People have asked me over the last few months if I still have an interest in mental health advocacy work. Since stepping away from being actively involved with orgs and projects concentrated specifically around postpartum mood disorders earlier in the year, the impression I seem to give online is that I've gone "quiet" on mental health, that it's no longer a priority for me anymore. The answer is YES, I DO, and yes, it is still a priority for me-it's just that my focus has (naturally) shifted in a new direction. It's broadened to encompass all of mental health vs. just maternal, but has narrowed, seeking to primarily serve women of color both here in the US and hopefully, abroad. I felt the pull to go in a new direction last Spring, but it's taken time for me to get clarity on the How, What and Where. I've always been passionate about issues that impact women and girls, so while the timing of this shift was unexpected, the fact that it even exists was not.
When I came back from BlogHer last July, I quietly and slowly got to work allowing the shift to pivot my efforts online and off. It's been a process, an often unsettling one that's required me to be ok with letting go and trusting my vision, and the feedback from the women who are working with me on this. We aren't nearly where I thought we would be on this front by now because fear, doubt, and insecurities have plagued me from the beginning and erected some tough creative blocks since this idea began. I'm learning not to beat myself up about this though, because I've learned that sometimes slow and steady while doing what you can when you can is ok...even necessary with all I have going on in life these days. It's all good. Baby steps.
"Tessera Collective: an online platform and nonprofit dedicated to the mental health empowerment and support of women of color."
It now exists beyond just some thought in my head, notes scrawled across journal pages, words bouncing off of friends and colleagues for their input.
The build has been slow, but what we've accomplished in a year is something I'm celebrating this month as we start to expand. Last August, we started a private/secret support group on Facebook, specifically for women of color. We wanted to provide a safe space online where WOC could openly share and get peer-to-peer mental health support. We currently have over 40 women there supporting and encouraging one another. It has been a joy to watch this little community grow & thrive. I'm so grateful to the women who share themselves there and say "this works for me." The learning curve that comes with moderating and building such a community has been steep but empowering.
While we build the site and work on establishing the nonprofit, we're going to start doing Twitter chats. I set up the Twitter account today and had all kinds of nerves & deep breaths. You can follow TC at @TesseraWomen. Our Facebook page will be up and next week. We're still working on the logo & branding, and I'm excited about what we'd like to do in the future as we build and grow.
I'm hoping this pivot is the start of something good. I don't know all of what I'm doing, but I'm open and eager to learn and our team is amazing.
Here's to a new journey and growth in purpose. Here's to empowerment and kicking stigma's pervasive ass. Here's to collaboration and partnerships, working with others in the mental health advocacy space to do the work and fill a void. To community building and hush harbors (safe spaces) being created where they are desperately needed. Onward.