Long before I started down my road of therapy I knew I was in need of healing. The reasons I pushed it off for as long as I did are many but the idea that my experiences weren’t traumatic enough to deserve it, was number one. Growing up therapy wasn’t something discussed in my home, my immediate circle, and not practiced by anyone I knew. What I knew of therapy existed in what I had seen or heard on television and other media. The idea that a “shrink” was something to be ashamed of was a trope that the 90s relied heavily upon. The biggest catalyst to me deciding to take the leap and start therapy came from my husband. I’m hoping that because of his love for me I can encourage you to take the leap for yourself.
Like many Black people I grew up in church and the love of Jesus was the thing I used to get through. This isn’t something I’m sad about or ashamed of. In fact my faith still plays a huge role in who I am as a person and I know it will continue to for the rest of my life. What I do recognize is that in the same way we go to medical doctors to be healed from physical ailments, our minds require the same. We have ascribed to the notion that getting help understanding our thoughts makes us less than. That couldn’t be further from the truth. On the contrary, much of the healing in our physical bodies is tied to and can be addressed through the fixing of our minds. That same Bible that directs us to believe God for our physical healing, also says we are restored by the renewing of our minds.
For as long as I can remember there has been a heaviness in the pit of my stomach about one thing or another.
Not being fully aware of what the feeling was I had no idea that I was suffering from anxiety. It was like a small monster that crept in at inopportune times. Like during award ceremonies in my school years, when I felt the urge to flee from auditoriums so I wouldn’t have to hear my name called over the microphone. Or at church as the first lady instructed us to welcome one another with hugs and reverie. Instead I would make my escape to the restroom as to not have to embrace anyone. Because hugs could send me into a tailspin. Silently I suffered through a litany of interactions that made me cringe or want to scream. Unfortunately I had no idea that there was something to help me with this.
Since meeting my husband I have become more aware of the inner workings of mental health and what we can do to tend to ours. I’m so grateful that I have someone who was there to encourage me to think about therapy in another light. Thinking about sitting down and divulging my inner most thoughts was something that scared me shitless if we’re being honest. Convinced that the person sitting in the chair across from me would judge or ridicule me hindered me from pursuing a solution. Taking that leap to therapy seemed daunting and not like anything I could do. Yet now three months after jumping I almost upset that I didn’t do it sooner.
How to find a therapist
If you’ve pushed off going to therapy because you aren’t sure where to begin, let me share my process with you. I began by looking up doctors on psychologytoday.com to get a feel for what was available in my direct area. In full transparency I did this for a full two months on a weekly basis before I ever emailed any of the doctors I saw. I sifted through the directory removing people using my own system. I looked at the types of therapy they focused on, their client expertise, if they took insurance, and how long they had been practicing. While some people feel that ethnicity and race are a huge factor in choosing a doctor I did not. Reason being I didn’t want to miss out on having the best doctor for me because they weren’t Black. That said, I was specifically looking for a female doctor because having a male therapist wasn’t something I was comfortable with.
Once I chose three finalists I prayed about it. I figured if this is what I needed to do I didn’t want to have to audition too many candidates, it was my prayer that I be led to the doctor who was best for me. I knew that having to try out multiple doctors was anxiety inducing for me. It caused me too much worry, so I needed to be decisive from the jump. After that prayer and some weeks of thinking I settled on a doctor and sent an email. I was direct and wrote the following:
“Hi Doctor X, I was searching psychologytoday.com and came across your profile. I am interested in scheduling a consultation with you as I am looking to find a therapist to help me with learning to live with anxiety and how best to treat it. Are you currently accepting new clients? If so, could you please send over some dates and times you are available to meet with me? Thank you!”
This note is straight to the point, mentions what you need help with, and makes it clear you’re looking to meet as soon as possible.
How Does Therapy Work?
Each therapist has their own technique and how they conduct their practice is based on their training and experience. Having this type of doctor patient relationship is still very new for me so I am navigating how it works. My sessions are an hour long and are more like conversations than me just brain dumping. Having an unbiased party asking questions about your choices and your thought process can be jarring, but I find that after each appointment there is something new I have discovered about myself. At every appointment since my initial one I think I have learned more and more that my doctor is there for me. Not to break me down but to help me open up my boxes and organize everything inside.
My first day of therapy I was so anxious that I had barely squeaked out three words before I was heaping crying mess – but I survived. Going to do something brand new can be frightening. There is no shame in feeling afraid, in fact it’s reasonable. It is brave to recognize that you need more help than just crying at night, having a glass of wine, journaling, or ignoring it all together. What I’ve come to learn is that I often feel much better after talking out the fears. After nearly 35 years of life, there are quite a few things that need sorting out. Childhood, adolescence, young adulthood all come with their own sets of worries and trials. As opposed to trying to work it all out myself – I got the assistance I needed. And I want you to as well.
Understand that by taking the leap to start therapy isn’t going to mean an instant fix to everything that’s plaguing you. What it does mean is that you can start to transition from a place of fear, nervousness, or anxious thoughts to processing life more smoothly. Therapy isn’t a one session or even twenty session thing, it is an ongoing process that takes time. One thing I can say is be patient. With yourself and the process. There will be work required on your end. You will have to be honest and open in order to gain the most you can. Be encouraged that it gets easier with every session.
Photography: Kaye McCoy
Have you thought about trying therapy but have been to afraid to make it happen? Let me encourage you, it will be the best thing you’ve done for yourself. And it’s a gift that keeps on giving. You got this.