Hi Moms- The summer months are finally here, and we get a welcomed break from the normal hustle and bustle of ‘mom-ing’ that happens during the school year to enjoy the fun of July and August. While you are fine-tuning the summer camp itinerary, weekend fun and vacation plans for your kids, be sure to include yourself and your own self-care. I am an advocate for mommy self-care in the form of spending a day at the spa, enjoying a girls trip and taking yourself out to dinner and a movie. I am also a strong advocate for emotional and mental self-care; i.e. therapy. I understand there are many reasons why we, as Moms, have not made our mental health a priority. In sharing reflections about my experience with therapy, I hope you join me in this form of self-care.
REMOVE THE STIGMA-
There remains an idea that going to a therapist is shameful, especially in minority communities, and if you do go; something must be wrong with you. There were several members of my family who struggled with their mental health and it was always talked about in whispers and when children were forced out of the room. This caused me to look at them, and later other women, with a bit of pity when I learned of their struggles. I then took it a step further when I learned they were under the care of a clinician. I did it in a “…oh, that’s not me…I have it all together” kind of way, until it was me and my thinking about seeking help changed drastically. The death of my father in 2010 drove me to seek out therapy to handle my grief and my desire for intentional mental self-care took me back this year. I am personally looking to silence the idea that seeing a mental health clinician is shameful. I think about my therapist as an integral part of my wellness team right along with my husband, close friends, family and church.
SUPERWOMAN IS A MYTH-
As a kid growing up in the 80’s, Wonder Woman and She-Ra were my go-to’s when I played with other kids. While I no longer tie a shirt around my neck pretending it’s a cape, there are moments when I walk around with my imaginary shield, sword and belt acting like a modern-day ‘superwoman.’ I take on too much and do not always ask for help. It is not until I am exhausted and mentally worn out that I realize I cannot do everything by myself and Wonder Woman and She-Ra are characters for a reason. A few months ago, my therapist challenged me to ask for help with babysitting needs for my son outside of his father and me. I went back and forth with her presenting my reasons for not asking and the more I said it aloud, the more it dawned on me that the worst people could say was no. I ended up taking her advice and starting to ask for more help and I was able to get the help I needed. I’m glad I listened.
THERAPY IS ALL ABOUT YOU-
Do you like ‘me time?’ Well imagine 45-minutes to 1-hour that is all about you…that’s therapy! I do not have to share airtime with my son, spouse, friends or co-workers. Having uninterrupted time away from others, work, the phone, chores, etc. is refreshing. I told a friend that my relationship with my therapist is the best, most one-sided relationship I have. While I really like her and wish her well, I do not have to ask (or care) about her life, husband, kids, her hopes and dreams or anything about her. And guess what? She doesn’t expect me to! My therapist does not know anyone else in my life and therefore, she can look at my life in an unbiased way to help me. It allows time to focus on me, talk through what is on my ‘plate’ at the moment and get practical suggestions for next steps.
BE READY TO DO THE WORK-
I believe the saying ‘no pain no gain’ applies to the patient-therapist relationship in a way. You will need to come with an open mind, honest heart and willing spirit that is ready to do the ‘work.’ Think about the reason for starting therapy and what you desire to be different in your life. Remember that that reason will require you to do some things to bring about change. It will undoubtedly include a shift in your thinking and revisiting some old wounds to uncover the source for present-day behaviors; so, get ready. I am naturally a stubborn person and my therapist picked right up on this in our second session, so you can only imagine my ‘work’ is sometimes a struggle. So- Will you cry sometimes? Probably! Will you be challenged? Yes. Will you always like what your therapist has to say? No. Will you make positive changes? That is the ultimate goal.
Making the decision to begin therapy takes a lot of courage. Courage to ignore the stigma, courage to look at yourself in a different way and courage to be dedicated to the work required to manifest change. In my motherhood journey I have met numerous moms, of various ages, who attend therapy on a regular basis. They’ve shared their reason(s) for starting and continuing the process. I appreciate their honesty to share their story of mental health self-care as it has inspired me to do the same. Moms- I celebrate with you for making the decision to care for your emotional and mental health and I applaud those who are beginning to think about starting the process. Below are numerous resources to help you get started. –Krystal
https://www.therapyforblackgirls.com/therapist-directory/. Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed psychologist and creator of the site, has a free user-friendly, up-to-date directory that lists clinicians all over the US. There is a wealth of useful articles, information and tips for Black women about mental health. I was able to find my new therapist using her site and recommend it to others.
If you work full or part-time, many employers have employee assistance programs that offer free assessment and counseling services to address personal and/or work-related issues. The services are confidential, and information shared during your session(s) is not shared with your supervisor. Talk with your Human Resources department for more information or contact your insurance provider.