I was 18 years old when I realized that I needed to address my mental health.
Freshman year of college kicked my entire ass and honestly, I wanted to die.
Honestly, I tried to die. But, that Spring of 2013 I finally said to myself that I needed to do something about this.
I remember leaving my dorm room and venturing off to the health center, whose walls I had been in numerous times between that first and second semester of freshman year, but this time was different.
I wanted to conquer myself.
But things didn’t quite work out that way.
I walked into the counseling center where I had to fill out paperwork, then they had me sit down with someone who did what is called an intake interview, where she asked me a series of questions about my background, my family’s background, and ultimately what brought me there.
I answered her questions as honestly as I could, but then was cut off. This white girl, who I later found out was a graduate student in the counseling program, looked me square in my eyes and said, “Well, it doesn’t LOOK like anything is wrong with you.”
I got quiet and I remember my stomach twisting in knots.
At 18/19 years old, I didn’t have the language to describe that I was processing trauma and that regardless of how strong I looked on the outside, I was hurting bad on the inside.
That’s the problem. We assume that black folks, especially black women don’t hurt. They assume we don’t suffer from trauma or pain. They assume we can endure so much and not break.
But there I was, in that office, trying my hardest not to break. When she said that, I couldn’t help but think to myself “Well damn, maybe I am making this shit up in my head…..”
Needless to say, I left that office. I never went back.
And I just thugged it out with my mental health for the rest of the school year, then the summer, then the fall and winter, and then for about 3 or 4 more years until 2017.
Those years saw a lot of pain.
I’ve never been diagnosed, but maaannnnnnn those depressive episodes I experienced often took a huge toll on me mentally and emotionally.
A couple of emotional breakdowns and rounds of self-sabotaging destructive behavior later, I figured I needed to try counseling again.
This time though, I wanted to try spiritual counseling with the pastor I had at the time. Every week for a couple months, we would discuss my issues and he advised me on how to approach things from a spiritual standpoint.
In our sessions, I learned a lot about building an authentic relationship with God and how to turn to prayer more often rather than unhealthy coping mechanisms. It was during this period that I started keeping prayer journals and casting my cares on the Lord (1st Peter 5:7)
I’m not sure when I stopped going to spiritual counseling, but I do think the decision to stop was a mutual one.
Everything was fine for a while, but towards the end of 2016, I had another emotional breakdown.
The irony in this is that I am known as someone who keeps a smile on her face and is somewhat known as the life of the party. People typically come to me for encouragement, so it was mind boggling that I had sunk so low.
But I did. And once again, I had to figure out how to pick myself up again.
During that time, Solange released A Seat At The Table and those mornings and nights when I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t eat, wasn’t sleeping well, damn for sure wasn’t cleaning my room it was that album that pushed me to keep going and do something about this.
But, I didn’t do anything. At least not right away.
Senior year of college rolled around and I anxious as hell about life post grad. However, it wasn’t just the future I was stressed about, I was also exhausted by the toxic relationships I engaged in, my self-destructive behavior, and struggled hard with loving and accepting myself fully.
By then I had figured out that I wanted and needed a Black female therapist in my life and if I had to walk my ass back into my school’s counseling center then that was what I was gone have to do.
Now most people, (self included) tend to stay away from places where they had a negative experience. But my school’s counseling center was convenient, affordable, and plus the white girl who judged me freshman year no longer worked there, so it was a win.
Things had changed. First of all, the assessment they had me take was online now and I now had the option of picking the race/ethnicity of the therapist I wanted to see. Talk about autonomy and control!
A couple days later, I was back in therapy and went every week up until I graduated.
I learned so much about myself during those 5 months AND it was refreshing to connect with a Black, female, therapist.
I learned that the key to peace is acceptance.
I learned what boundaries were and how to set and maintain them.
I learned the importance of being present.
After I graduated, things took a toll on me mentally.
Post grad blues, working jobs I hated, a pregnancy followed by an abortion, more self-sabotaging and self-destructive behavior. I didn’t take the time to stop and process anything. All of those different things going on affected me greatly. But always the one to never stop smiling, not many knew what I was going through at the time.
The unfortunate part was, I knew I needed therapy but what stopped me was that I couldn’t afford it. The health insurance offered by my job at the time was public aid health insurance and I wasn’t sure if I could get a black therapist again and didn’t wanna risk it. In hindsight, doing some research would’ve saved me from a lot of suffering.
Instead of going back to therapy, I self-helped as best as I could with:
- Books on self-development
- Podcasts, such as Therapy 4 Black Girls
For a while, it worked. I learned how to name and regulate my emotions.
I learned why I acted the way I did in certain situations.
I learned healthier coping mechanisms for those anxious and depressive moments.
I got comfortable talking to myself + trusted friends.
I still would’ve rather been talking to a therapist, but getting in debt behind my mental health wasn’t something I wanted to do. And that fear, along with the stigma of seeking mental health services is what stops a LOT of us from going.
2019 came around, and everything was fine at first.
But then May came and I knew I had to stop putting it off and go talk to somebody. I was watching myself slip back into self-destructive behavior, my attachment style to certain people was getting out of hand, I was self-sabotaging and bending boundaries, and to put all that simply, I was sick of my own shit.
So, I took to Instagram and found a therapist and had my first session on May 15th and have been going as consistently as possible every 2-3 weeks.
Life since May has been a damn roller coaster, and if you read Exploring Celibacy then you know why.
Therapy is helpful when you do the work. And you gotta be committed. And you gotta be disciplined cuz this shit is not fun, not easy, and is exhausting. But, I am thankful for therapy. Being in control of my mental health both intrigues me and makes me feel liberated.
Thank you, therapy for teaching me that my mental wellness is important.
Thank you, therapy for teaching me that I truly do deserve peace and should not have to fight for it.
Thank you, therapy for giving me safe spaces to process trauma and cry about it.
Thank you, therapy for letting me know that there is strength in vulnerability.
Thank you, therapy for showing me that I have the power to create a new normal.
Thank you, therapy for showing me that mental health is not cookie cutter or black and white.
Thank you, therapy for helping me forgive myself.
Thank you, therapy for helping me strengthen my self-love.
Thank you, therapy for helping me become secure in my decision making and to trust myself.
Thank you, therapy for giving me the tools to have those difficult ass conversations I’ve had to have with people all year long.
Thank you, therapy for teaching me the importance of boundaries and how to respect others’ boundaries as well.
Thank you, therapy, for helping me gain clarity on what I want in a partner, out of a job, out of my life.
Thank you, therapy for making me feel empowered enough to write, tweet, text, talk, and Facebook about my experiences with you. Those messages I get often about how I inspired someone to take control of their mental health never get old.
Thank you, therapy for making me no longer ashamed of what I’ve been through.
Needless to say, therapy is awesome to me.
I think everyone should go at some point in their lives, even if you think nothing is “wrong” with you.
If you’re thinking about getting some therapy in your life, here is your confirmation that you should go.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and even though processing trauma can be exhausting AF, you can take a nap afterwards.
Take care of yourselves, loves.
- Have you ever been in therapy? What was/is your experience like?
- If you haven’t been to therapy yet, what is stopping you?
- If you’re currently in therapy or have been in the past, what are some things you’ve learned about yourself.
- Why do you think there is so much shame associated with seeking help with our mental health?
- What can this world do to make mental health services more affordable and accessible to all?
- Have you experienced any negativity from friends or family for seeking help about your mental health?
- Leave a message for someone who is struggling with their mental health.