This Black Girl & Her Therapist
Hola y'all! Happy December! I aaalmost finished my "post every week during November" personal challenge. I got to the last week and flaked BUT it was still a good run for me.
Right now I'm in the mood for sharing, so I hope you're in the mood for listening. I don't know about y'all but personal family things in my childhood were discouraged from being discussed with people who were not family. I get that! You can't run around telling everyone your business all the time. Maybe that's why I grew up wildly private about unimportant things.
Them: Are you dating so-and-so?
Me: (awkward and paranoid) Who told you that? (Nevermind that it's true and I've actually been dating this person for two whole years..)
Everyone doesn't have your best interest in mind. Some people are just down right nosey and don't really care beyond needing to be involved in something that has nothing to do with them. People are messy. So, yes, I didn't go around sharing everything back then, and I still don't nowadays.
However, I personally believe emotional and mental health are collectively the one thing that's not really taught anywhere growing up. You might have one or two pages dedicated to it in a health book that your teacher MIGHT go over but that's it! It's something that's left up to your parents and/or family to teach you. No shade to parents but there's no manual on how to do ANYTHING in parenthood and everyone grows up with their own baggage. Every parent has a childhood where they learned one way or another, either blatantly or passively, how to deal with their emotions, how to communicate with others, how to contribute in relationships, and so on. They pass on what they learned whether they realize it or not UNLESS they recognize patterns they don't like and actively try to change them.
More times than not, they grow into adults that repeat the patterns they grew up watching or form patterns of their own as a response from the patterns they witnessed. Ok, ok, I'm getting a little heady, but stay there with me.
That brings me to this point: Emotional and mental health falls by the wayside as we develop into adults. There are ridiculous people out there (you know you know them!) who have no idea how to treat other people or themselves and it's all because there hasn't been a focus on teaching us these things. Emotions are often belittled, ignored, encouraged to be put away, or ridiculed, which isn't ok. Everyone needs an outlet to express themselves and to be heard.
I've always been an oddly emotional person. For those of you who are into this stuff, I'm an INFJ and a highly sensitive person. It's INSANE to be in by brain some days, but learning that about myself explained A LOT to me and things started to make sense. Although I've never been diagnosed, I've experienced small bouts of depression and anxiety in the past and during college I decided to access the university's counseling services. Best. Decision. Ever. My lady wasn't even all that great (sorry girl!), and it was still really helpful.
Now, I'm a black girl from the South with a Southern mama. I recently started seeing a therapist again, and when I casually mentioned this to my mother (who I had decided not to tell) I got the response I thought I'd get.. "You're seeing a therapist!? What's wrong? Why are you seeing a therapist?"
I calmly told her that nothing was wrong and that seeing a therapist was like working out for the physical health benefits - it's just a way to exercise and keep my mental health and emotions healthy and in check. NBD. But we make it a big deal. There is, no doubt, a stigma around seeing a therapist, especially in the older black community. If you're seeing a therapist, something IS wrong, you're crazy, you're off, etc. However, there's a lot of cultural history there as well, going back when blacks weren't medically treated when in need or were given less-than quality care. Trust with those outside of the culture is also a factor. Henrietta Lacks anyone?
According to NAMI.org:
- "African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population."
- "African Americans are also more likely to experience certain factors that increase the risk for developing a mental health condition, [like homelessness and exposure to violence]."
- "Only about 1/4 of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40% of whites."
I think the acceptability around therapy is much higher among millennials and those simply progressing with the times. Some people have true trauma they've buried that they need to talk to someone about. Actually, MOST of us do. Therapy should be the norm and should be more accessible.
Why am I going to therapy you might be wondering.. I'm not depressed. I'm in one of the best places I've ever been in my life. As I'm maturing, I feel I'm asking all the right questions of myself. I'm all about intentionally living which means digging deep to find any false beliefs that are blocking my growth or habits I'm forming that aren't condusive to my happiness, health, or growth. Having an unbiased professional to talk to is soooo nice. She can point out themes, ideas, and offer solutions or exercises to help me improve things or move past them. It was also important to me that she was a she and that she was black. This is for the same reason I'll always have a female gynecologist. A man can be trained and be just as smart, but he'll never know what it actually feels like to have a vagina. [Insert shrug here] Not sorry.
Anyone I've mentioned this to among friends, the fact that I'm seeing a therapist, has been really encouraging, some even sharing their own stories of therapy. It's freeing and honestly makes me feel good that I might be helping someone move past any preconceived notions they have about therapy.
The southern in me says, "Therapy: it's not the devil y'all!" Give it a try. Sliding scales and even free services are available. You just have to be committed to finding them. Sometimes insurance can help or an HSA (Health Savings Account).
Your mental and emotional health is important and it's ok to act like it.