In a previous interview, you described your mother as schizophrenic and a domestic abuse survivor. How did you navigate that chaotic world as a child?
Through the eyes of a child, seeing scary things such as domestic violence can scar you. I navigated the world by surviving honestly, trauma, and holding on to the sensation of joy. I grew up in a small home in a very small town, with 7 people in my household. My 4 brothers, myself, and my mom and dad. I witnessed a lot of violence both physically and mentally and it hurt a lot as a child to seeing what my mother went through. On top of the abuse my mother was receiving, I realized that my mother was also struggling with her disability and I was forced to grow up and help take on the mother’s role in my home. I found it extremely easy, surprisingly, but scary due to the fact that I knew each day I come home from school, there would be living hell in the home. Constant arguing and I love my parents and my mother so much, but as I became older, I spoke up more and became this “rebel”. I wanted to defend myself and my mental, yet the constant thought of not being good enough for my mother ate me alive. Everything I did wasn’t to accept an achievement but to have a trophy to show to mom, so she could feel accepted by the hurts of her family. So navigating life as a child was hard. School was my only escape, and thank God I wasn’t bullied at school because I was bullied at home to be honest.
How was your mother daughter relationaship affect through all of this?
Drastically affected is all I can say! I want to be accepted by my mother so badly. To be hugged by her, loved, and nutured. My mother loves me so greatly, but her fears of the world have cause me to become so afraid of living my own life doing things I love for myself. I became so hurt that I had to grow up and become a mother so fast. I wasn’t ready and I was never able to express myself to my mom like the other girls and boys. We never talked unless it was an arguement, and the older I became, the more bitter I was towards her. How can you love someone that you would die for them, but still be incapable of forgiving them? A question I would always dwell on. I remember that we would write each other letters, being that our rooms were only steps away, but that was the only way I could communicate without crying. So our relationship has been very on and off, causing me to move out at only 16 years old to live with friends. I had it rough, and I remember being so depressed my senior year of high shool, that I almost didn’t even invite my mom. Fast forward to 2022, my mother and I have been building a very good and healthy relationship.
The responsibility you had as a child caused you to have to grow up a little fast. Even as an adult, do you still struggle to feed your inner child?
Oh absoltuely! I struggle to relax, because I am so used to the chaos and noise. I struggled to accept compliments as I became older, becasue I started to associate a sweet compliment as someone wanting soemthing from me or my talents. I struggled to express my emotions beyond happiness. I used to be depressed for years and years growing up, but I would get in trouble for crying or on days when I didn’t want to talk, I had to smile for the world but myself. I became this trained soldier and I felt as if life was always going to be a battle field for me instead of a playground. I still struggle to feed the emotions of letting go. I have countless days where I would do some spontaneous and fun things, since I enjoy making life happen, etc. However, I would find myself becoming overwhelmed and so easily triggered by anything.
Is there any advice you can give children dealing with the same situation and trying to stay afloat?
I was just 4 years old when I remember witnessing the abuse in my home. I was just 7 years old when my last brother was born and I was given the rsponsibility to take care of the house as a mother figure. So I encourage and advise all of the children who are dealing with the same situation to stop for 7 seconds, breathe, look around you and name three colors that you see. Trust me, do that and you will be able to have 7 seconds of clarity. 7 seconds is enough time for one to get to a safe place. I advise the children to keep a journal and write because there may be moments where speaking may not be permitted. Speak to an adult you can trust who may be able to help you, mine was my 4th grade teacher. Use your creativity to help you, if you like to sing, sing! If you like to draw, draw! Hold onto something that makes you feel happy and don’t ever let it go. And lastly, pray pray pray! Speak kind words to yourself and imagine a better world. It does exist. I used to imagine myself as a host on tv and I only had styrofoam and barbies and I would create imaginary talk show sets for them. Now, I am a game show host! So to all of the joyous children, your tears won’t last for long, they are watering your garden. I believe in you all and always ask for help!
Can you describe what it feels like to be forced to hide your emotions as a child?
It is a very numbing feeling, yet it is also overwhelming and anxious. It felt like I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t. On my days where I was sad, I would crack jokes. I had a lot of time to learn this toxic habit so I would hide my emotions by overtalking, or mimicking what adults would do: monkey see, monkey do. They smile, I smile. They nod, so do I. It ended up becoming my normal routine until I didn’t even realize I was still hiding anymore.
At one point, you said you felt that your feelings were invalid. What did you do to learn to validate your own feelings?
As I was growing up, I don’t think I ever learned how to validate my feelings. I would just push my feelings aside and not give it any attention. I believe that is the reason why no one knew even an ounce of what I went through, because I never gave attention to myself or my feelings. Here I am 23 years old (turning 24 in December) and I didn’t learn how to validate my feelings fully until I was about 21 years old. That is a long time without expressing fully. I could only express myself in private, alone. So, now I am learning that my feelings do matter. I watch a lot of videos and shows on pyschology and that has helped. But ultimately, I am still in the process of figuring that out.
Kids often don’t realize they are depressed, what signs can people look for?
There are many signs you can look for in a child to see if they are depressed! I will add, I am not a doctor or a licensed psychologist, so these are solely based off of my own research and personal experiences. 1) If your child is depressed, notice their body language. Is there held head low, are they making eye contact, are they isolating themselves? 2) Pay close attention to their sleeping patters. Are they sleeping too much or too little? My biggest factor was I slept so much because I was exhuasted from what was happening in life. My body also created a defensive shield to sleep in order to avoid my surroundings. 3) Are they having impulsive bursts of anger or suicidal? You would be suprised at how many young children experience thoughts of death. There are so many other signs, but always lookout and ask your child questions and allow they have a safe place to express themselves to you.
It is just as bad to abuse someone verbally as it is physically. In the past and now, how did your verbal abuse affect the person you are today?
1 million percent, YES! It is just as bad! Physical abuse is a deep wound that causes trauma, but so does verbal abuse. You could find yourself being shut down and walked over when you are abused verbally. I experienced a lot of that in ways that caused my to shut down parts of who I was learning to become. I would dissasociate from people and things. It has affected me in ways where I am so hyper aware and I get so defensive over what is said to me. It has lingering trauma that I wish I could turn off, but now those verbal abuse words have turned into self doubt.
What is the best way to quiet those voices in your head?
For me personally, singing. I have ‘sing LOUDER’ tatooed on my arm to remind me to keep singing. When I open my mouth to sing, it feels like suddenly nothing else matters. The noise in my head tunes out and is drowned by me. It is the one time I feel like I have control. However for others, try listening to music, try putting on a physical getaway to block out the sensory sounds in your head.
During the 6th grade, you had suicidal thoughts and subsequently attempted suicide. Can you tell me what led you to that place at the time, and how did you recover from it?
I was about 11 years old when I entered the 6th grade and honestly I was looking forward to it. Meeting new friends, new environment and that also meant I could get longer hours to stay in school. But this was also the year, from what I can remember, of me experiencing my first huge trigger for depression and being aware of it. I became so depressed on the inside that I cut off all of my hair. That was my first cry for help. I wanted help because I didn’t understand my emotions, I just knew that I was so sad. I think what led me to that dark space was the lack of being nutured and me witnessing my mother getting abused. As far as recovery, I had a second attempt my early years of college and I still recovery til this day in 2022. It is a very hard thing to recover from, however I encourage others who are in recovery to be gentle and kind to yourself.
In your opinion, why isn’t Black Metal Health discussed more in our communities?
Great question! Mental Health is so important and crucial, but I think a lot of us black folk don’t take it serious. We have this idea that because our ancestors went through it, means we do too. I believe that the black community needs to listen to their children. So many black children are crying out for help and are depressed or struggle with anxiety, we as black people shouldnt tell them to “toughen up” or “get a backbone”. Take a moment to listen to these children. Same goes for grown women and men. Be the strong back woman, who has no fears, right? But black women also struggle with mommy issues too. We need to be heard. Our black men struggle to be vulnerable, and struggle with grief. But in order to see change in our community, it has to first start in our community. We need to build each other up and it starts with our mental. The mind is a powerful tool.
What can parents do to better engage young people like us in conversation?
Parenting doesn’t come with a manual, but they can start by making time to ask their children how they are feeling. Start the conversation by opening up to your children and giving them in sight on how to catch signs of unwanted behaviors. So many different things can cause trauma onto our mental. Some things are beyond trauma, such as being born with a disability. Go to events that talk about mental health and educate yourselves.
What was the impact of the pandemic on your mental health, and why do you think so many people’s mental health suffered?
The pandemic really took a huge toll on everyone’s mental health. Financial instability is one of the biggest factors why people become depressed because now they do not know how they will afford to survive, eat, or move on with comfort in life. Losing your job can cause you to grieve, especially when it happens out of the blue. I think so many people suffered due to how sudden it was, but I do also believe it taught us how to adapt and forced us to change our way of living.
What is the reason for the lack of discussion about mental health in the model community?
Phew, I wish I knew! I feel like the industry chooses to be blinded. They choose to ignore the mental health of models. Modeling isn’t just about being pretty, but it has this high, unrealistic standard of being perfect. What is perfection? It is non-existent. So honestly, it’s all ignorance. It is a money-making industry. However, I encourage all models out there who love what they do to take this: Do not allow a man nor woman to change who you are. Do not compromise yourself for a one-time offer, not worth it. Speak up if you are treated wrong on set and models let us start by discussing our needs more. We are human and we have a say in our own mental health.
How do you think women and young girls can get through this tough time of loosing rights to things like thier bodies etc?
ADVOCATE AND RAISE YOUR VOICES! Our bodies, our choice, and the fact that the government is preventing women from having control over their bodies is heartbreaking. The fight is never over, let’s keep advocating and sending in emails, protests etc to win back our control!
Do you have anything else you want to add?
Shoutout to my mom and dad, Mary Shirley and Richard Summers Sr. I have witnessed you both grow in ways that only God could do and I am proud of you both. I want to pay a tribute to my great-grandpa Shirley for speaking life over me before I was even born. He is the reason I never give up. I also want to say thank you to every single teacher, every person who gave me a place to stay when I needed it, and to all of the strangers who have witnessed parts of my journey through the online platform. Last shoutout to Vanessa Rivero for loving me and being the mother figure and sister I have needed in my life, and to Jessica Rivero for saving my life. You all mean the world to me and I am beyond grateful for being alive today.