Let’s talk about a difficult topic today. Everyone’s favorite, *MENTAL HEALTH*. While for many, mental health is super easy to discuss, for other’s it’s quite difficult. I’ve said this many times before, but as a person of color, it isn’t always easy to discuss these things with those closest to you. I’ll share some of my back story for those that are new here. I grew up with a religious mother who believed that there was no such thing as depression and anxiety, but rather blamed everything on demons and bad juju. Now don’t get me wrong, my mother is the most magical human being you will ever meet in your entire life, but the topic of mental health wasn’t a thing for her. After talking about this issue with a lot of my peers and discussing it on social media, I found that a lot of people with similar upbringings and cultural backgrounds shared the same issue. There aren’t enough people of color discussing mental health.
I was lucky enough to be forced into therapy when I went back to college about 6 years ago. My major required me to go to therapy once a week. Skip to a semester later, I threw the whole college away but I kept the therapist. This is one of the only times you’ll ever hear me refer to myself as ‘lucky.’ I did not work hard for this. I did not research for hours and go into 1,000 therapy meetings. She was assigned to me, and we fell in mental health love. At the beginning, therapy for me was just a way to bitch to someone about everything who was obligated to fix shit for you or tell you how to fix it. About 3 and a half of my first therapy years were like this. I never lied, but I was never completely honest. I told her the things I felt that she could fix. Whatever I convinced myself was beyond her ability, I suppressed. When in reality, I was just using her as an excused to avoid dealing with those very difficult subjects.
Fast forward, three and a half years after our first session, I guess she got tired of my shit. “You either start telling me everything or you look for someone else because I don’t have time to throw Tumblr quotes and rainbows all over you.” I was so pissed. Like how dare you even protest when I am paying you to pretend you’re writing notes down on your pad? All you need to do is listen to my dishonest problems and let me walk out of that door fake healed. SIGH. I started to look for another therapist. This was hard. We’ll get into some tips later because their were amazing ones I found, but I could not afford to see them as often as I saw my lady. I looked for months and I realized I had cut the shit and be honest with myself. Also, a friend made me calculate how much I had spent on my fake therapy sessions over the years and I was so angry with myself. SO. MANY. COINS. I called her back and made an appointment. From then on my life completely changed.
We talked about things I was taught to suppress. I grew up in a super dysfunctional home with a religious mom and an alcoholic, verbally abusive father. Now don’t get it twisted. I was loved well. I’ve never been spanked (I know y’all all got your asses whooped). My dad was never verbally abusive to me or my siblings, but he was super mean to my mom. One of my earliest memories is of my parents having a heated argument, me running to my parents room to get a belt and then trying to hit my dad. My dad was literally my best friend. I told him who all my crushes were and we went shopping together. He did my hair and dressed me when my mom was working a million hours. He was my world. When I was 17, he up and let us for another woman. Gone like he’d never even been there. After that, I grew up fast. I grew up angry and mean. Always playing defense and ready to whoop ass if anyone even looked at me the wrong way. You had already lost with me without stepping a foot on the court. I was a very bitter child and a super hurt adult. But therapy got me through that. It got me through a mentally abusive relationship and really awful self-esteem. I got me through the anger and resentment that leukemia left me with. SO MUCH.
When I started taking therapy seriously, everything prospered. I didn’t learn to know my worth and add tax because of the industry I work in. I learned to believe that phrase because of the healing I received from investing into my mental health and my sanity. I learned how to be a better daughter and a better friend. I mean I still kinda suck at that because I never answer texts and I’m the worst at remembering stuff, but I try. I learned how to be honest and speak my truth. But I could never speak my truth had I been dishonest with my therapist and myself. My business blew up after I started dealing with myself. My relationships blossomed. For my birthday two years ago, I gifted myself freedom by getting out of a relationship that was causing so much self-doubt. When I tell you I prospered, I prospered! But I worked really hard. I invested a lot of money and time. There were weeks when I spoke to my therapist every day, but for the most part we chatted once a week.
So now, 6 years later, I feel amazing. I still struggle with things like depression and anxiety, but therapy has taught me my triggers, solutions and helpful practices. It’s taught me to forgive. My parents still get on my last nerve like very other human with parents, but I love them dearly. My dad (who I had so much hate for) is one of my favorite humans. I’m not perfect but I’m so not where I should be given the things I’ve gone through. I saw a quote on Pinterest one time that said something corny like “You can be both a work in progress and a masterpiece.” It’s true. It’s a painful process and it’s not for everyone, but it saved me. It’s allowed me to be in a healthy and loving relationship. I went from wanting to adopt 4 kids and be a single lady forever to moving across the country with a man who I love and trust. I went from literally feeling my blood get hotter every time I would hear my dads voice to the occasional eye roll but mostly joy. I learned to figure out my own truths and my own beliefs.
Lately what we’ve been working on is my move. I have lots of fears, anxieties and reservations. I’m moving across the country and leaving my friends and family. I’ve never lived that far from home and I’ve never lived anywhere else. Will I hate it? Will I want to be an episode on ‘My favorite Murder’ after living with him for a week? Will he smother me with a pillow after my snoring drives him crazy? Those are funny, but I do have actual concerns. Will I get super depressed being away from everyone I know and love? Yes, I have new friends and new family there, but will that be A LOT of change, REALLY FAST? How will I deal with working from home full-time? I hate people most times, but how will I have a social life when I don’t really know anyone? SO MANY THINGS! Like I said, I’m working through it. Therapy has been extremely liberating for me and continues to be.
Here are some tips for you if you’re currently in therapy or looking for a therapist.
The internet is so clutch for this stuff. I helped a friend find a therapist across the country through Psychology today. By being open about my new search for a therapist as I’m moving, I’ve had people from the area send me recommendations. Fill in the search form and look through your list of suggested therapists. Schedule a quick phone call. When I was helping my friend look for a therapist I asked every single one if they would jump on a call for 5 minutes or less. All of them were glad to do it but one. I cursed him out ‘cause he was super rude and I left him a tasteful Yelp review. But that’s besides the point.
Be honest with your therapist and yourself. Before your first session, make a bullet list of the top 3-5 things you want to work on. That way you’re not stuck when you get there. You can even just hand them the paper and say “this is what I want to work on.” Or you can tell them this over the phone. But you have to have to have to be honest. It’s imperative. Some things are very difficult to speak about. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental and emotional abuse. Heartbreak and low self-esteem. No one wants to sit across from someone and talk bout this shit, but it’s important for you to work through all of that. When you get rid of the bad, you’re only helping yourself by making room for all of the good that the universe has for you.
You have to trust yourself and your therapist. I had no faith in my girl for 3.5 years. I thought my problems were too ugly and too big. Too complex and too embarrassing even. I didn’t think she was capable of helping someone so broken. In reality, I didn’t have the confidence that I could be fixed. I really believed in my heart of hearts that I had to live in a state of brokenness for the rest of my life because those were the cards that were dealt to me. But then I chose to trust my therapist. I chose to trust myself. I chose to believe that what I was doing was not only for my benefit, but for my relationships, my friends, my work, my partnerships.
Talk to people you trust about this and ask for help if you need it. You’d be surprised how much insight you can get from someone you thought would judge you or wouldn’t understand. If they do judge your or don’t understand, fuck it. They’re not there to serve that part of you and that’s okay. It doesn’t matter who you talk to, turmoil and pain is always easier to deal with when you’re not alone. Even though I think I know everything, therapy quickly humbled my ass by teaching me that I know nothing and I need people. I need help.
I chose therapy because I wanted to be a good human for myself. I knew that I was great because people always told me I was, but I wanted to feel that greatness. I wanted to believe it. I also discovered that I was not trying to be a voluntary single mom with 12 people working for her. As much as I love Shonda Rhimes, I didn’t want to be her in that regard anymore. I wanted to build a family in the future and I wanted to grow. I quickly learned you can’t build on ruins. You have to take all of the trash out, clean the place up and start from scratch. Building an empire and being a BAMF (bad ass motherfucker) starts inside. You owe it to yourself to live your best life. The purest, strongest, most beautiful version of your truth. You deserve that. You deserve happiness and healing. Sometimes you can get that out of a self-help book or a podcast, and sometimes you need a professional. There’s no shame in that.
Do you, boo.
PS if you have the time, check out my girl @allthingsada‘s therapy journey below. Feel free to comment with yours <3