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“You’re just being emotional. You’re too sensitive.”

“It happened like ten years ago. Get over it already.”

“You’re so angry.”

I often wonder if there is a connection between the two most common stereotypes of Black women: “angry” and “strong.” Both seem to be convenient ways to dismiss real, deep-rooted pain and to give those who often are our violators (physically, emotionally, psychologically or spiritually) permission to keep piling their stuff on us.

Oh and I can’t forget my church folk,

“You just need to pray about it.”

Yes, I do. Lord knows I pray and you know what? God is a healer, for sure. He has taught me in scripture to “cast my cares on Him” (see 1 Peter 5:7). Though my hands may shake and my emotions may rage and fear may creep in on every side; though the nightmares may come and the tears may fall, I pray.

Why do you think I’m not dead yet?

In other words, for those like me who are believers and who also live with some degree of PTSD, when the symptoms manifest, it’s not always a function of a lack of faith or prayer.

Here’s a better response: “How can I walk with you through this?” 

But of course, that might mean you’ll have to risk helping me unload. A messy, messy endeavor, for sure.

Essence Magazine recently featured a study on PTSD conducted on mostly African Americans and the results are so startling. Roughly 30 percent of respondents had symptoms consistent with PTSD—a rate as high or higher than that of veterans of wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. A third of the women studied had endured sexual assault while others had experienced violence and psychological trauma.

And yet, like so many of those commenting on the Olivia Pope character, too many people oversimplify or disregard this widespread issue. Even those of us living with PTSD run from accepting it. I don’t know how many times I’ve chosen to ignore my fear responses. Too many times I’ve decided to call it something else: “a bad day” or “someone else’s fault.”  At the end of the day though, not accepting where you are (a person working through this particular area of her life) is a surefire way to ensure you won’t ever get where you need to be (healed).

Yes, there’s quite a bit of research and information out there about the various sources of and “solutions” to PTSD. There’s even some fascinating research done by Joy De Gruy on PTSS (Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome). But the last thing I want to do is exasperate any real or perceived pathologies of Black women. There’s enough of that already. Here’s the point, I guess. A significant enough number of Black women have PTSD. Others of us don’t.  But for those of us who do, I think it’s important to be aware of the disparities in how PTSD is viewed, discussed or handled in Black women as opposed to other groups.

On television and in real life.


Why PTSD Is Undiagnosed In Many Black Women  was originally published on

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