By Minaa B
Continue to unfold. Find your worthiness in the learning and unlearning, the breaking and the healing. Find peace within your broken pieces and be made whole.
Learning how to unfold and create safe spaces for myself became a necessity when I began to disintegrate physically and mentally. I am a black girl who once was stamped with the code 296.33 known as major depressive disorder, recurrent, and severe without psychotic features (DSM-IV).
My depression diagnosis at the age of 22 did not shock me. Since childhood I remember having strong feelings of self-hate and disapproval of my existence. I was bullied throughout primary school, and as I matured, that feeling of hopelessness grew into madness, and madness turned into self-inflicted punishment. I became suicidal. My blade was my friend and my enemy all in one. Cutting was my addiction, and through cutting I sought an escape from this unruly world and my tormented mind.
The chasm between cutting and therapy has evaporated from my memory. It’s not truly clear to me what pushed me to find a therapist. But I am sure it was that moment of embarrassment when my self-inflicted scars were revealed publically. There was nowhere for me to hide my shame. I just remember my heart hurting from the idea that others would think I was crazy, or worse, call the police and have me hospitalized.
Therapy was not an option that I welcomed wholeheartedly. I felt shame for being a black girl in therapy. Society, and even my brothers and sisters of color taught me that black folks just don’t do therapy. But since when is not OK for black people to heal, since when is that a stigma? When did we begin to label ourselves as “too strong” and too “God fearing” to welcome the idea of help and relief from burdening circumstances? There are a lot of external and environmental circumstances that delay the process of healing– but regardless of these barriers help will always be available to those who seek it.
My therapist created a safe place for me to unfold my trauma and piece together my brokenness. I spent close to four years in therapy and throughout the process, I learned how to create nurturing expectations for myself that allowed me to heal at my own pace. Nothing was forced and my therapist never told me how to live, she was my guide and a great sense of accountability.
Though my family and friends knew about my diagnosis, this was a personal issue that I knew only I could take care of, therefore, the only support I expected of them was to be by my side and honor my decisions. Besides, a lot of my unfolding trauma came from my childhood and family related issues.
Self-care was essential to finding my worth and it is a tool that I learned within therapy. But this kind of self-care isn’t the common thread that we often hear of which includes yoga, journaling, sipping tea and speaking positive affirmations. I learned a different kind of self-care that has changed me till today.
When I entered therapy and began to pour myself out, there were clearly unresolved issues from my past. I carried the souls of the people who hurt me and abused me into my sessions weekly. And during almost every session my childhood would re-emerge. I would see the face of my six-year-old self, and I would break from knowing all the pain she carried and no one was there to help her.
“In what is described as depression and experienced as emptiness, futility, fear of impoverishment, and loneliness can usually be recognized as the tragic loss of the self in childhood, manifested as the total alienation from the self in the adult.” –Alice Miller
Self-care first emerged as learning to understand who my true self was. My 22-year-old self was still living in the pain of her 6-year-old and 16 year old self. I was still living in the trauma of racism and discrimination. I was still bruised by previous passing lovers. I avoided, disregarded and pushed forward, as if becoming an adult automatically erases your childhood experiences.
Emotional wellness takes place when we make the bold step to unfold our trauma and treat the experiences that regulated suffering and pain. Self-care gives us permission to process all that has tormented us including family, friends, and society. We often lose ourselves when we have to build walls and carry strength as a defense mechanism because of all the past pain that we have experienced. The true self gets lost in the building of external walls and our truth gets repressed along the way.
In order for us to fully manifest, we have to remove the layers of repressed pain and unhealed trauma. We have to show up for ourselves by exploring the hurt that has been tossed to the side. We have the potential to repair ourselves by looking closely at the hurt that is hidden within our bodies and allow it resurface itself, so that we can be aware of the truth and damage buried in our spirits, the generational strongholds that wear us down, and the tragic loss of childhood so that we can ultimately re-discover who we are as adults.
With redefining what self-care means to me, I learned how to take care of myself by making my truth a priority. To live unveiled and be unashamed of my blackness, my mental health, my womanhood and everything else that makes me who I am.
Self-care became my remedy for living a better life–physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Eventually, I realized my purpose and my healing is not dependent on others, it comes fully from myself.
Minaa B is a licensed psychotherapist in NYC, author, mental health advocate and founder of the digital magazine Respect Your Struggle. She shares words of acumen and promotes self-care on her social media channels Instagram: @minaa_b and Twitter: @minaabe. Her debut book of essays and poetry will be released this fall. Follow her accounts to learn more.