I grew up in a culture that seemingly swept a lot of issues under the rug. People were never open about their challenges and struggles especially when it comes to mental illness. I remember as a little girl seeing the stigma that came with having a mental illness and how differently people with mental illnesses were treated in society. It was almost like there was an unsaid "black people do not need therapy" misconception that everyone knew about. As a young girl, I was introduced to the "strong black woman" concept at a young age. The idea that you can handle anything that comes your way, the idea that you are stronger than you think and that whenever challenges come up, you girdle up and fight with everything in you. Naturally this was what you had to do and anything otherwise meant weakness and not being strong enough.
Fast forward some years down the road, I found myself in a foreign land, trying to navigate life as a young adult, adjusting to a different culture and trying to follow my dreams. As you may have guessed, major life transitions can be challenging for many and I was no exception. I attempted to apply what I knew and reminded myself that I was capable of handling anything that came my way. It worked for a while, but it wasn't too long before I found self feeling what I thought was weakness. Why am I sad? What do I feel like crying all the time? Why do I feel like I am losing grip in life? Why me? Why now? What do I do now? Where do I go from here? Why do I feel this way? These are probably questions we all ask ourselves at one point or another whenever life throws a curveball at us. What I wish someone had told me in this moment, was that it was ok to sit with those thoughts and have those questions as a reaction to what I was going through. From this transition and many others that followed I came to realize the importance of therapy.
The challenges that we go through in life are never meant for us to deal with them on our own. No man is an island and we all need to walk alongside someone, to share in struggles, to share in joy, to cry together and also to laugh together. We should not normalize masking pain within our communities. It only enforces the idea that it’s not okay for us to say we are hurting inside. It makes us believe that therapy was only made for others and not for us. What if you didn't have to do it alone? What if many others are also experiencing the same thing you are? What if someone can provide you practical tools to navigate your challenges? Would you let them?
Seeking therapy takes strength, it takes someone acknowledging their challenges and intention to make their situation better. It's acknowledging those difficult parts of our narratives that we often want to hide. Therapy is strength and not weakness.
“The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness—even our wholeheartedness—actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.”- Brene Brown