Your First Time: What to Expect During Your Initial Therapy Session

So, you’re thinking about seeing a therapist! Yes, girl, yes! With the emergence of podcasts like Therapy for Black Girls and A Different Perspective focused on the clinical aspects of mental health, many Black women are opening up to the possibility that therapy may be a viable option to help us live our best lives. But traditionally, we haven’t been among the most likely to seek therapy. The stigma associated with needing mental health support and the belief that prayer can heal any ailment has often left us with very few reference points for what therapy may be like. We can’t necessarily call up our aunties and ask what therapy was like for them. So, we may find ourselves in a place of thinking about therapy but being stalled by our lack of familiarity with the process.

If you’re ready to take the plunge into the depths of who you are as a person by seeing a therapist, here are few things what to expect during your very first appointment:

Expect to be a little uncomfortable. In therapy, you’ll be talking to a complete stranger about your past hurts, current issues and future aspirations. These are all very intimate things to share with someone who you’ll probably never have a meal with and who’s mama you’ve never met. But, that’s what it takes to get started down the road of healing and wholeness. Your therapist will do their part to make you feel at ease and remind you that what you share, with very few exceptions, is confidential. But still, you don’t know them like that.

So, embrace the discomfort and take solace in knowing that connection is the most human of things. Your therapist can hold space for your range of emotions without needing to know details like your favorite color or your shoe size. It may take some time, but know that you will become more at ease with this new type of relationship.

Expect to talk about your ‘why’. In the first session, your therapist will likely ask what brought you therapy at this point in your life. Often, people seek therapy for a specific issue or need that they can verbalize. Other times, people may not know exactly why they need therapy. In either case, it’s ok. Though it may be helpful to spend some time thinking about your goals and what you hope to achieve or work through with your therapist, your goals can change. A skilled therapist will be able to help you gain clarity about your needs and support you as your needs change.

Expect to assess the relationship. The therapeutic relationship is just like any other intimate relationship (It’s really more like a situationship, but you know what I mean) in that it works best when you feel safe and accepted. Therapists are trained to be non-judgmental but, they are still human. Sometimes the biases and preference they have in their personal lives show up in their work and affect the therapeutic relationship. This can especially be the case when your therapist is of a different gender, race, or religion. Although we tend to connect through our similarities in all areas of life, including in therapy, keep in mind that sharing these characteristic with your therapist will not necessarily guarantee that the relationship will be fruitful. If for any reason you feel that your therapist does not ‘get’ you or won’t be a good fit for your needs, you can switch, TLC-style. No need to feel guilty and no need to wait and see.  Trust that you know what will work for you and accept nothing less.

Anytime we take a step toward living our best life, it’s something to be proud of. Take a moment, right now, and pat yourself on the back for considering therapy as a way of healing and progressing in your life. Then, report back after your first therapy session. I’d love to hear how it went. Also, if you’ve been in therapy for some time, what was your first session like?

 

Stop Dismissing Fear of Failure in High Achieving Black Women

My mother raised me not to say anything if I’m not sure what to say. She also taught me to never dismiss the feelings of people around me, even if I do not understand them… And yet, as a high-achieving Black woman (as described by others, this isn’t a narcissism thing), I find myself time and time again hearing things from people when shutting up and being empathetic are better solutions.

Over the last few months, I’ve been stressed: I’ve been to more funerals and loss more people than I want to admit; mourned and buried a broken engagement; faced rejection of things I didn’t want to begin with after being forced encouraged to apply for them; dealt with a comps debacle; and, stressed myself beyond belief to build a CV that can only be stopped by white supremacy and institutional oppression.

Though I am now officially a doctoral candidate and the stress of comps is behind me, I’m relieved but only to a degree. The reality is, I’ve merely made it over a hump but not the hump… I have no idea what my ultimate hump will be but grad school is just one of many things I’m trying to juggle right now. As I look out at my life’s trajectory there are so many markers and milestones I must meet to hold the title and job I endeavor to have (Professor of X). So alas, my life is a never-ending cycle of continuous deadlines and expected accomplishments—a conundrum that most people would and should run away from.

But this is what I love… And I’m not the only sista feeling this. I can’t be.

People always say take care of yourself but when that care means having someone to listen to you and feeling supported, I feel as a high-achieving Black woman that such a thing is nearly out of the question.  I have shed a lot of tears. I have released a lot of frustration. I have found myself trying to reach out for help and find support in people around me… only to be dismissed. I asked a few girlfriends, people I consider to be rockstars and they, too, have reported feeling the same. For instance, In the last few months, I have heard all of the following (and these are just a select few examples):

“I’ve never seen you get a task and not complete it”

“Oh, you’ll get a job at Harvard”

“Might not look good right now, but it always works itself out…”

“You never haven’t landed on your feet”

“You’ll catch up”

“You’ll get it done”

Sure. Fine. Okay.

Constantly hearing you’ll be okay or you always overcome things is not only dismissive but downright frustrating. I do believe that things tend to have a way of working themselves out, but right now and especially in those low moments, I find myself wondering if the people who send me these messages see my humanity. Do they see my health? Do they see the balancing acts I employ to minimize avoid mental health strain? Do they know that until last week I hadn’t slept more than 4 hours per night on the regular since July and that sleep deprivation has both long and short-term implications? Do they care that Black women, like myself, who are often positioned as heroines and rockstars need love and support too?

Do they see, ME? Do they see us?

Why yes, we will find a way to rise to the occasion, ask for extensions, or in an extreme case walk away… But the million dollar question is this: Are high-achieving Black women being seen for more than the work we produce? Are we valuable to people around us beyond the ways we are of service to them? Do they view us as a person–someone fully, wholly, and unequivocally deserving of love, respect, attention, and care? A lot of this has been about my experience, but this raises a larger question:

Are there other Black women feeling this too? Other Black women rising to the occasion, making things happen and sacrificing self for others only to get back advice that “it’ll be okay.” 

My friends can attest to the fact that I routinely offer solution-oriented advice and support, often appear to make the impossible happen, and have even been referred to as a superwoman—but none of this is without faults. When I need my cup filled, when Black women, in general, need our cups filled, it can be silencing to hear “you’ll be okay”. This leads me to often question if empathy and support are for those among us who consistently fail… That for some it doesn’t make sense to stop and even try to realize how important something is to a high achieving and/or high performing Black woman because our production and achievement have become akin to a machine.  

There is already documented evidence that we treat Black women like crap as a culture and society, but I would argue when that Black woman is someone we’ve come to see greatness within, it is compounded by minimizing struggle and dismissing pain.

If you’re reading this and feeling guilty, good. You probably should. If this doesn’t sound like you, great—keep doing what you’re doing. If you have no idea, check in with the high-performing and achieving Black women you call friends to make sure you’re not exhausting them—as Black women we can do this to each other, too!

So, what can you say Here goes that solutions thing again…:

  1. Nothing—just listen.
  2. How can I support you and help you?
  3. What are some ways we can prioritize everything on your plate?
  4. I’m sorry, this really sucks and I wish X was going the way you wanted…
  5.         <– That, better known as nothing.
  6. Admit you’re not sure what to say.

I write all of this to say sometimes we, the high-achieving/ high performing Black women’s delegation, don’t need to be reminded of our track record. Instead, we need to be reminded that this feeling of exhaustion, frustration, or whatever, no matter how painful in the moment is fleeting rather than permanent. Sometimes we need to be reminded it’s okay to just feel it, and that someone else will be there to feel it with us, too.

So be a good friend—stop saying foolishness!

*This post was updated to reflect changes submitted by the author.*

#ReclaimingMyFriendship

Congresswoman Auntie Maxine Waters (that’s her official title by the way), really gave us a lifelong mantra with her edict, #ReclaimingMyTime. There really is power in taking back things (feelings, goals, dreams, etc.) that have been stolen from you. In that regard, we can also think about reclaiming our friendship, energy, and love in the same way.

I really started to explore what #ReclaimingMyFriendship meant when my friend Sierra posted that she was no longer giving herself to relationships that felt one-sided. I loved the hashtag so much, that I decided to #CiteASista and share my own thoughts on the proclamation.

Relationships are major cornerstones in my life. As an introvert, the time that I spend developing and nurturing any friendship is intentional, thorough, and handled with care. As a result, I cannot (emotionally) afford to give to friendships that aren’t mutually beneficial.

To me, #ReclaimingMyFriendship means that I am no longer forcing friendships with folks who’ve made it clear that they’re not committed to nor interested in having an intentional, fruitful friendship with me.

I can’t (and won’t) be the only one sending “thinking of you” texts or asking to spend time with someone that I consider to be a friend. I refuse to be the only one offering support and encouragement. I will no longer wait for anyone to determine if they want to be in community with me in that way.

You can only give so much before the “giving well” runs dry. No one deserves to be depleted of ALL of their time, energy, love, and resources without receiving the same effort in return. We can’t be expected to pour all of our support into friendships that no longer edify or nurture us. Friendship should be intentional, reciprocal, affirming and substantial.

Don’t be afraid to #ReclaimYourFriendship, sis. Enough is enough. 

In Solidarity,

Raven K.

 

 

Let tomorrow worry about tomorrow

Hey #CiteASista family! My name is Bridgette and I’m a newly minted MPA with a focus on Nonprofit Management and Higher Education. I’m the newest addition to the Cite A Sista family and I couldn’t be more grateful.

That said, this is my first Cite a Sista post and I am pretty hype! LOL. I hope you’ll follow along as I work through love, faith, womanhood, and much more through spoken word and poetry.


This season has been all about transition.  From graduating and moving to actively seeking a new professional opportunity, I’ve found myself time and again working to stay encouraged. This is especially true of my current job, which I love, but leaves much to be desired as it relates to my long-term goals.

 To be honest, it has been draining.

Things have built up so bad that although I’ve found myself in venting a few times to my friends, I continued to feel I had not truly shared my feelings about my life transitions.

-Enter my aunt-

My aunt and I have a special relationship. She has always been someone I could confide in and has always been patient, understanding and of course one of my greatest prayer warriors. Since this month was my tipping point, on the day she called “just to hear my voice and catch up”, made a normal conversation an opportunity for a breakthrough.

tenor-1.gif

As I cried and talked and talked, I realized she was quiet and had been nonresponsive for a while. I understood this was her way to allow me to get it all out. Once I finally took a breath, she said “Today was meant for me to listen” and let me talk some more. My aunt went on to share with me one of her last days with my grandmother before she passed away (another story and another poem for another day). I learned from my aunt that one of the last pieces of wisdom my grandmother imparted upon her was, “Corliss, let tomorrow worry about tomorrow.”

Since my grandmother passed away (or Nanny as we called her) I often pushed a lot of my memories of her aside. I made a choice not to visit her grave although sometimes it feels as though I don’t remember a thing about her. But in moments like these, where my aunt is present for me in the flesh, I realize my grandmother’s presence and spirit had come full circle. I get this feeling of her telling me, “chile you ain’t gon ever forget or lose me”. My Aunt, by way of my grandma, has reminded me of the importance of dealing with things as they come but also taking a break for myself.

The poem below is all about that experience. I hope you enjoy!

tenor.gif

Let Tomorrow Worry About Tomorrow

Tomorrow’s to- do list keeps getting longer

  1. Create this
  2. Send this email
  3. Call about that
  4. Connect with so and so
  5. Don’t forget
  6. Make sure

At this point I am at #20 so I ditch the numbers and try bullet points

Adding to this list that never seems to get anything accomplished

Just additions.

I switch up the format I create it on, maybe that makes a difference

Separate items by categories, try a different stationary, use different colors

But tomorrow becomes a daunting task in itself

So much that today is all about counting down for tomorrow

Trying to get a leg up on tomorrow

Because in some way, maybe I can beat it

The opponent is clever

Another bullet point is added before I can even put on my fighting gloves

My phone rings

A calm soothing voice on the other end

Immediately putting me at ease

Something about the magic of black women elders

Able to work wonders without laying hands on you

No their voices are the potions

And their spirits are the antidotes to ailments doctors fumble over

Her words did their thing “Let tomorrow worry about tomorrow”

And she prayed over me

“Let tomorrow worry about tomorrow”

I took those to heart and let my energy bask in today

So today, I will smile

Today , I will practice gratitude

Today, I will savor the moments I have neglected

Enjoy the people I dismissed thinking beyond them

Enjoy the moments of the now and here, today

Because tomorrow, well

Because in reality,

Tomorrow may not come

  • BCB 9/1/17

It’s Easy To Root For Your Girl When She’s Winning… But What Happens When She Stumbles?

It can be really fun and exciting to root for your girlfriend(s) when things are looking up. She just landed her dream job, launched her blog, was accepted into grad school or maybe even just defended her dissertation. These are all times of celebration where it (should) feel natural to love on those in your circle. You know, the way that Taraji P. Henson CELEBRATES her friends?

But what happens when your girl interviews for that dream job and doesn’t get it? Or when she launches that blog that no one reads (this one HURTS)? Or when she gets wait listed from ALL THREE of the grad schools that she’s applied to, thus pushing her goal of ever defending that dissertation even farther away? (I’m the friend who was waitlisted THREE times, by the way. I recently shared a post about my unexpected gap year which eventually lead to my grad school journey on my own blog).

During my unexpected gap year, the “congratulations” from my friends seemed to cease. They eventually returned once I was accepted to my current doctoral program, which was expected. However, what if I had been wait-listed, again? Would my friends still find me worthy of celebrating? Would they still be proud of me if I wasn’t on this doctoral journey? I share this post in hopes of starting some conversation about how to support and uplift your friends when they’re experiencing personal failures. Sometimes we don’t even understand what they’re experiencing as a failure, but the situation feels personally dire and difficult and we’re just outsiders looking in.

Here are a few suggestions for encouraging your friends during difficult times:

  1. Just listen. This is an essential skill to have in any friendship, but it’s imperative when your friend is going through a rough time. Sometimes, as sista-friends, we just want to fix whatever is wrong so that our girl feels better. When our friend calls with upsetting or disappointing news, we feel that our job as a good friend is to show up and make it better, right?  Well, sometimes we can’t make things better for our friends. Further, ADVICE GIVING can backfire if it’s unwarranted after a friend’s disappointment. Simply listening and providing a safe place for your friend to land may be the best cure.

2. Avoid the “just look at the bright side” trope. Can I be honest? This is infuriating to hear as a friend. As someone who doesn’t like to (feel like a) burden to others, it’s already extremely difficult for me to share my struggles and challenges with my friends. The last thing that I want to hear when I have shared something difficult is, “just look at the bright side!”. What if I don’t want to look at the bright side? Right now, I’m upset, disappointed (usually in myself), devastated and whatever else. People often provide the “bright side” when they don’t know what else to say. Hence, suggestion #1 is always useful. Allow your friend to be in that space if that’s what she needs right now. Providing the bright side without being asked is insensitive and invalidating.

3. Ask them what they need. One of the worst things that you can do for a friend who has been recently disappointed or let down is to assume that you know what they need or assuming that things will just get better with time. While the latter may be true, taking a moment to ask your friend what she needs at the time can make all of the difference. Give your friend the space to ask for a girls night in or time to cry at home, alone. Choosing how we heal is an important part of the process.

4. Remind them of who you know them to be. As much as you can, be a reflecting mirror for your friend during her down moments. The world can be really cruel and isolating, especially to Black women. Remind your friend of who you know her to be. Remind her of her strength, brilliance, bravery, resistance, resourcefulness and every other thing that makes her amazing in your life and the lives of others. If she’s a perfectionist like me, it may be excruciatingly painful for her to remind herself of what makes her a champion during times when she feels like a failure.

These are just a few tips to help you better support and uplift your friends in their times of need. Let me know others that you practice in the comments!

In solidarity,

Raven