How do you even began to quantify healing? What does it look like? What does it feel like? I think it looks different for everyone. Here’s a glimpse into my journey of healing: therapy.
I started going to therapy almost seven months ago. Why? Well, for one, I had great insurance that made it accessible and affordable. Also, many of my friends had recently moved to different cities and countries and I needed more than just my partner to vent to, especially when I wanted to complain about our relationship. I also saw value in getting an objective perspective on my life. I wanted someone I could connect with, someone who I felt would understand the pressures, trials, and challenges of being a Black woman. I wanted someone who could validate my experiences and understand my perspective. For all those reasons, I chose a phenomenal, Black, female doctor who specializes in psychology. I didn’t go knowing that I had tons of emotional baggage, unresolved pain, and tremendous amounts of anger and resentment. I thought I was mentally healthy.
Therapy was very challenging for me. I had been inherently taught that the way you deal with pain/suffering/trauma is to charge ahead. You run through it — mouth shut, head held high, and wearing a smile. You pray to God to heal these “afflictions” and you keep moving. You can’t afford to stop, to cry, let it out, lay down the burden, be vulnerable, allow yourself to feel the pain. I was taught to numb the pain. Since I can remember, I have been strong for someone else, helping, holding, looking after, nurturing everyone but myself.
I perfected the art of dysfunction. I just didn’t know that was the name of it. I was a pro at pushing back the pain and the thoughts so far aside that they became lost in my subconscious. The only way I knew they were there was because they showed up in my unhealthy emotional habits: self- depreciating thoughts and damaging relationships. I found myself stuck in this endless cycle of depression, hurt & self-medication.
I disassociated myself from the trauma. I downplayed it so that I would not have to deal with it or unpack it. I later realized I was still operating emotionally as a frightened 8-year-old child. I was still holding on to those beliefs I concocted about myself as a young girl. I was a 25-year-old woman holding on to and living out the beliefs I developed about myself more than 15 years ago. I was holding on tightly to that pain for dear life. I was afraid to release it — afraid of the freedom. It blurred my vision, corrupted my peace, prevented me from truly experiencing the greatness that is life. I was being held captive by secrets.
But I’m not anymore. I am free. I am happy. I see purpose in all the hurt and pain. My past set me up for my future. It was all preparation for my calling. My destiny.
The right therapist — one who was patient, asked and answered questions, respected my journey and my decisions, and didn’t tell me what to do — was divinely-sent. She helped me find the key to unlock the mysteries of my mind. She helped me discover the real me. Mind you, I had to do the leg-work. I had to learn how to be honest with myself. I had to learn how to deal with my anxiety. I had to learn how to face my fears and fight my demons. She could only present the many bags I held on to. It was my job to unpack them. I chose to practice the strategies and tools we discussed. I chose to set boundaries with work, relationships, and internally. I chose to practice better self-care habits like: eating better, practicing Bikram yoga, and writing in my journal daily. This did not all happen overnight, but the power was always in my hands. She was not my healer, but surely a vessel.
People seem surprised or caught off guard when I share that I was in therapy. I fight for the day where there is no taboo about self-care and taking care of your mental health, especially for Black women. It is our birthright to be healthy and happy. We do not have to carry anyone’s burden. We don’t have to keep quiet. We don’t owe our loyalty to anyone but our damn selves. We don’t have to smile when we don’t feel it. We can cry. We can be vulnerable and still be strong. We can lean on one another. We can be successful and still seek help from others. Mental health is affecting our physical and emotional health, our relationships, our diet, our self-worth, our life trajectory. You are the one you’ve been waiting for. Tap into your own power. Reach out to those around you. Verbalize what you’re going through to someone. Practice self-care. You are worth it! And although we are not there to hold your hand, know there are sisters out there sending you light, courage, and love. We are here with you and for you. We are one.
Morgan McCrory is an educator earning her Masters in Clinical Social Work. She is an avid Bikram yogi, writer and traveller. As Co-Program Director for Femex, she provides safe spaces for folks who identify as women to explore and challenge various aspects of the female experience. Find more from Morgan on her website (I Spell My Name Woman) and follow her on Instagram (@spelledwoman).