I have never given much thought to how I cope with anything: racism, violence against Black bodies, stress, and sadness. As an outsider looking in, this is the reality for many of the Black women in my life. My mother is the strongest person I know; many would say I am one of the strongest women they know. I now understand how the strong Black woman trope has been passed down through my lineage. Because of the generational shield, our ability to fully express ourselves is limited even amongst those who love and care for us deeply. I can count on one hand how often I’ve seen my mother express her feelings fully, without apology. When I hear her laugh fill a room, it brings me so much joy because I know she is letting go.
Truthfully, I can’t tell you the last time I have expressed a full range of emotions, out of fear that I would be labeled difficult, loud, emotional, soft, or angry. I am starting to realize that making my emotional being smaller is likely directly contributing to my new experiences with panic attacks. When I cry, I feel weak; when I laugh, I feel undeserving; when I am angry, I hold it in. The night I found myself in my bedroom closet, crying as my best friend Samantha listened on the phone, I realized it was time for me to talk to someone. That week, I couldn’t drive or do anything without feeling like I would have a panic attack. It was terrifying and made me feel completely out of control—like I didn’t know who I was anymore.
I couldn’t drive or do anything without feeling like I would have a panic attack. It was terrifying and made me feel completely out of control—like I didn’t know who I was anymore.
I had thought about therapy before this; however, I continued to put it off. Finding a therapist takes effort and time, especially with the uptick people seeking help due to the coronavirus. I couldn’t wait and go through my healthcare provider, I needed immediate help. So, I settled on Talkspace. Their platform is one that I see ads for often, and they are now accepting health insurance. Kaiser Permanente offers a reduced fee of $40 a week for the first four weeks. Now, this isn’t a permanent solution; however, it can offer a start, because let’s be real: therapy (including teletherapy) is too expensive and not accessible to all.
After an emotional release surrounded by my clothes, I was ready to talk. Shortly after setting up my profile, Talkspace helped match me with a therapist. My first match was with a Black woman, and for that reason, I didn’t seek out any other options. If you do find yourself matched with someone who doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, you can ask for other options. Therapist profiles share their specialties, how long they’ve been in practice, and their approach to therapy.
Before we started to text, I filled out a questionnaire to answer questions about why I was seeking therapy. My therapist also asked, “What brings you to Talkspace?” Truthfully, I felt a little apprehensive about sharing what was going on with me. You know, I’m used to being a strong Black woman—we don’t share these types of inner secrets.
Instead of shutting down, I typed, “I’m here because I have chronic anxiety, and I want to do more to understand why I’m always so anxious.” Getting that out felt like a relief. Acknowledging my anxiety with a professional instantly made me feel better. As we continued to talk, we started to get to the root of my anxiety, much of which is triggered by my need for control and my position as my family’s glue. “This is all still related because it’s your fear of a loss of control,” she typed. “That’s the struggle!” Seeing this revelation, as simple as it was staring back at me in a green text bubble, was my “ah-ha” moment. Even a small level of understanding made me feel like I was getting closer to feeling like myself again.
Even a small level of understanding made me feel like I was getting closer to feeling like myself again.
When I started to feel anxiety about little things, like signing a lease on a new apartment (something I always avoid—I’m a month-to-monther), I’d text her. She’d ground me. “There is no promise that everything will be perfect, but it will be good enough,” she typed. “The apartment isn’t a life-altering decision. You have options now, and you’ll have options later. You are making an informed decision. If/when new information comes in, you will evaluate it and determine whether or not you need to act on it.” As someone who feels anxiety about everything because of “what if,” those words in my mind translated to, “Hey, you’re OK. Take things day by day.” When I find myself freaking out over little things, I go back to this message to get re-grounded.
Talkspace therapists will typically respond 3-4 times a day up to five days a week. The flow of the responses worked well for me. However, I don’t know if this is the right form of therapy for me long term. The responses were helpful, and even mind-blowing at times. However, I realized I need a one-on-one, face-to-face experience to build what I feel is a genuine rapport with my therapist. This might be the old-school millennial in me, but connecting with someone face-to-face is important in my life beyond therapy. Because of that, I felt a bit disconnected, even when her observations were spot-on. The platform does offer teletherapy options, which means you get one-on-one time virtually with your provider. However, the package that offers four live, 30-minute sessions a month is $396 monthly ($296 with my insurance for the first four weeks), and that just isn’t in my budget.
Talkspace allowed me to slowly move into giving therapy a try as an adult without feeling any judgment. Texting my responses made me feel comfortable being completely honest about what was going on with me at the time, so much so I now share my anxiety with my friends without feeling any angst. Their support has fueled me, even on tough days. When I’m too anxious to drive, they come to see me (with masks on, of course). When I feel a panic attack creeping in, I call one of them, and they talk to me until I get home. No matter how long it takes. For folks who are curious about therapy, Talkspace is, in my opinion, an excellent entry point. It can be difficult to share your innermost thoughts with a complete stranger, and texting can feel less intrusive. I found it cathartic to type what I was feeling. It was like writing into my diary, except with a mental health professional on the other end.
Talkspace provided a stepping stone to my mental health journey. I am setting boundaries with my family, working on letting go, outwardly sharing my experience with anxiety, and discovering new things about myself.
I am still on the hunt for my forever therapist (and potentially an app that works with my budget), but I’m on the right track.