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First person

Scheduling in time to be vulnerable is a weird proposition



Blessing Dada reflects on being in therapy for a year…


*Trigger warning: This piece contains mention of suicide.

Recently, I reached a milestone of being in consistent (weekly) therapy for a year, and it has not been easy.

‘Milestone’ literally refers to a roadside marker that lists the distance to a particular location. These days though, the word is more often used figuratively to refer to significant events in life, like graduating from college or getting married. It acts sort of like the road sign: it’s often a moment when you reflect on where you stand in life. A milestone can also be a non-personal event that results in a big change. And this milestone came with a lot of thoughts.

I’ve found it’s possible to lie to a therapist, to social media or even in the deepest one-on-one holy moment with a close best friend. By lying, I mean to edit and omit and dance around stuff, to be completely dishonest to avoid being a burden.

But I can see why it happens: the hiding. The hard work is hard. Being aware is painful.

Digging deep into trauma and grief and old memories is painful. Especially if it’s reoccurring. Sign me up for pineapple on pizza instead please *ultimate gag*. Scheduling vulnerability is a weird proposition. No therapist is perfect; an hour is not always enough; the logistics of making time when living with illnesses and disabilities and praying that you don’t get traumatised in the process of dodging medical racism. Wanting the right therapist but hands tied due to the consequences of waiting lists and a lottery system. It’s a lot of barriers that feel impossible when you’re already drained and hopeless.

Therapy is also not a fix-it where the therapist says a magical combination of words to unlock your stuff. It requires a willingness. To at least meet ten percent of the way. It’s to be still under a scalpel that you know is pressing in. It’s very common for people to question whether therapy works in the first place. I questioned it at times. The thing about therapy is it doesn’t work the way, say, a medication might, where when you have symptoms, you take a drug targeting those symptoms, and hopefully after some amount of time those symptoms go away. Oh, how I wish it was that straightforward. I found that therapy is more about taking the time to look for and treat the source of the wound(s). And I have a lot…

When I try to imagine where I’d be today without therapy, I imagine a completely different person. A year ago, I was barely surviving. I had relapsed in self-harming, was failing academically, and was on so little sleep I had hallucinations. I went to that windowless place again, always wanting to end it all, where I imagined my funeral every minute and wanted no one there. I wondered if I was too far gone, too damaged, a waste of space.

In between it all, I started antidepressants again. Trials and errors due to having health issues and being on other meds. Met with trusting but selective people, one on one as safely as I could, who don’t gaslight or cause me further harm. The importance of community. Held onto my deconstructing faith. I mention this because to those who spiritually gaslight people and contribute to religious trauma: if your theology does not work for the suffering, it’s not a theology worth holding. At all.

To finish up on this, what I would say to anyone reading this in therapy or considering it is: therapy is one more tool in our mental health ”toolbox” – the way we use it depends on us. It’s important to look and/or talk to your therapist about what you expect to gain from the process to figure out a suitable path for your therapy journey. Some people might benefit from just having a couple of sessions, others on the other hand may have long-term therapy for months or years, or they might choose to go to therapy intermittently whenever they feel like they want or need it. All is so valid.

Therapy stigma is still incredibly pervasive, and it often shows up in relatively subtle ways; it’s not always about flat-out demonising therapy. If you feel like you’ve been guilty of contributing to therapy stigma, it’s totally understandable. Stigma is often spoon-fed to us through culture and media, and it requires a lot of self-awareness to break these patterns. What matters is that we choose to learn, develop, and do better in the future. 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 internalised over the years.

All that being said, I want to leave a reminder: therapists, mental health workers, “healers” all have a responsibility to acknowledge that therapy or healing work alone isn’t justice, liberation, or a replacement for systemic change. Healing from systemic pain requires systemic change and as vital individuals in such systems, they need to acknowledge this and be part of the change.

Despite living with suicidal ideation, a year later I am still alive. I am here. I know too many who don’t have the resources, struggle to accept help or who try everything and still don’t make it. None of it was their fault. Depression and other forms of mental illnesses are cruel, that costly. I wonder often if the next one will win. I wonder how long.

But I am still here. And that’s all I can try to do. Thanks for reading. And thank you for being here.