Trust your feelings to the experts
I feel ya Arts DEVO gets it. Life can sometimes feel like it’s nothing but a barrage of external forces pummeling you into an inescapable groove of shittiness. But in the spirit of this Health Issue’s theme of self-care, I want to share a life choice that’s dramatically improved my existence in this often chaotic world: I see a therapist. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to have been diagnosed with a mental illness to need to visit one. Every human could do humaning better—be better to themselves and to others and maybe find a measure of inner peace along the way. A trained psychotherapist is an expert who already knows what’s wrong, and like a good plumber, they can help clear out your emotional pipes so that you’re no longer wading around in your own … well, you get the point.
I sought the help of a professional probably 15 years ago. I was emotionally stuck, unable to process my feelings during even the most minor of traumas. I was deeply unhappy with myself, full of fear and doubt, and all I knew about how to fix things was that I didn’t know how.
On a recommendation from a friend’s therapist, I found a guy. He listened, empathized, made me feel “seen,” gave me tools for processing feelings, and said mind-blowing/humbling things like: “If we aren’t in touch with our emotions, sometimes we’re not really experiencing our own being as fully as we might,” or “I wonder if that pattern has occurred at other points in your life?”
Once I learned how to focus on my emotional experience, embrace the feelings as indicators of what’s real inside me (and not judge them as good or bad), I was able to unmuddy the waters and see more clearly the “whys” behind how I react to the world. After a few years of this work, I got progressively better at protecting and being kind to myself (Big J: “Hey, Little J, how are things? I think you’re doing great!”) and curbing desires to cope with life’s stressors with unhealthy behaviors (so long, second dinner). It made me a better friend, co-worker and husband, and best of all I’m more present for me in my day-to-day life.
I still get stuck from time to time, but if I feel myself closing off, I go back to my dude for a tune-up session or two and go on humming.
If you’re feeling tired of it all, reach out to someone who already knows what’s going on. Find local resources by searching “Chico” at psychologytoday.com/us/therapists or visit buttecounty.net/behavioralhealth.
Born on the move Mike Africa Jr. spent the first three days of his life in prison. His folks—Michael and Debbie Africa—were a part of the so-called MOVE 9, nine members of the MOVE black-liberation organization who were convicted of third-degree murder for the killing of Philadelphia police officer James Ramp during a raid on the house they were all living in. Conceived before his mother was locked up, Mike Jr. was born in 1978 in her cell, where she concealed his presence for a few days.
Despite evidence that suggested that the one bullet that killed Ramp came from outside the house—suggesting friendly fire from the police—most of the MOVE members spent four decades in prison. Michael and Debbie were finally released on parole in 2018.
During his folks’ time in prison, Mike Jr. committed his life to advocating for social justice, using the medium of hip-hop to spread his message of hope and to advocate for his family’s release. This Saturday, Jan. 18, 6-8 p.m., Mike Jr. will appear at the Museum of Northern California Art with a performance called Born on the Move: My Quest for Peace and Freedom. Joining him on the program are two locals—author/host Anecia Johnson and MC Cory “Himp C” Hunt—as well his parents.