"Black people don't seek therapy. We just learn to handle it on our own."
"Just work through it. You will be fine."
I heard that growing up, and now, even though I'm in my 20s, the same tune is staying alive. There are so many misconceptions about therapy, especially within communities of color. Instead of supporting and encouraging our loved ones to seek help, we have been guilty of discouraging it as if it's taboo.
I am guilty of saying those same statements out of my own personal ignorance. Recently I've come to the realization that I should consider therapy. In recent years I have held positions working with youth in various capacities, hearing their stories and helping them heal, grow and mature. While I was busy trying to be Superwoman, I failed to hear my own needs and cries for help.
I've always had an unspoken fear of going to a therapist: Would he or she judge me? What would my family and friends say if I told them I'm seeing a therapist? My pondering thoughts and feelings always led me not to do what I wanted (and needed) to do.
I knew that I needed to take care of myself in order to live my life in the way God intended for me to: happy, free and enjoying every second of it. I've experienced being at an all-time high and reaching the lowest point.
When people asked if I was OK, I would eagerly smile and reassure them that I was doing great. At times I was hurting inside from my own personal problems. As much as I wanted to vent and express any and every problem (big or small), I wouldn't. I wanted to appear strong, especially to those I helped. But even as I spent hours helping or supporting, I always knew I wanted it to be me on the receiving end.
By after much thought and research, I learned that taking care of one's mental health is very important. It is liberating to say I'm not afraid to seek counseling if and when needed. Taking care of myself, all of me, is nothing to be ashamed of. There needs to be more encouragement and support to erase the stigma that people of color have placed on therapy for years.