My Therapist Taught Me: Make Peace With Uncertainty
Caron, a child prodigy and classically trained vocalist, began therapy as a teenager. As a woman who lives with anxiety and major depressive disorder, she’s been in therapy consistently for more than 20 years. During our conversation, she shared why everyone needs access to a good therapist, having the courage to do the work, and one of the best lessons she learned from her psychiatrist.
I was young. I was a teenage mother. I had a lot of pressure on me. There was a lot of pressure to continue to perform. But I was also a survivor of childhood sexual assault. And that, in and of itself, was the beginning of an avalanche that no one could have stopped.
The only time I didn’t have a dedicated therapist was when my insurance ran out or when I did not have access to care at all.
But I did have a few therapists along the way who would meet me for lunch and check in on me in an unofficial way. It meant the world to me because I was isolated. I was out of context in so many ways. I graduated high school early. I was out of context sexually. I was a single, teen mother. I did not have the kind of family that wrapped their arms around me when I got pregnant. I had to work.
The good and the bad.
All of my experiences in therapy have not been positive. I used to say that I eat therapists for breakfast. What it did teach me was the importance of cultural competency at a young age.
I’ve had good and bad experiences with Black therapists. Most of my experiences with Black therapists have been positive but sometimes folk can get too familiar and inappropriate because they look like you. But my preference is a Black woman or a Black man with a strong history in patient care.
I’ve been in therapy long enough to be very clear when the environment is not set up for me to be successful. I’ve been offended by therapists. I’ve had racist therapists. I’ve had therapists that made sexual comments. And I’ve had to nip those things in the bud. But I am someone who has always had ownership of my voice. Even if I’m not the most confident, you’re not going to shut me up.
Most perspective changing piece of advice from therapy
I will say the most profound nugget that I have is actually from my psychiatrist. We would just go talk. He was committed to my whole self being treated. It wasn’t just about a catch-all medication. This doctor said to me, and I carry it with me every single day, ‘To live in the now is to make peace with uncertainty.’
None of us knows what’s going to happen from one moment to the next. But if you find comfort and peace in not knowing all the answers, they’re more likely to find you. I never forgot that.
Is therapy for everyone?
I think everybody needs a good therapist. Everybody needs access to a good therapist. Therapy is not a conversation. Therapy is work. It requires you to confront shit that you don’t want to. It requires you to confront you at times when it’s easy to deflect.
For people who make that statement, ‘therapy is not for me,’ it’s because they haven’t found the right partner in therapy or because they haven’t given it more than a session or two.
Talking to your girlfriend is not therapy. It’s therapeutic but it’s not therapy.
It takes a lot of courage to do the work. And when you’re ready to do the work and someone becomes a hindrance to that, you got to nip it in the bud. You have to be your own best advocate. You have to be willing to get what you need. And if that means changing personnel, then that’s what you do to get what you need.
It is absolutely okay to meet folk for intake. Talk to them first before you accept their help. And I don’t think a lot of people know that. You don’t just have to take what a provider gives you. You have the right to speak up for your own best care.
I used to be afraid to speak up for myself for a very long time. I was never afraid to speak on stage, I was never afraid of people. I was never afraid of crowds. But when it came to interpersonal reactions, disappointing someone, I would make myself small. And it was a process of learning how I was doing the world a disservice by making myself smaller.
Know the signs
I also want to encourage everyone to get a better understanding of the cycle of abuse. And I want everyone to get a better understanding of someone who may be experiencing a mental health crisis. For the sake of the people who love you and the people you love, learn the signs of when someone is in trouble. Know that you cannot pray it away and you probably need to get far away from anyone who tells you, you can.
I had to come to the realization that spiritual counseling and church is not the same as having a qualified therapist and that can actually do more harm than good. And it has. If people don’t know when they’re out of their element, a lot of people get hurt that way.
Therapy is where I learned to have a deeper prayer life, a more consistent prayer life. Not because it was something they taught me but because it helped me reconnect to what was important to me. In a lot of ways, we heal ourselves. But if we don’t take the initiative, to take care of ourselves, nobody’s going to do it for us. If all you have access to is a phone number, a hotline, start there. Know what the signs are and know when help or support is useful for you and the people you love. It will save lives.
Give yourself grace for the journey. Therapy is fuel that’s going to help get to where you’re going. It is not a crutch. It can actually be quite beautiful. It can open your mind, your heart, and your life up to joy that you may not have been able to recognize while you were in darkness.