My first experience with cognitive behavioral therapy occurred when I was 14 years old. My parents made this decision for me. A month prior, my parents suddenly announced they were getting a divorce in the summer of 2002. The thought of them no longer spending the remainder of their lives together did not sit very well. I considered how my parents had been together since they were in their twenties. As a little girl, I daydreamed about my parents growing towards eternity together. I was growing up, my parents constantly said they would always be together. Apparently that picture had been broken within a 45 minute one-sided conversation. From that moment on, I promised myself that I would break the so-called divorce curse that ran in my family.
Their divorce announcement really took a dramatic toll on my perception of commitment. The most traumatizing part of their divorce announcement was their separate sides of the story. I really didn’t know who to believe. IT felt like I had to choose whom I loved more. Since I ended up staying with my mother, I believed her story. I began to develop anger and bitterness towards my father. Hurt and pain developed within me for my mother. I was pissed off at anyone who tried to explain my parents relationship to me and why they were divorcing.
With the way my attitude was going, my parents were advised that I see a cognitive behavioral therapist. At the age of 14, my first therapist was a middle aged white woman. At that moment in my life, I seriously hated that white woman without even knowing a thing about her. During the first and last session, I did not say one word to her. I felt like there was no need to sit on a couch and tell a complete stranger my innermost stressful thoughts about my parents and myself for that matter. I was not about to give my parents the satisfaction.
Naturally, my mom got me to go see another therapist so I could try to break my hardness towards people. I didn’t care for the next therapist either. Yet again, another white woman who looked like she could barely hear. My time with her was short lived after three sessions. She literally put words in my mouth, was insensitive towards what I did tell her, and was only concerned about her payments. During the third session, I sat down for five minutes then told her I had had enough of her condescending tone. I walked out the door and politely explained she was a terrible person and should not be telling anyone what to do with their emotions.
My parents realized my experience with a cognitive behavioral therapy was going to be a lengthy journey. They laid off on the therapist hunt for about three months. Within the four months, I meet the father of my first born child who was six and a half years older than me. I know I was trying way out of my league and was trying to be super grown. (By the way the book Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson is a great read that explores the vulnerability of young black girls). A whole mess but I learned valuable lessons from our relationship. He convinced me I should try therapy again since I had been suffering from anxiety and insomnia. I asked my Dad if he knew a reliable therapist as a way to start rebuilding communication with him. I ended up going to see his therapist in Auburn, AL.
It turned out that both my mother and father were seeing the same therapist in Auburn. My dad suggested I see her. I was not particularly excited but I needed to start a healing process. A healing process that I was completely unaware of at the time. I didn’t open up to her right away because I knew both of my parents were seeing her. In addition she was another white woman. Anxiety filled me with the thought of a judgmental white woman hearing what I had to say. I was for certain that she would tell my parents what I shared with her. For the first few sessions, she assured me that what I shared with her would stay right within the walls of her office space. I began to put a lot more trust in her as she broke down some barriers that I didn’t even know existed.
I had several break throughs outside of what occurred between my parents. My experience with cognitive behavioral therapy helped me through unimaginable trauma. I dismantled some childhood trauma, generational trauma, and negative self images. I probably kept seeing her for another two years. Once I made it to undergrad at Auburn University, I made the decision to see her for my own personal reasons. That white woman managed to help me through some tough ass shit. Shit I didn’t even know existed. I’m grateful for that. Yet my mental health journey took a turn once I started college. Nonetheless, I can say now that I wish I had of gone to therapy way before my parents announced their divorce that day in the living room of our home.
At the age of 15, I had some heavy stuff on my shoulders. I’m still dealing with some of that stuff at the age of 30. Even if I am dealing with it, I took the initiative to start going back to therapy at the beginning of March. This time around I have a Black male therapist! It’s a mandatory part of my self care kit. I need to go to clear my rushing thoughts and get some form of structure as well as accountability. It’s my time to calibrate all that is going on in my life as a black woman, wife, and mother. The end all is that I walk out the door with the ability to care for everyone else. Like the saying goes you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Let me know if you have been thinking about going to therapy and or if you currently go to therapy. What’s stopping you and or what motivates you to go?