A previous therapist of mine told me that she read an article about the “strong black woman” and realized it was talking about me. I put on my best acting because I think she forgot I was an aspiring Africana studies scholar and I read about people like her too. While I’m playing along, I’m having a side conversation with myself wondering where homegirl was going with this announcement. But I guess it never occurred to her to actively engage what that meant for my life and our sessions.
She constantly talked about me having a wall up. She knew that I was trying to keep it together while talking with her, only allowing her to see me how I wanted her to see me. I own that. It was also obvious that I frustrated her. Her announcement made it seem like she was wanting me to change instead of using that lens to instead understand how to engage me. I get “help me help you”, but lady, if I had to help you reach me, I was going to convince myself that I could reach myself on my own.
Even after reading the article she still had to ask me “why” it was necessary for me to have the wall up. I just blinked and peered at her like… what… do you mean why? Did you actually read the article? Like where was this article published at? Was this a legit journal? Because you have too many questions for me right now.
Frankly, unless somebody was going to reimburse the tuition dollars that paid for this session, I was not about to school her in the ways of the black woman. It’s just not my damn job and I make no apologies for that experience. 1. It’s already a shame that went through a whole PhD program and you didn’t have to read anything about black women. 2. You’re going to need to do that critical thinking on your own hun.
Does the next girl have to explain her whiteness to therapists? Of course not, because whiteness is a universal requirement for us. We all are made to understand whiteness, (except white people, but that’s another blog post for another time). But what I was not gonna do was provide a 400-year history lesson so I could be accurately diagnosed with the depression I knew I had. And even then, there was no guarantee.
I did cry on her couch most weeks. But it wasn’t any ugly crying. A tear would start to form and I would immediately grab for a tissue. I’d be too upset with myself if I couldn’t get through my sentence because the cry wanted to interrupt my face. I would pause, tell myself to pull it together and continue talking. This was who I was. I just wanted to be fixed and I didn’t want to stop to cry. And unfortunately, my therapist thought this meant that I was “good”.
The day of the ugly uncontrollable cry of despair and hopelessness, she looked lost and disturbed. Here we were 8 sessions in out of 10 and I’m hearing “for the first time I’m thinking that you’re really not going to be okay. Usually, by the end of our sessions, I’m like ‘Patrice is going to be okay’”. As soon as she said that, I felt like this experience had failed me. It failed the very motivation for me doing this in the first place. I wanted someone who was going to understand me and understand what I was going through and help me process who I am and how I am.
That was therapy experience was attempt number two. My very first attempt at campus psychological services was absolute crap. It was my freshman year of college when I was trying to bounce back from a ridiculous first semester. The ashy middle-aged white woman they paired me with was absolutely terrible. I walked into the room feeling normal and left feeling like perhaps my life was worthless. This woman looked her stupid blank prematurely wrinkled face at me and muttered “that must suck” for 45 damn minutes. I didn’t know a thing about therapy but I knew this couldn’t be the damn protocol. She offered nothing constructive and I stayed away from therapy for years after that.
Listen. If you need a therapist, go get you one. Take care of your mental health. When you go to seek a therapist, take control of the process. Shop around a bit. I previously talked about how I found my black woman psychiatrist.
If you want a black woman therapist, ASK THEM for a black woman therapist. If they can’t provide one, well, there’s another issue. This is especially important for those being serviced on a college campus. Ask the same questions. If you think your therapist is being ashy, TELL THEM or someone else in the office that they’re being ashy. Don’t continue to commit to something that is going to make you feel like crap outside of the what you’re already dealing with.
In my case, I ghosted instead of advocating for what I needed because I couldn’t deal with that confrontation. You also don’t owe anyone the confrontation. Pack up and leave babe.
Take control of your healing sis.