07 January 2012

A StrongBlackWoman Goes to Therapy

"How did I get here again?" That was the question that I asked myself as I drove away from my therapist's office. Processing the session, I realized that I was once again in the full throes of StrongBlackWomanhood. I was trying to be all things to all people and I was suffering for it: I was having trouble sleeping, my chronic pain had intensified, and my blood pressure had gone up.

The irony is that I am writing a book about the StrongBlackWoman. You'd think that spending my days reading and writing about this phenomenon would somehow inoculate me against it. At least a little. Right? Wrong. This most recent relapse has further convinced me that being a StrongBlackWoman is so ingrained in many Black women that it is an addiction. It requires constant vigilance. And it also requires getting help.

Some time ago, I posted a 12-Step Program for StrongBlackWomen. Over the past few months, I've been working the program. Right now, I'm on step 5: "We admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our compulsions and the traumas and fears that drive them."

For a long time, I thought that I could keep my own counsel. After all, I'm a clinical psychologist and a minister. And I'm fairly psychologically healthy. I've spent a lot of time in introspection - journaling, meditation, and reflection. To be fair, I haven't been alone in the journey. My spouse and best friend have been sounding boards. And I have repeatedly brought the issues to God in prayer.

It's been a productive process. Yet I realized that I needed something else, or more accurately, someone else. I needed someone who could listen to my processing with a professionally trained ear, to help me to see the connections between my past and my compulsion to be a StrongBlackWoman. I needed someone who would listen for as long as I needed them to listen. I needed a therapist.

The director of my doctoral fellowship program, Dr. Israel "Ike" Tribble, used to say: "Everyone is of your color is not of your kind, and everyone who is of your kind is not of your color." African Americans are often very reluctant to seek help from a therapist and when we do, we usually want an African American therapist. My therapist - a white man in his late 60s - is certainly not of my color. But he is of my kind. Since he's an ordained Episcopal priest as well as a licensed counselor, I thought that he'd have both spiritual and psychological insights that could aid me in my healing. And so far, I haven't been disappointed.

My therapy sessions provide two gifts: a dedicated and uninterrupted space in which to remember and process my life experiences; and an empathetic and nonjudgmental person who listens with his whole being and provides insight just where it's needed. Each week, I unfold another part of my life story. I notice the connections between my past experiences and my current struggles. I feel affirmed, supported, and empowered to heal. And I feel the chains that bind me in the yoke of the StrongBlackWoman breaking away, one link at a time.

Every StrongBlackWoman in recovery needs multiple mechanisms of support and accountability. Some of these can be found among our family and friends. But sometimes, we need professional support as well. Admitting that we need help is difficult. But refusing to seek the help we need could be deadly.

6 comments:

Teacher (a.k.a Professor I've Had Enough) said...

Amen and thank you!

GarlindaBee said...

As a SBW who has been in therapy for years, I can tell you that it is a gift of God's grace. Having that space has saved my life, soul and relationships. And my therapist is a white woman, United Methodist. Keep at it!

youth minister said...

Listening and taking it all in because I am quickly realizing that I may indeed need to also take this route to becoming whole. Wow, I really needed to read this. Thanks for being so transparent.

PeachyKeen said...

ME, TOO!!!!
Just completed my re-introduction to therapy Thursday...
Luckily, I attach no stigma personally to mental maintenance with outside help :)

Rena Porter said...

I am doing my dissertation on SBW that do not attend therapy.

If you are interested contact me at 9540leavitt21@gmail.com

Hope I'm not violating the comment rules. I would love to hear and share more.

Veronica

Rena Porter said...

I am really interested in this subject. I am doing my dissertation on SBW who do not go to therapy.

If you interested and this does not violate the blog rules please let me know.

Rena