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The Stigma of Seeking Therapy: Breaking the Stereotypes

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                      (Photo: Psychology Today/Charles M. Shulz)

The six year old looks at me as though he’s lived this life a thousand times. He clutches his crayon box like it’s going to save him.

The teenager with different colored knee high socks shuts the world out with earbuds and texting. Her father sighs. He looks weary from too many slammed doors and nights pacing the floor. I want to hug her but she might fight me so I let it go.

A soccer mom, complete with flawless blonde hair, plays on an iPad. I wonder why she’s here. She smiles politely and I just know she’s the family hero. Then I see her leg bouncing furiously and realize she’s one car pool away from driving off the bridge.  I make a note to remember that everyone who smiles is not happy and to be careful assuming they are.

Then there’s the husband and wife. They are sitting close and the wall between them is visible. She looks unloved and he looks unappreciated. I know what cold love feels like. A silent sigh for them too.

And here I am. Buckled in on my seat on the crazy bus. Also known as the therapist’s office. I see another person of color finally walk in and I resist the urge to throw up the power fist. There’s a stigma in our community that prayer and talks with grandma fix everything.

Well I’d talked. I’d prayed. I’d cried. And I still  wasn’t sleeping. I still was walking around every day feeling like I was holding so much inside and no matter how great your friends are, you can only lean so hard. I felt like I was betraying them somehow by not letting them in. But I wasn’t. I just needed to process this on my own…err with someone who didn’t know me.

We’d all like to pretend that strength comes in rolling with the punches. That you just keep going after every failed relationships, every broken friendship, ever family issue and every “what am I doing with myself” quarter life crisis.

I’d been punched just a little too hard this time and I was tired. I needed to talk to someone who would do nothing more than listen.

Finally someone who loved me said something that made sense – God gave us therapist too.

There’s the preliminary “why are you so broken” screening with a young 30 something. Her tone of voice bothers me because it’s rehearsed from many years of training. She’s calculated caring and I hate her. Or maybe I hate this little chair and this small space.

The space gets smaller with every question and I want to jump through the wall like the Kool-Aid man.

When I’m finally transferred to someone else, I have my defenses up. But she does it. She just sits and listens and slowly the wall comes down.

She nods as she’s been trained to do and I am just happy to vent in peace. No judgement. No advice. Just quiet space to cry.

I needed that.

I cringe at my co-pay and prepare to leave. Before departing she says ” It will get better.”

Sitting in the car, I cry again. That level of release is why I came. It’s quite alright to be a strong, independent, sensible black woman….who goes to the therapy every now and again. It’s quite alright to give your shoulders a rest and put the world down. If only for an hour.

For more on Dee Rene, visit: laughcrycuss.com

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