April is National Minority Health Month
Do Negative Media Images Affect Our Psychological and Physical Health?
What inspired you to become an author? The writing bug evolved over time. As a student I’d frequently see “Well-written” on my term papers, and I’d sometimes write poetry. In 1994 I self-published Medical Bloopers, a book of medical anecdotes; and in 2003, Simon & Schuster published my book, Blessed Health, which addressed a medical-spiritual connection. I have a poetry E-book available; and this, my new book, Living Well, Despite Catchin’ Hell: The Black Woman’s Guide to Health, Sex and Happiness is my signature book. This book has been in my spirit a long time. I may write three other books, but they aren’t medical in nature. One is an autobiography; I’ve been told my personal story is one of tremendous resilience and how to overcome against all odds.
Who were you targeting and why? In his endorsement of this book, Boston University’s Ob-Gyn Chairman Emeritus, Dr. Kenneth Edelin, wrote, “Living Well, Despite Catchin’ Hell should be read by all Black women and the men who love them.” I’d add to that, “all of society” because Black women still “catch hell” in what I call the modern-day Town Square—the media, the Internet, TV, movies, song lyrics and sometimes from some Black men. Even at the hands of Black movie and television producers, Black women are mostly portrayed, and some display themselves, in a disrespectful, negative light.
The late Rodney Dangerfield made millions and had a life of fame and fortune saying, “That’s the story of my life, I don’t get any respect.” The Black female demographic can make that same claim, but hardly any sisters are laughing. There is the positive reality of most Black women compared to the negative images we see in the media, and I want to separate fact from fiction. I also wanted to give voice to some unsung sheroes. I feel the piece de resistance in the book is my color flowchart entitled, “Societal Stress and Black Women’s Health: The ‘Rejection Connection’.” I think it is a first of its kind! In it, I demonstrate how these psycho-social stressors—decades of being publicly ignored, abhorred, disrespected and rejected—adversely affect our physical health. The book, and especially the flowchart, serves as an eye-opener, not only to women readers, but to health professionals, sociologists, psychologists, media executives and others. I want them to see the connection so they can mitigate the causative factors. So, my target is Black women, Black men and all of society.
Give us 5 key take-aways that readers will get when they read the book: 1) The first take-away is in the title itself. Yes, Black women may be “catching hell” with negative images in the media, a lack of marriage-worthy (even marriage-minded) men, colorism, being head-of-household more than any other female demographic, and the most numerous victims of intimate partner violence. Even the First Lady, Michelle Obama, can be said to catch some “hell,” having been compared to a gorilla, and called her husband’s “bitter half” by a rising politician. There’s the challenge of trying to have healthy relationships and great sex in a world of “down-low” fears; plus as a group, we face a legacy of dismal health statistics. But I say rejoice! Many of us are cherished wives, loving mothers (with high-achieving children), highly-educated trailblazing professionals and successful entrepreneurs. Many of us are living well, and others aspire to do just that!
2) Because these social stressors can and do affect our physical health, it is paramount that you take time to tend to your health and overall well-being. If you take time to go to church to bolster your spiritual health; or take time to beautify your hair and nails, also take the time to get a check-up to bolster your physical health. Make yourself a priority.
3) Sex, health, happiness and wealth…you know you want it! As the first Black women’s health book written in eight years, I provide head-to-toe information all in one book. The economy is tight; many can’t afford a different book for every condition. This is an up-to-date, one-stop medical guidebook that is also sexology, sociology, psychology, dashes of pop culture and hefty doses of personal responsibility. And the goal isn’t to be like White or Asian women; the goal is to be healthier Black women.
The book gives current information about heart disease, diabetes, obesity, infant mortality, HIV/AIDS, cancers, GYN problems such as fibroids, menopause, endometriosis and more. There’s also info about your bones, arthritis, the eyes, lupus, hair, skin, even plastic surgery. There is a large section about sex: Overcoming hang-ups to get the hook-up; sexual dysfunction, how to let your hair down and enjoy sex, and a section about STDs. As a treat, I also provide a few love/erotic poems to end that section. (You can thank me for those later).
4) Here’s a McCloudism (from the book): “When you do your thing, you will have ‘haters’, but never let people get you off track. Sometimes even family members will become jealous and try to derail you or destroy your spirit. But no matter what obstacles come against you, you can make it if you treat people right, stay focused on your goal and stay true to yourself and your God.” Trust me; I am a living witness.
5.) Celebrate yourself and also don’t be afraid to lift up others. Dress like you want to be treated. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you know you will be disrespected. Penises are everywhere; you don’t have to jump at the first one (or every one) that comes along. [Warning: I step on some toes in this book!] Honor your temple. Don’t limit yourself, or your exposure to life. There are so many wonderful things—yes, some created by God; others, by humankind—that you need to see and enjoy! Get out there. Read, Travel. Meet people outside your usual circles. Get educated. Education is the key; it is the ticket out of poverty, unhealthy environments and limited living.
In Living Well, I tell readers, “Don’t let others define you.” Say to yourself who and what you will be…then do what you have to do. Some may not like this, but I also say stop waiting for “apologies and reparations.” As a people we have more to deal with than waiting for folks to apologize and give us some land. Instead, I say, “Affirm yourself and take action.” In chapter 12, entitled, “What Black Women Must Do to Survive, Thrive and Stay Alive,” I give a list of life-affirming tips—a “prescription” for successful living. I also include some “life lessons” for your daughters…and theirs. I am not defined by any other person. I am me. How the media says “I” behave is not what I do. I give advice on how to center yourself and not be so absorbed by the trappings of today’s world.
Tell us about you…Dr. Melody T. McCloud Most importantly, I am a present, faithful friend to my friends. I’m a great listener, and many would say, an “armchair psychologist.” I’ve been told I give great counsel and am good at getting to the root/core of what ails you, or pains your spirit. I have a true healing, nurturing spirit, I guess. My life has been a journey, but I am happy to say (and according to others), I am one who not only survived, I thrived…against all odds. God has been my strength and my guide. I never knew any of my grandparents; not one of them. My father was absent my entire life. My mother was a strict, but attentive/good mother early on, but sadly, became very jealous of her own daughter. According to her doctor, pastor and others, she was “out to destroy” me. (I didn’t know a mother could/would do that). I have no siblings, no husband and no children. All things considered, I didn’t get to say “we” a whole lot. I say that God forgot to deal me the “family” card.
Despite that, I stayed focused. Now, in addition to being a successful Ob-Gyn physician and surgeon with no lawsuits ever, I’m also a public speaker, occasional voice-over talent, and a published author. In 2004, I found my ever-absent father; and in 2005, I “met” him for the first time in 35 years. You’ll have to wait for the autobiography to hear about that, and the other juicy parts: There’s a pastor who crossed boundaries in my early days; and there’s the one man who kicked me to the curb. (For years, I let that decision define me; I shouldn’t have. He later married a woman he, admittedly, picked in my image; but he has since told me “Mel, I [expletive] up; I married the wrong girl.” [Oh yeah; that made me shout!] He carries 25 years of regret.) And, praise God, I am now engaged to be married, and my fiancé has a ton of family! I’m a great cook! I love witty humor, traditional gospel music; oceans. I love to travel; sports, and can get on a serious, hair-sweating groove dancing to “old school” R&B music.
Be Healthy, Be Blessed…and make sure you are Living Well!
Get a copy of the book, contact, or follow Dr. McCloud via these links:
♦Follow Dr. McCloud at PsychologyToday.com:
♦Listen to Dr. McCloud discuss her book on the Tom Joyner Morning Show!
♦For more about Living Well…Despite Catchin’ Hell: The Black Woman’s Guide to Health, Sex and Happiness, see NEW BOOK! Paste the link to your Facebook and Twitter pages.
♦ Website: www.DrMcCloud.com ; Email: mtm[@]DrMcCloud [dot]com.
Melody T. McCloud, M.D. is an obstetrician-gynecologist, media consultant and the founder/medical director of Atlanta Women’s Health Care. She lectures nationwide on health, sex, relationships, media images of Black women and social issues. The author of six books, Dr. McCloud’s new book, Living Well…Despite Catchin’ Hell: The Black Woman’s Guide to Health, Sex and Happiness has a foreword by Pauletta Washington, wife of Academy Award winner, Denzel Washington.