I'm a strong, black woman.
And I have a therapist.
I don't just have a therapist. I need her these days. In the height of summer, I sought much needed help in the midst of a bout of depression. She was hard to find. Having been in therapy before and not being completely satisfied or comfortable, I decided to be intentional this time about who and what I was looking for.
In 2015, I sought therapy and got a recommendation from a colleague. My only qualification at the time was that she be a woman of faith and preferably, a woman of color. I ended up with a middle aged Asian woman who lived in Westchester and loosely practice Christianity. It was cool at first. And expensive! My insurance wouldn't cover up front costs, so I paid out of pocket--$190 a session-- with the hopes that Blue Cross Blue Shield would reimburse ya girl 80%. They did...after a month of submitting paperwork. I was poor and unemployed but I needed help.
The therapy didn't last. I felt like I couldn't be myself with her. There was something missing...some part of me was unfulfilled...and at $190 a session, NO part of me should've been unfulfilled. I stopped going. The commute from my apartment to her house in Westchester, via public transit (a train and 2 buses), took nearly 2 hours each way. It got tiresome...and I was unfulfilled. In summer 2017, I decided to give psychotherapy another try. I was ready to dive in and work on my issues so that I could be a better person...a better pastor (someday)...a better partner. What I wasn't ready for, however, was the rejection. In my first week of searching for therapists and reaching out to them, I got "No" after "No." These black woman therapists were BOOKED, honey! And I'm not even surprised. Therapy is cool now in the progressive, millennial population. And to want someone who looks like you and shares some of the same life experiences as you is not a far-fetched idea. I wanted that, yet therapist after therapist told me her client list was full.
I fell deeper into depression, desperate to save myself--my relationships...my relationship. I found a black woman who said, "I might have an opening. Let's chat." She called me, we set up a phone conference, and the rest is history. I'm so grateful for her...for her wisdom, for the way she allows me to be...me. I don't have to explain covert institutional racism to her--she's already there. I don't have to tell her what it was like going to a predominantly white, private school in the south--1 of 4 black kids in my high school graduating class. She gets it. I don't have to unpack my college or graduate school experiences at PWI's or my frustrations with "the black church." She knows what I'm talking about.
She has been my breath of fresh air. Frankly, I'm scared to do life without her. My first therapy experience was in undergrad with a Swedish woman who was working at the counseling center to fulfill her practicum credits for her PhD. We had nothing in common besides our genitalia, okay?! Lol To go from that to this--my current therapist--is the growth that I prayed for! I don't know where I'd be in this season of my life without my therapist's non-biased listening ear and guiding voice (though no one is truly lacking bias). Although therapy didn't save all of my relationships, I'm grateful that it saved me.
I remember growing up and hearing people "of faith" crucifying psychotherapy. These holier-than-thou folks loved to spew rhetoric like, "God is the ultimate fixer," or "You don't need no therapist. What you need is Jesus!" I'm so glad I didn't listen to their bumper-sticker theology--to their limited understanding of the mind, the heart, and of the spirit. I am a colored girl who isn't afraid to acknowledge her therapist in public! I hope my journey towards digging deeper into myself encourages someone else to do the same--to face themselves in a way they've never faced themselves before--to journey further into the well of their discomfort so that they, too, can be free.
The thing is: She's BLACK! And she's WOMAN! And she gets me. And she gets me together when I'm ackin crazy! I love that she knows whiteness and that she can diagnosis the toxicity that can stem from unchecked whiteness. I love that she has natural hair and doesn't ask where my head wrap is from. I love that she knows what it's like to be a single, black, audacious and courageous woman in the 21st century (although she's married now). I love that she schedules me regularly and doesn't act too busy for me--acting busy or in demand is soooo popular these days. 😑 I mostly love that she lets me cry...but doesn't let me settle in my tears. She affirms me and my mess--she tells me I'm smart and that I'm a good human being--that I will be okay...that people who are worthy of me will act like it. She lifts me up. It is in those moments of "lifting up" that I know that she's been there. She's been here before. This is not foreign. And this is why I needed a black woman--I needed to feel not foreign in at least one area of my life. I needed to not be the outlier--the token black student--the cantankerous partner--the shy congregant--in at least one area of my life. She gives me that--familiarity...comfort...freedom.
I pray that my people--y'all know who you are--find that freedom. It is so important. It is so necessary. It is imminent. In these times, you need to not feel like a foreigner in a strange land. You need to not feel like an unwelcomed prophet. I am a colored girl who isn't afraid to acknowledge her therapist--to acknowledge that therapy is necessary--to acknowledge that therapy works.
Join me in the land of the free!