Lately I've been inspired by personal conversations I've had with others in regards to my evolving relationship with therapy. I started seeing my therapist about a month ago, and yesterday marked the milestone of my fourth therapy session! I was asked to take the same assessment that I did when I began therapy four weeks ago and there are signs on major progress!
To rewind a little, I’ve been to therapy on and off since my parents divorced when I was around eight. I didn't have great experiences with individual or family counseling, looking back I didn't know myself well enough to understand and effectively communicate what I felt. Fast forward to college, I had a hard time with procrastination, depression, and anxiety. Which was interesting because my life was the best it had been so far. My grades were great, I was boo’d up in love, and overall just beginning to discover...me. I decided to give the graduate student led counseling sessions at Hudson the old college try, it was uncomfortable. A white guy in his twenty somethings spent an hour repeating back to me what I know I just said as if it were a question. That didn't work for me.
Fast Fast forward to a few months ago, going through a breakup up and getting fired completely knocked the wind out of me. The connection I had to my independence and the connection I had with my boo...changed. At first it was fun bouncing back and forth between the stages of grief , but when everything really sunk in... I broke. In hindsight, two of the worst things that could have happened to me had great timing. I didn't want to do anything so I didn't, the only responsibility I had was to myself. I almost had too much time to think about the same things over and over again, so that's what I did. Where did I go wrong? What does this mean for the future I had planned? When's the last time I washed my ass?
Finally having that time to myself led to BWRY being published, teaching me that it's possible to shift I was feeling into something productive. Eventually I realized that I've only ever acknowledged what was paining me at the moment, the branches that were attached to the root of my issues. Yes, my life was shitty, but how did it get there? What influenced me enough to make the decisions that led me here? I never wanted to feel this bad again, I needed effective resources to ease my anxiety and depression with life feels unbearable.
After checking in with my healthcare provider, I was given four free therapy sessions, so I decided to come prepared. After our introductory session I would to tackle three situations from my childhood that still manifest today. The tools I learned would be instrumental in the extended help I would need outside of the four sessions. My relationship with my dad, feeling inferior to others in decision making for myself, and childhood sexual trauma are three things I had to understand and acknowledge to give myself a chance at a better future. I also made a conscious effort to only look at black women counselors and therapists, I needed someone culturally competent that understood the complicated relationship of vulnerability and strength black women face.
I like therapy because it's all about me. I had never taken the time to focus on me because I never wanted to, it felt uncomfortable and selfish. Before, attempting to treat the branches instead of the roots only scratched the surface. I now know myself well enough to advocate for my needs and what I need help with. The gratitude that I feel towards my therapist can't be expressed loudly enough. She helped to clarify and give validity to my perspective on life and relationships. There were two key techniques that I now use to assess situations that are anxiety inducing or cause me to take on everyone else's responsibility.
Set Boundaries with Intentions
Not everyone deserves access to every part of you. I often felt rejected by those who should understand me the most and was tired of having holes poked in dreams I JUST started nurturing. The boundaries I set keep my expectations of relationships realistic while maintaining their integrity. Putting yourself first while being considerate of others is a "good selfish". Nothing about setting boundaries is easy, especially when people don't acknowledge the energy it takes to consistently give. I'm committed to having the conversation of why I certain boundaries up, but if they are committed to disrespecting them I have no problem giving even less.
Turn your Whys into Whats
I'm big on taking responsibility for my actions because life is so much easier when people do. Before therapy I mistook taking responsibility for thinking everything is my fault all the time and I have to fix everything. I would often question which of my feelings were valid enough to express to others (the answer is all of them, all feelings are valid). Now, Instead of turning every situation into an issue with myself ( ie. Why didn't I speak up for myself?, was I so hard to love that they left?, etc.) I assess what the actual situation is (ie. What's going on with this person outside of our relationship? What are they upset about?). Doing this allows me to take ownership of my actions and reactions to situations, I can breathe easier.
I'm sharing all this with you for all the times that I didn't know what was wrong. Talking to a professional that has no actual stake in my life has been beneficial so far. Therapy isn't supposed to last forever, you gradually get better and more equipped to handle life on your own. It's encouraging that my therapist and I agree on the progress I made and what I still need to work on. If you aren't able to afford therapy there are apps you can look into, or friends in therapy (like me) who openly share tools and resources professionals have given them. Hell, I still watch Red Table Talk and takes notes! Take today to start the journey of choosing yourself, which isn't easy but it's worth it.
Comment below if you learned anything helpful! Like and share with someone who needs a little extra encouragement to choose themselves :)