory course to counselling at Morley College in this time.

Becoming a learning mentor at a boys school Salesian College, a few years later, helped to solidify what I had learned -Talking Helps! Then I completed a Masters in Counselling from University of Greenwich.

Paint
A placement at a Drs surgery in Camberwell and a placement at a prison lead me to working with people in forensic settings. I have written before about becoming an artist that works with the human canvas of life. The reality is artistry has led on to something more.

Labelled Healer
It is further along this path of discovery that I am headed, I notice points of interest and signs that the journey is about to quicken and change once more. Magi, healer, shaman, doctor, it seems like the next potential door through which I am to pass.

A man in prison approached me and asked
“What do you do, then?”
I replied “I am a counsellor.”
He said “You look more like a doctor.”
I laughed and offered “Is that’s a good thing?”
He said “It could be, I need a doctor.”
“Ah” I said…

Sidelined
The idea I am learning to accept is that interpretation of an idea, of a person’s life choices can be vast. So much can be included or completely left out.

Those who are labelled unhinged or mad are often marginalised. The fact that some people can see things that may not appear in our version of reality earns them a severe and enduring mental health label. Perhaps the Magi, Healer, Suffi, Shaman would be more appreciative. Able to show more understanding towards the ‘psychotic’ the ‘schizophrenic’ or the personality disordered. Perhaps there is more to be perceived of our reality.

6 Weeks: Get Ready for 2020

More
My Ikigai is wanting to support the many to be well whatever that may mean. These blogs and links, tweets, linkedIn posts, Instagram shares, Pinterest pictures, Facebook posts are to support the many heal. My 6 week course for Black Man is soon to begin at the Wellness Hub in Lee Lewisham England. A 6 week online course for the same target group is currently in production too.  

It’s Time

Resources
2 Black Guys with Good Credit Don’t Hate, Negotiate
Oprah Winfrey and Malcolm Gladwell Super Soul Sunday
The Dope Black Podcast
Code Switch Our Homeland Raising Kings
The Nod Fearing the Black Body

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
Held me mute
About the pain
Of my loss
It was
The death of
Mother.
In December ’93
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 2011. 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 happening 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, of having little value, little to offer, 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 The Inspiration that is
When they See Us

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

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