What therapy is… and what it isn’t.
“The traditional psychotherapy sit down one on one may not be for everyone. That is something we don’t talk about enough. For example, with some of the kids I work with we do play therapy where there is more play than talking. I know some male therapists who literally meet their clients where they are – and that can even sometimes be in the gym. I think that is something people don’t always know about therapy, is that there are many forms of it.”
Jasmin is a therapist and licensed social worker currently practicing therapy at Yale School of Medicine. Growing up she mentions that therapy wasn’t something that was always talked about and something she always knew the importance of. When she took AP Psychology in high school, she became very interested in how people’s experiences impacted how they saw the world and the relationships that they had. Receiving a degree in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she notes how that time in her life really opened her eyes to how much of what you go through shapes the person that you are. Not only that, but Jasmin has learned so much of what we think about therapy is actually the farthest thing from the truth.
“Therapy is really not about your therapist fixing you or telling you what to do. The therapeutic process is more about you processing your situations and arriving at certain things on your own, the therapist is there to help guide you and give you the tools to get to that point of realization. Therapy is a healing process. Some people can start to think “ok, I have been in therapy for a month”, when in reality we need to think about therapy more as a process than a destination. It isn’t about you thinking “I’ve been in therapy for three months, I’m good to go” or “once I fix this one thing in my life I will be okay”. Therapy needs to be seen as more of a continuum because we are learning and growing every day. It’s a non-stop thing.”
Does therapy always have to be expensive?
One of the reasons, in my mind why there are so many misconceptions about therapy is not only because we have placed stigmas around it, but also because therapy is seen as something that is not always accessible to everyone. As Jasmin shared, there are many ways to still receive services – even if you don’t have insurance.
“A resource I love for people who don’t have insurance is Open Path Collective. It is a group of diverse therapists that are ready to serve and help people and even take cash as a form of payment. The cost of one session can be determined by a sliding scale based on your income and other factors so it is actually very affordable. For black women specifically, there is also a website called “Therapy For Black Girls” and they have a directory on their website as well.”
For Jasmin, dance could be seen as her therapeutic outlet. Dancing since she was 2 years old, Jasmin danced at least five days a week for a minimum of four hours each day. She danced on the dance team at UNC, so she was always relatively fit and never really had to think about staying active. However, when she went to graduate school that was the first time in 19 years that she was not dancing. The consequences were so severe it almost cost her her eyesight.
“Between May of 2017 and December of 2017, in that seven month period, I gained 35 pounds. For my body, that was an insanely heavy amount of weight to put on in such a short amount of time. At first, I was having really bad headaches and thinking that there was a problem with my glasses. But when I went to the doctor they said that my prescription was fine. So I’m sitting here thinking that maybe it’s just a string of bad headaches, but something didn’t feel right. I went to another eye doctor to get a more in-depth look and they ended up declaring my case an emergency because my optic nerves were very, very swollen. I immediately had to go to the hospital to get a CAT scan, get a lumbar puncture, all of that. After we received my results back we learned that something in my brain was mimicking a tumor. This is a rare disease that doctors usually see in patients who have gained 200 or 300 pounds. I remember walking in the doctor’s office and them noting that I was not the typical profile of a person who has this disease.”
Jasmin was told that if her weight was not something that she got under control, she could lose her vision.
“I immediately asked him how we could fix this, and he told me that he would give me medication, but it was also going to be on me to lose these 35 pounds.”
Jasmin said that it took her about 10 months to get the weight off, and she has kept it off by always being realistic with herself.
“It was very eye-opening for me and made me realize that I needed to be taking better care of my body. Since the situation was so drastic I think that I always have that in the back of my mind. It is the motivation for me because it reminds me of what can happen if you just let everything go. As opposed to saying I am going to work out 7 days a week, I set more realistic goals for myself whether it is about working out or eating properly. I never told myself I was not going to eat anything sweet again, but I limited the amount of those things I was putting in my body.”
The Danger of Assumptions
One of the most powerful things Jasmin learned from her experience is that the assumptions we make about another woman’s body is not only shallow, but also doesn’t provide us with the entire story. We are all more than just our weight.
“It can easily be assumed that every woman wants to be this skinny, but that is not always the case. We definitely make these assumptions when we go into the gym. If you see a very thin girl working out, you might automatically think that she doesn’t need to be in there because she looks “skinny”. I even had someone place that assumption on me, without even knowing that there was so much going on in the inside. Just because a woman may be smaller than you does not mean that she does not need to be working out because you don’t know what else she is dealing with. It isn’t fair to assume that someone is skinny so they don’t need to work out, or that someone is heavier so they do. I am sure there are some people who weigh more than me who didn’t experience the same brain thing that I did. I am sure there are some women who weigh more than me who are healthier and more fit.”
Listen to what YOUR body needs, we don’t get to switch our bodies out for someone else’s.
We so often look at another woman and envy the body that she may have, without giving our own body the power and love that it deserves. Our bodies are all so unique and incredible with what they have done, what they have gone through. And Jasmin shared that it is so important to listen to your body when something feels wrong.
“When I was having those headaches, it could have been easy for me to ignore what I was feeling internally and that could have turned into a very bad situation. Whether that means going to the doctor or calling someone and learning some more information about what you are feeling is so important. Just as people keep food diaries, it can be really beneficial to keep track of the negative feelings that you experience and when/where you feel them. Listening to your body is so important.”
Your story is so POWERFUL Jasmin, and I am so happy that you were able to make it through that tough time in your life. You are incredibly brave.
(Note: Since this blog was written, Jasmin has launched an online space for Black girls in college as part of her College By Her Brand to connect with one another and get support while emphasizing the importance of mental health and emotional well-being. If you or someone you know would benefit from joining this community, please click here.)
To connect with Jasmin on Instagram, follow her at @_phylicia_jas.
Keep Watering Your Garden ladies,