No better time exists for the release of naturopath Andrea Sullivan’s latest book, “Enough.” An intricate exploration of both negative health consequences Black women face from caring for everyone – but themselves, and holistic solutions to chronic conditions, Enough, is the quintessential guide to a better you – mind, body, and spirit. Sullivan sat down with The Informer to discuss the small steps we can take today to kickstart a healthier 2022.
WASHINGTON INFORMER: Dr. Sullivan, why this book, and why now?
ANDREA SULLIVAN: African American women are dying younger, and faster than other women. We don’t get breast cancer more than Caucasian women, but we die more from it. Certainly, there are many reasons for that, including poor health care or we don’t trust the doctors, but it’s also because we don’t take time to get checked out. Why? Because we’re so busy taking care of someone else. This has been our history; it’s been our legacy, and it is what we pride ourselves on.
I take it back of course to slavery because I think much of what we’ve learned came from that period of time, and we still pass it on, unfortunately, and the unworthiness that we chose as a narrative based on how we were treated, which makes sense. At some point, we have to move out of that because that’s just no longer essential. We are all children of God; God is in us. Any God you want to pray to is in us, whether it’s Buddha, whether it’s Jehovah, whether it’s Christ, whatever it is. We are a part of that energy. And just knowing that gives you a birthright of abundance and joy, and excellent health.
My first degree is in sociology and criminology, and so I took it all the way back to the Sojourner syndrome which is a concept in sociology that speaks to Sojourner Truth and how she had as her mission, taking care of the community. And while she died later in life, she died from untreated diabetic ulcers. So it wasn’t that she died because of slavery, although certainly her childhood and her life were horrific. And so, we are following in her footsteps, though we don’t need to do that anymore. All of the conditions that are clearly not exotic conditions that I wrote about in my first book like diabetes and hypertension, are not foreign conditions that are specific to “negroes,” as they used to say. These are conditions that are from poor lifestyles, and part of that is the way we feel about ourselves and the way we treat ourselves. That has to stop.
WI: Do you find that there is some intersectionality between all of the things you learned and studied in Sociology and Criminology and the health outcomes of your patients?
AS: Absolutely, I’m following three women in the book who all have taken care of grandchildren, children, husband’s children that they didn’t know they had when they got married, I mean just every kind of child you want to think of, and not themselves. And this is how they have diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. That, for me, tells me that there is a huge gap in the awareness of, “I deserve to be well, I deserve to be taken care of, I deserve to have what I want to have. I deserve to have life in its fullness, not just life suffering.” Many women have childhood wounds and have faced abuse — whether it’s sexual, physical, mental, or emotional, and all of that continues to follow us. And then we have the ways in which we’ve been depicted in the world, whether it’s Mammy or Jezebel, or whatever the other derogatory names are for African American women. All of that affects us. It affects our basic cells, and it affects our psyches. It affects everything we do as a result of that narrative.
WI: So many of us abandon our health due to trauma. What is the holistic approach to helping the mind and body align for healing?
AS: I’m going to put it into a word – Homeopathy. Homeopathy is, in my humble opinion, the quintessential medicine. Because it affects your mind, your body, and your spirit. That’s what it does. Somehow, we don’t know how, each person as a result of their trauma or result of their childhood, or something, has taken on the spirit of something else in order to survive. The body always wants to live, it doesn’t want to die any more than you do consciously, so it takes on the energy of something else. We’re struggling with a lack of sleep, lack of water, and lack of time spent inside.
WI: What do you think Black women can do to combat the superwoman trope that they often feel pressured to fulfill?
AS: Our kryptonite has been this cape, we just have to keep this cape on all the time. No, we can’t keep the cape on all the time we’ve got to stop. That’s what we claim to be superwoman, just like Sojourner Truth. But that has to come to an end.
WI: Can you share how stress, grief, and neglect promote negative physical outcomes?
AS: There’s a chapter on stress in the book that explains that when we’re under stress or grief there are certain hormones that get administered or released, and those hormones affect our blood sugar, our blood pressure, and they affect our mood and our temperament, and other hormones. So, stress is really like having a tiger in a tree all the time that keeps you constantly on alert. This increases your blood pressure, because your blood is pumping harder, your heart is pumping harder, your vessels, arteries, veins, are getting smaller, and that same amount of blood is trying to get through the same, or a smaller space and increases your pressure. Your body readies for “fight or flight,” so you’ll be able to run. And there’s another set of hormones that decreases or increases your blood sugar. So, we have all of those hormones that are affecting and creating two of the biggest dis(eases) that African Americans suffer from — diabetes and hypertension.