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There is no moving on after a breakup

Often after a breakup (usually around the 1 month mark), you begin getting the mostly unsolicited advice from friends and family that you just need to move on. And while people’s intentions are often good and kind-hearted, this advice really sucks. The truth is that there is no moving on after a breakup. There is only moving through!

The idea of moving on gives you the impression that there are specific steps you can take and that if followed precisely, one day you’ll be all better. Moving through allows you the space to go two steps forward and ten steps back, because honestly that’s often what happens after a breakup. Moving through does not force you to rush and feel better. It allows for the days that are not so bad and the days that are terrible. It would be great if you could move on from the pain but the only way to heal from a breakup is to move through the pain until it’s done. Need some help moving through? Try this: (more…)

The Black Girl’s Guide to Freshman Year

Traffic has picked up. The lines in Target are a little longer, and Twitter is filled with pictures of teary-eyed parents and hashtags repping the Class of 2020. It can only mean one thing, Freshman Year! I have spent the majority of my career on college campuses and the excitement of welcoming a new class of students is only rivaled by that of graduation. The glee, anxiety, and absolute wonder are all palpable as you walk around campus. The first few weeks are a huge adjustment as you are making new friends, figuring out how to live with a stranger, learning all the names of the buildings, and learning the words to your new alma mater. Many of the decisions and choices you make your freshman year can either set you on the course for success or leave you with some serious regret. In an effort to help you make the most of your first year at your new home, here are some tips you may find helpful. Enjoy!

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The Black Girl’s Guide to Self-Care

The Black Girl's Guide to Self-Care

This week, this month, this year has been a lot! I echo the feelings of many when I say I’m exhausted. The murders this week of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have added to the long and constantly growing list of Black people killed at the hands of law enforcement and has served to once again heighten the collective anxiety of the Black community. I’ve found myself glued to my Twitter timeline searching for updates and information about these cases. I’m noticing that I’m clenching my jaws and tensing my shoulders unconsciously. My patience is a little thinner and I’ve been munching on ridiculous amounts of Frosted Flakes and Oreos. All of these are signals to me that I am stressed and probably need to take a step back. I talk about self-care often, preach it to friends, family, and clients, and truly believe in it. But as with many things, fall short in following it for myself. The concept of self care can also at times feel elusive, so I wanted to compile a list of specific things you can do to allow yourself some joy! I hope this serves as a reminder to myself and a nudge for you too 🙂

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Let’s Be Careful When Discussing Suicide

Let's Be Careful When Discussing Suicide

Yet another news story has broken about a Black woman dying while in custody of the police and not surprisingly, the details of her death are sketchy at best. Sandra Bland, reportedly died by suicide in a Waller County jail cell, following a traffic stop in Texas. The suggestion that Ms. Bland died by suicide seems highly unlikely for a variety of reasons. The first of which is video following the stop where Ms. Bland can be heard asking why the officer had slammed her head down on the ground. Secondly, it has been discovered that as many as 4 deaths that have occurred in the Waller County jail have been ruled a suicide. These facts coupled with the horrible track record that police have with Black women, strongly point to foul play and not suicide.

So while I agree with many others that it is highly unlikely that Ms. Bland died by suicide in that jail cell, some of the online discussion surrounding her suspicious death has been very concerning. As a means of negating the official report offered by the Sheriff’s office, people began to comb through Ms. Bland’s Facebook page to gain more insight into her life. She had recently taken what was described as her dream job, had just visited with family for the holiday, and was a beloved member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Some members of the online community began offering up smiling pictures of her with family and friends engaging in fun activities and tales of her last days as proof that she would not have taken her own life, and that is the part that was troubling. The idea that someone who is thinking of ending their life by suicide would not have smiling pictures or be excited about a new job only adds to the stigmatizing narrative that people who die by suicide are always sad and depressed, have a particular look, and that it would be easy for us to tell if a loved one was struggling in this way.

How often have we read about high profile suicides by Black women and the immediate thought is “I never would have known she was struggling” and disbelief that a woman with so much seemingly going for her would end her life. Again, I do not know if this was the case with Ms. Bland, but I do believe that the conversations that have followed her death shed light on the ways we continue to struggle with mental health and suicide, particularly as it pertains to Black women. So as we continue to fight for justice to get the truth about what happened to Sandra Bland, let us also take this opportunity to be mindful of the ways we talk about mental health and to gain a greater awareness about suicide.

 

Black Women and the Complicated Relationship with Psychiatric Medications

Black Women Psych Meds

Dr. Julie Holland, a New York psychiatrist, recently penned an article for The New York Times entitled “Medicating Women’s Feelings“. In it she discusses her feelings about the abundance of psychiatric medicines that appear to be prescribed for women to medicate what are perfectly normal emotions and responses to situations. She describes a situation where one of her clients called her to ask for an increase in the dosage of her antidepressant medication. When the client was asked about her reasons for wanting an increase, she detailed a situation where her boss had openly humiliated her at work which led to her being in tears in the office. Dr. Holland suggested, and I agree, that more medication was not the answer in this case but having a conversation about this event with her boss was likely a much better solution. While reading the article, I found myself agreeing with many of the points made.  Similar to Dr. Holland, I believe that there is a tendency in our society  to overmedicate and undervalue the importance of paying attention to more organic ways of improving our mental health (i.e. developing healthier coping strategies, learning to be more assertive, setting healthy boundaries, etc). I also agree that women are often unduly penalized for having more emotional expressions and that instead of focusing on how we can squelch these emotions, we should be focused on teaching everyone how to pay attention to emotions and what they may signal about our life and our mental health. However, I also found myself thinking that for many of my clients, 95% of whom are Black women, the concerns presented in this article would never be an issue, because so many of them are reluctant to try psychiatric medications, even when they seem warranted. (more…)

On the Couch with Mary Jane Paul, Session 1

On the Couch with Mary Jane Paul (1)

One of the major reasons I started Therapy for Black Girls was to reduce the stigma associated with seeking therapy. It’s important to change the community narrative that therapy is only for “crazy” people. Therapy is not only helpful to relieve symptoms of mental illness. It’s also incredibly useful in increasing mental wellness. Sometimes these concepts seem a little abstract without concrete examples, so in an effort to bring these ideas to life I’m starting a new series on the blog called On the Couch. This series will focus on the work I might do with a fictional character if they were an actual client in my practice. Today, we have our first session with Mary Jane Paul from BET’s Being Mary Jane. The first session with any client is the intake session where I collect a lot of information from the client about the history of their concerns, their families,  and their reasons for seeking therapy. This will also serve as a nice recap if you haven’t been keeping up with the show 🙂 .

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How to Ace the Clinical/Counseling Psych Graduate School Interview

 how to ace clinical counseling psych grad school interview
Tis the season! No I’m not talking about Mardi Gras (though I won’t blame you if you want to run out and grab a slice of King cake now.  🙂 I’m talking about Grad school interview season! Between now and March, literally thousands of bright eyed and brilliant students just like you will be flying, driving, and ubering from city to city to interview for slots in Clinical and Counseling Psychology graduate programs. Here are some tips to help you prepare to be your most confident and convincing self, along with some questions you should be prepared to answer as well as questions you should ask the interviewers.

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Real Talk: Postpartum Depression

Real Talk-Postpartum Depression

Vanessa and Brian had tried for months to conceive after a miscarriage 2 years ago. They were terribly excited about the upcoming birth of baby Erin and could not wait to hold her in their arms. Vanessa was a planner so for months the nursery had been done. Her bag was in the car. The car seat had been installed, and her mother, who only lived an hour away, was prepared to be with them for at least 6 weeks following the birth. They were all set. Little Erin came into the world on a rainy June morning but no one could pay attention to the weather when her little face brightened up the entire room. After 12 hours of labor, Vanessa was exhausted but in amazement of the miracle her body had performed. The past few years of disappointments and sadness were all a faint memory now. Erin was finally here!

The first week was pretty rough for Vanessa. She was healing from labor, getting very little sleep and having trouble getting Erin to latch. Throughout it all, her husband and mom were great. They would rock little Erin while she took a shower and her mother made sure she ate 3 meals a day. Because she was a planner, Vanessa had read all the books so she knew that in this first week her mood might be all over the place and that she might have trouble adjusting to her new role. What she was not prepared for however was for her mood changes to last for the next 3 weeks and become more severe. She continued to have trouble sleeping and had to start offering Erin formula because the pediatrician was concerned about the weight  Erin had lost. Vanessa felt defeated by this as she had planned to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months. Additionally, Vanessa felt weird around Erin. In her mind she knew what she should be feeling towards her beautiful baby but for some reason she just didn’t feel connected. Vanessa found herself crying everyday in the shower, was not interested in eating very much even though her mom was still there doing all the cooking, and she did not want to hold Erin and preferred that Brian or her mom be the one to try and rock her to sleep.

Vanessa was confused and upset at the feelings she was having. She and Brian had hoped and dreamed of this time with Erin and now that it was here, she didn’t feel like she was showing up.

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Self Care in the Face of Racial Injustice

Self Care in the Face of Racial-5
Photo by Parker Williams, Akiba Photography

More than most years, it feels like Blackness has been especially under attack this year. The collective feeling of trauma feels palpable in my office, on my campus, and throughout my social networks. It feels like every time there is another major verdict to be delivered, a new viral video dropped, and with each breaking news headline, there is a collective holding of our breaths. While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is a diagnosis used to describe a collection of symptoms in an individual, it sure does feel like as a community we are suffering from this right now. A shared sense of paranoia, anxiety, angst, and hopelessness are all completely valid and understandable right now. During a time when there is so much pain and suffering in our face, and when so many of us are dedicated to fighting injustices, it is especially important to pay attention to taking care of and sharpening our tool, which is our selves. We cannot continue to shut down the highways and transit stations or march against these evils if we do not remember to engage in restorative self care. Here are some things to consider: (more…)

Where My Girls At? The Importance of a Strong Support System

Photo Credit: ABC
Photo Credit: ABC

On last week’s episode of Scandal we saw what it looks like when you have a true ride or die friend in your corner. When Abby was shaking under a desk facing an incredibly stressful situation she called the only person who could handle it, Liv. And what did Liv do? She didn’t pass judgement, she didn’t ridicule Abby for overreacting, she simply showed up with a choice of new dresses and asked, “What do you want?” How many of us have that person or people in our lives? Better yet, how many of us truly allow them to show up for us? Tell me if this sounds familiar. “I’m the rock in my group of friends. I’m the one that everyone calls when there is a problem, but I don’t share my problems because I don’t want to be a burden to my friends. They already have enough going on.” Now Math is not my strongest area but I do know when something is not adding up and unfortunately, too many of us are practicing this flawed logic. We pride ourselves on being strong and a great friend while in the same breath robbing others of being a great friend to us.

Research suggests that a strong support system is key in maintaining our mental health. Having people we can count on provides protective factors against depression, it enhances our sense of confidence and esteem, buffers us against stress, makes us feel less isolated,  and helps to hold us accountable when we set goals. However, in order for us to reap these benefits, our support system must be both functional and utilized. A support system is not just a bunch of people who call when they need a ride or who update you on the latest office gossip. Our support system should be made up of people who actually show up when they say they will, allow us to show all parts of ourselves and who provide us with what we need and in the ways that we need it. This is not something that happens overnight and it may take some time to curate this group but it is well worth the effort. Here are some tips that may help you to create and better utilize your support system. (more…)

Celebrating My Fabulousness! It’s My Birthday!

magic

 

Today I am rocking my Black Girls Are Magic tshirt (get yours here) with my favorite wide leg trousers and blasting Beyonce as loud as my speakers will allow because IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! I can honestly say that this has been a wild ride of a year. I had my first child, bought my first home with my husband, got a new job, and have started on the incredible journey of this blog so I would say a celebration is in order! That’s right, I’m throwing my own party because sometimes you just have to forget about all the stuff that’s going wrong and focus on what’s going right. Sometimes you have to ignore how the world would like to identify you and pay attention to the fabulousness that is YOU! (more…)

Stay Woke. But Get Some Sleep!

All too often I see sisters saying things like, “They sleep while I grind,” and “I’ll rest when I’m dead.” Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of ambition, drive, and perseverance, but what are we really saying when we use these phrases? When did it become cool to brag about not sleeping? Restful sleep is all too easily ignored and we don’t realize just how important it is for us to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. If gone unchecked, a lack of sleep can really wreak havoc on us physically and mentally.  It can lead to issues like a loss of memory, decreased motivation, more depressed mood, decreased concentration, and increased anxiety. But a good night’s sleep involves more than just turning out the lights and cozying up on your satin pillowcase. Here are a few tips to help you improve your sleep hygiene.

1. Stop reading, eating, and studying in bed. Your bed should only be used for sleep and sex. Doing all of these other things in bed confuses your brain about what should be happening when you get in bed. Try to use other parts of your room or home for other activities so that your bed is really a place to retire.

2. Unplug! Of course it’s super tempting to check all of your social media accounts right before you dose off but doing so can lead you right down the rabbit hole to a sleepless night. When was the last time you really just spent 5 minutes on Facebook? It’s very easy to get caught up with the latest trending topic and lose track of time making it more likely that you won’t get the requisite number of hours of sleep. If possible, try not to keep your phone next to you at night so that it’s not even tempting to get into this bad habit. Also try unplugging from the television. Even if you think you’re not paying attention and only have it playing as background noise, your brain is still tuning in and being activated. (more…)

Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Therapist

Perhaps the hardest part about deciding to participate in therapy is choosing who would be a good fit as your therapist. After all, you will likely be sharing some of your most intimate thoughts and concerns with this person. You want to be sure that they are a good fit! But do you know what factors would contribute to this? Here are 5 questions you may want to consider as you search for this person: 

1. How important is it that your therapist match you in characteristics like race, ethnicity, gender presentation or sexual orientation? Research has been consistent in finding that the most important factor in whether or not therapy will be helpful  is the quality of the relationship between client and therapist. There is a need to feel “known” by your therapist that helps one to be more vulnerable in the space. If there are particular characteristics about a therapist that you believe will allow you to feel more comfortable and ready to work, then by all means search for that! However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you cannot have a quality therapeutic relationship with someone who doesn’t come in the package you thought you wanted. Many times you may be able to work through things with a therapist who is less like you in ways that you could not have imagined.

2. What type of personality works best with you? Are you someone who needs to be gently nudged into making a change or would you prefer a straight up, no chaser approach? Are you someone who needs lots of structure and activities to help you work through issues or do you prefer processing an issue from multiple perspectives until you land on something that fits. Each of these things will be important to consider as you decide whether a therapist will be a good fit for you. You may be able to get a sense of this from therapists’ websites but it will also be important to ask about these things either during a consultation or during your first appointment. (more…)