The sun blinked feverishly as the smoke from our tiki torches danced across it. The sun shined so brightly that it was hard not to immediately duck your head at its rather intimidating gaze. It’s hard to imagine a view like this one only moments after I spotted a loan cloud directly in my eyesight. This cloud stood alone, proudly might I add, with a metallic lining that jumped right off its surface. I started to cry as if this was the only reaction to something as stunning as this. I don’t find this coincidental after the day I had experienced.
I mentioned recently that my therapist, Mary, told me she didn’t think she needed to see me as often. I politely nodded and carelessly agreed that I was doing better. I did feel better, but I was anxious because I felt a breakup on the horizon. For a while, I had been toying with the idea of leaving my therapist. I felt weary closing the door on a relationship that had been so hard for me to initially create. I have to be honest with everyone. I, Kamil, am a therapy dropout. Therapy wasn’t seemingly relevant to my life before that morning in November nearly nine years ago. I would soon feel an overwhelming sense that I was broken and no professional, regardless of their education, would be able to “fix” me.
A lot happens when you go through traumatic events or just life in general. Some events tilt your world and suddenly everything is viewed from a crooked and unappealing angle. I was constantly consumed with the idea that something would go wrong, because that is what had happened that morning. I struggled riding in cars without assuming someone would ram into me because of their lack of attention. I feared traveling in airplanes because they may fall from the sky. I checked the oven long after I had used it with the idea sprouting that maybe I had left it on and would be swallowed be unrelenting flames. For years, I floated in and out of the offices of therapist only to disappear as quickly as I had arrived. I knew I needed help, but so many different factors played into my lack of interest when it came to committing.
A Few Reasons I Avoided Therapy
Strong Black Woman
Black folks don’t have mental health issues
Only crazy folks go to therapy
I couldn’t verbalize how I was actually feeling
My grief had swallowed me whole
I clung to my grief like a child’s most treasured first toy. When life pulls the rug from beneath you so many times, you may actually believe you don’t deserve more. For so long, I lived with the idea that this unrelenting sadness and pain I’ve felt since November 20th, 2010 was the heaviest of burdens I’d ever carry. I still hold this belief to be true. Lately, something has been shifting. It’s almost as if the phrase “It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it” has been wrestling tirelessly with my spirit. I was being prompted to do a bit of rearranging in hopes that if I did, I’d be able to fit other things into my life outside of my grief. If I found the strength to get rid of the things in this bag that I didn’t need, I’d be able to pack the stuff that is of more value. In exchange for a bit of my grief, I offered joy. I swapped out shame for some grace. I did the switch-a-roo on blame and replaced it with forgiveness.
I was a therapy dropout all these years, because I wasn’t ready or able to complete the course. There have been so many people who told me they could never imagine going through what I’ve been through. Trust me, they can and so can you. You may not be able to fathom the specifics, but we’ve all experienced world crushing pain. Regardless of the event that it grows from, pain hurts just the same. Healing from the events that try to steal your light takes time and it is extremely hard. The process is tedious and ugly as all get out, but it’s worth it.
I listened to episode #44 of the Black Girl in Om podcast, Loving, Living, Learning: A Liberated Life Talk, with special guest Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams yesterday only hours after my session with Mary. Williams talked about sitting with your suffering in order to move to a place of liberation. She posed the idea that a lot of us are unable to acquire our liberation because we avoid our suffering. She made clear that sitting with your suffering is not wallowing in it which I was extremely familiar with. As mentioned previously, I wore my suffering like a badge of honor. I thought that I was being punished and that this would be my reality for the rest of my existence.
It dawned on me in this moment that I’ve been fighting for my liberation since I felt the familiar face of depression when my dad passed away. This past year or so, I’ve done so much digging to get to my core and to address the heaviness that various traumas have gifted to my being. I’ve talked candidly with the shameful parts of my life and have taken back some of the control that they once had over me. I stared them in the face and asked tough questions. I forgave them for the havoc they caused throughout the years and I forgave myself for assuming I had to be bound by their imaginary chains.
I’ve learned that a narrative can indeed shift and I’m encouraged to move with it.
Back to the beginning of my story, yesterday the split of my therapist and I seemed even more imminent. The session was good; I had actually brought along a blue sticky note with all the key points I wanted to review. The session ended normally with Mary checking when our next appointment would be when she turned around to ask me a tough question.
“You came in here for A, B, and C and I’ve seen you do so much hard work. Maybe our work here is done.”
Done?!? I quickly reminded her of the fact that I was a serial therapist ghoster. I had never been with anyone as long as I had been with her. I started to list all the reasons I still needed her in an attempt to restore a relationship that was already entering its final stage. All of the things I listed had one similar theme: healing. Something quickly clouded my mind and that was the fact that in this next chapter of my story, Susan wouldn’t be a main character. Our work was indeed done. My eyes weighed heavy with tears as she looked at me as if relieved that I finally could see the light bulb realization that she had been dancing with for months. I revealed to her that I had actually been feeling similarly.
With my eyes unable to hold back the tears, I confided in her that for the past 9 years I struggled to remember myself before November 20th, 2010. I knew I had been a fairly carefree 20-year-old, but that was a feeling stolen away when I awoke in the hospital to the news of my friends being gone. I had spent the majority of these recent years living within a person who was damned to be miserable even if I was the only one who knew it. It isn’t that I hadn’t been blessed with amazing moments after the accident, because I was. I’ve traveled, I moved away from home, I’ve loved, and I’ve grown. However, I never fully felt myself deserving of the joy and happiness that moments like this brought me.
As Mary pointed to the tissues beside me, I told her the thing that scared me most. The work I’ve done in this past year or so had brought someone into my life. The old me was resurfacing. The girl who I thought I would never meet again had found her way back to me and was meeting me with gratitude. The difficult work I had done to heal had provided space for her to exist and not just in my distant memory. It’s scary because this space is new. This Kamil is new and tried and true at the same time. This new woman requires a love and grace that I had failed to offer myself before. This new woman requires a boldness that I was once unable to act upon.
What a blessing to lose such sacred parts of yourself only to rediscover them later in life. There is something extremely empowering about freeing yourself from the shackles of your past narrative even if it is nearly a decade later. You are allowed to live a good life with the knowledge that the worst parts are not meant to consume the good, regardless of how hard they may try.
If I had to challenge you then I’d leave you with a few thoughts to ponder on. What would you do if someone told you that you’d find 10 billion dollars if you followed a map dotted with countless twists and turns. If you wanted it bad enough and had the patience, you’d do it and would offer yourself grace when necessary. What if I told you that the path to healing leads you on a similar journey with frightful mountains and vast valleys? Would you take it? I hope you say yes, because what lies on the other side of that path is priceless.