Danielle Navonne: a Writer, experiencing and sharing the journey of life one Word at a time.

Posts tagged ‘faith’

Do It Afraid

Exhibit A: Years ago, I placed an “intruder” call to 9-1-1, after hearing a loud thump in my house. The noisemaker ended up being a sack of potatoes that had fallen from the counter to the floor. (True story, lol.)

Exhibit B: More recently, I called my mother because I needed help getting rid of a huge bug on my closet floor. After 45 minutes of strategizing a plan for getting rid of the critter, I realized that it was merely a piece of a plastic. (Embarrassingly, also a true story, lol.)

If you know me personally, you know that I can be a scaredy cat. If you don’t know me personally, I present to you Exhibits A & B: I can be a scaredy cat. Lol. Now that we’re all equally informed, let’s fast forward to my decision to jump out of a plane 13,500 feet in the air…

I had recently turned 30 and had decided that I needed to do something big. I had also been trying to overcome a few fears, and being the extremist that I am, I decided that the only way to conquer fear was to do the scariest thing out there: skydive. (I know there are a lot of other things between total fear and jumping out of an airplane, but I have a hard time with gray areas, lol).

The weeks and days leading up to the skydiving date, I still hadn’t fully decided whether or not I would do it. On the actual day of the jump, I told my skydiving group to leave without me. I wasn’t feeling well, nor was I sure that I was ready to do it. But after they got on the road, I remembered all the conversations I’d been having with myself about fear, and something told me to just do it afraid.

So I called the group, told them I was 30 minutes behind them (it was about a 90-minute drive), and I hopped in my car. It wasn’t so much about the skydiving at this point, but about what it represented for me. See, every time I’m afraid of something, I usually just don’t do it. I walk the other way and never face it. So to not even go to the skydiving site was repeating the same behavior I‘d been trying to conquer.

Once at the site (and after a 90-minute talk with Jesus in my car, lol), I’d resolved not to think about it anymore, but to just go forward with it. To do it afraid. But once that plane started going up and I realized my only way out was to jump, I froze.

When the doors opened, I heard my skydiving instructor, Bill, give the cue that we’d gone over in the pre-jump safety course: “One, two, three.” I didn’t move, nor did I plan to. After his 2nd count, I decided to move. Not to jump, but to grab the overhead bars inside the plane. That way I’d be sure that my body did not exit the plane. I told Bill (very seriously) that I’d prefer to just ride back down with the pilot. Luckily (and maybe unluckily), before we went up, I told Bill that I wanted to overcome the fear, so he politely ignored my suggestion.

I kept hearing, “do it afraid.”

And I realized in that moment that not only was I holding up my own progress, but there were 4 ladies behind me, waiting their turn. A lot of times our fear not only paralyzes us, it causes us to paralyze others.

So I decided to let go of the pole. I have to admit that I wasn’t brave enough to actually jump; I was only brave enough to let go of the pole. My letting go was my indication to Bill that if he nudged me, I’d go.

Sometimes that’s all it takes: letting go. Once you let go of the fear, you may find that God and the universe will gently nudge you into the next steps.

When people see my skydiving pictures, they call me brave and courageous. I’ve never considered myself the brave type. I cover my eyes during scary movies, and I sleep with a nightlight if I hear one too many noises in my building. But I’m starting to realize that I am indeed brave and courageous. Not because I’m any less scared, but because I’m slowly stepping out and doing the things that freak me out.

“Courage is not the absence of fear. That idea is the biggest BS in the world. Fear is impossible to eradicate. If you were completely fearless, you’d be dead. People who are courageous are scared to the core—they just make themselves go forward anyway; they make themselves take some kind of action. Taking action, even though you’re afraid, is how you become courageous—because courage, like fear, is a habit. The more you do it, the more you do it, and this habit—of stepping up, of taking action—more than anything else, will move you in a different direction.” (Tony Robbins)

Many children are afraid on their first day of school, but their parents don’t let them stay home. They make them go. Only once the child faces the fear, and goes to school afraid does s/he see that it’s not so scary.

When new parents are afraid of becoming new parents, they don’t get to leave the baby in until they’re ready. After 9 months, ready or not, new parents are forced to do it afraid. It’s not until they’re in it that they realize that it’s not so scary. (Or maybe it is, I don’t know, I don’t have children, but you get my point. Lol.)

So whether it’s learning to swim, or starting a business, please stop waiting for the fear to leave you. That may never happen. Oftentimes you have to simply do it afraid.

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This Woman I’d Been Seeing…

For eight months, I was regularly seeing a woman and virtually no one knew about her. I changed my schedule for her. She took precedence over phone calls. I laughed with her. Cried with her. Shared dreams with her. Confessed struggles to her. This woman started me on a path toward a healthier, more fulfilling life. She was my therapist. My secret therapist.

Some people (OK, one person 😉 ) close to me knew of her, but by and large, she was simply “my appointment downtown.” My “meeting after work.” The “friend” I was “meeting at her office.” Granted, some of this ambiguity was merely because I’m a keep-to-myself kind of girl. But there was another factor, one I couldn’t really articulate. It had to do with the taboo associated with psychological therapy. I feared that a number of people in my community had certain stigmas attached to people who saw a therapist. I guess I didn’t want to be one of “those people” to them. So, for a while, my dealings with this woman remained a very covert operation.

As an African American Christian, my cultural experience taught me to “hold my peace and let the Lord fight my battles.” To simply pray about things and trust that God would fix them. Somewhere along the way, I learned that in order to be successful, I needed to simply overlook many of the stresses that accompanied being black in America. Many of us are taught never to ask for (or admit that we need) help; it’s sign of weakness, and we are a strong people. Don’t get me wrong, I value these lessons and think their premise is needed in order for African Americans to see beyond the societal labels placed on them. But do these lessons – ingrained in many African Americans from childhood – potentially inhibit us from seeking emotional/mental help? In her book, “Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting,” Terrie M. Williams suggests that our “black power” has caused us to (unhealthily) mask our black pain. Is this true?

I’ve come across a few cultural beliefs that may fuel the stigma of psychological therapy in the black community:

  • Don’t air dirty laundry
  • Not comfortable discussing personal problems with a professional and/or authority figures
  • Some things are better left untouched/Don’t rock the boat
  • Do whatever you have to do to keep peace in the family (even if it involves bottling your pain)
  • All you need is God; according to Isaiah 9:6, He is your “Counselor” (Especially true for those of us who grew up in church.)
  • Only “crazy” people go to therapy
  • It’s not a financial priority
  • Seeing a therapist is an outward admission of your (or your family’s) failure to handle problems internally
  • There is fear of misdiagnosis or extreme diagnosis

When our children need educational help, we find a tutor. When we need spiritual help/guidance, we pray, meditate, go to church (or a myriad of other things depending on your faith identity). When we need physical help getting in shape, we go to the gym. And if we can afford it, we may even get a personal trainer. Oftentimes, we brag about how much we are able to lift with our trainer – how many miles we were able to run. Why not be just as proud and intentional in reclaiming our mental health when needed? Is that somehow less important than the others?

In her Psychology Today blog, “Culturally Speaking,” Dr. Monnica T. Williams (a black psychologist) talks about her frustration in not seeing African Americans take advantage of the help available to them. She cites a qualitative study that found that among Blacks who were already mental health consumers, over a third felt that mild depression or anxiety would be considered “crazy” in their social circles. And so, they don’t talk about it. And as long as we’re not talking about it, the stigma will remain.

In other reading, it seems that many African Americans agree that schizophrenia, severe depression, and suicidal thoughts warranted psychological intervention, but that if it’s not “serious” like those, you should be able to deal with it on your own. But who decides what’s “serious?”

People who grew up witnessing abuse, or a parent leaving the home – not “serious” enough? Those who grew up hearing gun shots, fearing for their lives while walking to school – is that “serious?”  What about those who are confused about who they are because they’ve been told they’re going to hell for “acting gay.” Or the lawyer who’s totally unhappy and is only a lawyer because her parents expected it. What about the lady who keeps finding herself in abusive relationships? Or the friend who is constantly gaining weight because she eats her pain? Are those “serious?”

Some may not have labeled my reasons for seeing a therapist as “serious,” but I knew this woman had been trained to help me rethink and deprogram a lot of things that were inhibiting me from experiencing my “best life.” And so I went. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Now I’m not suggesting that we all go running to the nearest therapist, but I am suggesting that we make room for these conversations at our dinner tables and sorority meetings.

I am always seeking to be better than I am, and I long to see people be better than they are. When I find something that contributes to my fulfillment, I’m compelled to share it to possibly help others on their path toward a more fulfilling life. So, I wanted to engage this dialogue. Maybe it’s for the simple act of engagement. Or maybe it will encourage someone who’s considering therapy, to look beyond their preconceived notions and take the step that may change their life. I’m no therapist (only an advocate), but if you have questions about my process, please reach out to me. I’m happy to share my experience. After all, if you’re reading this post, my secret therapist is no longer a “secret!”

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