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What therapy is teaching me

It took me a few minutes to realize the inevitable as I lay in bed moist and warm from my hormones being out of control. I tossed and turned as the thoughts started flooding my mind. I finally glanced at my watch to see it was about 4:00 am. “Why am I up?” “You know you’re awake so you might as well get up.” “Why don’t you read a book so you can get sleepy again?” “What should I do now?” “What was my homework assignment again?” “You know what??? I should write a blog post!”

So here I am, up early in the morning wanting to share my epiphanies from the last few months. I’ve been consistently inconsistent with writing my blog posts. This is where I am in life right now and that’s okay. I always have a story or lesson to share. Capturing them in a blog post has been challenging because I only have so much time in a day. In fact, this is true for all of us. I’ve chosen to prioritize other things but always return to blogging because it’s a form of self-care for me. And whoever reads this, gets to ride with me on this journey.

Shortly after we moved into our new home earlier this year, I decided it was time to revisit what I had been putting off for a while. Also, a conversation I had with my nephew helped me to move forward with the decision, which was to seek therapy. This big wonderful thing happened in my life – a new house, new surroundings, and new beginnings. However, there were some personal challenges I’ve been wanting to work on related to my relationships, career, and health. On top of that, I was also realizing the toll the pandemic was taking on me. The move encouraged me to do other things to improve the quality of my life. This was the perfect time because my life wasn’t in crisis mode and things were settling down.

I work in the mental health field and understand the benefits of therapy. It’s not a stigma to me but mental health is still a stigma for many. However, I think the tides are changing. More people have access to and are seeking the mental health help they need. I see signs that therapy is being normalized. Some of my young adult family members have or are participating in therapy. I mentioned my nephew earlier who is very open about it. He also encouraged me to consider a therapist who would understand the unique cultural and racial challenges brown skinned people face.

I decided to take the steps to find a therapist. It took me a few weeks to find someone I was interested in through the Therapy for Black Girls website. I was able to peruse the websites and information for the different therapists in my state. It was important for me to work with a woman, slightly older than myself. I contacted her, we connected, and the rest is history.

It’s been 4 months now since I’ve been in therapy and it’s one of the best investments in myself I’ve made. I attend bimonthly sessions. Here are just a few thoughts on what therapy is teaching me about myself:

  1. I need to constantly work on boundaries – setting them, refining them, reinforcing them, and communicating them. I used to pride myself on setting boundaries. This is how I’ve established and maintained a place of peace since my early twenties. I have boundaries that are firmly planted; however, over time, I’ve allowed people and circumstances to erode some of them. I’m back to setting, refining, and reinforcing boundaries because they keep me safe and in check. They also teach others how to treat me.
  2. I had no idea how to demonstrate self-compassion. It was a foreign concept to me but I’m learning. I was not taught to show compassion for myself. I’m an overachieving, recovering perfectionist, constantly on the prowl to do better/be better, and to do things/do things for others, but what about self-compassion? And self-compassion is different from self-care. Self-compassion means I don’t mentally beat myself up because I can’t figure out how to relate to someone close to me. It means I don’t keep pushing myself when I know I’m tired. There is so much more to this.
  3. Validation is so important. I’m in a leadership position at work and it’s true that it can be lonely at the top. My workload is heavy and I don’t have the capacity to meet with my peers on a regular basis. Not only that, I’m not always sure who I can trust at work. Having the outlet from my therapist to be able to express my thoughts and be validated has been very helpful to me. Also, the validation helps in my personal life too because I don’t want to burden family (and they probably won’t understand anyway) with the particular challenges my husband and I experience with our health issues.
  4. It’s OK to retrain your habits and thoughts; in fact, it’s necessary if you want to change. A lot of what I’m working on is retraining habits I picked up over time and building new ones. Is it frustrating? YES! Is it hard? YES! Is it worth it? YES!

What I’ve shared are the biggest relatable lessons but there are many other things I’m learning about myself. If you’re interested in pursuing therapy, I hope you move forward with it. Really consider who you would want to work with, how much it will cost and is it within your budget, and your availability to attend regular sessions.

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