"I was born with pneumonia in my left lung, they put me in a bubble, and I haven't been right since." I've told this story many times as an accompaniment to explaining my many ailments: migraines, acid reflux, fibroids, to name a few. And some I haven't usually disclosed but am now more open about to do my part in removing associated stigma and shame: an eating disorder, depression, anxiety.
When I think about it, I've been living in a bubble my entire life. Being raised as a Jehovah's Witness coupled with an inherently strict mother, I was sheltered for most of my formative years. We tend to think something is wrong with us when we recognize that we're not our optimal selves, discounting our childhood as critical to how we move and operate in the world. As if we developed our idiosyncrasies, habits (good and bad), preferences, behaviors, tendencies, and overall behavior in a silo.
Therapy aided my release of guilt, shame, and pain associated with how I've survived in the world to this point. It made me aware of when my response to a situation isn't abnormal but wholly aligned with someone protecting themself from additional trauma. I'm a work in progress and always will be, but therapy and intentional self-work have freed me by breaking the bubble that kept me from my God-intended life and blessing others with its fruits.
I've always been an avid reader (a little less so in recent years due to dissertation burnout, but still a bookworm at heart). As a child and through my teens and young adult years, I typically leaned toward fiction - mysteries, thrillers, dramas. John Grisham and Mary Higgins Clark my go-tos. Eventually, a little Dean Koontz. I also, of course, supported Black authors. At the time, it was a lot of Carl Weber, Eric Jerome Dickey, Terry McMillan, and Zane. Non-fiction was relegated to school requirements, and self-help never entered the chat. Over the years - particularly as I approached and entered my mid-30s - something shifted.
"Because I'm 35!" was a refrain my long-time friend and then-roommate, Amber, heard often. Leading up to my 35th birthday, I'd made a life-changing decision, gotten serious about my health and fitness, and felt good in my skin. I was actively searching for a therapist (and learning the right fit for me - more on this in a future post). I curated my Instagram to include a plethora of therapy and self-help pages that fed me positive affirmations and mantras, offered new frameworks for understanding my experiences, and motivated me to keep searching for my best-fit therapist despite a few initial duds.
Come May 31, 2019, you couldn't tell me 'nothin'! I looked good, felt good, and released dead weight that had been around well past its expiration date. I believed 35 was my year!!
But, there's nothing like a good therapist to inform you that you still have work to do. That your issues aren't always about them; sometimes, it's you! And you need to sit with that, process and come to terms with it, then move forward better than you were before.
What's that saying? "When you know better, you do better." My "best-fit" therapist didn't come around until a year later. In the meantime, I thought I was living my best life.
And I was, based on the knowledge, awareness, and tools I possessed at the time. One concerning aspect of the current wave of "woke healing" is the "Don't even look my way unless you're 'fully healed' (whatever that means)" mentality. It's giving elitist, self-righteous, and not even fully healed yourself. Don't get me wrong - I'm not a proponent of remaining in unhealthy situations or entertaining toxic people (family, so-called friend, or not). But, whatever happened to grace?
No one's journey is the same. Each of us has our own starting point and end goal(s) for healing, and that's okay. While it might be true that someone who desires to be in your life isn't at the same point in their journey as you, as our good Auntie Tab says, "Have a good day, and even if you can't, don't you dare go messing up nobody else's." Continue to focus on breaking your bubble - those binds keeping you from thriving and flourishing the way God intended - and see what happens. I dare you.