The Stigma That Cost Me Years of My Life
Mental health challenges make you weak – don’t seek help because our culture just doesn’t. The stigmas Amelia Brown faced growing up in the Black community may resonate with many of us. From an early age Amelia was taught that as a woman she was expected to hold the family unit together. You are supposed to be Superwoman – she heard them say. Keep your mental or emotional challenges to yourself because you don’t want to appear pathetic.
One of Amelia’s greatest barriers in asking and admitting she needed help was the constant voices in her head reminding her that any form of help meant that she was inadequate. This forced perception of ‘seeking help’ was an unfathomable action within her culture, which inevitably caused her to suffer longer than she admitted needing to.
“I started drinking socially when I was 16 years old” she shared. “But I was dealing with a lot of challenges at home. My father was absent from my life, I was sexually abused, and my brothers and sisters were taken away.” After the course of many traumatic events, Amelia started drinking heavily and using marijuana because self-medicating was the only thing that felt comfortable at the time.
When she became pregnant at 18 years old she quit drinking and smoking – she remained sober for six years until she had another wave of what seemed like life hitting her with one thing after the next. Her relationship turned to turmoil, her daughter was taken from her and placed in her father’s care, and she lost her house and the in-home daycare she was operating. Feeling as though there was no more life to live, she started binge drinking everyday.
“I finally left California and moved to Alabama where I thought I could start over” she stated. But after having her second child she quickly realized it wasn’t going as planned. She had to make the difficult decision to leave her son and come back to California. Fighting to navigate through life, she found herself in yet another terrible relationship. “I knew I was doing something wrong because it was the same situation, but different people. I didn’t know what to change or how” she shared.
Pregnant for the third time, feeling defeated and broken, Amelia knew she needed help. She prayed for clarity – that is when Prototypes’ Ramona Gilbert, Social Support and Empowerment Facilitator walked into her life and spoke to Amelia about Prototypes and that is where her healing began.
For the past six months Amelia has been enrolled in Prototypes’ Mother and Child Residential program where her treatment team has been successful in introducing evidence-based treatments to address a former diagnosis of PTSD due to trauma, substance abuse, and anxiety. Amelia also participates in the California Black Infant Health program, which aims to improve health among Black mothers and babies and reduce Black: White disparities.
Through each of these programs, Amelia has been empowered to take control of her life, accept the past, and has been able to find the confidence in herself as a women and mother to be able to make healthier choices for herself, her family, and her future.
“I am so fortunate for Prototypes. I never imagined in such a sort time I would be sober and looking forward – making plans for the future” she says with confidence. Today, Amelia has a close relationship with her 14-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, and is in care of her five month old infant. She is looking to enroll in school and concentrate in Business Management, so she can fulfill her aspirations of owning a small business.