Friday, March 25, 2011

In Need Of Therapy

Therapy saves lives. That is a known fact. Sometimes we all need it. Growing up, I always heard that "Black people don't go to therapy, we go to church." So this mantra was planted deep in my brain. I believed this to be true. I grew up in and around church as a kid. Therapy was a foreign concept to me in my world. I never thought there would be anything that would happen in my life that would require me to go to see a psychiatrist. I however would be wrong. How does one even know that they need therapy? I didn't know I needed it until it hit me in the face.

Fast forward to my sophomore year in undergrad. My world was rocked and shattered in an instant. My Dad was killed on September 23, 1998. I will never forget the phone call I received with that news. I literally blacked out. I felt cheated. I had just gotten my Dad back. We were re-establishing a relationship. We had a good summer. I had just saw him two weeks before he was murdered. I really don't have any words to truly describe how I actually felt back then. I swear I felt as if I was having an out of body experience from the day my Dad was killed until the day after his funeral. Nothing felt real. I didn't sleep or really eat. I had conversations with many family members that I cannot recall. The world was moving around me but I felt like I was standing still.

After returning to school after his funeral, my life was still an out of body experience. I could not sleep at night. I was having nightmares. I was angry, sleep deprived, and short with people. I wasn't happy. I started drinking more, just to do it. I didn't want to feel anything because everything hurt me at that point. I picked up a habit that I regret to this day. I started smoking. It was just something to do. I wasn't living. I was screaming for help and no one saw the signs. I could not verbalize my pain for anyone. I wrote alot. All dark and disturbing poetry. I actually threw all of that material away. In hindsight, it wasn't me. It wasn't the me I wanted the world to see. If I didn't get it together then, I would not be the woman I am today. I just didn't know what or who could help save me from myself.

During the Fall 1999 semester, I was on my way to the Yearbook office where I worked. I somehow went into the wrong hallway and found myself in the exact spot that I needed to be. I was standing in the Student Mental Health office. Therapy for students were free. It was literally divine intervention. I had been a part of the yearbook staff for a year. The office was in the same spot. I knew then what I needed to do to get through this. I needed to seek a psychiatrist. This Black woman needed some help. Admitting that to myself was a huge accomplishment. And it was also scary as hell too. I could not breath while standing in this office making my appointment. All week I contemplated not going. I didn't want to go because therapy was for crazy people. I was not crazy. Up until the moment I walked into Dr. Clark's office, I was not sure that I was going to keep the appointment.

I was very apprehensive about my first appointment. I also did not tell a soul that I was seeing her. I had a standing weekly appointment. This went on for about a year. Week by week, this doctor peeled back layers in me. She helped me deal with my Dad's murder, my anger about it, and all of my pain. During therapy, I was able to be open, vulnerable, weak and honest. I didn't have to be the strong one. I wasn't worried about her judging me or viewing me differently. She did not know me. She was able to get me in a way that my family and friends could not. I always felt relieved after I attended therapy. This was the best experience of my life. I loved the exercises that we worked on together. I kept a journal because of her suggestions. That was also therapeutic for me.

There was, however, still a stigma associated with this. I was ashamed to tell anyone that I was in therapy. I mean, I was the one everyone came to for help and advice. It was hard for me, even then, to admit that I needed help. It was actually years before I would even admit this to anyone I knew. It was like my little deep dark secret. And, that is still crazy to me. Something that helped me so much was a secret. This doctor saved me from drowning. I was really just adrift in life. I didn't know how to get back to me. Dr. Clark saved my life. I will forever be thankful for her. I have since changed my mind on therapy. I am an advocate for mental therapy. If you need it, go get it. It could save your life.

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