“Why you look so mad?” “Man, you are mean.” “She’s so unapproachable.” “Put a smile on your face.” “Y’all know she’s sensitive.”
It seems for the majority of my adult life that is how people have described me. In one way or another, people always found a way to say there was something wrong with me. Some days I didn’t let it bother me, other days I wanted to scream. What people didn’t understand is that most days I felt like I was in a fight that I was continuously losing. It felt like I had no one to look after or take up for me, so yeah, I was probably mad a lot of days. It’s hard walking around feeling alone and feeling like you are your own hero. Sometimes a girl just wants to be rescued.
Then one day after a horrible break-up and full-blown meltdown in the deli section at the local Walmart, I decided to get some help before I went to jail. Fortunately, my meltdown in Walmart happened before going viral was a thing. I’m so grateful. Had I got caught on camera blessing out the folks in the deli because they didn’t answer me in a tone I found appropriate or courteous enough, I would have surely lost my job. You see I felt disrespected, and I’d had enough of people disrespecting me. I had spent two years working as a parole officer, and after that, I worked 10 years in inner city schools where kids made the school in the movie Lean on Me look like daycare. Every day I had to be ready to defend myself. I couldn’t let my guard down—kids sense weakness and take full advantage of it. If I wanted to survive, if I wanted to be successful, I had to be strong, tough, and mean. No tears, unless I was mad, and I was mad often.
On top of that, my financial outlook was bleak. I made decent money, but not in relation to my student loan debt. My salary didn’t align to the cost of my education (that’s another post for another day), so, as they say in my family, I was robbing Peter to pay Paul. But, I did as I was taught: pray about it, shake it off, and keep going. Fast forward a few years, a few bad relationships, family drama, and people you love dying and you have me in the middle of the deli SHUTTING 👏🏾IT 👏🏾DOWN👏🏾. “What you not gone do is disrespect me! Where is your manager?” He showed up and I let him have it too. Over what? Because someone’s tone was a little snippy, short, snarky. “T, it’s not that serious. Calm down,” I tried to tell myself,” but I couldn’t. I couldn’t let go of my anger, my fury. I was big mad!
I left the store that night knowing something was wrong with me, and I couldn’t fix it by myself. I cried that night and went back to my tried and true solution: I prayed about it. This time I listened for an answer.
God reminded me of something my line sister had shared with me years earlier. She told me that she had gone to counseling for several years. I’m not sure what we were talking about that made that bit of information stick, but I do remember thinking and telling her, “I can’t afford therapy.” She told me, in her matter of fact way, that most people’s insurance companies would cover up to 25 sessions per year. She said, “You should try it. You pay for it anyway.” I wanted to try, but I never did because in my family talking to someone, a therapist, about your problems meant you were crazy. When I was a kid we called it “having a nervous breakdown.”
I wasn’t crazy, but I was hurting. I was scared, afraid, and I was grieving. There was a heaviness on me that I couldn’t shake. I was tired of the battles-those in my life and those in my mind. I needed help and I decided to get it.
I researched black, Christian therapists near me. This was prior to Therapy For Black Girls Podcast and Directory, so it was harder to find a therapist that was both Black and a Christian. Having a Christian therapist was more of a priority for me at the time. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I was doubtful in the beginning and sometimes throughout the process because it was awkward at first discussing my problems with a stranger. Who am I kidding? It was always awkward. I never got fully comfortable talking about myself; however, working with my counselor allowed me an opportunity to breathe. In talking out my problems, issues, and concerns, with a professional, I gained a new perspective. I learned that the anger that I was feeling had built up over time. It wasn’t just one issue. It was a series of triggers that happened over time that I had never dealt with, that I tried to bury but was now manifesting themselves in the form of outbursts and a negative attitude. However, talking out my problems wasn’t the only benefit. I was also able to learn practical strategies to have difficult conversations with the people in my life. My counselor was also able to show me in scripture what God said and how He felt about the things that I was dealing with. Over time, I learned to apply both the strategies and the scriptures to my issues, and I started to recognize and deal with my triggers quickly before they turned into a behemoth of emotions that I couldn’t control.
We disagreed sometimes on my homework assignments, but for the most part, my counselor started the process of my ongoing healing. And the interesting thing is, the thing that I thought was bothering me, I barely talked about.
I discovered so much more about myself than I realized. I learned that being brave isn’t walking around pretending that nothing is wrong and then moving on. Quite the contrary, being brave means being vulnerable, honest, and transparent. When you operate in these spaces, there is a sense of peace and freedom that can’t be matched. It’s like no one can hold anything over you because you have already removed any ammunition that might be available.
I remember when I decided to share with my family that I was going to therapy. I don’t know why I decided to tell them, because no one had to know, but I wanted to. I can’t remember what I said, or how I said it. I clearly remember their reactions though. They laughed! I think it was more of an awkward reaction than ridicule. Therapy allowed me the freedom to see their reactions for what they truly were and not what I perceived them to be. I laughed too, and I think I said, “Y’all asses need to go too.” It didn’t matter how they reacted though because I was ok with them knowing. I just needed to be free from the weight I was carrying around everyday and sharing who I truly was with my family was part of that process.
There are so many women today struggling with so many things, and we have no recourse in managing the burdens we carry daily. Do you wake up every day tired? How often do you find yourself frowning? Check the wrinkle on your forehead. Do you feel overwhelmed or underwhelmed…all the time? Do you find yourself at the brink of tears or overreacting to the smallest things? Ask yourself what’s really going on. Don’t let it fester. Seek counseling.
If your friend is struggling, ask them what’s going on. They may not want to tell you. Most people don’t want to feel judged as weak or fragile especially in communities of color. Typically, there is a perception that we can handle anything. And we can…with HELP! Our villages are strong, but it is ok if your village includes a professional counselor.
So the next time you blow up at your kids, your husband, your friends, the manager at the deli ask yourself, “Girlfriend, what’s really going on? Then, go figure it out with a therapist.