If you’re an OG Insecure fan like I am, then you remember the final episode of season one. Before heading to Issa’s event for We Got Y’all, Molly runs into an old friend outside of work. While catching up, the friend happily tells Molly that she’s been in therapy. Molly, suspiciously asks the friend, “Girl, you good?” as if she’s checking to make sure this woman hasn’t lost her natural-ass mind. In this scenario, Molly represents a lot of us. Why would you tell your problems to a full-blown stranger? Yes, the concept may seem odd, especially to those of us who feel that we can resolve our deeply-rooted issues in the privacy of our own being.
Well, let me say from first-hand experience, as someone who thought therapy was solely reserved for people who were one apple away from a fruit basket, I wrote therapy off as something that was not for me. Queue the “great depressive episode of 2017.” This was less of a depressive episode and more of a very well-written series, where the cast of characters all played their parts well, and the main heroine of the story was a flawed but lovable character.
While in graduate school, the depression that I buried deep down for years, reared its ugly head and said “hey girl, hey” before wreaking havoc on my friendships, job, and even my ability to function normally. Amid an anxiety-induced crying fit, I called my mom to vent. Luckily my mom, a seasoned medical professional, urged me to go see a doctor ASAP because I was not well (shout-out to all the moms out there keeping it a buck with their kids!). After an evaluation that indeed led to my diagnosis with major depression, my doctor not only suggested talk therapy as a helpful tool to cope with this illness but damn near demanded it. I had no choice in the matter. If I was going to get well, medication and therapy was something else I had to squeeze into my crowded schedule.
I felt like I was being a bad Christian by going to a therapist and taking anti-depressants rather than going to God. I often asked for forgiveness, only to later realize what a blessing it all is. The fact that I have an opportunity to go to a therapist, afford medication, and regularly see a doctor, it all seemed to be something God had aligned for me. I learned that God will place the right medical professionals in your life to help you.
The doctor referred me to the university’s student counseling services (which I advise any student to look into while they’re in college). My first counselor was a young, white woman. Pause. I knew I’d end up telling my Black-ass problems to a white chick, and I’d have to explain everything I’m going through to her. I was so wrong. This counselor was thoughtful, kind, and understanding of my struggles as a young, Black woman. She did not have to be Black to empathize or offer healthy dialogue. I had a six-week session plan with her, and after the six weeks, I had the option to continue with her or go to another therapist in the community.
Although after getting used to opening up, I started to look forward to therapy sessions each week. It was something positive amid the darkness of my mind. Everything about this experience wasn’t positive though. I would sneak around campus like a thief in the night to avoid being seen by anyone I knew while I was en route to or entering the student counseling services building. I was so ashamed. I was ashamed of my diagnosis, ashamed of my medication, literally everything. I felt like I didn’t have this aspect of my life in control like I was a failure in being a normal person. I didn’t want anyone to ever know.
After the six weeks ended, I opted to go to a therapist outside of the university, I simply could not keep up running around campus trying to go as unnoticed as possible by any colleagues. While trying to match me to a therapist, the director of community counseling politely asked if I would like a religious therapist. I replied, “yes.” Then, she asked me the mother of all questions in finding a therapist as a Black girl, “Would you prefer your therapist to be Black?” Me, trying to keep my cool, calmly stated, “Yeah, sure.” In my mind, I screamed, “YASSSS B*TCH! Sign me up!” And then things went from ‘going good’ to ‘going great’. I met my therapist, who was a glorious, knowledgeable Black woman. I instantly opened up to her as if she had been my homegirl for years. I finally felt seen and heard. I saw her once a week for about a year, and I loved and learned from every session.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, minority women, specifically Black women, are twice as likely to experience major depression and half as likely to seek treatment options as compared to men or non-Black counterparts. This can and needs to be, changed. There are so many takeaways from my personal experiences of going to therapy, more than what I can write in an article. But I will gladly bestow upon you the wonderful tidbits of wisdom that I gathered so far.
Being nice to yourself is an actual thing
My first therapist asked me straight up – “Courtney, are you nice to yourself?” My first reaction was to awkwardly laugh, of course, I’m not nice to myself. I’m kind and loving to every else but for some reason, I could not return that energy to myself. I’m like many people who are unfortunately our own worst enemies. That question sparked several sessions diving deep into where this inner-mean girl comes from. She referred me to many books, TED-talks, as well as her thoughts on how I can become more self-compassionate and ease up on myself. We tend to be very hard on ourselves, and it takes a lot of digging deep to find the source of it all, but it’s possible!
You discover things that you didn’t know were an issue
Do you know how freeing it is just to talk? Talk about literally anything that is bothering you? You don’t have to go into therapy sessions with an agenda or talking points that you rehearsed like this is a school presentation. Things just flow naturally. And while things are flowing, you hear yourself. I mean hear yourself, out loud, saying the things that have been bottled up for, what seems like, ever. Something about therapy unlocks this part of yourself that just opens up and spills out all of your thoughts. When going to talk therapy, I would learn things about myself that I never knew before and realized problematic patterns within myself and how I can solve them.
Your therapist has an objective point of view
Your best friend is not your therapist. Your sisters are not your therapist. Your significant other is not your therapist. These are all people who have a fixed view or image of you. They’ve known for an extended period and are close to you. A therapist is completely objective. They do not know you from when you were a kid. The advice and insight they can offer you is something that comes from a place of them doing their job and not just trying to coddle you. There were so many things that I have never talked about to any friends or family but for some reason, talking to a stranger about these things was so much easier.
Judgment is not your burden to carry
Seeing a therapist to some is something very taboo — something to be ashamed of. When I first started going to therapy, I was afraid for anyone to find out. But I learned that the fear of judgment is not my cross to bear. Seriously, WHO CARES if you are going to a therapist? You are bettering yourself, taking steps to heal, and that is truly admirable.
Passing judgment on someone with a mental illness, taking medication, or going to a therapist is something that the person needs to sort out themselves and their maker. It is not your job to make them feel comfortable about how you go about healing. We get so wrapped up in what others may think of us, that we stunt our growth. Since getting into therapy, I will tell anyone and everyone to go too. It’s so helpful and I feel so much better for going, I have zero shame telling people my testimony! If someone is side-eyeing you for getting your mind and soul right, then they’re not here for your growth, fam. Drop the dead weight and go flourish!
People have many ways to deal with mental illness. Some turn to prayer, some dive deep into self-care, some go to counseling and therapy, and some are still trying to find out what works for them. As long as you are putting yourself first and taking care of yourself in a healthy way, then I’ll always be rooting for you!
Looking for a therapist? I got you, boo!:
National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network – nqttcn.com
Psychology Today- pschologytoday.com
Featured Photo: The Photographic Journal
Courtney D. Johnson is a fashion industry professional, or “pro-fashion-al” as she likes to call it, a freelance stylist, and writer. She is a published and award-winning fashion scholar and researcher, and a proud HBCU alumna. Courtney loves to research and write about Black beauty, style, and culture, as well as being an advocate for mental health. She is a proud auntie who loves to spend time with her nieces and nephews, friends, and family as much as she can. Courtney currently resides in the greatest city in the world, New Orleans, LA. Follow her on Instagram @_xoxocourtney