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The ‘Black Elephant’ In The Therapy Room

The ‘Black Elephant’ In The Therapy Room

‘When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you’ – African Proverb

The initial therapy assessment between client and psychotherapist:

Client

But, therapy is not for me, therapy isn’t for ‘us’, plus we keep our business to ourselves, even if that includes suffering in silence.
My previous ‘therapy’ experience was a disaster, my last therapist, was a lovely white middle class lady, but she just couldn’t understand:
Why I was so angry,
Why I feel numb inside,
Why I was so suspicious of others,
Why I struggled to trust others,
Why I still get flashbacks and nightmares about the ‘bad thing’ that happened to me, at aged 8. So scary I avoid sleeping at night still,
Why I keep all the lights on at night, why scenes of that ‘bad thing’ that happened to me, keeps replaying in my mind, like a scene from a movie,
Why the smell of aftershave cologne, reminds me of him and the ‘bad thing’ he done to me, Why I constantly have headaches, dizziness and chest pains,
Why I have frequent panic attacks,
Why butterflies constantly live in my stomach,
Why I have periods of losing attention and concentration,
Why I am so hypervigilant, constantly scanning my environment for potential threats, Why I am always tearful,
Why I have withdrawn and cut myself off from friends and family,
Why I don’t speak to my mother,
Why intimate relationships scare me

Why the men I choose always lie, Why men call me toxic,
Why men say “I am damaged ‘goods’” Why sex is painful,
Why I feel worthless,
Why I feel like a failure,
Why I feel I am not good enough,
Why I feel I let my family down,
Why the feeling of connection scares me,
Why I experience constant uncontrollable intrusive thoughts and images to hurt myself, Why I act with impulsivity,
Why I attempted to take my own life,
Why I feel guilt and shame,

What is my purpose?

Therapist

I hear you and heard everything you said. I really hear you sis. Can I ask you to do one thing with me and that is breathe. Pause and just take one moment to breathe.
Did your last therapist tell you there is a ‘thing’ that tends to hijack both our internal and external world, so that you almost feel stuck in life, essentially purposeless. That ‘thing’ tends to happen as a result of the ‘bad things’ that happen to us, like what happened to you. Did she tell you that ‘thing’ can:

Cause you to feel angry and numb inside,
Can make you always feel suspicious of others,
Can cause struggles with trust,
Cause flashbacks and nightmares about the ‘bad thing’ that happened, Can cause headaches, dizziness and chest pains,
Can cause frequent panic attacks,
Can cause butterflies in your stomach,
Can cause loss of concentration and focus,
Can cause hypervigilence to threat,

Can cause constant tearfulness,
Can cause withdrawal from friends and family,
Can make intimate relationships feel scary,
Can cause us to enter toxic relationships, where people hurt us,
Can make sex feel painful,
Can make you feel worthless, a failure and not good enough,
Can make the idea of connection with others scary,
Can make you feel like you let your family down,
Can cause uncontrollable intrusive thoughts and images to hurt yourself, can cause acts of impulsivity,
Can trigger active plans and preparations to end your life,
Can cause guilt and shame.
Can create purposeless

THAT ‘THING’ IS CALLED COMPLEX POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

All the symptoms you mentioned above, are normal human defensive behaviours, that our highly evolved brain activates, as a mechanism, to protect us from reliving or re-experiencing this trauma.
Also did your therapist tell you it wasn’t your fault?
What happened to you, shouldn’t’ have happened to you, you should have been protected, your mother should have believed you, especially, when you plucked up the courage to tell her the ‘bad thing’ he done to you.
It wasn’t your fault, the trauma was not your fault. It wasn’t your fault, the trauma was not your fault. It wasn’t your fault, the trauma was not your fault.
But the responsibility to heal your trauma is yours. Although, it’s important to say, as your therapist, you don’t have to do this by yourself, like everything else previously. I promise I will be here, present and by your side throughout this journey.

Can you trust me to go on this journey with you?

Why should you entrust me with your story, your trauma, your pain, your guilt and shame?

Why because I felt the pain, I felt the trauma, felt the hurt, felt the shame, felt the guilt, felt the anger, felt the anxiety, felt the panic, felt the desperation, all within the second of you entering my clinic room, without a word spoken.
This is the nuance expression of suffering in black women.
The unspoken sisterhood, shared ancestors, shared history , shared pain, shared suffering, shared joy and spirit is the cultural and ancestral glue that bonds us all as sisters, across the diaspora, even within the therapy room. I feel you, because I am you.

You will find your purpose again sis.

Written By: Whitney Blackstock – a BABCP and NMC Accredited Psychotherapist. To book an online therapy session click here and follower her on Instagram and Twitter @mindfulblkwmn For further information email: therapy4mysistas@gmail.com

Header Image: GETTY IMAGES

1 Comment

  • Thank you for so beautifully articulating C-PTSD. I feel that it truly is the silent burden of black women. Because to admit that the traumatic experiences leave a lasting pyschological impact is to “bring shame” to the family.

    But no more. Today, tomorrow and forever, we continue to speak up and heal.

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