Mrs. Francis, Mental Health & Me (A Tribute)

Mental-Health-Awareness-Month

I remember the first time I went to see Mrs. Francis J. Thomas (Miss Francis) for therapy. I had done some group therapy regarding my personal lifelong battle with depression. It was time for some one on one sessions. It was scary looking for a stranger to trust with my deepest and darkest secrets. I looked online for someplace close and affordable. I called a Christian based counseling service because their fees were based on income. After leaving a message on the company line I got a call from Miss Francis. Since there was a group of counselors under this umbrella, I imagined a scene from, “The Wire,” where Miss Francis was sitting around along with other counselors waiting for her turn to be up in the rotation. If it wasn’t her turn, perhaps she picked up the voicemail and decided to give a f#@! when it wasn’t her turn to. Regardless, she called back and we set up an appointment.

Laying eyes on her I said to myself, “Aww such a sweet looking lady.  Her radiant spirit gleamed through her chocolate cheeks. Her smile was extremely welcoming. I felt safe in her presence. She asked me why I had come in. I paused, sighed, thought for about 30 seconds, and began to tell her my story as best as I could. This went on for about 20 minutes. The remaining 40 minutes featured her talking. She wasn’t giving me any advice or counsel. She was completing my story for me, expressing things that I could only imagine saying but didn’t have the words to articulate. I was amazed. I knew this was going to work!

There are several different themes I remember about our sessions. Like the time she challenged me in a way that I didn’t think was right. I yelled at her at the top of my voice because I felt that she was being so unfair. If I recall there were a few profanities as well. I was very angry. After a moment, I was sure she would toss me clean out of her office. But she totally surprised me. “Christopher! YES! Finally a breakthrough!”  

There were other times after leaving a session when I  said to myself, ‘Wow, that was an interesting thought provoking.’ Then in the next moment I thought, ‘Hey wayment! Did she just rip me a new one but was so smooth about it I had no idea I was getting my ass whipped? Yea she did that! She ain’t slick! Damn, I guess she is. She got me!’

476198_10150608576252878_1933579623_o Mrs. Francis J Thomas’s 

There is so much more I could say. Sometimes I didn’t have the money for the co-pay.  She took me anyway. She told me at one point that she was considering retirement because she had some health challenges. She would continue to see her ‘special’ patients of which I was one. Miss Francis and I grew incredibly close through the years we had together. So much so that she shared some of her own personal challenges with me. She told me she was a bit ill and wanted her son and I to meet one another. She gave me his number and said she would tell him she did so.

My favorite and most memorable phrases of her’s were:

“Christopher, you have to learn radical acceptance.”

“Ooooh, that’ a hallelujah moment! Pat yourself on the back.” (Then she would pat herself on the back to show me how.)

She was a Christian counselor, but don’t get it twisted. We had some hard core raw conversations. She said some surprising things that blew my mind a few times.

One day I really needed Miss Francis. I called her cell phone on a Saturday with my ’emergency.’ She answered the phone and said, “I’m here for you. Just call me back in 20 minutes so I can get myself together.” She didn’t sound like herself. I asked her if she was sure it was really an OK time. She assured me it was. I did. She listened and counseled like she always did.

To my surprise and dismay, Miss Francis died two days later. She had Stage 4 Cancer and never told me. I was one of her very last patients, on one of her very last days on the earth, off the clock. In spite of her great pain and suffering she gave all she had to be there for her patient and friend. There is no greater gift one can give than this.

At her celebration of life service I found out that Miss Francis was a counselor of counselors. She was their teacher. It was a pleasure to speak at Miss Francis’ service and share with her family and colleagues how she touched my life and made me feel so special. She helped me gain my self worth, love and respect.

I share all this to encourage anyone who may need an ear and a voice to reach out for help. It’s a good thing and can definitely be a game changer. Take care of your mental health!

 

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SEXplorations: Unwrapping #MeToo, Patriarchy, Sex, Power & Responsibility – Part 2 (A Series)

The Art of War (On Women

I’ll make this plain. It’s a fact that of all the women I know, more have experienced sexual assault of some sort than have not. Let me say this again: It’s a fact that of all the women I know, more have experienced sexual assault of some sort than have not. I’m 51 by the way.

Now just consider that a minute. I would venture to say that anyone reading this would say the same if they bothered to ask. I’ve had conversations with elders, friends, and close family members. I’ve sat in an intervention when one family member confronted another family member regarding an episode of abuse when she was a child. The look on her face, the pain in her voice, the tears in her eyes and the cries of her soul rang out. She was in her 40’s agonizing about something that happened before she was a teen.

According to RAINN every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. Only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. Further:

  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted).4
  • About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.4
  • From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that, 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.5
  • A majority of child victims are 12-17. Of victims under the age of 18: 34% of victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12, and 66% of victims of sexual assault and rape are age 12-17.

With this knowledge I’ve been disheartened with Black folk caping up for Bill Cosby. I’ve heard his defenders throughout his drug/rape accusations, trial and subsequent conviction. Even after admitting in open court that he gave women qualludes, drugs he would not take himself because they would make him sleepy. (Think of the irony in that statement.) Social media was on fire with Cosby defenders – all of whom happened to be Black.

Reasons Why Cosby Ain’t Guilty:

  • The women are hoes! They knew what they were doing!
  • The women waited too long. What about the statue of limitations? (This is the only time I have ever heard people reference a statue of limitations for any crime)
  • What about Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein and Trump? (Matt was fired for sexual harassment, not rape. There is a difference in coming on to someone on the job and actually drugging and raping them. But I digress) Harvey Weinstein is currently under investigation both in the United States and London for rape. As far as I know the self-proclaimed ‘pussy grabber’ has not drugged and raped anyone. But what does that have to do with Mr. Cosby’s actions or his victims?
  • I’m not for anyone getting raped. But what about the ‘REAL’ victims? (HUH?)
  • He tried to buy NBC. This is revenge! (This is the most ridiculous reasoning ever!)
  • These are white women, so who cares? (All of them are NOT white… but that’s piss poor to say the least.)

24-cosby-lede-feature.jpg

On social media these comments have scorched across African-American Twitter and Facebook feeds. Figuring this to be a fandom issue, I tried to reason and add some balance. Mr. Cosby isn’t the first talented, accomplished or philanthropic person to have a sordid personal life. No one is asking you to curse The Cosby Show, Fat Albert, Little Bill, (One of my favorites) Uptown Saturday Night, or any of his other projects. A more recent example in the Black community is R. Kelly. He knows how to make hit record. And he likes to have sex with young girls.

Mr. Cosby’s contributions in the entertainment industry doesn’t make him a saint! I mean, he is the same Mr. Cosby that turned Black America out by telling her that she shouldn’t name her children, “Shaniqua, Muhammad and all of that crap…all of them are in jail.” He also inferred a Black boy stealing a pound cake should be shot. The irony is that it seems that if there were more Shaniqua’s and Muhammads on the jury, the Cos may have been acquitted despite the evidence.

As for these discussions, Mr. Cosby’s defenders didn’t budge. And it got me to thinking as to the real reasons why. Is it because of race? I’m sure it is to a degree. But I followed up by asking an additional question. “Would you discredit your own mother if she among the 60 accusers?” None have yet to give me an answer.

At the end of the day, the most disturbing yet realistic answer is that they just don’t care about sexual assault or rape. How many stories have you heard or read about Black girls telling their mother’s that an uncle, a step father, a mother’s boyfriend or the local preacher have touched their child or worse only to have the mother call their own child a liar? I don’t have an explanation for why this is such a common story. Is it some sort of legacy from slavery where enslavers ravaged the bodies of our women and we became use to it?

I don’t know. But for the sake of our evolution going forward, this needs to be reckoned with. And we need to be able to think more completely. I’m open to listening.