It was long overdue: I have begun cognitive behavioral therapy. My friends and family’s response to the news has been both congratulatory and “Finally! It’s about time!” followed with an inquiry about what I’ve learned so far.
For whomever may be a new reader, I will take a couple of steps back to inform you why my inner circle would enthusiastically counter my speaking to a therapist with pride. I am a 34 year old black man, the father to my nine year old daughter and father figure to my almost 14 year old nephew, widowed since 2011, endured custody hearings in two states; and after I watched my love wither away from cancer, both of my parents were diagnosed and survived their own respective battles with the disease. To be as well-adjusted and even keeled without professional counsel is nothing short of a blessing. Truth be told, I need to pat myself on the back a lot more for this.
I have advocated therapy to and for many of my friends, followers, and damn near everyone for years. It was on my to-do list for a while. However, life happened and before I knew it, eight and a half years passed .A couple of years ago, I saw a couples’ therapist for a few weeks (In retrospect, I did so to get out of a relationship I was unhappy in and wanted to break up; but that’s a whole other post). I enjoyed the experience and knew it was something I wanted to continue in a different capacity.
The first seed of urgency was planted in my head over the past summer. At a friend’s going away party, I ran into an acquaintance from college who informed me he was a therapist for at-risk youth. Within the first two minutes of our chat, he said “I can tell you’re a very good father. Have you ever seen a therapist?”
“No. But I’ve been meaning to for a very long time. It’s on my to-do list” I replied.
This man I haven’t seen or spoken to in 15 years put his hand on my shoulder and said “Do it. One of the best things you can do for your children-as a parent-is see a therapist. It will save them from years of therapy. Trust me. I deal with kids who get into all kinds of trouble that wouldn’t have happened if their parents saw a therapist.” His words hit home.
My kids played a large role in my choice to see a therapist. They didn’t ask to be here. I don’t have an exact number; nonetheless most behavioral professionals would say around eighty percent of who we are, what we are, where we are, how we are, and why we are-the good, bad, our idiosyncrasies, insecurities and all-is directly linked to our relationships with our parents.
My educational psychology professor once told his room of students “Children are born geniuses. They’re geniuses until they’re about five years old…and then parents mess it up.” This quote was the most important and realest shit I’d ever heard during my time in Morehouse College’s psychology department.
I have put a spin on my professor’s words and relayed the sentiment to my daughter and nephew: Parents do the best they can with the tools they have and most importantly, know how to use. On more than one occasion, I have said “Even if you think I’m the greatest parent in the world, one day you will be my age, possibly seeing a therapist or look back and say to yourself “Man, Chad really messed me up!” All parents mess their children up. It isn’t on purpose. My parents have done it to me, their parents have done it to them, I have and will have done it to you, and you will do it to your kids. Even the most perfect and best parents mess their kids up. So in advance, I apologize.” At one point or another, we have all reflected on our lives and realized our parents were mere mortals. The very least I could do is prepare them for the inevitable and perhaps soften the blow.
I pride myself of being a father; a great one. However, fatherhood is only a piece of my identity. One of the reasons I stopped writing in a professional capacity-and of this very site-was because fatherhood became too much of my identity. I was Chad Milner for 25 years before I was someone’s parent. Work mostly revolved around being a father and then I was a father at home. So much of who I am as a person had been put on hold. Per the previous two paragraphs, it’d be a disservice to my children if I were a dad who took care of his children and not himself. It would become all but a certainty they would repeat and exhibit their own model of behavior they’ve witnessed.
This past New Year’s Eve, before the stroke of midnight, I had a long talk with God. I thanked Him for the past decade and told Him life as I knew it could no longer exist. The tools I’ve used to execute were outdated and I was in serious need of some upgrades. I told God while I was thankful for the support I had and for how long I’ve been self-reliant, I have plateaued doing things on my own; I needed help from others to get to where I know He and I needed me to be. Slowly but surely, this has happened. This too deserved its own post; but for contextual purposes, I needed to share because it played a major role in where I currently am.
So here I am, for an hour once a week, mulling through my life experiences and relationships in search of patterns, epiphanies, and apologies to myself and others under the guidance of a professional. If I felt I was already dope…I’m going to be a bad muthafucka in a few months.