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Guest Blog: "Melanin and Mental Health"

We are excited to introduce our first ever guest blogger, Nichole Bonsell. Nichole is a 23-year-old woman from Eastern Pennsylvania who shared with us her experiences of being adopted by a white family and growing up in an overwhelmingly white community.

She is now a Virtual Executive Assistant for Centennial Lending Group, and through her journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, she has gotten deeply in touch with her spiritual side. Her spiritual aspirations include metaphysical studies and shamanism.

Are you interested in being considered to be our next guest blogger? Fill the application out here.

My loving parents, Sandi and Steve, did everything they could to give me a beautiful life; and they did. They adopted me at birth, they raised me in a safe neighborhood in a beautiful house and they brought me into a family that loved me. They were amazing parents, but I had struggles of my own that no one around me understood. I made up the 1% of people of color in my school district, and I was the only person of color in my family. Growing up under these conditions I felt like every day I was misunderstood, which looking back at it, really affected my mental health. This constant feeling of being the black sheep haunted me both at school, at home, and in my dreams. I felt ugly, I felt out of place, I felt like I did not belong, I felt unworthy, and I felt alone. It was not until I was 18 years old and got to move out of my hometown and move closer to people of color, did I finally feel beautiful, and unique in my mind, body, and soul. Little did I know, even though my childhood environment looked perfect on the outside, my mental health was crumbling to pieces on the inside.

I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where I was adopted at birth. Sandi and Steve, my adopted parents, could not have children of their own, so they decided to adopt. They met my birth mother long before I arrived. Benita had good reason to put me up for adoption. She lived in a dangerous area in the city, she was raped, and instead of getting an abortion, she chose adoption in hopes to give me a better life. Even though I have never met her, I am incredibly thankful for her selfless act of love. It is because of my three parents; I grew up safe, healthy, and had plenty of opportunities in life.

My adoption affected my mental health tremendously mostly because of my race. At a young age, being adopted made me feel different. Little kids were mean and asked crazy questions, and as a small child, I did not know how to answer them. When I was in preschool, I would come home and ask my parents why my skin was darker than everyone else’s. My parents explaining my adoption to me at a young age was helpful in understanding why I was with them and why they were with me. They were incredibly open, supportive, and never held any information about my adoption or my race from me.

Even though I had an open relationship with my parents, I was still the black sheep. Not that being different was a bad thing but being the only one who felt the ramifications of racism was lonely. After losing my father Steve in fourth grade, I struggled with abandonment issues, that I did not discover until I was 20. This led me to be very insecure in my middle school years. I feared abandonment more than ever after losing my dad and never meeting my birth family. I longed for acceptance, I deeply cared about what other people thought, and I wanted to be involved in everything at school and with friends. Subconsciously I was struggling with abandonment issues from birth, death, and race with a lack of connection to my culture.

In high school, I was trying to numb my emotions with distractions. Attending an all-white school has affected my entire life, especially my love life. White students would make rude remarks in the hallways every single day and they would think of these insults as jokes. They would talk about how ugly black girls were, expect every stereotype about a black person to be true, and viewed themselves as superior compared to the town over which was more diverse. This made me feel incredibly insecure, ugly, ashamed, and embarrassed… but I would laugh and never let anyone know it bothered me. When I would come home from school and tell my mom, she would explain to me how I was not black, I was Hispanic, and that confused me even more. I was not black to my mother, I was not Hispanic to my school, and I was not white to the world… I would lay in bed and cry because of how confused I was about my identity, and I did this until I was 18.

If you have ever felt ashamed of who you were because of your race, you are not alone. We live in a forever-changing time. Whether you were affected by racism directly or indirectly, your feelings are valid. I never considered my mental health until I was 21, and now I am 23. Laying in bed alone and crying into the night was a sign of anxiety and depression. I was consumed by negative thoughts and self-doubt. I did not know anything about my race, my culture, and I dreamed of a life where I was surrounded by people of color so that I would not feel so out of place and misunderstood. People thought I was too sensitive, slutty, and awkward when really, I was dreaming of someone to come into my life and tell me my skin was beautiful, my curls were beautiful, my big lips and wide nose and culture was beautiful. When I moved out, I had to tell myself that every night until I healed.

If you are a person of color living in a white area, please know that your self-talk is the only thing that matters. You cannot control people’s perceptions of you, but you can control your perception of yourself. Never stop loving yourself. Do not change your hair, the way you talk, or the way you act for anyone. The people who are meant to be in your life will love you for those things that make you different. If people cannot see the magic in your melanin, leave them alone. Distance yourself from toxic/racist people, and trust that healthier relationships are waiting right around the corner. If someone makes a joke that insults you, it is okay not to laugh and to express how offensive it was. Sometimes people do not understand how their words may hurt you, but it does not make them bad people. Just know that as a person of color and for your own mental health, it is okay to express how you wish to be treated and spoken to.

If you are white and have family members of color, please know, that their culture matters as much as yours. Celebrate and educate yourself on a diverse range of traditions, not just for them, but for yourself so that you can learn and truly appreciate the beauty of diversity. Celebrate their hair, their fashion, their skin, and their history (not just slavery), just like you would your own. Celebrate their music, their role models, and respect their perspective of the world. Equality is more than just acknowledgment and acceptance; it is about appreciating and respecting different cultures from around the world. Educate yourself and incorporate that into your relationship with people of color in your life. Lastly,

if you are going to take away one thing from this article, please let it be this: If you are struggling with anxiety and depression, tap into your mind, body, and soul spirit. When I was laying in bed, crying for all those nights as a child, I let my negative thoughts consume me. Once I started listening to positive affirmations, meditating, and soul searching to discover who I truly was, I found peace. Through this discovery of self, I concluded that my race did not define me, and that family was more than a blood connection, it was a love connection, and anyone could be your family. After I started healing my mind and controlling my thoughts, I began practicing yoga, qi gong, and other forms of exercise. I began to appreciate my body, and all the things my body was capable of. I began to love myself more than ever. Finally, I learned about my soul. I read books, surrounded myself with wise people who have seen the world, and started considering myself as a student who still has many things to experience, and who has a lot to offer to the world.

I am incredibly thankful for my adoption, my family, my friends, and my experience as a child. It made me into the woman I am today. I have helped a lot of people heal and put them on the path to enlightenment. At the end of the day, we are all souls living on Earth to learn, grow, and help others. Let us not let race get in the way of that.


1 Comment

Nichole: Beautifully written article that is very insightful. Much love and success now and in your future. You hold the wisdom to make it happen.

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