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.
I created a list of criteria
- 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.
- 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!).
- 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.
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?