High School Life as a Black Girl

It’s OK Not to Be Okay: How I Learned About Vulnerability in the Midst of Heartbreak

By: Dashae’ Coley-Epps

Although it was a windy night in the middle of December, I walked home from school in my cheerleading uniform, not bothering to put my jacket on. A knot grew in my throat, as tears disoriented my vision and the wind smacked against my face and bare legs. While tripping over tree branches, it took me no time to get home.

I ran into my red house door, only to find it locked. I hammered it eight times with my tiny fist as hard as I could and was greeted by my uncle’s wide, welcoming smile that fell the moment he saw my distraught face. Pushing past him, I dropped all of my things at the bottom of the stairs, and stomped to my room, pounding the walls while letting out a loud sob with each step I took. I blindly punched my bedroom walls that were filled with pictures of my family and friends smiling and laughing.

The joy filled pictures caused my screams to grow louder as I fell to my knees and held my head in my lap, tugging at my hair. I looked up through blurry eyes to see my mom rushing into my room while I sat on the floor in a pool of my own tears. The awe and confusion was evident on her face.

“Shae! Shae! What’s wrong?” my mom asked worriedly, kneeling down at my side. She begged for me to tell her what happened while wrapping her arms tightly around my little body. Her brown eyes turned into a light hazel as they filled with tears. At a loss for words, I didn’t reply. Despite my mother’s pleas, the chance of waking up the neighbors, and the ache in my throat, I consistently cried and screamed at the top of my lungs, unable to stop.

“Today, Friday December 18th,” I thought to myself, “the day I let go.”

I often keep my feelings built up inside of me. However, regardless of my best efforts, every so often it all pours out. No matter how I’m feeling, I struggle with sharing my emotions with others. I’m a African-American, teenage girl. I need my privacy.

Three days earlier, Tuesday December, 15, 2015, I had finally completed a long, exhausting day of school, cheerleading practice, and homework. Sitting at my empty dinner table, I stretched my sore muscles excited for some relaxation. The sun had morphed into thundering rain which made the ceiling light flicker. Reaching up, I turned it off and picked up my phone to check the time when a text from my best friend caught my eye. “Dashae’ Epps,” I read to myself, “I need to talk to you. It’s about Brayden.”

My boyfriend had been flirting with another girl. Typical. When I confronted him, he admitted to the accusations, adding more fuel to the fire. There was another girl, and, they did a little more than just flirt. My blood boiled with a mixture of millions of emotions; Shock, humiliation, heartbreak, anger. My heart dropped to my knees and I sat completely still, only moving my tear filled eyes to reread My Boyfriend’s confessions and pleas for forgiveness.

The tears on my cheeks rained down my face similar to the rain that was falling outside. Suddenly, my family burst through the door with bags filled with groceries. I considered running into my mom’s arms and telling her what happened. Instead, I quickly wiped the evidence away and did my best to plaster on my signature fake smile.

After helping put away the groceries and hurrying to my room to shower, I rolled around in bed for hours, tossing and turning not able to get my mind off of the devastating news I had gotten hours before. The light on my phone lit up my dark room alerting me that I received yet another text from my boyfriend. I rolled over, hugged my blanket and allowwed a stream of tears to fall from my eyes until finally I fell into a deep sleep.

The next day I fell victim to my overly private subconscious once again. I woke up to a room as black as night. In spite of what happened the night before, my body was well rested, and for a brief moment I looked forward to a good day at school. These possibilities were erased when I flicked my bedroom light switch and no light came on.

I silently prayed that the lightbulb blew as I ran over to the bathroom flicking the light switch repeatedly. Confirming my fears, the room stayed dark. After using a flashlight to get ready for school, I walked to the kitchen, which was lit by a candle, and found a little, neon pink slip of paper that said “TURN OFF NOTICE,” in big, bold letters.

I rubbed my temples and let out a long sigh, wishing for the day to be over. Again, I considered going to my mom, and confessing to her that life, at this point, was too much for me to handle. Pushing all my problems to the back of my mind, I left for another draining day of school.

Mixed in with the everyday stress factors of high school, all of this was a lot for me to deal with. I felt alone and lost, with no place to go. You may have encountered similar occurrences, or, experienced other events that may have been overwhelming. As African-American women, we are expected to be strong and independent, as well as many other positive traits. While all of this is certainly good, it is okay to vulnerable and ask for help when you need it.

This was a turning point for me, and although dealing with all of this was very difficult, I managed to get through by simply changing certain aspects of my lifestyle. Throughout everything, I kept my goals in mind, which motivated me to continue to move forward in life. I learned that I have to let go of the people in my life who cause more harm than happiness, including friends. Although I felt deeply for my boyfriend, I realized I could not give him the power to cause such pain.

A large weight was lifted off of my shoulders when our relationship ended, and I found myself happy and free. Despite losing him, I knew I was not alone, I had my friends and family to lean on. However, it wasn’t until I found myself kneeling on my bedroom floor, wrapped in my mom’s arms that I realized this. My mom was always there to support and motivate me. My best friend helped me focus on the positive things in my life, instead of dwelling on the negatives. While learning to consistently keep a positive attitude, I reflected on my previous lifestyle. I never did tell my mom what caused my emotional breakdown. But, I know she is there to support me whenever I need her.

To all the girls who are going through something similar to what I went through, keep in mind that no matter how strong or independent you are, it is OK to be vulnerable. A need for support from your peers is a part of human nature. Containing all of your feelings, emotions, and problems, can lead to a great amount of suffering and stress on your mind and body that you carry with you everyday.

Instead, of constantly burying your problems in the back of your mind, use coping strategies to find ways you can successfully deal with them. Despite how hard it may feel and/ or look to find ways to manage your problems, when you focus and make it your goal, there are always possibilities. Doing the things you love and making other small changes to your lifestyle can make a large positive impact. Allow the people around you to help you. Simply getting your problems off of your chest can positively affect your well-being

Remember that it is OK not to be okay.

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