The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.
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Session 206: Your Questions Answered
Dr. Joy: Hey, y’all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 206 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get right into the episode after a quick word from our sponsors.
Dr. Joy: This week, I have several community questions that you all submitted and I'll be answering those in a minute. But first, I wanted to start by sharing my thoughts about a few things that I have been thinking about this week. First, I want to remind you all that we are still in second place for the Webby Awards so I would love for you to take a minute right now. I know you have to sign up to vote, I hate those systems too but we really want to win this award if we can, so if you would go to TherapyForBlackGirls.com/webby and vote for us to be the best Health & Wellness podcast, I would really appreciate it.
Next, Cindy and I will often see like random tweets on the timeline and go into a deep dive of, oh my gosh, what is this? So this week we both saw, but Cindy sent this tweet to me, a tweet by a Twitter user @TinkerSec that was basically titled: Oh my gosh, my brain can break. And so it was an extended thread by this guy who it sounds like is in info security, about basically how he hacked so much that he broke his brain. He was spending so much time, it sounds like, on the computer and doing so much cognitive work that he started to have seizures. And so he went to lots of doctors, nobody could really find out what was going on until finally he was able to make an appointment with a neuropsychologist, I believe it was. And he was diagnosed with functional neurological disorder. And so he basically in his words he says, “I depleted my brain of dopamine and glucose.”
I did not even know this was a thing and neither did Cindy and so we started thinking like, oh my gosh, so just one more thing for us to like be anxious about. Like how is this possible? Then I started doing all this research around like how do you even test the levels of glucose in your brain. Which then led me to finding that a spinal tap basically was the only way to test this, at least from my preliminary research (I am by no means an expert in this area). And so we were both just really fascinated by this thread because, again, it wasn't something that we even knew was possible but I also think it is just a reminder that we can really do damage to ourselves when we do not take a moment to stop. When we keep working past our limits even when our body is giving us indications to slow down.
And so if you are listening to this and you know more about functional neurological disorder or this is something you have some expertise in or you know of someone who has expertise in this area, I'm thinking we want to do a longer, fuller episode around this. Because again, this wasn't something that we knew of but it sounds like it is something that we’d like to have more information about. So if you're listening and this is your area of expertise, then definitely get in touch with us so we can talk about it on the podcast.
Something else that I have been thinking about this week is TikTok. I am just kind of like dabbling into TikTok, I probably watch far more tiktoks than I actually create just because it's interesting, it’s sometimes a fun way to spend time. But I have also been paying attention to just the conversations around black creators on TikTok. And you know, of course we know that this happens really on all of the social media platforms, that black people are often the ones who create these trends and then other people steal them and it gets away from us and we are not properly and appropriately credited.
And so I recently saw another TikTok shared by user Lana McCalebb, her TikTok handle is @sweizayne (I will include all of these in the show notes because I'm sure I'm not pronouncing these things correctly), you may have seen her TikTok. She has these hilarious tiktoks that often involve her mom and so one of the ones that was stolen was the one where she made her mom think that she was guest-teaching an aerobics class on Zoom. She had her mom like participating in the class as well and then she was pretending like she was cussing the class out and her mom got upset. I mean, it was just a hilarious skit.
But in this most recent TikTok that I saw, she shared that she came up with (of course) the content or the idea of this skit, and then shared at least two or three other white people who had stolen her skit without properly crediting her. And so she talks about how upset this made her and really had her anxious to create even new tiktoks and maybe even other content because she was afraid that people would steal it.
And this isn't the first time that I've heard this kind of story. Like I said, I kind of keep up with the creating or the creator stories and hearing people's experiences, and again, I think we see this on lots of different platforms. But this I think just made me think about the mental health concerns and the mental health implications that go into creating things for social media. Because we do know how quickly sometimes things go viral and sometimes we don't have any control over whether we are credited for those things, even though we definitely should be.
And so then how that can sometimes cause depression because you're really sad that this thing has gotten away from you and it feels like other people are getting credit and shine and resources and all kinds of awards and accolades, when it is your original idea. And also anxiety about whether you're going to be able to create something that good again. What if somebody is going to take it in the future and it gets away from you? And so it just made me think that this is yet another conversation to have, just around how black people are often the creators of these trends but so often are not appropriately credited. So just something else I was thinking about.
And while we're talking about TikTok, I definitely have to share with you my favorite little niece–not really my niece but my niece in my head, JaBria. You may have seen JaBria, I'm sure. She is often on the tiktoks with her Godbrother, La’Ron and he is the one who's asking the toddlers like are you smart? And so JaBria is the one who says “Yes!” And then she answers a question.
La’Ron: JaBria, are you smart?
La’Ron: Where is Disney World?
JaBria: At Applebee's
La’Ron: At Applebee’s?
La’Ron: Disney World is at Applebee’s, really?
La’Ron: All right. Good job. Laurie, are you smart?
La’Ron: What does organic mean?
Laurie: Organic means English.
La’Ron: It means English? Really? Okay, good job. That’s it?
La’Ron: All right, good job. JaBria, are you smart?
La’Ron: What does a scientist do?
JaBria: Um, the cars can't go because the sign says red and you can’t go. It means stop. If it’s on yellow, it means slow down. If it’s on green, you can go.
La’Ron: I think we were on two different pages but you read the right words so good job, JaBria.
Dr. Joy: JaBria is so adorable as all of the kids are but, of course, she has become recognizable. And so she was recently, I think her fifth birthday was recently, I think this past weekend. And so she had a birthday party and she was interviewed by a local news station and she had the cutest little quote. So she said when she’s out, people will say...
JaBria: Everywhere I go, people will say is that JaBria from TikTok? Is that JaBria from TikTok? Yes, this is JaBria.
Dr. Joy: So just so adorable to see her little personality develop and just really looking forward to seeing how she grows. I’m not sure if she's gonna stay kind of visible in social media, but it definitely looks like it for now and so just looking forward to kind of continuing to see her develop. And if you're looking for a smile and a laugh, then JaBria typically can give you one. She's on TikTok but also on Instagram so I'll definitely include those in the show notes as well.
And then finally, I included this in our Sweet Tea Sunday newsletter. Every Sunday afternoon/ evening, I send out a newsletter basically kind of like recapping the week in Therapy for Black Girls and then sharing some things that I'm like reading or paying attention to. And so this past Sunday... But if you're not on that, if you want to get the Sweet Tea Sunday, let me say that. If you would like to get your copy of the Sweet Tea Sunday newsletter, you're not already signed up, you can go to TherapyForBlackGirls.com/SweetTea. I mean you can sign up and you'll get it every Sunday.
But this Sunday, I shared an article from Elle which was an interview with Audie Cornish who is the co-host of All Things Considered. Audie is somebody who has been like a superstar in radio and things for a very long time and so she sat down for this interview and one of the questions that they asked her was, what was a lesson that you learned the hard way? And the answer that she gave has sat with me and so I wanted to share it with you as well. So she says:
After I had babies, I pulled the full Beyoncé. I got two other jobs. I was like, look at me, doing all the things. I'm awesome. Then immediately after, I was like, why did I do that? My hair was falling out, and I was so stressed. I realized I was trying to prove to everyone, and myself, that “I still got it.” I want to warn people: Don't do that. Remember at the end of Homecoming, Beyoncé even says, “I don't think I'm going to do that again.” Here's the trick: You will be rewarded for working like an animal, but you also will be treated like an animal. People will keep hurling things at you. No one is going to ask you if you need help. No one's going to ask you if it's time to stop. When you're really ambitious, the only thing that's going to stop anything is you.
Like I said, that quote is still sitting with me so I wanted to offer it to you as well, just in case anybody else needs to marinate on it. I'll be back to answer some of your questions right after this break.
Dr. Joy: We put out a call earlier this week, and you know we have done this before, that if you have any questions that you'd like to have answered on the podcast, you can always submit them to us at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/mailbox and sometimes we read the questions on the episodes. Sometimes we read them at the end of an episode and sometimes we create entire episodes to just answering your questions but good chance that your question could be answered either in an episode or in a future episode if you send it in.
The first question we have is: How do you cope with having toxic family members when you still depend on them financially? I'm in my early 20s. The answer to this is boundaries and making a plan to support yourself as soon as you can. The unfortunate reality is that we can't change anyone else; we can only change ourselves and how we respond to others. So boundary setting in this case might look like being outside of the house as much as you can (safely of course), choosing certain topics to discuss with them and then having others that you won't. And then of course, like I said, doing what you can in terms of work to try to save up enough money so that you will be able to support yourself financially as soon as possible.
We also had a couple of questions around ghosting and it feels like this has come up a lot. I don't know why we would think that a pandemic would stop people from ghosting, but it definitely has not and so if you haven't listened to Session 119 of the podcast about when you're ghosted, I definitely encourage you to listen to that one. But like I said, we do have a couple of questions about ghosting here. The first one is: I was ghosted about two months ago. I reached out to check in and now we're back in contact. How do you let go of the fear that he will ghost again?
I would say that that fear is pretty founded so I’d first encourage you not to be too hard on yourself for having it. Secondly, if you haven't already, I'd encourage you to have a conversation with him about why he fell out of contact in the first place and what things he might do differently in the future. If he's not able to or refuses to give you a clear answer about what happened, then I'd wonder if this is really someone you want to invest a significant amount of time and energy into.
The next question about ghosting: I was ghosted recently and have been having a really, really hard time as the situation left me not only confused and devastated, but also brought up unresolved trauma related to abandonment issues. I was abandoned in prior relationships by my parents and in friendships. I truly could use advice on how to be patient and kind to myself, but also how to move forward while figuring out how to work and manage these feelings.
First, I'm really, really sorry that this happened to you. And I want you to hear that it is completely normal for your old wounds related to abandonment to be very tender right now, given this new situation where you were ghosted. Any time we've had an attachment wound in our history... And an attachment wound refers to a rupture in the relationship with important figures in our lives, when that trust has been violated. Any time there is the presence of a wound, it makes it more difficult to be trusting in subsequent relationships.
It sounds like you had already worked through quite a bit in even being open and vulnerable to this new person and then they violated your trust so it's completely normal for you to be incredibly hurt and feeling really raw right now. I'd encourage you to continue being gentle and patient with yourself, as you’ve mentioned you were, and also leaning on your support system if you can. The people in your life who have affirmed you and who have proven to you that they're there for you.
If you don't already have a therapist, then that may be something that you look into so that you can have an additional space and support to process how you've been feeling. You might also want to look into a therapy group. Group therapy can be really powerful for people with concerns around abandonment and attachment because it gives you an opportunity to form new relationships in real time and work through some of these issues in an environment that is safe and facilitated.
Our next couple of questions are kind of related to career and work. What are some alternative paths to working as a therapist or mental health professional, outside of universities or institutions which teach from a historically male whitewashed lens? So I'm not really aware of any other paths to becoming a mental health professional, at least here in the US, that don't involve more traditional schooling. Now, there are definitely some graduate programs that have a more diverse faculty and some that do a better job of expanding the curriculum to include a diversity of thought, but it would likely still be accredited by a professional organization like the APA or ACA. Which means that there will be some things that have to be included in the curriculum.
What most colleagues I know have done is to get their credentials from the system that currently exists and then simply deconstruct it, reimagine it and augment it to work with the communities that they serve. There's nothing to stop you from augmenting the more traditional schooling that you might get with other modalities. In Session 203, Dr. G talked about this some during our interview about gender. And in Session 173, so did Phoenix during our interview about repairing our relationship with nature. They're both great examples of people who have done traditional schooling but have also flipped it to be something that is a better fit for them, so I'd encourage you to check those out.
Our next question. How can you professionally discuss burnout with your organization without feeling like a slacker? Most of my peers are just dealing with it instead of communicating the need for a break. I think that this is a really hard question because that is kind of like how the system is built, right? It is built for us to feel guilty or like we're being a slacker for not working hard, despite the hellacious year that we've all been through. This is why in every presentation I give with a company, I talk about how the team is likely struggling, even if they don't feel safe and comfortable enough to say so.
If you are listening and you are responsible for managing people, give them a break. Everybody is struggling. I also think that sometimes it just requires one person to start the conversation for others to feel safe enough sharing they're struggling too. If you're always the one starting these hard conversations, I definitely understand why you might not want to do that again and I'm not saying you have to be the one to start this one as well. I know that gets old. But if you feel like you can, perhaps you can go to other colleagues privately and tell them that you'd like to bring it up maybe in the next staff meeting and ask if they will support you. So then at least that way, you know that you'll have some backup when you bring up the conversation.
The other thing that you can do is to perhaps share. I think one of the things that is happening right now is that you're hearing lots of executives and people who kind of study workplaces write a lot about burnout and what that's looking like in the workplace. And so even sharing some of those resources, if there's like a companywide Listserv or something like that, even sharing some of those resources may get some conversation started for people to kind of take a closer look at what's happening in your space.
Our next question: How do we care for ourselves in a society that perpetuates harm and trauma in people of color? Oh yeah, so this is such a tough question because it feels so unfair and it's something I wish we didn't have to ponder but, sadly, reality dictates otherwise. And so the things that I think are important are surrounding ourselves with loved ones who act as a bit of a buffer from the rest of the world and finding respite in that as often as we possibly can. Setting boundaries as much as we can around triggering news and other content. Getting involved in dismantling these systems as much as we can, and heavily investing into taking care of one another however we can. I'll be back with more answers to your questions right after the break.
Dr. Joy: Our next couple of questions, it seems, are around boundary setting. The first question is: What do I do when I set some boundaries for the sake of my sanity and 90% of people I considered as friends, including my ex-lover now, all stop talking to me? They say I'm too uptight. I would say that it sounds like you're moving in the right direction. You have to remember that the people who benefited the most from your yeses are often the most disturbed by your “nos.”
You remember that being super available, super accommodating and whatever else, allowed them to function in a way that was optimal for them. And so now, you saying no or being less accommodating is an inconvenience for them. And that is okay. The alternative is you continuing not to set boundaries and then you continuing to feel like your sanity is in jeopardy. People who love you and want the best for you will be okay with you making sure that you are taking care of yourself, even if it makes their life a little more complicated.
Another question about boundaries: How do you set boundaries with an emotionally immature person without it blowing up? This one, I want you to hear that there is absolutely no way that you can prevent against this happening. If someone is going to blow up, they're going to do it no matter how nicely you craft your words or how gently you speak. Your responsibility is to be clear in your boundaries and to be prepared to enforce them. So when we go into these kinds of conversations trying to control how the other person is going to react or how they're going to respond, we really do ourselves a disservice because then our message often gets lost. And so it's really important to remember that we don't have control over how other people respond or react to what we say; we only have control over what we say and then how we respond to it.
Our next question is around, it sounds like, graduate programs. If one has their own mental health issues and they're in treatment, should they wait until after their treatment to strive to become a therapist? I would say absolutely not. I think it's important to remember that we are all works in progress. None of us, therapists included, are perfect or completely healed from anything. We are all works in progress. In many cases, our lived experiences with mental health concerns can give us a deeper understanding and empathy for how our clients may be feeling. So if you can commit to the schedule and other program requirements, then I don't think that there's any reason for you to wait.
Another grad school question. I had severe depression for most of my early 20s. As a result, I've squandered a lot of opportunities in networking and jobs. I even stopped taking care of my teeth. I now find myself in a position where I need recommendations for grad school (I've got a master's but frankly don't even remember it because I was so depressed) and I just don't have them. I don't have a network to tap into and I'm curious as to where someone can start when they are in this position.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I really feel like this is a very important question because, to your point, I do think that this is a piece that we don't often talk about or a piece that’s often missed. How there can be, because of mental health concerns, like just large chunks of time that maybe we can't account for or maybe we don't want to be super forthcoming about. And so my initial thought was for you to perhaps try to have a conversation with the chair of the admissions department or the chair of the admissions committee, to be honest with them about what had happened and to get their feedback about maybe how you were perceived. But I didn't feel like that was enough of an answer for you and so I wanted to chat with some other colleagues.
I sent a message to Dr. Ayanna Abrams who you have maybe heard on the podcast before (she is also a psychologist here in Atlanta) and asked her what suggestions she might have. When I told her that I thought maybe having a conversation with the admissions chair, she said, “Mm, I don't know, that's difficult. I appreciate the transparency practice, but I don't trust that the grad schools will show grace about it. My first thought was to offer transparency to potential letter writers.” So if there are professors from your master's program or other colleagues or people you've worked with, if you want to be transparent with them and see if they'd be willing to write something even though it may be vague, that might be an option.
She also said “My second thought is to offer transparency to the grad programs and have coping strategies planned for any rejection. It could be a good opportunity to engage in some risk-taking practice and understanding that not everyone will understand, but to try it out anyway to build confidence and less shame around your mental health history.” Another good option to consider. She also suggested, “Consider where you can begin building a new support system now. And not just for work purposes, but to practice connecting with others from a healthier place and to have a corrective experience. Therapy can also be a great place to establish this.”
A final option, she says, would be to hold off on applying to school now until you build up some of your relationships or additional experience to get recent letters from so that if you choose to be transparent in the future, you can say something like, “Hey, I really don't have much to show from that time period but I have worked on and with myself and my interests since then, and can show you where I am now and why this program fits who I am now. When I was in my master's program, I wasn't able to access my full capacity due to significant mental health stressors but I'm on the other side of that now any interested in moving forward in my career. Here's what I love about your program/faculty offerings.” Again, that is what Dr. Abrams suggested so I do wish you good luck in that process. It sounds like she has outlined a couple of different options that may be things for you to consider.
And then our final question: What is the appropriate response or approach if your child or young adult shares with you that they are transgender? I would say offering as much affirmation and support as you possibly can. I'd encourage you to thank them for sharing it with you and open the floor for any questions that they might have or anything that you can assist them with immediately. I think it's also a good idea to ask about how they’d like to be referred to and commit to being there to support them. You don't have to worry about having the perfect response or the perfect answers to all of the questions; you just have to commit to loving and supporting them. If you haven't already listened to Session 203 with Dr. G about exploring gender, that'd be a great one to check out because lots of great information was shared related to this topic. So I hope that helps.
If you have a question that you would like to have answered on a future episode, please send it to us at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/mailbox and it just might be answered on air. And if you don't hear your question answered, don't worry. There's a good chance that your question was so meaty that we decided to make an entire episode about it, so please stay tuned.
To check out all of the sessions and the articles that I referenced in my answers, be sure to visit the show notes at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/session206. And don't forget to text two of your girls right now to tell them to check out the episode as well. If you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/directory. And if you want to continue digging into these topics or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. Thank y’all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.