The moment I knew I needed therapy
I was standing in the bathroom in my Wonder Woman pajamas, coincidentally, but I didn’t feel so wonderful. I’d just returned from a book signing featuring two of my favorite bloggers-turned-authors, Luvvie Ajayi and Samantha Irby. Instead of feeling inspired by their success, I felt this deep-seated envy that was unlike any emotion I’d ever experienced before.
I was listening to these incredibly hilarious women read excerpts from their critically-acclaimed books and trade jokes with each other, but on the inside, I was silently seething. I could feel myself going down a dark rabbit hole of despair. Indeed, I’d felt this way about many of my “peers.” And despite knowing better than to compare myself to other people and their accomplishments, I did it anyway, once again falling into the trap of a one-woman pity party.
This wasn’t the first time, and I knew it wouldn’t be the last…unless I got some help.
After yet another late-night conversation wherein my husband attempted to pull me out of my funk by reminding me of my awesomeness, I locked myself in the bathroom and cried real, hard tears. I looked at myself in the mirror, Wonder Woman jammies and all, thinking, What the hell is wrong with me?
On the outside, I appear to have it all together — successful career, wonderful husband, loving family, and amazing friends. And that’s all true. But on the inside, there are definitely times when I feel like a fraud. Hello, impostor syndrome.
Despite warning others about the pitfalls of social media comparison and tweeting about trusting your talent on a regular basis, I often didn’t practice what I preached. And as a result, I was harder on myself than I probably should have been. I needed help.
In recent years, I’d learned of friends going to therapy, but I never thought it was for me. I didn’t have a history of mental health disorders, abuse or addiction, so I assumed my “problems” weren’t serious enough.
I was wrong.
When I mustered the courage to finally call the practice that my friend attends, I let it all out.
“And what would you like to discuss with the therapist?” the intake person asked.
“I’m an overly ambitious, Type A perfectionist,” I blurted. “Basically, I’m a millennial in 2016. That’s my issue.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But I instantly felt relieved. I’d taken the first step toward self-care and could feel the weight lifting off my shoulders. Then I took it a step further. I specifically requested a Black female therapist because I knew I needed someone who could relate to me and the situations I regularly encounter as a Black woman. And my wish was granted.
I didn’t know what to expect of my first session and I was definitely anxious. What if there really is something “wrong” with me? What if this was a mistake? What if, what if, what if??!
The first session was more of a get-to-know-you. We dove deeper into my background and behavior in the second session, during which I admitted I often thought I wasn’t “good enough.” And what my therapist said next felt like a punch to the gut:
“What I’m hearing is that you’re not very kind to yourself.
Who, me? No. Impossible. She sent me a self-compassion survey to take afterward — and sure enough, I scored a lowly 2.09 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Well, damn. According to the results, the average score is about 3.0. Thankfully, Dr. Kristin Neff, the therapist who’d created the survey, included some helpful self-compassion guided meditations and exercises.
The next time I found myself sinking into that pity-party pattern, I tried the self-compassion/loving-kindness meditation and I instantly felt better. What I loved most was the mantra…
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful.
May I be kind to myself.
May I accept myself as I am.
May I accept my life as it is.
I mean, talk about on point. I felt as though this meditation was made specifically for me.
In light of therapy, I decided to make “be kind to yourself” my mantra for 2017.
After all, I would never in a million years repeat the mean-spirited things I said to myself to a friend, so why did I say them to myself? It’s time to do better.
I’m not claiming that therapy has all the answers, but what I do know is I wish I’d tried it sooner.
After only a few sessions, I can sense a shift in my mindset. I’ve had a few slip-ups (namely becoming distraught about not making Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list), but even then I have to remind myself that that’s okay. Therapy has helped me become more self-aware, and has given me the tools to empower myself.
It’s impossible and unrealistic to change my habits overnight, but I’m working on it. And that’s all that matters.