Some say social media is like a two-edged sword. It can be a positive tool used for good but also can be harmful if used inappropriately. The former rings true for me. I use social media for personal and creative reasons. When I started my Instagram page, my focus was connecting with other creative Black women who inspire me, one of them is The Maria Antoinette. Last year, she began sharing her personal journey in therapy and for the first time, I felt someone had articulated my feelings of isolation. At that time, I realized I needed to do some internal work.
My trauma surfaced in different ways: shortness of breath, tense hands wringing in restless defeat. Groans and sighs that emerged from my belly up to my mouth. Lower back pain from tense muscles. Mood swings. I knew I had to do something to change for the sake of my mental health. I knew ignoring these symptoms would not serve me. I had to be proactive about taking care of myself.
Maria encouraged her followers to do the internal work necessary for success across all areas of one’s life. That internal work included budgeting time and resources for seeking therapy. Just as I regularly pampered myself with facials, getting my nails done and a bit of retail therapy—all in the name of self-care. More importantly, I also needed to dig deeper and work on giving myself permission to heal through therapy.
One evening, Maria hosted an Instagram Live video where she shared how depressed she felt, that she didn’t “feel” like herself and was suffocating from past traumas she’d thought she’d overcome. It was very surreal for me to hear Maria open up about her struggles. After all, she appeared to be enjoying a very successful life as a multitalented creative. Maria admitted that her emotions were beginning to negatively impact her relationships. She knew she had to do something. It was Maria’s openness that helped me to overcome my initial apprehension about seeking therapy. I am grateful for her candor. For me, seeing Maria overcome the stigma of dealing with a mental health situation in her life so openly, affirmed my own feelings and gave me the confidence to also seek help.
Maria asked her followers if they’d ever sought out help from a mental health professional. I responded truthfully and responded “no.” The following Instagram Live session, Maria invited a life coach and together, they shared their personal experiences. I knew I had to reach out to a therapist, but wasn’t sure where to find one. Maria mentioned this website, Therapy for Black Girls ran by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, I quickly searched their site and found a list of therapists of color across the United States. I felt a sense of relief in that moment, I was so close to finding someone I could talk to about what pained me and was blocking the success and love I wanted in my life. A sense of relief filled my heart and for the first time in months, I was beginning to feel hopeful.
Not too long after my discovering Therapy for Black Girls, anxiety and fear set in and I avoided contacting the therapist I found that was listed for my state. Weeks passed by before I reached out to my current therapy. I worried what she would think and my anxiety amplified the negative thoughts I had. Even in my low moments, I still cared about what the therapist might think of me. Being an introvert who’s also very private made revealing my fears of being vulnerable that more agonizing. To say I was nervous was an understatement.
In time, I put my fears aside and reached out to my current therapist and haven’t looked back. I am so happy I started therapy. I have a safe space where I get to make sense of my past and build skills to have a healthier future. I celebrated one year in March of investing in therapy. I am grateful for people like Maria, and many other resources, like Therapy for Black Girls and organization’s like What’s On Your Mind, Inc whose mission is to combat the stigma of mental health and normalize therapy in communities of color. I am thankful for their work.
Today, I have more clarity and am steadily learning how to incorporate activities that honor my mental health. My therapist shared this very simple phrase that’s honestly changed my life: “Be gentle with yourself.” I spent a year learning what that means for me and hope it can also help inspire others to do the same.
P.S Keep up with Margo over on Instagram: @margoscreativelife