My Journey w. Therapy P2
Excerpt from Part 1
I checked in to my appointment and filled out the questionnaire. It asks things like “Are you having trouble eating/sleeping/focusing/living/etc? It gave me something to do so that I didn’t worry myself to death in the waiting room. Then my FairyGodTherapist, who will from now on be referred to as “FGT”, opened the door and said “Aja?” looking around to see where I was…AND SHE PRONOUNCED MY NAME RIGHT. We walked the long hallway to her office. There were sound cancelling machines in the halls so that the sessions would be private private. Dang. How long is this hallway?!? When we finally got to her office, she shut the door, we both sat down and went through the niceties of who we were, where we’re from, etc. Then the question came: “So Aja, why are you here? Why now?”
Have you ever heard someone say “Therapy is work.”? Well, that’s what FairyGodTherapist was asking about. “What work did you come here to do?” Quite honestly in my head I said “I DON’T KNOW LADY. THAT’S WHY I’M HERE, SO YOU CAN TELL ME.” I had enough sense about me to know that I didn’t want my new therapist to think I couldn't take responsibility for my own actions, so I started walking through areas in my life that were consistently causing me anxiety or stress. She waded through the muck of my word vomit and created a treatment plan. Which is essentially several goals for me to reach throughout my time with her in therapy. Here’s a general idea of what mine looked like:
Work on assertive communication + boundary setting in personal and work relationships.
If you know me, you know that I can be pretty assertive. I used to struggle tremendously with asserting myself and boundaries with family, employers, and my partner.
Establish a practice of self-compassion.
I used to be a chronic asshole to myself.
Create a system to better manage my time.
Freelance life makes managing time + creating boundaries SO important. I wasn’t equipped.
Mind my damn business.
I used to stress out about other people’s problems. Partly because I’m nosey and partly because Black women are socialized to take on problems that aren’t our own. Raised as a Black women, I wasn’t exempt from that messaging.
Every other week, I’d follow FairyGodTherapist down the long hallway to her office, which is decorated with knickknacks to fiddle with while talking and quotes on the wall. She’d say, “So, what’s up?” I’d walk her through how life has been going and she’d listen intently, writing notes on her paper. Every once in a while she’d interject with something quick like “Why didn’t you say no?” To which I’d always respond with a half-baked reason as to why I wasn’t setting boundaries. “You can say no, especially if something makes you uncomfortable or creates an inconvenience you don’t want to deal with,” she’d say matter of factly. Often never leaving my propensity for drama and excuses at home, I’d respond, “WELL HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO SAY NO?!” She’d look at me and say, just like this, “No, that doesn’t work for me.” WHEWWWWWWWW — TALK ABOUT MIND BLOWN, right?! She helped me see the absurdity in contorting myself into shapes and obligations that genuinely did not work for me. Her support helped me not only break but SEE the social contracts that I had bought into for so long. I realized that “No, I can’t do that,” “I am not free at that time,” “That does not work for me,” were phrases accessible to me whenever I needed them and that’s when the game changed.
I sought after a Black woman therapist because there was a high chance that she’d be able to FEEL me. I didn't want my therapist to have a text book, Psych 303, understanding of my life. I needed her guidance and support to be rooted in theory AND experience. I could tell she could understood the nuance of how my life worked and from there I was confident that she was capable of guiding me. She also had the carefree Black auntie vibe, which definitely helped. Throughout our time, she offered a steady environment where I could find a healthy balance in my relationships with people, work, and time — a balance that worked for me. She gave me, “That has nothing to do with you. Not your circus, not your monkeys. Stay in your lane,” which sent my Give a Sh*t Levels to a healthy and sustainable level. She gave me “You’re doing better than you think you are,” which helped me realize how much I was casually handling on my own. Finally, she gave me, “You don’t need me anymore.”
I feel emotional thinking about it because WHAT?! I scrambled to think about things that had been stressing me out so that she could see that I NEEDED her. She wasn’t having it. The truth is, the day that she discharged me I hadn’t been to an appointment in four months. I was doing well. My anxiety attacks had decreased. I was minding my own business, dodging bad obligations, putting all my lessons in my knapsack for safe keeping but STILL. I told her I was moving to New York City in the fall to begin a Masters program, I’d surely need her then. She said, “No, you’re going to handle it. You can still email me and keep me posted.” We’d come to the end of our road. She walked me out of the office, as she always did. Slowly, fulfilling my dramatic request. In one hand I held a packet of about 30 pages of therapy homework and reading that I insisted she printed for me just in case I forgot what self-compassion or assertive communication is. We got to the door way and embraced, “Thank you so much. Thank you FairyGodTherapist.” She said, “You did all the work.” I did.