Several months ago, I decided that enough was enough and I started to see a therapist. It wasn’t that the stress was new. I have seen stress in my life but I have always found a way to cope, but not this time. Whether it was the ever-growing to-do list at work, the growing intensity of my relationship with my boyfriend and the expectations that came with it, my changing family dynamic or a combination of those things that finally pushed me over the edge, I will never know.
At the time, it seemed like I just couldn’t keep my head straight. Every ten minutes I wanted to cry, scream or walk out on something and I’ve never been anything other than willing to take on obstacles head first. Talking to friends and family about these things just wasn’t working. So I started to do some research. I started with a simple Google search that led nowhere. I was so embarrassed about searching for “therapists in Houston” that I deleted the search from my browser history. After a couple days, the decision to see a therapist or not was a source of anxiety.
In my family, certain things have always been labeled “house business” and there was only one rule about “house business”. No person outside of your house should ever hear house business. And in my mind, I’ve always applied that logic to seeking therapy. There is also a history of denying the existence of mental health issues. I’ve seen cousins who clearly suffer from mental disease labeled as “nutty as squirrel poo” but the moment someone mentioned seeking some sort of mental health, the same people who called them nutty would contend that there was nothing wrong with that person.
When I did finally start to see a therapist, I didn’t tell anyone, not even my boyfriend or my mother for fear of what they would think. I was also still confused about the process, and extremely afraid to admit that I had to seek help, afraid to admit that my problems were too much for me to bear.
My advice to anyone who is considering therapy is to do your research. Find a person that specializes in whatever it is that you are going through. Understand what their typical treatment involves. I was overstressed and didn’t want to be medicated so I sought a doctor that specialized in stress management and turned to stress management programs and other alternative methods not centered on medication.
There is a stigma attached to psychotherapy in the Black community. Some believe that therapy is just something that White people do, that going through therapy is a symptom of being crazy and not a cure. Many of us misunderstand the process, insisting that we don’t need to pay someone to tell us that we’re crazy. There is a longstanding tradition of not wanting to air our dirty laundry to the outside world and that just won’t do when it comes to issues that affect our mental health. Yes, I was judged by some people but so far my only regret about seeking help is that I didn’t do it sooner.