In today’s episode, Shara shares;
- That only by addressing generational trauma, can we begin to achieve generational healing.
- That mental health struggles are real and can happen to everyone at least once in their lifetime. She especially looks to break the stigma around mental health in communities of colour.
- A reminder that self-care must be a priority for us all and that putting yourself first and addressing your needs is critical to support others.
Shara’s episode today asks some deep questions about the state of our mental well-being. She discusses the effects of generational trauma to those, especially in the BIPOC community, and the unfortunate reality that communities of color suffer from mental health challenges at higher rates, compared to their white counterparts. This is due largely to their historically oppressive realities that continue to have effects to this very day. Listen in to Shara’s episode today for some very important tips to implement daily, that can begin to help your mental health.
Press play on the podcast player above to listen now, or find the full transcription as well as Shara’s contact information below.
Generational Trauma to Generational Healing with Shara Santan
So tell me, where are you on your mental health journey? Are you fixed on your memories and living in the past? Or are you worried about what ifs and living in the future? When you are living in the present? Do you feel happy in the comfort of your own skin? And do you feel safe in the spaces that you feel next to others? What experiences keep you up at night? Does it feel like you’re a victim of emotional hostage? What does wellness mean to you? And what do you use as a benchmark to define it? Do you really know yourself? Do you know where you emotionally and mentally are coming from? Who are you?
My name is Shara Santen, a proud Tamill-Canadian woman. And I often ask myself these questions from time to time too. Over the past couple of years, I began my own mental health and wellness journey. And by the grace of the universe, this past year, I’ve had the opportunity, the fortunate opportunity to promote mental health and wellness in my day to day job as a project lead for a leading Mental Health Resource in the US called Dark Beauty Healing. Now, I’m by no means a mental health expert. And I’m not going to even for a second pretend like I am one. But I do have real life experiences that has led me down this path of mental health advocacy. And so although I’m not an expert, I do feel like I got some gems to drop. So hear me out.
I think over the past few years, one of my biggest lessons that I’ve learned is that every single person on this planet has experienced mental health challenges, or is experiencing mental health challenges, or will be experiencing mental health challenges at some point in their life. Why? Because our mental health is real. Mental health challenges can and do happen to everyone. It does not discriminate based on your race, gender, age, or sexuality. So no matter who you are, you will experience it because you are human. Regardless, mental health and communities of color can still be a very touchy topic. And as a Brown woman who grew up in a Tamil household, I can firsthand say that there’s just so much stigma attached to it. Growing up, it wasn’t a topic that many of our parents talked to us about. And likewise, it wasn’t a topic that our grandparents talked to our parents about as they were growing up. So this continued cycle of silence, if you will, is frankly responsible for our unhealthy coping mechanisms that are commonly carried from generation to generation.
And the unfortunate part about this, I think, is that as communities of color, we actually suffer from mental health challenges at higher rates, compared to our White counterparts, largely because of our historically oppressive realities that continue to have its effects to this very day, for example, is Thummells from thumb loom, some refer to it as north and east Sri Lanka. Many of us are victims of genocide and continue to suffer from trauma including PTSD and intergenerational trauma.
What does this mean, you may ask? Well, let’s unpack this. You see, back home, my family and friends lived in this constant state of survival mode, where the main difference between each day for them was life or death. So despite fleeing and seeking refuge in Canada, truth of the matter is their natural response to most encounters still comes from a place of trigger. In many cases, when, let’s say PTSD, or other kinds of trauma, like community violence, bullying, or disasters, when those when that isn’t addressed or healed, that can filter through a substance abuse suppress anger, violence, domestic violence, poverty, you name it. And as a result, descendants like my generation ended up inheriting and unconsciously maintaining conditions like identity issues, attachment issues, anxiety, depression, low self esteem, and much, much, much, much, much more. This is what we call intergenerational trauma, trauma that can be transferred or passed down in between generations.
Now, I’m not placing the blame on our parents or ancestors. I’m really not trying to do that. And that isn’t my goal. But I do think it’s an important concept or pattern that we need to acknowledge when talking about mental health and communities of color, because it is a common cause for many of us that identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color. And there’s evidence to prove this. So it’s very factual. Anyway, what does this mean for communities of color, it means that we need to change this narrative. And that change begins with self care. While most people of color are not used to putting ourselves first, especially women of color, who are often seen as the healers, for everyone else, but ourselves, it is important that we take critical steps to ensure our self care is a priority.
Whether you are a mother, a caregiver, a CEO, the Prime Minister, it does not matter. It really does not matter how much you have on your plate, I really don’t care. Self care must be a priority, if you want to not just live, but live, thrive and grow. This is how you can become the best version of yourself. And frankly, if everyone knew that, you know, putting yourself first and self care will give you the you know, the utmost help you achieve the utmost level of happiness and you know, a feeling of fulfillment, then I wonder, why wouldn’t you want to become the best version of yourself? Or why aren’t people thinking like that already?
So this is why I would like to talk about how we can get there. What does self care look like? self care looks like exercising, eating healthy, putting on a nice facemask, playing basketball, watching a funny movie, writing, taking days off, you get the deal. But none of this actually matters without one having to do the deeper groundwork that is needed to address mental health or their mental health concerns or conditions. So to that effect, I say self care also looks like standing up for yourself, going to therapy, setting healthy boundaries, saying no to people asking for help, and a hard one, but an important one, removing toxic relationships. I want to unpack this one in particular because as someone who has always had a hard time letting go of people or things that matter so much to me, this one is important. It doesn’t matter if it’s family or friends, it doesn’t matter how much you love them or how much history you have, or how much y’all been going around saying you guys are the rider dies for each other, it does not matter. If the relationship is toxic, it’s time to move on, or create a healthy distance between the two of you to ensure you can maintain your self care routine that serves you in the most effective manner.
I know toxic is this sort of newfound word that we all love using and often it comes from this, you know that it has this negative connotation to it. But I don’t necessarily see it that way. Like I love getting my nails done. But even nail polish can be toxic if it’s not handled the right way. The same concept applies for humans. Generally speaking, people are not bad people. But they can be toxic when they are in an unsuitable environment. This includes me. So I have the ability to be toxic. If I constantly put myself or find myself in environments where I feel like my needs are not being met. My mental health needs are not being met, or where I feel like I simply just can’t seem to flourish or grow.
You know, when I reflect on my own life, I often think about how much time and energy I’ve wasted on people. I stuck around and allowed shit that I knew was not okay, thinking that I am a good person, I have to be the bigger person, I’m always going to be kind. I need to respect my elders because that’s what I’ve been told or how I’ve been raised. You know, this is who I am. I’m not going to change myself for other people and this and that and Lalalalala No, it had nothing to do with me being a good person. It had everything to do with my anxiety. It had everything to do with my insecurities. It had everything to do with my lack of education and awareness about mental health. Once I started to understand the truth about mental health, that’s when I was able to identify my own toxic traits and understand my mental, emotional and behavioral patterns, it meant more than just what I saw at surface value. My outbreaks were connected to my anxiety. My anxiety was connected to my suppressed emotions, including anger. My anger was connected to irritation. My irritation was connected to sadness, sadness that was often deeply rooted in losing my father as a teen. I’m 29. I’m still working through this. But the clarity was everything. The moment I wanted to and started to actually do better for myself, that’s when I set boundaries, and finally started to protect my peace and not my knee.
And that’s also when I realized how many people were actually down for me, how many people were willing to continue to show up for me, just as much as I’ve been showing up for them. You can bet that I’ve certainly lost people through this process. But you know, that’s not a bad thing, that’s actually a great thing. I now have more time to invest in myself and the others, they now have more time to invest in themselves. And now we’re all one step closer to healing and growing. And, hey, that’s the goal, right? So just like that, you owe it to yourself to do the same to you are what you eat. So choose what you consume wisely. Your environment can make or break you. So if you gotta let go, I say, let go in style, put your best shade on and keep it moving. Keep it frickin moving.
Recognize that self care can look different for different people. But the bottom line is, you need to show up for yourself by loving yourself and taking care of yourself each and every single day. And I’m emphasizing that each and every single day here because healing is not a you know, a one stop shop or a final destination. It’s not a straight road ahead. It will definitely come across multiple, you know, up in hill battles. But that’s the point. That’s what’s necessary. And for those who pull them, you know, I have so many people to take care of for so it’s really hard for me to put myself first. Remember, only when you can show up for yourself, can you fully and genuinely show up for the other important people and things in your life. So be your best friend. Acknowledge, accept and actively commit to making mental health a priority in your life. Screw the bandaid, go for the stitches and fix your deep wounds and feel every single bit of it. Believe me, it will be a very painful and uncomfortable process. And it will take a great deal of strength to put yourself in a vulnerable position every single day. But that’s exactly what healing is about. It’s about really forcing yourself to face your deepest fears, and comfort your traumatized and scared inner child, the child that needs you the most. That is when transformation truly begins. And that’s how we shift from generational trauma to generational healing.
So ask yourself, what are you going to do about your wellness journey? What are you going to do to come up with a wellness plan? Think about it. Thank you for sharing this beautiful moment, time and energy with me today. And a special shout out to the Great Canadian Woman team for giving me the space to share my insights on this week’s episode of She Speaks. Thank you Thank you Thank you and until next time
Would you like to connect with Shara? You can find Shara on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/sharastar9 and LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/shara-santan-92575b63/
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The Great Canadian Woman inc.™ Team