Six months ago I began going to therapy. I can truly say that it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life; right next to uprooting my family and moving across the country. I decided to break the stigma I always knew of black Christian women not going to therapy. It was so taboo for so long and we were expected to just be strong and keep pushing. There was just entirely too much I’d carried that was worthy of unpacking and I needed to let it go. I came to the realization that it is okay to pray for healing and go to therapy all at the same time.

It took me years to find the courage to admit that I even needed therapy. I had been through child molestation, loss, domestic abuse, navigating through divorce, and a few toxic relationships among other things. It took even longer to decided to finally research a therapist that would fit my needs. After that, it took much more time to actually make that first phone call.

I took everything I thought I knew and threw it away

Many of us were raised to conceal our emotions and just keep moving, bottling up everything inside of us until we explode. This is not healthy at all.

Growing up while black and growing up in the Christian community tainted the idea of therapy or any type of counseling being a necessity in my life. I was simply taught that prayer was the “end all be all.”

I really believed that I had the ability to just pray it all away until I realized that I couldn’t. I wasn’t some kind of magician that could wave a wand and “voila” all my troubles were gone.

Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). So I had to rid myself of the ideology that I could just say a prayer and God would remove whatever trauma I’m experiencing without actually putting in the work. I don’t know if you knew this or not, but therapy is work ya’ll. Whew, Chile! I had to tell myself that just because I was going to therapy didn’t mean that I was watering down my faith or that I believed Jesus any less than the day I gave Him my life.

I decided to leave everything I knew at the door and work on taking the steps necessary to begin my healing.

blank notebook and bible on table

I created a list of criteria

  1. My therapist had to be a black woman. There was no question about this one. I wanted to feel comfortable and I wanted to feel safe. I wasn’t going to feel either of those things spilling the tea to someone who would never be able to relate to my personal traumas as a black woman.
  2. This black female therapist had to run a faith-based practice. My walk with Christ is important to me and I wanted to ensure that Christ was in ALL of my details. I wanted to be consistent with making sure that scripture and prayer were being used in this new chapter of my life. Y’all can keep the crystals and I believe sage belongs in my food (dat’s it!).
  3. This therapist and her practice had to align with what my current needs were. She also had to be able to understand my short term and long term goals with therapy. I wasn’t planning on going to therapy for the rest of my life. I also didn’t want to have my therapist on speed dial for every moment I was going to have a breakdown. My end goal was to heal and unpack. I needed to have the ability to cope with future issues on my own with the tools she provided. The only one I lean and depend on Christ!

I finally made the call

I had been holding on to my list of criteria for a solid minute. To be honest, I didn’t have much intention on proceeding after that. I made every excuse in the book not to call someone. I kept telling myself that I could fix it all on my own, but I was sadly mistaken. With the push of one of my best friends who kept me accountable, I finally made the call and scheduled my first session with the therapist I had been researching for some time. She seemed like the perfect fit for me and indeed she was.

My first session was not what I expected

Girl, I thought I’d be broken down on her couch teary-eyed while unpacking 30 years of trauma like it was a Lifetime movie in the 90’s. I was ready to let ALL of my frustrations out in the first session! To be honest, my therapist told me exactly how our first session was going to go, but I still had this animated expectation in mind going into it.

We spent fifty minutes going over my personal goals and expectations for therapy. She also discussed her approach based on my needs. My therapist let me know that I was in control of each session. She would guide me if needed and allow me to discuss whatever was on my agenda that day. She would assist me in unpacking the baggage I had been carrying for so long.

Her intention was to provide me with short term therapy. Her goal was the same as mine; to equip me with the tools needed to survive on my own and not depend on outside help. She believed that if I were co-dependent on my therapist, she wasn’t doing her job properly and I agree. I see it like taking an anti-depressant for the rest of my life. It’s not helping the issue at hand at all; just prolonging it.

Close up of sunflower

I began to show growth and healing

In addition to continuous prayer, each therapy session came with much healing and a bloom I had never seen in myself before. I was no longer wilted or watered down. I regained confidence in myself as I blossomed into a new creature.

I learned to create healthy boundaries to protect my mental and emotional health. I routinely held space for myself and not just everyone else. I discovered how to navigate through my anxieties even when my back seemed like it was against the wall. I learned to smile again. Most of all, I was determined to let go and to live, love, and let love reside in me; however that may look.

The baggage that I carried for so long silenced me in more ways than one. So, during this process of going to therapy, I started to pray out loud again. I unsealed my lips and stopped thinking that the Lord had good enough ears to only hear my thoughts and silent whispers. I broke my silence and now I make sure He hears my cries, my shouts, and my worship.

Prayer by itself wasn’t the route to my healing. I needed to seek help and I did just that. I needed more than prayer. I needed a therapist too.

What’s holding you back from seeking the help you know you need?

I can still remember the day…not like it was yesterday, but as if it was a faint memory of what I wished was a borrowed past.  A little over two years ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that unexpectedly changed my life. Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, better known as Diabetes Type 1.5 in my case. After ignoring several symptoms and battling within myself to figure out what was going on with me, I finally decided to seek help and began to learn how to navigate my new life with a chronic illness.

Erin with arms over her head exposing her insulin pump on her stomach

Type 1 Diabetes is typically found in adolescents.  The cause is currently unknown and unfortunately, so is the cure.  In most people with type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system, which normally fights harmful bacteria and viruses, mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. 

The symptoms of Type One

In 2016, I went from weighing 200 pounds to drastically dropping down to 130 pounds in less than 6 months.   I seemed to have lost weight without even trying.    I found it kind of odd at first because by that time I slacked up on working out, but I just attributed it to my continuous healthy eating habits.  later on, I started to notice significant hair loss.  There was literally hair everywhere no matter how gentle I was with it.  I remember the sight of large globs of my strands on the shower floor and clumps intertwined in my fingers as I finger detangled for the last time before I chopped it all off.  I figured that maybe I was losing hairdo to a lack of protein, so I supplemented thinking it would fix the problem…but it didn’t.

Glass jar with ice water on wood floor

I started to notice an increase in my thirst almost overnight.  I was always thirsty and my tongue felt like a desert storm.  I found myself standing in front of the fridge in the middle of the night drinking anything that was ice cold straight from the jug.  I remember going through a gallon of Tampico in less than a day after I drank all of the water in the house.   I would drive to the nearest gas station every day at lunch and after work for a large cup of ice and a large slush to relieve my extreme thirst and even that wasn’t enough. 

Among all of these things, I was extremely tired, fatigued, and exhausted, which is why I began to slack up on my workouts.  I was literally falling asleep at work in mid-sentence with customers on the phone.  I set a timer just to take naps during my lunch break and once I got home from work. I was still losing weight and beginning to look sickly. My clothes began falling off of me and my collar bone and ribs became visible.  Things were getting bad and I was completely confused as to why all of this was happening to me.

Seeking help

I finally ended up seeing my doctor, who later did more research and blood work to find out that I was actually a Type 1 diabetic.  She explained to me that I have a rare case of adult-onset type one diabetes.  I also learned that I didn’t end up here because of my weight or how many sweets I ate.  

Once I found this out, I was pretty scared at that point.  Like most, I was pretty ignorant of what diabetes was and how dangerous it can be if not cared for properly. I wanted answers.  I researched day and night.  I bought books on amazon, read articles, and joined Facebook groups and Instagram pages just for adults with type one diabetes in order to somehow find comfort. I couldn’t handle the news.  I couldn’t find the strength to get out of bed, let alone leave the house.  I felt sorry for myself.  I cried so many tears and tried so hard to understand why something like this would happen to someone like me.

The following week at my next appointment, I was placed on insulin that I had to inject once before bed to help regulate my glucose levels, which is called basal insulin.  My blood sugar levels were in the high 400’s and 500’s.  Days later, I was to the point of injecting insulin 4 times a day just to keep my sugar levels regulated. I learned that every time I ate no matter what I ate, my levels would rise. I carried needles and syringes with me everywhere I went and had to inject prior to each meal.  It was painful and embarrassing. I lost my sight shortly after diagnosis and had to wear glasses.  Now my sight is back as I have my blood sugar levels under control.  ,

Over these last few years, I’ve gained healthy weight back.  I have been through several ups and downs since diagnosis and have been to several appointments.  I am now using an insulin pump which looks like a small cell phone and holds enough insulin that my body needs for 3 days.  I am attached to my pump 24/7 and change out the tubing every 3 days.

Blood glucose meter for diabetes

I have to calculate my carb intake to regulate the correct amount of insulin I need for each meal.  I prick my fingers around 10 times a day if not more.  There are many instances when I have extremely low blood sugar levels and that’s when things can get scary.  I start to get cold sweats, shake uncontrollably, and I can feel nauseous.  It’s almost as if I lose all control of my body.  Because of this, I keep snacks, juice boxes, glucose tablets, and candy on my person at all times to keep myself level.   I also keep an emergency glucagon kit with me at all times in case I can’t raise my blood sugar up on my own. 

It was upsetting to know that I would never be able to eat whatever I want, whenever I wanted without having to calculate a few math problems first.  I have to plan each meal accordingly by counting carbs and taking the right amount of insulin at the right time.  Sometimes I splurge with my food and make sure my math skills are up to par when adjusting my insulin.

Choosing life

During this transition of learning to navigate my life with type one diabetes, I battled with depression on and off.  Some days were harder than others, but I managed to push through and I am thankful that I am alive.  When I was first diagnosed, I couldn’t handle the news.  I couldn’t find the strength to get out of bed, let alone leave the house.  I felt sorry for myself.  I cried so many tears and tried so hard to understand why something like this would happen to me. There were times when I didn’t want to go to my appointments or check my blood sugar because it became tiresome.

I’m going, to be honest, and say that for a moment, I thought I lost my faith in God as my healer.  I had to reevaluate the situation and realize that I am a King’s kid.  This is not the end.  It’s only the beginning.   After some time, I got back on my feet and decided to choose life in my situation.  I put a smile on each day and pray for my healing.  I try my best to make light of my situation by encouraging others.  The God I serve is a healer and I claim total and complete victory over my life in Jesus’ name.  I know this happened for a reason and my trial is a testament.  I choose not to allow the devil to take my joy.  Chronic illness or not, I am living on purpose.