Although it’s still somewhat taboo, I’ve always been an advocate of mental health care and therapy. In the Black community, therapy has been seen as what “crazy” or White folks use — not us. We’re supposed to utilize prayer, the church, and Jesus. Now, there’s nothing wrong with praying, going to church, or Jesus (or whoever your deity is), but sometimes, you might need something more. And I realized that was true for me almost two months ago.
As many of you know, I started teaching yoga in-person this fall because 1. The opportunities basically fell in my lap; and 2. It’s what I thought I wanted to do. At first, I was excited about this new venture and stream of income, but as time went on, I’d have no one or only one person show up for classes. Needless to say, it was pretty discouraging. But being someone who typically sees the bright side of things and keeps a positive attitude (for the most part), I really tried to keep the faith and continue promoting and showing up. It wasn’t working. I ultimately had a breaking point, which led me to an emotional breakdown. I had been feeling really depressed about this, and it all just came out one Friday night. As I lay in bed, after crying my eyes out, I decided to look up local Black therapists because I knew that I couldn’t continue doing this to myself, and I didn’t know how to pull myself out of the muck. The first therapist I contacted didn’t reply, so the following week, I contacted another and set up my first appointment with Suntia Smith in Greenville (who I highly recommend).
Although I’ve only been to two sessions so far, it’s been amazing and eye-opening. While I’ve always been introspective and have become more self-aware through meditation, I just couldn’t figure out what to do about my work situation (actually, I knew what to do; I just didn’t want to do it because I didn’t want to let anyone down). Anyway, talking to Suntia and answering her questions in that first session helped me realize that teaching yoga on a weekly basis wasn’t something I truly wanted to do (on the other hand, I do love doing retreats and workshops on occasion), and the reason why is I enjoy freedom, which is something I’d never really thought about before. And that session helped me get crystal clear on what I want to do with the Black Girl’s Guide to Calm brand.
In addition to admitting that I was still trying to be a people-pleaser, I also recognized that I wasn’t being my authentic self, both of which came as a bit of surprise to be quite honest (haha). This year has been the most transformational one I’ve ever experienced, starting with me uncovering my spiritual beliefs. This came up when Suntia asked me who I really am after giving her the surface answer: I told her I am sensual, fun, have great sense of humor, into the “woo woo” stuff, meaning crystals, chakras, incense, sage…you know, my version of spirituality that a lot of people consider “woo woo.” But I’d been hiding that part of myself, particularly on social media. Now, you might be saying, “Why does that matter? Everyone doesn’t need to know what you believe.” Well, I’ve been blogging for 8 years, and I’ve been pretty transparent about my life and my faith the entire time on my blog and on social media. So, why would I speak on that then and not speak on my beliefs now?
The reason I didn’t really allude to my spirituality is because I was worried about what the people who know me in real life would think about my beliefs. However, that cognitive dissonance (me wanting to just be myself and share vs. me not wanting to ruffle feathers) caused a lot of stress and anxiety for me. And I also realized that this inauthenticity (is this a word?) shows up as me shrinking myself, not allowing myself to shine too brightly (because, for one, I’ve always heard some variation of “She thinks she’s all that!”). For example, I enjoy makeup and playing around with different looks, but I wouldn’t wear certain lipsticks because I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself; or I don’t share my business offerings and my story as much as I should because I don’t want to be “pushy” or seen as someone who thinks she’s all that.”
Thankfully, because of therapy and Suntia in particular, I am in a place of not giving as much of a fuck (because, at the moment, I still give somewhat of one lol) about people’s opinions of me. I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten to this place of self-acceptance, authenticity, and freedom without outside sources– or I wouldn’t have gotten here so quickly.
I want to encourage you to seek professional help if you feel you need it and/or if you’re dealing with anxiety or depression. While I do feel that practices like yoga and meditation are amazingly effective tools, like I mentioned in the first paragraph, sometimes, a therapist, coach, or counselor is necessary. And even if you don’t have a mental illness, it can still be helpful to get an outside, objective perspective on things so you can move forward. To find a Black therapist in your area, check out the sites below:
African American Therapists
Black Therapist Network
Have you been to therapy? What was your experience like? Also, if you’re a Black therapist reading this, feel free to link to your site below! : )