Setting the Bones
It is mental health awareness month! And I am here to remind you that Black mental health matters! I am here to remind you that it is okay not to be whole--that doesn't mean you're broken.
I know for me, when I first read my diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, I was in disbelief. I was scared. I was confused. Yet, oddly enough I was relieved. Why relieved? Because I felt like I finally got answers to so many questions. But with answers came more questions. One of my first questions was: where could I get help?
I have had a couple of folks as me how did I go about getting into therapy? Was I scared? And what did I talk about? I hope that I can use this post to address some of those questions.
I viewed getting into therapy as life or death. I had previously struggled with suicidal thoughts before I was formally diagnosed, so I knew that if I didn't get the help I would most likely follow those thoughts. That was way scarier to confront than the thought of going to therapy. It really is humbling to realize you truly don't have a handle on your thoughts and you need some guidance with them. I had to realize that did not make me less of a person; however, it made me a stronger person.
Acknowledging you need help takes strength and I am glad God gave me some. But getting help for depression is different from getting help for a physical condition. Yes, when you go to the doctor for a cold they ask about your symptoms; however, they can also physically check them. When it comes to getting help for a mental health issue, you have to be honest-- which is intimidating.
So, when asked what I talk about: the answer is I talk about the truth. And the truth starts with whatever I feel comfortable saying in the meeting with a therapist. I also understand or learned to understand, that a therapist can only help me as much as I allow them to.
And allowing them to help means I have to discuss difficult topics. I did not dive straight into my deepest darkest secrets, but I disclosed enough until I felt comfortable and then I spilled all my personal tea. To that point, it is important that you find a therapist you feel comfortable with. I know as a Black woman, finding a culturally competent counselor is difficult. Unfortunately, I live in Iowa so Black therapists are few and far between. Thankfully, I have found a therapist, white male, that gets it. And if he doesn't get it, he willing to figure out how to get it. Do not feel guilty for leaving a therapist if you do not like them or they do not feel like a good fit. Healing is not always comfortable, but you cannot heal in an unsafe place.
Digging into yourself is scary, but necessary to get to the next level. Therapy is like when the doctor sets the bone after you break it-- it is painful at first but it has to be done so it heals properly. We cannot fix ourselves and expect everything to be in alignment like it should be. We need help.
I hope that this post helps you in some way. I also hope that you go out and reach out for help if you are not already. Now is the time, especially in Mental Health Awareness Month. There is no reason to feel ashamed because you are not alone.