Therapy ain't for me... or is it?
I get it. You're probably thinking, how in the world can I let a stranger inside of my mind? Why should I open up to someone who doesn't have a clue as to what I'm going through? I don't even know what I'm going through. Trust me, I get it. Because I, too, have had those same thought provoking questions and concerns. For a long time I assumed that therapy wasn't for me. I often convinced myself that I could fix my own problems. I told myself that I didn't need any help whatsoever because who knew me better than me? But the truth was, I barely knew myself nor who I was becoming.
Looking in the mirror.
Friends, let me tell you something... I am as stubborn as it gets. Or well I used to be (still working on it). I had a toxic habit of being stuck in my own ways and feeling as though it was either my way or the highway. You couldn't tell me that I was wrong especially if it was something related to me or my feelings. Now I am in no way saying that I was wrong for feeling how I felt – absolutely not. Just like me, you are entitled to feel the way you feel. But how we present or express our feelings is what matters. And that is what I needed help with.
It's a little disheartening to say that a traumatic experience is what ultimately brought me to therapy. If you've been keeping up with my readings as well as my social media content, then you would know that I am now a true advocate for mental health and going to therapy.
Prior to my experience, you wouldn't catch me on a therapist's couch (and you still wouldn't due to Ms. Rona – I use virtual therapy, honey). Whenever I would encounter a problem or challenge, I would simply pray and tell my brain not to think about it. Just take a nap. It would eventually go away. But the more and more that I suppressed my feelings, the more dangerous I became. If someone threw me even the slightest grain of dirt, I would instantly cut them off. If you don't believe me, just ask my friends about my scissor hands. There were also many times where I literally couldn't decipher my feelings and it would cause me to immediately shut down from the world. It was quite unhealthy.
If you can relate to any of this then hear my plea when I say, get your butt in therapy. I know that it is easier said then done. Again, it took a traumatic experience for me to finally realize that I couldn't unpack this alone. I couldn't handle my emotions without proper help. I needed Jesus but I also needed a therapist too. I knew that if I didn't seek help then I would fall back into my unhealthy habits of shutting down. It was time to change who I was becoming.
Here's what to know.
Before I began the search of finding the perfect (we'll come back to this term later) therapist, I first made a list of my reasons for going to therapy. I wrote down my goals, intentions, and what I'd hope to gain from the sessions. I also wrote down questions that I wanted to ask my potential therapist as this process was new and fairly scary to me. Again, I wasn't the biggest fan of opening up to a stranger. But I knew that I could no longer allow my fear to hinder me from becoming the best version of myself that I could be.
Another intention of mine was to have a Black woman as my therapist. I knew that I would feel more comfortable with opening up to someone who looked like me. So whatever your preferences are that would make things more comfortable for you, do it! Now I will admit that looking for a therapist can be a daunting task. Depending on where you live, there can be a plethora of therapists in your area. I was able to find my therapist through Therapy for Black Girls. I also used Psychology Today where they provided more details about my desired therapist(s) such as the issues that they're experienced in to help. These issues can range from life transitions; anger management; depression; grief; parenting; peer relationships; spirituality; self-esteem; you name it! So it's very important that you see you a therapist who has had experience in addressing your specific needs/desires.
I then made a list of about 6 therapists that I would consider myself being open to. It took me almost 2 weeks to decide who I would choose as my therapist because I often found it difficult to make a solid decision when I am offered a plate full of options. If you're like me, just make a decision and stick with it. Don't use this as an excuse to further put off your journey. With so much going on in the world right now, it's a must that we prioritize our mental health and make those needed decisions.
Things I wish I knew.
I am happy to share that I am quickly approaching my one year anniversary of being in therapy. *clink clink* I went from having a session once a week, to having a session twice a month, and now only once a month. Although my progress has allowed me to only feel the need to visit my therapist with a monthly "check-in", I advise you do whatever suits your needs.
As you're gathering up the courage to seek therapy, below are a few tips that I wish I knew beforehand.
The perfect therapist may not be your first therapist. Earlier I mentioned that we would re-visit this word. I was a bit discouraged at first that I wouldn't choose the right therapist. That was partly the reason why it took me almost 2 weeks to finally decide on a therapist from my list. Listen, just like the Aaliyah song says, if at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again. If the first therapist doesn't work for you, try another one. And if they still don't suit your needs, move on to the next. Now you may never find the perfect therapist because no one is perfect, but you deserve to have someone who will suit all of your needs and properly guide you to your healing/overall wellness goals. Don't give up.
Things will get messy. On day one, my therapist warned me about this but I took her advice as just words and not as a serious precaution. As you're navigating throughout your wellness journey, your environment and surroundings will begin to change as you start to change. You're awakening a new mindset. You're setting boundaries as well as well as cutting certain things (or people) out of your life that no longer serve you. Overall, you're trying to figure out what works best for you and what simply does not. And this my friend, can become a bit messy but in the end, it is so well needed. You'll soon realize why certain things had to change.
Healing isn't linear. Speaking of goals, I naively told myself that I wanted to be fully healed by the end of 2020. Mind you, I started therapy in September 2020... baby, healing doesn't happen overnight nor is it linear. I realized that I shouldn't put a date on my mental wellness because things change everyday. But as long as I am constantly doing the work that it takes to heal, then I will be okay. Please honor your needs as they evolve with you. Take your time and know that you will get there.
Lastly, going to therapy doesn't mean that you're weak or crazy. Since I was a child, there was always this negative stigma that surrounded therapy that basically served as a major deterrent for me (and others) to seek help. In the church, funny facial expressions would consume the congregation if someone even hinted at going to therapy. It was often preached that all we needed was Jesus, right? Well I am here to tell you that I need Jesus and my therapist too. I am not weak nor crazy for seeking counseling. I refuse to carry the world's problems as well as my own and call it normal. No. I don't want to always be the strong Black woman. I want to simply be me. Therefore, with the help of therapy, I am taking the necessary steps to overcome challenges and improve the overall quality of my life.
I wouldn't trade this journey for the world. It took a lot for me to get to where I am today and I am so damn proud of myself for doing the work. Of course, my emotions were all over the place. And even today, I still have my moments. I would even sometimes immediately cry post-session because of certain realizations that I would have about myself. But I truly thank my therapist for always gathering me together, chile! Sometimes she be reading ya girl but its all love. I can truly say that I am in a much healthier space these days and I am a much healthier me. I hope that my transparency and tips have convinced you to try therapy. Even if you aren't going through anything traumatic at the moment or if you feel as though you're in a really good space - still, try therapy. Because it can lead you to an even greater space. If you'll allow it, therapy can definitely be for you. If you can and whenever you're ready, schedule that appointment.
Affirm: Healing starts with me. Change starts with me. A better life starts with me.
Xi's Takeaway Essentials:
Drop the stigmas that are associated with therapy. You deserve to be the best version of yourself possible.
Make this journey your own.
Check out my resources tab where there is more information on accessible therapy options.