I didn’t start to really apply self care to my life until around 2-3 years ago. It wasn’t really important to create a self care routine, after all black men don’t do that. And what I mean is that we just ignore things like stress or believe it just comes and goes... as long as we just work through it, all will be fine. My parents didn’t handle stress well. My mother was real quiet when problems arose and tried to just do her best with no complaints. Or at least for her child’s sake she wanted to show strength and not weakness; any questions about the past could be better processed in the future. My father never seemed to talk about any problems period, as I grew older we seemed to trade anger and pain instead of working to help and heal each other.

After my mother passed, things seemed bleeker. My mother was the person I went to first to figure out life situations. Good, bad, normal day to day and anything in between. When she passed, it felt like I had no one to fill that role  and I had to rely on trial and error to get life right instead of having someone who could provide guidance. After a series of traumatic happenings (mostly the death of family) it always felt like no one was emotionally available to talk with. As I held everything in, I began to self medicate... which isn’t what good self care looks like. This led me to depression, a reality I never would admit was mine. Alcohol and indulging in smoking weed started working against me. My best friends, they tried their best to talk sense into me, but it still wasn’t enough.

The real self care practices came when I had to figure out why I acted a certain way, why I kept repeating patterns, why I ran away from problems instead of standing up to them, and why I couldn’t work through my own character issues. My life felt like it was on a loop. I knew when problems would come, relationships would change, I’d have emotional spikes, jobs would basically fizzle… and when you don’t have a sturdy foundation, the only thing you're left to think about is survival. Self care was the last thing on my mind to do for myself. But being a journalist I tapped into writing,  ironically enough I didn’t think it would be the therapy I needed, but it helped me dissect and pinpoint things in my past to situations that affected my present. After feeling dejected for a few months I bought a new notebook, I put on music that always helped me work through my feelings (KRIT, J.Cole, Rome Fortune, Chuuwee), had my favorite tea on deck, and started writing about the strongest feeling that weighed the most on my heart at the time.

Writing in my notebook started to save me bit by bit and I started to beat the things that held me hostage for years. I could see the roots of things that were silently holding me back emotionally by reading my passages over and over. Breakthroughs were happening and it was overwhelming. But I didn’t stop there. I felt like the next step for deliverance was telling the closest people to me all of my findings. Then I started to hold myself accountable by acknowledging that my actions would inevitably dictate my emotions and the future of my well being. Exploring my fears, emotional problems and past actions, writing them down, connecting the dots, and saying them out loud from a place of self love has put me in a better position in my life as a man. Men usually take a while to release the feelings they have pinned up inside but be genuine and pay close attention to our actions. Let your male friends know they don’t have to take the world on by themselves because that’s what we feel like we have to do. Men of color often joke about opening up and being emotional but the truth is we all deserve the opportunity to be heard, to be helped, and to be supported… and not just from the females in our lives, but from each other.

thomas jenesis

publisher of JENESIS magazine & co-owner of BOOM concepts, find him @thomas_jenesis