My name is L and I am 40 year old business owner and proud father. Please take the time to read about my experiences with therapy and consider having some sessions yourself. It may be more lengthy than expected, but I kept writing as I found this task therapeutic in itself, I hope you enjoy and feel inspired to give it a try.
Rapid weight loss and grey hairs took permanent residence on my chin overnight. As much as I do adore my platinum tints, when they are produced through severe stress, it is not good. These were the visible signs that I was not in a good place mentally. The non visible signs were my insomnia, sense of hopelessness and zero will to get up and be productive!
So here I was, early 30s and laying in my mother’s spare room. I had paid my tenant a month’s rent so I could get her to move out rapidly so I could move back into my place. My situation was dire enough without facing the prospect of living back under my mother’s roof as a grown man. In hindsight, the nostalgic comfort of being in my childhood home may have actually been a good thing for my mental health and well-being but I was more concerned about how things looked, than doing what was best for me. I didn’t usually give a damn about what people thought of me or how I looked but at this point in my life things were different.
For the 1st time I didn’t feel as though I had my shit together. My family was broken, although I had always known we wouldn’t have lasted the distance, the aim was to remain a cohabitating family until my daughter was 18. I had made it until she was 4, an abject failure!
I was able to come to terms with the relationship ending because I accepted accountability for the role I played. When you’re in love and in your early twenties, you give little thought beyond the feelings of the love you feel for your partner, practical things, like compatibility, are not considered. By the time I realised we were incompatible she was expecting. There was no way I was going to allow my daughter to grow up without her father in her life, full time and every day. It was an objective that was destined to fail, nevertheless, when it failed it still felt as if my life was falling apart. Looking back, we have it a good seven years and produced our daughter from a place of love so I have to find happiness in these circumstances.
There are times in life when you float dangerously close to the tide of insanity, losing your mind under the stress of your emotions and the danger of disappearing into an abyss. I knew people faced these times. Looking at the men I grew up around and the example of strength, reliability and a drive to do what needs to be done, to achieve what needed to be achieved! The thought of therapy had never even crossed my mind. It didn’t even cross the minds of those who saw my mental well-being deteriorate in front of their eyes, or if they did, they never suggested it to me. So I used all the energy I could to tread water and avoid getting pulled out towards the tide of insanity, until I found myself swimming in the calming waters of sanity and mental health and well-being.
Even my analogy is doing therapy a huge disservice. Therapy isn’t for the insane. Therapy is for everyone, we all have our issues we have created in our mind or traumatic events that have happened that have wired our brains to respond in certain ways to certain situations. Therapy would ultimately prove a means of coming to terms with the past, accepting the present and having a positive outlook on the future.
I didn’t seek therapy when I most needed it. I was fortunate enough to start working out regularly. Only because I was unable to sleep or eat and my weight loss gave me an incentive to start working out. Working out regularly made me feel so much better, I have read about the release of endorphins but all I knew was, after I started working out, things seemed better and I was motivated to get back to being productive. The days of getting up, putting on a brave face and just getting on with things were over. I was back to my usual, focused, driven and determined self!
I Moved back into my place, made an arrangement with the mother of my child to have our daughter on a week on, week off basis. The access arrangement was the most difficult thing to arrange. We had a bad break up, so communication was toxic and she could not get her head around being away from her daughter half of the time. Whereas I was just supposed to accept every other weekend, forget that!
I was self employed but wasn’t able to keep my contracts up, my state of mind was not conducive to trawling over company ledgers so I took a 4 month break. Afterwards I went back into the corporate world, the 3 years as self employed bookkeeper had drastically boosted my skill set and I could now command a greater income in a 9-5.
Fast forward almost 10 years and I am where I didn’t want to be as a father. One of those, every other weekend Dads! It was what my daughter wanted so I had to accept it, I refused to force her to be with me when she wanted to be with her mother the majority of the time. She lived around the corner from school and just preferred it there. I had to set my feelings and ego aside and respect her wishes.
I now have a lot more time on my hands. Being a half time parent had been so much fun. The weeks I had her, were focused solely around her, park after school, teaching her to ride a bike, cake baking, tap and ballet classes over the weekend, Disney Land holidays, fun fair visits, children’s TV. Then the weeks I was child free, I was in bachelor mode. Different set of friends with different ways to pass the time. When I found a 9-5 I made it clear I would only accept a job that was child friendly, on my weeks there was no, call her mother if she was ill, it would be my responsibility to take care of her. I was not willing to miss any assemblies or parents evenings. I found a boss with a young child and a role with the flexibility to work from home as long as I had a reliable and high speed Internet connection. Once I upgraded to BT business broadband it was all good.
My friends and I started to have different conversations as we entered the later years of our 30s. We discussed stocks and shares, business ownership, property ownership. We all levelled up. I set up my catering company, food was always my passion, my friends were launching clothing ranges, releasing ebooks, buying rental properties.
This path of self improvement lead me to try a vegan lifestyle. Here I stumbled across a vegan page on Instagram that was offering a range of detox packages. There was a 3 day free course, afterwards I took advantage of the reduced price of the 30 day detox and after that I took another discount on the 90 day detox.
This is where I stumbled across therapy as it was a part of the detox program and I was totally unaware it was in there. If I was I may have decided it wasn’t for me. Why would I need it, I had brought myself back from the brink so had proven my mental toughness. My platinum tints are a forever reminder that stress serves no purpose beyond destroying the body. Very little is worth worrying about and I have lives a pretty much worry free for years and have every intention of continuing that way.
Therapy was absolutely amazing, phenomenal and brilliant for me. I got to look back into my unhealthy relationships in all aspects. Food, finances, lovers, friends, family and myself. I went down a journey of deep introspection to understand why I reacted the way I did in certain environments.
The clarity I gained was so enlightening and my relationship with all of the above improved greatly over time. As open and candid as I have been I will not share the ins and outs of my introspective soul searching but I will say that I am so much better for it.
I will never completely stop my therapy sessions and have tried multiple forms of therapy from multiple therapists.
Where I used to feel road rage I now feel humorous. I laugh when I see some shenanigans that would have sent me into a vociferous and angry tirade behind the wheel. Looking back it was quite embarrassing behaviour, but that’s ok, I have grown and will not beat myself up about it.
I have healed my issues with my parents, and the mother of my child. I have come to terms for what I feel were betrayals from those I considered friends in the past and have forgiven everyone, including myself (even those who have never apologised). Therapy does not promise to solve everything. My issues with my sister have been resolved inasmuch that I choose to love her from a distance and hope she can seek therapy to come to terms with how she feels about me. It is a shame but I have come to terms with it.
I have chosen to be as open about my experiences in the hope that it can encourage other people, in particular black men, to seek out therapy. It doesn’t mean you are weak or insane. It means you are interested in keeping your mental health and well-being in the best shape it can be. Black men are renowned for being physically strong and mentally tough. Once you introduce therapy you will seriously level up emotionally. You will feel all round healthier and will release yourself of the toxic traits you would have picked up going about your everyday lives. I have a theory. 98% of the world are in need of, or could benefit from therapy, unfortunately, only 2% are taking it! These are just numbers I have pulled from thin air but the point is, more of us need to take therapy. The stigma of therapy needs to be lifted once and for all.