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The Boss Girl’s Guide to Therapy

When it comes to our mental health, there is no shortcut.

Wellness

When we want our bodies to be toned, we head to the gym. If we need our nails and toes to be weekend-ready, we pay a visit to our local nail technician. But when we experience trauma, break-ups, life transitions, or painful memories, we tend to push them to the far corners of our mind and do our best to forget about it. Push it down, repress, and keep your chin up, give it to God.

But when it come to mental health, there is no shortcut.

The only way to a better you is through by doing the work. Working on your mental health is an important part, not just in growing up, but in seeking partnerships. If marriage and family is part of your future plan, then going to therapy should be on your current to-do list.

The taboo associated with therapy in the black community is beginning to melt away, thanks to the rise in self-care awareness. But where do you begin?

Here's a little guide to get you get started.

Know Your Mission

Keep in mind you shouldn't ever wait until you've reached a point of burn-out or emotional breakdown to find a therapist. It could be post-break or pre-two-weeks-notice, ask for support around transition. If you've never attended therapy sessions, you're more than overdue. Consider your first session a nail shop appointment for your soul.

Do Your Research

Having a new therapist is like starting a new relationship. There's a period in the beginning that will be focused on getting to know who you are and where you've been that may feel like an awkward first date if you settle in with the wrong therapist. It has to be a fit, so do your research.

Websites like Therapy For Black Girls, founded by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, offers provider listings and a guide for starting therapy. The Sad Girl's Club is loaded with helpful blog posts all about mental health - which is a good place to start.

Find A System That Fits Your Life

Therapy has come a long way since our parents' days. There are options for people who have specific goals and lifestyles to consider. For example, if time is a problem for you, there are convenient apps like Talk Space that offer daily texts, video, or voice sessions with a therapist, even a few times a day depending on the plan you choose.

Know The Difference Between Therapy & Life Coaching

I remember my biggest gripe about therapy when I first began was that the therapist did way more listening than talking and it was unnerving. After a while, I got used to it and enjoyed the space to speak freely about what was on my mind, but it's important to know that most therapists tend to be that way. If you want a more active and involved process, you might consider finding a life coach instead.

Supplement Your Self-Healing Journey

Going to see a therapist or life coach isn't the only route to healing. There are a lot of books and podcasts that can help keep you on the right path by dropping daily gems available at your convenience. Podcasts such as Black Girl in Om center around emotional and mental wellness, as well as physical health. If starting therapy is changing your diet, then books and podcasts can be like taking a daily vitamin.

Keep A Record

If you have ten minutes to check Twitter, you can make ten minutes to check in with yourself. Try using the voice memo feature on your phone and recording check-in messages highlighting how you feel that day, how therapy has possibly made you think differently, and what challenged you want to bring up in your next session.

It's also a great tool for understanding yourself more. There's something about listening to yourself talk that makes you much more aware of what you're talking about.

Be Okay With What Comes Out

The most important part of starting therapy is to allow yourself emotional space to feel vulnerable. The process of digging into your past or into a situation that was painful can open up a window that can let out a lot of feelings perhaps you were keeping inside. Instead of pushing them away, work on embracing them. Until you accept whatever pain or emotions you have within, it will be impossible to let them go completely. And letting go is the entire point.

Whatever your therapy journey looks like, remember you're not alone. We're all fairly new to this self-care thing. There's plenty of support waiting for you on the other side of whatever has been keeping you down. Reach out, have faith and go forward.

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I was determined to set the mood and engage in some erotic self-focus by way of masturbation, and I wanted to do so with a little more variety than my wand vibrator provides. My commitment to almost daily masturbation was affirmed even further with the arrival of what would become my new favorite sex toy, the viral Lovers’ Thump & Thrust Dual Vibrator.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

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It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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