A look into Summer Walker: The Miseducation of Socially Anxious Black Women

Black women have several stereotypes about us, whether they are negative or positive, that are thrown at us. We are thought to be “loud and opinionated” or “strong” or even “bitter”. That’s another story in itself, nevertheless, in all the depictions of us we are never looked at as humans allowed to be vulnerable and have weaknesses. So when a black girl has mental issues such as depression, anxiety, or social anxiety.we are frowned upon for exhibiting characteristics that are not necessarily the norm.
Singer Summer Walker has recently been the hot topic for cancelling many dates on her tour due to her social anxiety. “Unfortunately I’m not gonna be able to finish this tour because it doesn’t really coexist with my social anxiety, my introverted personality,” said Summer in a video posted to her Twitter and Instagram.

“But I really hope that people understand and respect that, at the end of the day, I’m a person. I have feelings, I get tired, I get sad. And it’s just a lot.”

Even before she cancelled these dates, Summer has been very vocal about her social anxiety being that it is the reason for her meek stage presence and persona during interviews. It takes a lot of courage to express this weakness with others but she did it so her fans could understand the reason for her actions. However, unfortunately, many people responded to this information in a negative way. People were saying “she isn’t that shy” or “she’s just faking” when observing her behavior when in public. This type of commentary shows the lack of knowledge on social anxiety and how serious it can affect those who have it.
According to the latest addition to the DSM-5, social anxiety is defined as “marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or possible scrutiny by others.” It is important to note that social anxiety is not the same as being introverted or shy. When you are shy you could have nervousness about social situations however those feelings might dissolve when you are more familiar with the situation. This is something many people deal with at some point in time and is fairly common.
Having social anxiety on the other hand causes you to have a complete fear of social situations. This can cause one to avoid the situation all together and it produces severe anxiety about these situations even before they happen. Many people can experience a small dose of social anxiety in their lifetime however for people who have been diagnosed with full blown social anxiety, living with this condition can be almost unbearable. Social anxiety comes with physical symptoms such as rapid heart beat, blushing, excessive sweating, stomach trouble, muscle tension and even panic attacks. So essentially it can make things in life other’s deem as simple really challenging. The triggers of social anxiety are different for everyone but essentially they are things like meeting new people, starting conversations, giving a speech, or even entering a room.
From observing Summer Walker’s interviews and live performances you can see her exhibit these characteristics of social anxiety. To anybody who has social anxiety or is at least knowledgeable of it, it is evident that this girl is certainly not “faking it”. Nevertheless, she is constantly scrutinized for her behavior which is one of the very things people with social anxiety are afraid of.
Having social anxiety sucks no matter what race or gender you are. However, being black, especially being a black woman with socially anxiety definitely hits different. It’s no secret that mental health in the black community is a taboo subject being that too many people in the black community dismiss it. Also, being a woman you are expected to be warm and welcoming to everyone you meet and if not you’re labeled as a b*tch. So when you’re a black woman with social anxiety like Summer Walker you are heavily misunderstood.
There has been an account of a fan from her meet and greet who was very disappointed with their experience. A now ex-fan posted on Instagram a seemingly awkward picture of her and Summer with a long caption expressing her disappointment with the experience saying the location of the meet and greet was changed last minute and Summer barely interacted with her fans.

“She barely spoke to anyone, every couple of people she would say ‘Hi’ it was a big hurt piece for me because I really [idolized] her and her work,” the person wrote. “I knew she was an introvert and kind of closed off but there was no effort at all, whatsoever.”

This really rubbed many people the wrong way and caused many people to call Summer out for “unprofessionalism”. While we only know this fan’s perspective we don’t know the whole story. The fan was right in saying she was an introvert however, I don’t think the fan realized Summer also has social anxiety which is something more serious. I previously stated meeting new people can often be a trigger for people with social anxiety. While Summer might of appeared to be disinterested and aloof she really could of been overwhelmed and filled with anxiety to the point where a simple “hi” was all she could bother to say. Social anxiety can get real and many people don’t really know the full extent to where it can affect people with it.

I feel like a lot of the blame in Summer’s public ridicule is in her team. She has stated that in the contract she signed, she is forced to go on tour, do interviews, and do these meet and greets. With Summer being a new artist with not much knowledge of the industry and of course having social anxiety she probably didn’t have the courage or knowledge to look for management or a deal that accommodated her social anxiety.
With that being said, to all the people who said she shouldn’t have even had meet and greets or shows, I don’t think most of these things are even in her control. When she signed up for these things, she might have thought she could have broke out of her box but we all know in reality it can be much more difficult.
Also, to all the people who said she shouldn’t have signed up to be in the music industry, humble yourself. Summer Walker has an amazing talent that should be shared with the world, she just happens to have social anxiety. We need to educate people about mental illnesses such as social anxiety so they can understand the behaviors. It is hard for people with social anxiety to navigate through everyday life but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have lives. People’s criticism can become toxic and cause people with mental illness to go on a mental downward spiral. So just be nice and understanding to people, before it’s too late.

Spiritual Awakening With Emilia Ortiz

2018 was the year of spiritual consciousness but it was truly hard to find and connect with someone who would genuinely guide you there and teach you. Using your googles wasn’t much help because it only led you to a lot of soft artificial bullshit. And therapy. Therapy is simply expensive as fuck. You ever find yourself going through a rough time with a spouse AND your mental health? Then found yourself tweeting through it, or even googling through it looking for answers? Then you end up on Instagram looking for the perfect meme to post on your story. One stressful ass night last year, I found myself doing exactly that and surely came across one of the best gems IG has to offer.

Emilia Ortiz aka @ETheReal1. A Brooklyn-based mami and having no tolerance for the bullshit; exactly what we, the people need. A spiritual advisor who is not only an advocate for self care, spiritual wellness and all in between but mental health. She’s all about protecting your energy but also putting the work in for yourself… with absolutely NO sugar coating. 

As I sat on the line and began speaking with her, you immediately feel the calmness and the vibrations of how grounded she is. They literally soaked right into me and cooled me right off because lets be honest, I, myself have never spoken to a spiritual adviser, yet alone someones who’s confidence, love and support you can instantly feel through the phone; and in her voice, she was present. She was there and fully aware. It instantly turned into a Friday night after school, talking big shit to your homegirl on the house phone; but I decided to take this conversation on a more intimate route.

So I told her, “Let’s talk mental health battles in a relationship. We seem to find ourselves talking about mental health and our own personal battles or someone else close to us but we never really touch on when you, yourself are dealing with your issues and so is your partner.” 

What are the biggest complications when you both are struggling with anxiety and/or depression?

One of the biggest complications is that at some point or another, there will be a point in the relationship where, one of you need or rather both of you will need each others support but you will not be at a place to give it to them. Your depression and/or anxiety is at peak but so is your partners.

Do you feel as though those relationships are any different than with those who don’t battle wit mental health?

Yes and no, I say this because anyone can experience anxiety or depression at some point, they just might not have an on going battle with it. That can come up in your relationship kind of thing even if you don’t have an on going battle with it. I say no, because there is a certain understanding that goes along with it, when it turns into this long term thing. It can be something you become accustomed to. Sometimes anxiety or depression can come up at the most inconvenient times in a relationship. Y’all can be having a perfectly grand ole time and then somehow something happens and it sucks. And not that is requires more understanding than the average relationship, but it does require a certain kind of empathy and understanding

Do you believe in people abusing their mental health?

I think everyone is capable of abusing anything. Mental health is complicated though because many people are compelled to do unhealthy things. Due to chemical imbalances, trauma etc. Sometimes someone isn’t really in a state where they can make the best decisions. It’s hard to say.  It’s abuse though and so much can somewhat be out of someone’s hands, if not treated properly.

What advice would you give to two people who want to be in a healthy relationship but are anxious because their parter also suffers from battles? Do you find that similarity helpful or even comforting?

What I find is most helpful for couples who both have a mental health battle is to be mindful of that because we all get in our heads and we think “oh its gonna be great, we are going to understand each other, we are going to be able to be there for each other through every little thing in ways that nobody else can cause they don’t get it and don’t go through it” – and though thats true, there’s a point when they’re both sick and they need to be precedent and unfortunately you can’t ask that of your partner when you both are in that position. It’s unrealistic. Neither of you wouldn’t have it to give to each other, which can sometimes cause resentment in the relationship and frustration” 

So, feeding off of that question. How should we go about dual episodes? (both falling into an episode at the same time.)

So, what I try to remind people who are in those kind of relationships; is that you need to remember shit happens and it’s okay and it doesn’t mean you can’t work through it. What is does mean is that you are going to have to have a support system outside of each other when that time does come. You can’t solely depend on your partner or that understanding because there will come a point where things are going to HAVE to take precedence at the same time.” 

How would you build the wall between being transparent with your partner but not overly dependent?

It’s hard but its possible. It’s okay to have a therapist or spiritual adviser: whatever your comfortable with. Somebody outside of your actual relationship; not just friendships, romance, or family but OUTSIDE of all of your relationships because you need that. Someone to talk to, to keep a balance. You have to recognize wha’ts healthy and what’s fair to your partner. Not to just drop your load of shit on them all the time and every time. Make sure you aren’t just dumping on them. When properly doing so, you now might be talking to different people before you even get to them. You have to have a bigger team besides just your partner. Distribute more freely.

In the mist of our whole entire girl talk, there were so many gems, so much advice and so many realizations in how we all operate today. Why we are the way we are and how much work; whether you have a battle or not that we need to do. To become better lovers, communicates and realizing what EMPATHY truly is. Emilia made so many valid and strong points, but one thing I believe we both can agree on is that, there is no easy way in the aspect of love, relationships and LIFE in general. There’s different variations of mental health. Your mind and your body operate differently from each other and so many things throughout your life play a part in that. From genetically, life experiences and even your environment. A lot of us operate differently from the standard in this world and we must take that extra time to learn ourselves and operate in a world that was not designed for us.

It’s so important to acknowledge that we are capable of finding new ways to grow. We must do the work no mater how tiring it is, but also remembering that it’s a journey and there is no finish line so you can take as many breaks as you’d like. We must learn to fully be accountable and taking responsibility in the role of our own life. Standing up to yourself, for yourself. We constantly stick to institutionalizing our mind in the box of mental health and start creating these walls that are only holding us back and causing more damage taping us in the box instead of actually creating boundaries that are to protecting us and our loved ones. Take in from this interview; is that we all deserve and are all CAPABLE of love weather you have a battle or not, it’s all in “Are you willing to do the work to be healthy for ourself and your partner?

You truly learn something new everyday because I learned to change the verbiage surrounding the many titles mental health holds. I found myself altering to Mental Health Battles instead of Issues. 

Interview conducted by Donna Davis, author and writer.