By: Joanna Njama
Universally, there is still a stigma circling the topic of mental health. And luckily, it has been getting more shine recently due to the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements, and even celebrities being more open about their own battles with mental health. However, even talks of therapy are still a taboo subject in the Black community. The most common thing I’ve heard is, "Who needs therapy when you've got Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit?" On the other hand, maybe you've been told that you just need to "pull up your bootstraps and suck it up." Does any of this sound familiar?
While these solutions may work for some, it may also create mental traps and a crushing feeling of a loss of control for others. Moreover, if you're already feeling overwhelmed, it can feel like you're on a sinking ship without a life jacket.
So if clinging to your faith and sucking it up and working harder just isn't working for you anymore, seeking a mental health professional could give you the solutions and insight you’ve been searching for.
Here are 6 reasons why therapy is so important and vital to your self-care
- Talking with a trained mental health professional who is an expert in what you're suffering from can help you create a path to your own healing. Whether it's physical trauma, childhood abandonment, or crippling anxiety, a therapist can provide you with the right tools, point you in the right direction, and give you a sense of control when you're spiraling.
- If you're struggling to open up to your loved ones, a therapy session is the perfect place to dump all your emotions out on the table. Friends and family can be an amazing outlet, but sometimes well-meaning opinions (or criticism) can work against you. A therapist provides a sacred space for you to let out everything you're feeling, without the fear of judgement or restriction. During my sessions, my therapist even lets me ramble about any anxieties I've been holding in before she starts focusing on the inner work (she knows me so well!).
- Struggling with anxiety and stress can make it difficult to know what you want, making decision-making feel like torture. However, having a trusted therapist as an unbiased and objective sounding board can help you wade through your mental chatter and patterns of negative thinking so you can be more in tune with your needs.
- When you find yourself dealing with hard times, such as unexpected grief, trauma, or emotional turmoil, sometimes it feels too intense and overwhelming to handle alone. When your emotional health suffers, everything suffers. In fact, there is evidence that stress can manifest into physical and mental health conditions like increased risk for stroke, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and overall inflammation. And if you didn't know, African Americans are genetically pre-disposed to these chronic conditions.
- Getting control over your mental and emotional health can be so empowering and inspire you to dive headfirst into some new self-care habits. And like with any new habit, consistency is crucial! Attending regular appointments with a therapist that you feel safe and comfortable around, and you feel is in tune with your personal needs, will keep you balanced, honest, and hold you accountable to your inner healing.
- Maybe there are no pressing issues in your life, but you're feeling unfulfilled or dissatisfied with your life in some way. Therapy can help break down the barriers (i.e. childhood patterns, adaptive habits, etc.) that are keeping you stuck and discover what may be holding you back from your goals and dreams.
If every day feels like a struggle, or you don't feel like you're in a stable place, recognize that you may need some assistance. It's not about not being "strong enough" to help yourself, it's about being strong to ask for help. Enlisting the help of someone trained in how the mind works, both physically and physiologically, can help you find a light at the end of the tunnel.
Remember to stay open and take your time researching for a professional that meets your needs. It can sometimes be a process finding just the right fit, but when you do, it will be worth it! You can even ask for a consultation as part of the research process to help you find the right match. Listen to your intuition and ask yourself if you feel safe and comfortable expressing your thoughts and emotions.
If you or a loved one are suffering, please don't hesitate to reach out and get help and information.
National Mental Health and Substance Abuse Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255