Mental Health Check-In

I just got off the phone with my dad. It was the third time I’ve spoken to him in two decades. He gave me a brief update on his life and we made plans to see each other later this year. I can honestly say that this probably wouldn’t be happening right now if I hadn’t started seeing a therapist. First I struggled to find the right format and counselor for me. Then I struggled to open up about my traumas. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month I figured I’d open up to you and do a little mental health check-in.

I’ve been seeing my therapist weekly for the past three months and just recently switched our sessions to bi-weekly. I’d seen a mental health professional a handful of times as a child in the welfare system. Other than that I prided myself in being so open about my feelings and flaws that my friends were often my therapist. I’m now noticing why that was a flawed system, one that encourages projection. Some of my friends found respite in therapy apps but I’m a talker so 30-minute sessions are a no-go for me! I wanted more traditional therapy with hour sessions that could be scheduled virtually.

Photo by Total Shape on Unsplash

Finding a Black female mental health professional was a priority for me. I prefer the ease of not having to explain certain things. I also looked for someone who was fat and/or fat positive. The first place I looked was BetterHelp but unfortunately, they couldn’t match me with a Black mental health professional at the time. I was frustrated until I recognized that Black therapists were also having difficulty finding Black therapists. We were all responding to the same societal traumas and mental health issues searching within our community for guidance.

I grew up hearing the statement “What happens in this house stays in this house.” Which meant that the family secrets stayed secret and were rarely discussed even within the family. In my 20’s when I mentioned family therapy to my mom she replied, “Y’all can go. There’s nothing wrong with me!” Since then she has received some counseling for a work incident and says it really helped. But when I told her I was looking for a therapist, she said “What’s wrong with you?”.

In My Feels

Right now I feel more alive than I have in years! I feel like I am focused on my growth and healing. I’m killing it with work. I’m feeling open and ready for a meaningful partnership. Some of these things came with time, hard work, and determination. But taking a moment to truly enjoy it and bask in the glory is new to me. I am now aware that I didn’t let myself celebrate my success because I was in a scarcity mindset. I thought I didn’t have time to enjoy the small things because I had to keep working or I’d miss out on the big things. Now I know the big thing is enjoying the little things. I also know that burnout is real and I still struggle with setting healthy boundaries.

Before I started seeing my therapist I was feeling good. I felt like my life was getting back on track and I wanted to be sure it kept moving forward instead of staying stuck in old habits and beliefs. I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety throughout this pandemic. I also live alone, so I’ve been super isolated. I knew that psychologically I needed some help processing what life looked like and how it was changing.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I ended up finding the Black female therapist that I needed through Open Path Collective. You pay the Open Path membership fee which opens up their directory to you. From there it’s like Tinder for therapists. You can sort by gender, race, location, and photo. My counselor works for an office in Oakland, California that only works with clients of color. I pay a discounted rate of $60 per 60-minute virtual session and can schedule them as often or sparingly as I like.

Part of me feels like it’s a luxury and a privilege to be able to afford a therapist. Then I think about how much I spend on a mani-pedi and bikini wax and remember that therapy is a leveled-up version of self-care! Before I started my therapy search I talked about it in my weekly support group. I’ve been hosting a free fat-friendly support group for my community since mid-lockdown. Having that support group to vent to and lean on has done wonders for my mental health. It’s helped me recognize that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. That it takes strength to recognize your faults.

I’ve been practicing meditation for some time but it’s finally becoming more of a daily habit. I’ve learned that meditation doesn’t just happen on my yoga mat. I can meditate while I walk, I can listen to a guided meditation or practice affirmations in the shower. I used to think that meditation wasn’t for me until I realized I had a very narrow scope of meditation. Just like I had a narrow scope of mental health and how much it impacts my life. I’m still learning, unlearning, and growing with the help of my counselor and supportive friends and family. I look forward to the healing the future will bring.

How is your mental health? Do you have a therapist? Do you have questions about how I found one? Let me know in the comments.

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