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Being Self-Full: Reflections & Offerings on a Therapy Experience

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

This… It started on my birthday… I either cried…

It started the day I cried myself to sleep, or was it that my brain was dehydrated and I passed out because I had no more tears to shed?

The day I turned another year older is the day you passed away. You may have even transitioned the same time I was born, in the early morning. So, there’s an extraordinary link to life, death, and peace that I’ve been wrestling with in this season of my life, which is set in the between spaces of my previous and upcoming birthday, and this academic year.

This spring, I took my comprehensive exams, however, I felt as though my life was going through comprehensives as well. Somehow my calendar was marked with homegoing services, and my Facebook feed became a memorial page of tragic passing of my close network’s loved ones. It was that day, as I juggled a class presentation and a funeral service that I wept, that day in which my phone disappeared within my car or my home or somewhere not remembered. I realized that time or God or myself, or all of them were telling me something I couldn’t comprehend.

By now I had reminded myself to stay away, stay away from the numbers that would tell me the truth. Stay away from accepting the comments, “Hey Sis, you lost weight.” “Your size got smaller since the last time I measured you a couple weeks ago.” During the next period of mourning my brain went into autopilot, canceling appointments via scheduled texts at 3 am. Perhaps two weeks later, when I no longer needed to set an alarm because my brain woke me up at 5 am, I knew my sanity would have to shift.

There’s a joke between some friends and I that a PhD makes you go to therapy or makes you adopt intentional forms of meditation, or both. And humor is often a way of us coping with the real sadness of our humanity…

Insomnia. Lack of Appetite. Intentional Solitude.

We all grieve differently and mourn differently. The many roles we balance, along with different developmental stages, all influence our negotiation of trauma and tragedy. Importantly, being at an imbalance for an extended period can cause a lifetime of holistic imbalance and premature death.

To address my imbalance, I decided to seek professional help. Because as one of my aunties said, “I don’t understand why Black people are so opposed to counseling; a therapist is another way of looking at your circumstances. Also, it’s taking a time to pause and talk.”

So there I sat, across from a Black woman psychologist, who I requested due to our commonality of being Black women in America. I hoped that she would have a similar historical understanding of what it means to be a Black woman, and gratefully, she did, along with knowledge of emerging research on Epigenetics, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS). I believe her professional and socio-cultural background made the sessions more productive, because I didn’t have to explain the sista code that greatly impacts the ways in which Black women exist in different spaces. For example, how in some spaces Black women are allowed and disallowed to mourn for a myriad of reasons. Moreover, I was able to examine the often contradictory, competing, and emerging narratives that have historical and forthcoming intergenerational consequences on the Black community, and US society.

Overall, my counseling experiences have reminded that there is not a time limit on grief, and the importance of accepting that we all grieve differently. Sometimes I catch myself staring out the window, as if to see him there, going through the routine motions of life, mowing his lawn, grilling a steak, watering his plants. After peering out for a while, neither hearing nor seeing him, but being filled with memories that repeat, I whisper that he is loved and he was hurting, and we are still here trying to comprehend an ever dangling why. The first anniversary of his homecoming, and another one of my birthdays is coming soon. So my month of celebrations that I always anticipated, will now also be a reminder of the beautiful fragility and divine eternity of love and life.

My major takeaways from this counseling experience are:

  1. The importance of simultaneously acknowledging that our humanity unites us and our intersectionality that pluralizes us is challenging.

  2. Sometimes we’re not going to be able to comprehend each other, but it does not excuse us from seeking mutual peace.

  3. Push to accept and meet others where we are, where they are going, and the potential of where they are going.

  4. The importance of being aware that boundaries are fluid and change based on needs, desires, and seasons of life.

Although, I am still wrapping up this academic year, I would offer this, especially to my sistas:

  1. If you’re at an imbalance for an extended period, pause and recognize it.

  2. It’s okay not to be okay because you are worthy of slowing down, receiving help, and arriving at a new practice of whole. The world and our community often tell us, 

woman wearing white sleeveless lace shirt
  1. And at other times, our journey reminds us that we must contend with being in difficult periods of unknown, fragility, and growth.

  2. So if tiredness and yearning for rest have become your normalcy, I urge you to please rest—soon and routinely.

Self-care isn’t being selfish, it’s being Self-Full.

Dedicated To My Sistas who are in need of a Pause, A Reset, and My Brothas too. 

Acknowledgments: Special thanks to what I call, my sistas writing room, May F. Chung, Tanika Lowery, Tahira Mahdi, Shawntay Stocks and Nebiyat T.  for your feedback, insights, and inspiration. 

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