Behind the Mask- The Face of Mental Health Part 6

My work in advocating for a space for mental health will never end. This series is so dear to my heart, because they are real stories from real women who walk among you. They could be your sister, wife, mother..their voices matter. Even if they are sometimes silenced by other forums. Here at HER..their voices are sacred. Each woman was asked the same series of questions to give this piece some continuity. I asked that they remain anonymous so they could answer truthfully.
Healing is a buzz word for some, but it is vitally important for our growth. We can never heal wounds that are never acknowledged. I am so thankful that this woman agreed to share her story with my audience. It is important to know that healing is something we must actively work to achieve so we don’t continue a negative cycle.
Age: 39
Gender Identity: Female
Racial Identity: African American
Explain a bit of your background your family dynamics and school environments (elementary, jr. high and high school) and any religious experience you may have had. How did these experiences shape your view of self?
 I grew up in a two parent household. Mom, stepdad, younger sister. My parents were much older than my peers. They raised us in their 40s / 50s. They we’re open enough to share lots of wisdom. My mom called it her “bought sense”. She used to say ain’t no sense like the kind you paid for (experience). We received lots of support and encouragement to be our best , get a good education, and to be an individual (ie stay away from peer pressure). This shaped me to really believe in myself and it did promote a healthy view of self. However, I still found myself struggling with the absence of my biological father and I carried this sense of rejection (that I ignored) WELL into my adulthood. I don’t think this overshadowed my healthy view of self but it definitely made an impact.
When and why did you first think about seeking mental health services? What was that process like for you?
I sought mental health services after a good relationship went REALLY bad! I struggled with anger, guilt, shame, overwhelming grief, and depression. While I have been taught and do believe that Black women are strong enough to handle anything I think that many of us get stuck in unresolved anger and bitterness and we carry it with us for years!! I didn’t want that for myself. I needed help to sort through my emotions and heal “the right way”
What do/did you look for when seeking a therapist? Does gender matter? Race? Why or why not?
I wanted to find another black woman SOOO bad!! I felt like she would have understood my experience better. I ended up with a white woman who life was completely different from mine. She was my age, married and had the privilege of working part time so she can be home with her kids!! As a black woman in her late 30s who has never been married and didn’t have kids….I felt like this was a sick twisted joke…LOL! I almost quit but am glad I didn’t because GOD used this woman!! I think God allowed it come in a different package so that I can truly Know that healing comes from HIM alone. He can use anyone or anything!
What are some of your therapeutic goals? Have you been able to successfully obtain those, why or why not?
 I really liked that we set goals on day one! I told her that I wanted to heal in a way where I can be courageous enough to love again as if I’ve never been hurt. This was my main goal… which will take God’s timing to obtain. My secondary goal was to get help in managing my emotions in a healthy way so I don’t let anger and bitterness set in. We used a book “Cry of the soul” by D.Allender & T. Longman to walk through my emotions each session.
What makes a session successful?
 Our sessions were focused on GOD alone! It wasn’t about what happened to me, it wasn’t about what I “needed to do” to be healed. It was all about how to find GOD in every emotion….it deepened my awareness of God’s sovereignty and helped me find peace in that.
Have you told anyone that you’re in therapy? Why or why not? If you did tell them what was their reaction?
Yes, my close friends and family knew and supported me.
What is your relationship like with yourself? What is the driving force of those thoughts?
I love myself. This was one of the main reasons for choosing therapy. I believe that emotional maturity and well-being drives a healthy sense of self. You can’t be good to yourself until you feel good about yourself.
Do you have a support system? What does support look like to you?
 I have a GREAT support system. My close friends have been in my life since grade school. We know each other VERY well and affirm each other. On top of that my younger sister & mom are MY best friends and my biggest supporters. They will move mountains to fight for me and I feel the same way about them.
Who are some of your idols and why do you admire them?
I don’t really have any idols. In my support circle there is something different that I admire about each person. We have different strengths that compliment each other. It’s truly a blessing from God!!
What does it mean to you to be a strong, black woman? Has this hindered you from seeking treatment?
I used to think that it meant that we were stoic and that we couldn’t stay in our feelings too long because it made us weak. So, I spent a lot of years denying, stuffing, and ignoring emotions because I thought that’s how you be “strong”. Now I believe that it takes greater strength to face your fears and emotions. It’s in this confession & acknowledgement before God that I receive peace and strength!
What are some ways you think we can change the conversation around mental health?
 I think a conversation around HOW we “made it through” is important. If it’s not done in a healthy way it still shows up in other areas of our lives and most times we aren’t even aware of it. It can bleed in our choices, finances, childrearing, weight management, relationship management, etc and the effects of it all doesn’t stop with you. It gets passed down through the generations too!!
I am so proud of this lady and her journey to healing. What are some ways you have worked on your own healing? Honestly, this space, this blog, has allowed me to work through so many negative thoughts and emotions. As always thank you for reading! Please share, like and discuss!

2 thoughts on “Behind the Mask- The Face of Mental Health Part 6

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