"Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation." Graham Greene

I started seeing a therapist three weeks ago, and it has been the best thing I have done for me in a long while. There is a serious stigma around seeking external help. Compound that general social aversion to addressing our issues with membership in communities where that notion is amplified (masculinity, blackness, first-generation American), and it is easy to see why so many people do not explore the idea. It was midnight one night, and I just decided to find a therapist, setup an appointment, and give it a go. There was nothing stopping me, and I had all I needed to able to do it. I spent the night doing research on what to expect, and it was still nothing like I had been socialized to expect. There was a couch, and there were notes being taken but there the similarities of everything I had seen in TV or movies stopped. I just went and started telling my story. That's it all has been for me - time to tell my story, sort it all out, and just be. Oh what a blessing to just be. Nothing is expected of me, and I just get to be myself. That's huge. 

My therapist is another person to help me make sense of my life story, make meaning of all that has happened, and process through my feelings. It's funny because much like in every aspect of my life I was brought back to the sentiment of explaining my life story - this time though it wasn't "I had to explain me" it was "I got to share about me." Each and every new person we meet we get to share parts of our stories with; more often than not it's a highlight reel or a sparse summary. The challenge is that even though we give others a previews, it doesn't mean they'll necessarily want to hear the full story, continue reading, or finish the book. Hell - people give up reading midway across our lifetimes. I think that process of uncertainty that someone will want to know you beyond the book jacket/author's bio can be disheartening. Expending the energy on another only for them to rebuff you or to not express interest hurts. It's still a part of life. We have to do it and hope that others will want to know us, and be known by us. The inverse is also true if not more true, everyone we meet has just as intricately complex a life story as we do. Do we respect, honor, and inquire about those, just like we hope others do for us?

The entire process of storytelling is expressive in and of itself. The words we use, the order in which we put them, our tone, etc. all helps us communicate. I'm doing it right now as I write this. It wasn't until I traced my timeline in therapy that I noticed the threads that emerged from not only how I told my story, but the way I did it. I already use storytelling in my work and a method in life. Depending on the context and relationships I go academic, personal, or in-depth. Usually it's a blend of the three. My ability to compartmentalize, recount traumatic incidents with matter of fact candor, and speak freely is both a gift and a curse. I can detach myself from my own story when I'm using it to educate, but regardless whenever I tell some parts of my story I feel the emotions that accompany it. It's exhausting. I have marked my life by this tent-pole moments of misery, what would happen if I retold my life story with support beams of bright light? My life doesn't have to be a drama; it can be a comedy as much as a rom-com, adventure, and the rest. It's a blend of all the genres - that's what makes it a messy masterpiece under construction. 

Therapy has been useful for me. Most things have not been earth-shattering, especially because as my therapist put it "I'm hyper self-aware." Nonetheless, I have long seen the value in speaking out mu truths because in sharing out I get to look within. Sometimes it takes saying what I want to realize what I want. I already know,  but it's not until I have to put those things into words for someone else that I can string those thoughts together. Maybe things don't materialize as real until they are spoken out loud. Sometimes we are the cause of our own problems - there is duality in that. If we are the cause then we can be the one for solve our problem - that's hopeful. Conversely, if we are the cause and we don't act then nothing save for us can help us - that's terrifying. Therapy has helped me gain some perspective, approach problems with more optimism, let go of things that don't really matter, and better externalize issues instead of taking them in. I just feel lighter physically and emotionally. I'm not carrying as much around, and I'm not taking the heaviness of others in the same ways that I used to. I know some people are fearful of therapy because they think it will hurt. It can. It probably will at some point, but to really heal we have to fix our wounds - which means experiencing them once more. What is there to be afraid of save for ourselves? If we can face us, then we can face anything. 

Something I have been striving to do more this year is celebrating the good in life. I have so much to be grateful for. As of late I have been sharing with one of my best friends a gratitude text to express what I'm grateful for. I do the same thing in therapy. I speak about the goodness, the light, and the love I experience. I don't want it to just be a space where I relive all the pain, trauma, and hardship I've endured. I don't want it to be a place that I dread. I don't want it to be a place that I associate with negativity. It's a place for me to be real. It's another space for me to be candid. It's a time for me. Oh my goodness, it is a time for me. Honestly, just typing out that sentence is bringing me to tears. I am so glad to just have a time for me to talk about me. I rarely feel like I get to talk about me. I spend so much of my life listening to others, asking others questions about themselves, and doing things for other people. I enjoy it. I also wish people would ask about me, or would ask a follow up question. I have learned to focus a conversation on other people, and not to respond with stories about myself for connectivity. It's a learned skill but it makes a huge difference in giving people time for them to be the subject matter. My first day of therapy I literally said that I was wondering when it would be my time. What about me? What about my story? Who is asking about me, how I'm doing, what I want from life? I'm tired. I'm well. I'm both. I'm okay with that. I'm figuring it out. I'm taking up space. I'm choosing me more often. I'm mattering to me. 

One of the common misconceptions of starting therapy is that you need a reason to go or that you'll get a diagnosis if you go. Not everyone gets a diagnosis, and if you do or don't - that's okay. Nothing for me was wrong per say but now I have this resource should anything truly be. This is preventive mental health. The way that we do check ups, take vitamins, etc. for our physical health - this does that for me emotional and mental health. If you have the means and access to do therapy I recommend it. Try it. If you don't like it you don't have to continue. Shop around, and find someone you click with. You are not obligated to stay with one therapist - don't feel guilty about switching. I literally looked one up, sent them an interest email, and have my intake appointment the next day. It was that simple. There are also community and digital resources that are worthwhile to take advantage of. Join a local support group based on an experience, find an affinity space in an academic or communal setting, a digital chatroom, etc. Find something or someone. I cannot emphasize this enough. We have to maintain ALL aspects of ourselves if we want to sustain. Whatever you need to be well, holistically, do it. You are worth it. You are worthwhile. You are worthy. Your story is not to small or too big - it's worth sharing and worth hearing. X

Some Resources:
Self-Care Interactive Game 
Therapist Search Tool
Mental Health Resource Toolkit


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