Black Women Plant Seeds Columns

Black Mental Health Matters

Kristina Button

In November 2020, the American Psychological Association reported that depression and anxiety were at an all-time high last year because of the pandemic. I don’t know how it was for y’all, but 2020 seemed to reveal issues that had long been hidden and to resurrect problems that we thought were dead. 

For me, the past year revealed several health issues. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and sleep apnea. My physical health also started to impact my mental health greatly. Thankfully, I have been able to receive care for these issues. I manage my blood pressure with medication and changes to my diet. I have a treatment plan for my sleep apnea. And, for the first time in my life, I am going to therapy. 

I am so thankful to be, as the elders say, “in the land of the living.” My theme for this year has been to focus on healing and restoration. I am working to live a life of wholeness and abundance–a life in which I am fully present for myself first and then for my loved ones. What good am I to others if I am not whole in mind, body, and soul? 

Going to therapy has been life-changing. I have always had a positive view of therapy, but I didn’t think that I needed to go to therapy until I found myself coming dangerously close to my breaking point. Going to therapy was a matter of working smarter instead of harder. 

For years, I struggled to process the various traumas that I have experienced throughout my life. I tried to work through these things on my own, but it only placed more strain on my emotional and mental health. Working with a therapist has given me the language that I need to articulate my struggles and the freedom to name the issues that I have internalized over the years.   

I have learned a lot about myself since I started going to therapy. One thing that I learned is how my ancestors have paved the way for me even to be able to go to therapy. I realized that my grandparents’ generation and the generations before them had no access to therapy nor the ability to engage in self-care. I recognize what a privilege it is to be able to go to therapy, and I feel thankful and blessed by the opportunity. I feel that I owe it to my ancestors and to my future grandchildren to break generational curses, heal from generational traumas, and create a better pathway that normalizes the wholeness that Black people deserve. 

Having a Black woman therapist has been integral to my healing process. I needed a therapist to whom I would not have to explain my lived experiences, especially since I have needed to work through healing from racial trauma. Having a therapist who understands the reality of racism and the white supremacist indoctrination that Black people have to endure in this country has been crucial to my healing. Representation matters, even when seeking mental health services. 

A lot of people think that you have to go through a crisis to seek therapy; this isn’t true. You can go to therapy to work through life transitions, grief and loss, stress management, relationship conflicts, regulating emotions, and much more. 

Having a support system outside of therapy is also important. Surrounding yourself with a community of people who are committed to your health and wellness can be invaluable to your healing process, especially if the people in your community understand and appreciate the value of therapy. 

Community is so important. When you decide to start going to therapy, be sure to stay connected to a group of supportive people. Don’t try to make this journey alone. If you need to withdraw from harmful people and places, make sure that you find new relationships that will support you in your healing process. 

Self-care is amazing and can provide us with moments of temporary relief, but self-care cannot replace the internal work of healing that so many of us need. 

You deserve wellness. You deserve rest. You deserve to exhale. You deserve to become who you were meant to be, to reclaim your voice, and to live authentically. You deserve to live free from the aches and pains of trauma. You deserve healthy relationships that are free of manipulation. 

May you have relationships with people who build you up, who respect your boundaries, and who listen to and lament with you. Go and be well my friends. You do not have to have all of the answers, but I hope that you will realize that your mental health matters and that you are worthy of experiencing healing on the other side of trauma. Selah.