I haven’t written lately but this one has been with me a while.
I truly believe that by 30, nearly everyone has experienced something tragic that could have taken them under or completely out. Because that’s how life can be. Unpredictable despite the best of plans, and with disappointments that feel like the end of all things good. Last month when chef, world traveler, and documentarian Anthony Bourdain took his life, I wrote an IG post in tribute and tried to urge folks to get help when they are not OK. Bear in mind that designer Kate Spade took her own life days before. Plus there’s been a lot of talk about mental health in the past few years in response to young White, American men carrying out mass killings—even in cases where they have little to no connection with their victims.
We’re in a time when more celebrities are coming forward and owning their diagnosed metal illnesses, such as bipolar disorder. A brave few have stepped out after weighing the potential fallout (no doubt) to speak about what ails them. Or circumstances and scrutiny pushed them to do so. The world will probably breathe a sigh of relief when functional mental illness is no longer stigmatized, taboo, or a source of shame and alienation. But in the meantime, and for the majority of us, therapy.
- Therapy before you get to the point of seriously contemplating suicide or harming yourself period.
- Therapy when you feel completely off-balance and can’t figure out how to get right.
- Therapy when you’re doing and saying things that alienate the people you care about, but you really want them in your corner.
- Therapy when you’ve tried self-medicating with wine, vodka, tequila shots, partying, weed, sex, or brown liquor and you still wake up empty.
- Therapy when you’ve tried prayer, yoga, working out, fasting, or meditation and you still have questions.
- Therapy when you’re flat out overwhelmed and don’t know which way is up.
- Therapy when you just haven’t felt like yourself for way too long.
For the longest time, we’ve heard that Black folks don’t go to therapy, especially Black men. For those who think it makes you seem weak, it doesn’t. It shows that you’re proactive and intentional about your health and wellness and confident enough to show up and say “I need to talk through some things.” For those who believe that seeking therapy means you’re discounting your faith, not at all. First of all, you are a complete being with a body, soul, and mind, and all of it requires attention. Take your faith to therapy with you and consider therapy part of your wellness toolbox along with prayer and meditation.
But there’s no fronting in therapy. Just don’t do it. Tell the truth and be exactly who you are. Remind yourself that the person you’re talking to wasn’t part of your life when you walked in. They haven’t been impacted by what you’ve done or said that you may feel bad about. They don’t have a bone to pick with you. Don’t change stories to make yourself look better. If you do that, you’re forcing them to respond to that person instead of the real you. They won’t have the facts, they won’t know who you are (what your true struggles are), and you won’t get the help you need.
At work, I mentor younger women and two of them have, at various points in our conversation, mentioned therapy. My heart smiled because my first thought wasn’t that something was “wrong” with them. My first thought was “they get it, they’re already ahead”.
I’ve been to therapy so I speak from experience. I’ve gone on my own and I’ve gone as part of a couple. And yes, I initiated it for my husband and me. Before and after we were married, and we weren’t on the verge of splitting up. But if you’ve been, you know that if nothing else, it gives you a different perspective on things that may be set in your mind when you’re dealing with a whole other person. You’re encouraged to consider and give language to thoughts that you probably wouldn’t in your one-on-one conversations. If you’ve been skeptical and you still read this entire post, thank you. If you’re in distress and now feel that therapy could help, go for it. If the first therapist doesn’t click with you, that doesn’t mean therapy is not for you. Do some research and try another one. Because frankly, I think it’s for all of us. Do your best to be well. For you and for all those who want you to be.