Stuck on “What’s Good?” (Cause I Don’t Really Want to Know) | Crooked Media
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May 03, 2022
Stuck with Damon Young
Stuck on “What’s Good?” (Cause I Don’t Really Want to Know)

In This Episode

Damon talks to Kiese Laymon and Dr. Joy Harden-Bradford about why we all need therapy.

Damon Young: So after a year or so in college in upstate New York, I started using “What’s good?” as a greeting instead of “What’s up?” It just sounded better. Like a flirt, a threat, and a neon bodega sign all wrapped in one package.

But even with the alteration of the question, the anticipated response just didn’t change. I didn’t actually want to know what was good or bad in that person’s life. At least, I didn’t want the question to be answered literally. I anticipated some variant of “ain’t shit” followed by “What’s good with you?” and then followed by “same ole, same ole.”

These lies – and that’s what they are, they’re lies – are social lubricants, the mist that pollinates the etiquette of kindness.

But if there’s been any sort of silver lining of the pandemic, we’ve exposed the fault lines of this social norm. Not only is no one “fine,” but it feels insulting to say that without a qualifier.

But if we all know this is bullshit – if we all know we all know we’re all full of shit – why continue? What is it that still urges us to lie when we know everyone else is lying too?

This is Stuck with Damon Young, the show where everyone needs therapy. Except me. I’m good. That shit’s on y’all niggas.

On today’s episode I explore why we lie so much about how we’re doing, and why our social fabric is so infused with these fabrications…basically why everyone everywhere needs therapy…including, maybe, me. We’ll see.

Kiese Laymon: I mean it’s not my place to dislike mother fuckers for working out because I used to work out all the time, but you can tell a mother fucker who got the in the gym workout body, versus a nigga whose forearms are just like bursting. Like, people are going to be listening to this, like what? I don’t give a fuck, we need to talk more about forearms.

Damon: So that’s forearm connoisseur Kiese Laymon. Kiese is the best-selling author of Heavy: An American Memoir, which real talk is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s a Black southern book about family, addiction and all the lies we tell ourselves to live. And I hit him up because he’s trying to chart a path to sanity through his writing, through his work, and so am I.

Kiese: Damon, let me ask you this though, really, when you ask people, how you doing, what do you do you want them to say, I’m fine? That’s what I think about when you say that I’m like, yes, Damon is right. And, do I want to bear the weight of other people’s actual lived experience of that day? Sometimes, yes. But sometimes I’m like, please say you fine, because I got the bandwidth to hold you, fam.

Damon: Well, it depends. I guess it depends on who I’m asking, because if it’s just some acquaintance, you know, somebody I’m seeing, you know, in line somewhere or some neighbor then no, I don’t want you to tell me about your day.

I don’t care to be honest with you. But if it’s if it’s one of my homies, one of my niggas, then yeah. If I’m asking how are you doing that? I you know, I want to I want an answer. I want an honest answer because it’ll come out. Like if you’re having a conversation and someone says, I’m fine and then you talk for about 10, 15 more minutes, you know, it’ll come out, oh shit, you’re not fine. So you’re saying, you just be lying?

Kiese: I mean, my thing is I actually want to know usually how everybody really is. But then at the end of the day man, when people have talked to me a lot about how they really are, I noticed that shit is just heavy on me, you know what I’m saying? But no, I do lie when people ask me how I am. I’m always like “shit, I’m good.” Or, you know, the version we do is like “trying to make it,” which is as close to the truth as possible, you know, “maintaining” you know what I’m saying.

But shit nobody ever be like how you doing? Like “nigga, I’m broke my nigga” like “I’m mother fuckin’ heartbroke nigga. I aint got no mother fuckin money nigga. My skin ashy than a motherfucker.” But, I don’t know.

I’m trying to maintain in spite of that. Maybe that’s parenthetical. When people be saying, I’m aight maybe we should. I guess that’s what you’re saying. We should assume there’s a lot in parentheses before that, right?

Damon: Yeah, I think we should. Especially now. Especially now dealing with all this shit, you know, happening in the country. I think we just assume that, you know, people that people ain’t telling the truth. So I’m just going to tell you I’m fine and we’re just going to move forward. I don’t want you to pry.

Kiese: So sometimes I’m fine, it’s like how we not just protect ourselves, but I’m saying now that you say sometimes I’m fine is is how we keep ourselves healthy. Sometimes.

Damon I think so. I think I’m fine is a way to compartmentalize sometimes. But again, how healthy is that though? How healthy is it for us particularly, you know, just to, Oh yeah, I’m fine. I’m good. And you’re not fine. You’re not good. And so much of that is just like a reflex.

[Music Transition]

Damon: Actually, I want to kind of shift gears a little bit right now and ask you, are you in therapy?

Kiese: No. I’ve tried to be in there, I was in therapy for a few days, but I’m not in therapy right now.

Damon: Why not?

Kiese: Oh, my nigga, you didn’t tell me you was going to be doing this. Oh, you did not. I mean, ultimately, fam, because I’m afraid of paying someone to do what I consider love. That’s really it, I’m afraid of someone to look at, paying to someone to look at me and tell me what’s wrong, and I feel like that’s love and I don’t like to pay people to love me. And I’m scared. I’m scared. But I mean, I been trying, like, I’ve tried three or four different ones. And the reason I haven’t stayed, I want to say is because of fit, but ultimately it’s because I’m scared.

Damon: I mean, I’m asking you that question because, you know, I’m kind of in the same place where –

Kiese: I thought you were definitely in therapy.

Damon: I’ve been in therapy. Then I forget to go, then I don’t that I don’t make an appointment, then I miss, and then missing one appointment ends up missing a month, missing two months, missing the whole season. But that’s me. But then and this is actually funny. When I was first like, seriously, you know, researching and thinking about getting the therapist. I realize I had some really awkward, really surprising racial and gender considerations with this, like I, I felt more, and I don’t know why this was, I felt more comfortable talking to a woman. And the woman had to be older. And if I had to choose between Black or white, because those are only races in my head, she would be white.

Kiese: OK, brother. Let’s let’s let’s go a little deeper with that, now. I’m just playing.

Damon: No, but for real [laughs].

Kiese: What in life would have led you to believe that you are a white older woman therapist would have been most. I mean, what’s the word?

Damon: You know, I think. I’ve been thinking about this, and again, this is a thing that I didn’t realize about myself until it was time to go there and I felt like I could be more anonymous with a white person, like I could just get there and say this and say that and say whatever and not be judged the same way I would if it was a brother or a sister.

So you know what I mean? Like, I could be more open and I could be more free. I could be more transparent. I could talk about certain things that like if I were to talk about them, particularly with like a brother or sister that’s like my age. Right. I would feel like, OK. Yeah, they’re my therapist. Yeah, they’re doing a job, but they’re also, there’s some there’s something in there that I think that is judging me a bit. And I’m going to be, I’m going to be in someone’s conversation, you know, like, guess who I was talking to today, like like talking to talking with someone’s wife, you know, at dinner time or like a bedtime conversation, and it’s like and I know that that’s like a I don’t know, that’s absurd, like fear. But that’s, that was real. That was a real fear.

Kiese: Are you also saying, I want to make sure I understand, are you also saying that you thought you could gain an older white woman therapist, like more than a Black woman or Black man or like this dissuade that person from seeing the parts of you didn’t want to be seen? Is that part of it?

Damon: No, it wasn’t about the game. It was more about just my own willingness to, like, expose my insides.

Kiese: I got you.

Damon: And and I just and I don’t and again, I know that’s that’s that’s that’s crazy. Like even saying it out loud. I kind of wish that I could kind of, I could delete this and it wouldn’t be heard on this podcast.

Kiese: That’s how we work. So that’s how we work. You know, like because when you say that, I’m saying I am thinking about what that means.

And I understand more three minutes into what you said than when you first said it. Because my fear when I first was trying to get therapy was like I was afraid of paying, white people to enter my brain. You know what I’m saying? Because they already, they already think they own this shit.

In my first experience with the white woman who I just didn’t want her in my brain because she was mediocre, like I was like, damn, like I could be a motherfucking therapist. You giving a nigga a motherfucking coloring book nigga? Are you kidding me? You know? So, like, I just wasn’t really, I’m just I feel, you know, like I hadn’t even thought about, like I’m not even entertaining the notion of I mean, I’ve never even entertained the notion of a white therapist generally.

I’ve never thought about a white man therapist. I’m like, are there white men therapists? This is first time I’ve even thought about that as a possibility. But I never thought like a white woman might be actually better.

Damon: Yeah. And that’s and, you know, we’re talking about the race thing. But gender thing is, a thing, too, because I feel like I felt more comfortable having that conversation with a woman.

Kiese: I definitely feel that. I definitely feel that, like I’ve never even imagined a dude, like talking to a dude, I’ve never thought that was a possibility.

Damon: I mean, why do you think that is?

Kiese: I mean, you asking me to do like, layers of this shit real quick. I mean, at the end of the day, I think it’s got to be somehow some deep belief, some part of me deeply distrusts a big part of me that is masculine. And I just don’t want to hear no motherfucking man try to tell me some shit, because I don’t, I don’t, I’m not going to believe him. You know, you got me saying all kinds of crazy shit on this podcast.

But I don’t wanna fucking, I don’t want a dude therapist because I don’t trust motherfucking men. And like, that’s it. I don’t want a nigga because I don’t trust niggas. You know what I’m saying? I trust niggas, way more than I trust white men, but generally I don’t trust men. So I’m good. Like stay out of my head.

Damon: You know what? You know that that I feel like that’s a part of it for me. I also feel like a part of it too is like. I’m in therapy so that the relationships I have with particularly my wife, my daughter, wife, daughter, whatever, friends could be better.

Like even saying it out loud, it’s like there are things that I need to unpack within myself, you know, in terms of anxiety and angst and all of that and the why, you know, why I’m doing a thing, why I’m thinking the thing instead of the whats. But then there’s also like, you know, their relationship that I want to improve. There are relationships that that I feel like I need I need help. You know, talking to somebody to improve and I just don’t feel like another another nigga could tell me better, how to be a better husband, like I just, you know what I mean?

Kiese: We getting cancelled after this, fam. I don’t wanna hear no niggas tell me nothing ever. But all the women come tell me what you got. Let me hear you got to say.

Damon: Yeah. And that right there. You know, as you were, you know you know, we’re both like alluding to it is problematic as fuck because it’s like it’s assuming that women are, I guess more equipped for this sort of emotional labor. And not just more equipped for it, but we’re more willing to kind of unload.

Kiese: And when we pay for shit, like one of the things we want when we pay for things is pleasure. It’s really interesting. Like we’re both just like, yeah, like we, well, I’ll tell it by myself, like, I’m like I don’t think it would feel good for me to be talking to a dude about me.

And then, like, if I’m really pushing myself, I need to ask myself how much of that also might be rooted in, like, queer antagonism? I’m not saying that about you. I’m saying me. You know what I’m saying? Like because it’s really interesting that I can love to talk to you, love to play ball. But when it comes to something as intimate as mental health, here I am saying like not only white men, but brothers, I don’t want to fuck with y’all. You know, there’s something about that. I think this is off, but it’s too, too quickly for me to analyze it. So don’t hold me to what I just said.

Damon: Nah, nah, nah. But I think you’re right there, too. And I even think that even deeper analysis, you know, will just give more, I guess I guess more context of what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s going to make what you’re saying is different, because I mean and even you know, you’re talking about paying and pleasure as we’re having this conversation, I’m wondering, OK, what would be the difference between talking to some nigga therapist?

Some nigga therapist [laughs], some therapist, and what and what we’re doing right now?

Kiese: Right. But you know what’s fucked up, Damon? I don’t trust you if if you tell me you’ve gone to medical school such and such years, like, that’s what’s fucked up about me. Its like like, yes, nigga to nigga, like, that’s you know, we like we love niggas? Right? We love Black people. And we actually love Black men. We love black women, we love Black folk, you know, and critically and messily, blah, blah, blah. I don’t trust like educational systems in this country. So when you show me a Black person who’s been educated in this system, like, yes, I’d rather be with them than be with anybody else for sure. And there’s a deep, deep, deep part of me that I don’t, that I distrust that distrusts those doctors because of their education. That’s fucked up. That is beyond fucked up. But that’s really how I feel fam. I don’t trust this educational system. Like, I don’t know how you go through educational systems and actually value Black bodies. I think you have to, like, supplement that education with all the shit that I don’t feel like a lot of people do. But this is a condemnation of my sensibility, not a condemnation of any Black doctors or anything. I’m trying to say like this is, this is my shortcoming, you know?

Damon: No, no. But I think that, I see what you’re saying, and I think that’s a whole other layer that has to be unpacked with Black people seeking therapy. Is that this, just a latent distrust of systems and of the people who are trying to offer us medical assistance, academic assistance and whatever, and that this trust is based in truth. I mean, you even talked about you go into a mediocre white therapist who gave you a fucking what, coloring book?

Kiese: And it was a basic coloring book. It wasn’t even like, you know, they got the layered color books for old niggas now, like, I give my granny some dope coloring books. This mother fucker had us color in like Bambi and shit, in like two colors. What? I knew I wasn’t going back in the middle, like nah I’m good. But you know, I’m getting a lot of help informally through reading and talking to people, but I definitely need at some point a good Black therapist who is versed in everything we talking about. I know that. I’m just, I’m looking it’s just hard for me to find someone I feel comfortable with, you know?

[Music Transition]

Damon: Hey fam, what’s good?

Voice 1: Just chillin.

Voice 2: I’m good. How you?

Voice 1: Just trying to be like you!

Voice 2: You got it!

Voice 1: Ain’t nothin.

Voice 2: I’m aiight, man you know.

Voice 1: I’m fine.

Voice 2: I’m hanging in there like wet clothes.

Voice 1: I’m good like a post-nut nap, nahmean?

Voice 2: I’m just hanging like gas in your body when you got IBS, man.

Voice 1: I’m just trying to be like you – broke, ashy, and depressed about my ex, nahmean?

Voice 2: I’m good man, I’m just here working hard, like the right ear of a nigga who got shot in his left, you know?

Voice 1: I’m here, just living black like a gangrene foot.

Voice 2: I’m just chillin like a dead body in a morgue, man.

[Music Transition]

Damon: I wanted to unpack some of these anxieties that I have around therapy. So I hit up Dr. Joy Harden-Bradford to talk through some of it. She’s a psychologist, an author, and host of the podcast Therapy for Black Girls.

Damon: All right, well, how are you doing?

Dr. Joy Harden-Bradford: I’m doing well, thank you, Damon. How are you?

Damon: I’m good. I’m good. I’m just, you know.

Dr. Joy: Hanging in there…

Damon: Hanging in there, we, you know…you know, it’s funny, this podcast has kind of been therapy for me. But I do recognize that I need a professional instead of just my homies.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, I mean, all of those things are therapeutic for sure. Right. But, you know, I don’t think that, you know, if you know that you want to talk with a professional on an ongoing basis, you know about what’s going on, then I definitely encourage you to keep pursuing that if you can.

Damon: I like how you phrase that. Like, yeah, it’s therapeutic, but it ain’t therapy. Right. So. You know, and I think that I speak for a lot of us, you know, growing up, I had an association with therapy as not just being like a white thing, but like an upper middle class white thing. Like I’m thinking like Frazier. I’m thinking a very distinct, sort of like siloed, you know, off-whiteness, you know, and obviously therapy is not that, it’s for anyone and everyone who needs it. I still think there is a connotation of status and of class when you talk about therapy. And and I’m wondering, like how, how do you, how do we communicate that to people who maybe feel like therapy is something for people who are able to afford it or are able to afford the luxury of anxiety and the neurosis, you know, angst and insecurity and all of that? How do we communicate that?

Dr. Joy: Yeah, that that feels like a tough question, because I feel like there are lots of layers there. Right. On one level, conversations like this help. Right. You know, so any time somebody shares, you know, what they’re struggling with or we have conversations about, this is how therapy can help you. And this is how, you know, when you might need to see a therapist. Here is how you find one, making the resources available. Like, I think all of that cuts down into it. But I think there is something very poignant about this idea of the luxury of being anxious. Right. You know, because if you’re somebody who is working multiple jobs to try to keep the lights on and, you know, taking care of extended family and doing all of these things, that doesn’t always like raise to the top of the ladder for you, you know. And so I think a lot of times what happens is that people experience a complete breakdown or you see like a real hitting the wall, so to speak, before people really pay attention to, like, wow, mental health is this thing that we need to take care of, just like our physical health, you know? And so some of that is a systems issue, right? You know, poverty is a mental health issue. Homelessness is a mental health issue, like all of these things contribute to mental health. And so there is really something to be said about how the systems, particularly in the US, really don’t contribute to wellness and mental health.

Damon: Yeah, and the irony with all this is, is that, you know, so I you know, I grew up in Pittsburgh. I grew up in, on a street where there was all types of violence and, you know, gangs and shootings and all that. And it’s like if if anyone is going to be anxious, if anyone’s going to be neurotic, it’s going to be someone who came from that environment. Right. And someone who, you know, has to be very conscious of mannerisms and and sensibility and and just, you know, just always be conscious and cognizant of your body. Right. And how your body presents and, you know, even something as seemingly minor as the color of shirt that you’re wearing and how all of that, you know, contributes to whether or not you survive the next day. People who come from those backgrounds actually probably have the most mental health issues because of all the different stresses. Plus, you add the stress of being Black in America on to that. And you just have this, I don’t know, like a Molotov cocktail that is ready to, you know, ready to explode. And unless someone extinguishes that flame.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that is the really unfortunate piece. You know, I am heartened to see that there is more attention to youth and adolescent mental health, because in a lot of these things, you know, we are not taught about as young people. Right. Like, so there’s no real reason, although I think that’s changing. There haven’t been lots of conversations about like how to regulate our emotions and why it’s OK that you feel really anxious because of where you grew up. Right. Like, people weren’t having those kinds of conversations. And I think we are now. And so, you know, I think we have to approach this from multiple areas. We have to try to stop all of these things that make our kids stressed to begin with, but also then give kids the tools to deal with life as it stands.

Damon: So your work primarily focuses on Black women. And so I’m presuming that with therapy. You know, you probably have more Black women, more women, more women, just generally, but specifically more Black women. You know, we’re talking about breaking down racially, who are willing to see a therapist than Black men? So why do you think that is?

Dr. Joy: Yeah, I mean, well, I think that for all of the reasons, you know, that I’m sure you’re really aware of, you know, that boys and men aren’t taught to even less so than girls to to be in touch with their emotions. Right. You know, so this idea of what masculinity looks like in that there’s this performance of hardness and you have to take care of everybody else so you don’t really pay attention to yourself. I think all of those factors really lead to boys and men, really not, you know, really taking care of their emotions and having the language to talk about when they’re struggling or that not being seen as a masculine thing to do.

Damon: Yeah, that part about not having a language is crucial because, you know, you talk to, if you talk to the brothers, you know, about their mental health, they will tell you, without actually saying it. But they will tell you. They will talk about stress, they will talk about anxiety, they will talk about fear and all of these things that that every human being, you know, experiences, you know, just having the language to be able to say like, hey, this is this is what I’m feeling, or maybe I don’t know why I’m feeling this way. And so maybe I go see a professional that can, you know, help me along that journey.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. Yeah. And, you know, it’s really interesting. And I think that there are some really cool initiatives happening, like in barbershops. Right. You know, because when you think about, you know, the culture that typically is set in like Black men’s barbershops in particular, if you think about it, people are being very honest and vulnerable sometimes in those conversations. Right. And so I think being able to you know, people are like training barbers with like mental health first aid or like asking more probing questions to be able to connect people to services, if it’s if you know, if it’s necessary. But I do think that there is some really cool work coming out of those spaces. And I think you also can’t blame people for what kind of vices or what kind of coping strategies they employed when that’s all they had access to. Right. You know, so violence and drugs and like all of those things, you know, sometimes come into play because people are trying to deal with some very, very big emotions. And that is the outlet.

Damon: Yeah, I feel like there’s a potential business opportunity right now. Like you could just have, like, you know, psychologists who are also barbers.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, that would be a very cool experience!

Damon: And also, you know, it could be like this Trojan horse where you get the brothers to, you know, to go in and like you were getting a cut. But while you’re here for these 40 minutes, we’re going to have a conversation.

Dr. Joy: Right? Right. Yeah. And if not individual, definitely like some group stuff. Right. You know, like workshops and conversations really around how to take better care of yourself and how to name what you’re feeling.

[Music Transition]

Damon: So I have to admit something. Uh, I have to be honest with you. So earlier in this episode, I talked to Kiese Laymon, the author, and we were talking about mental health and therapy and we talk, asked each other if we had actually seen a therapist, and I told him, you know, that last year I went to, you know, start the process of seeing a therapist. And I recognized something about myself that I did not realize until I was into, you know, the phone calls and that process or whatever, is that I, something deep within me, and this is you know, this is hard for me to admit to you, I prefer a white therapist. Now, I ended up going with a Black woman. But I preferred, when I thought of, OK, who would I be the most comfortable with? An older white person was the person who came to mind and, you know, I think there are a few reasons, you know, for that one. I think there’s still something deep embedded hive brain thing where I still have this association of like a Sigmund Freud or whoever the fuck, you know, that sort of figure, you know, being like the therapist. Right. There’s also — I live in Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh is extremely insular. And I think that a part of me had a, had a fear of, you know, what if I approach a Black therapist in this city, I might know them, or I might have like a degree of separation from them. Like my, I dated their cousin or something like that. Went to the prom with their niece… Something. Right. And so I wanted to avoid that. Yeah. But I’m wondering, have you ever encountered that from people where they felt, they admitted to feeling more comfortable with a white person to do this sort of work?

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. So it’s not something that I come across a lot because people who are typically I’m encountering are wanting to find a Black woman therapist. But I think that there’s something really interesting, like even in my own work with individual clients, sometimes it will come up that they have not been completely forthcoming with how much they’re struggling, because there is the perception that I have it, quote unquote, “all together.” And so what is it look like to, like, come apart in front of this sister who, you know, like so the whole strong Black woman stereotype comes into play of like, I can’t even be completely vulnerable in this space that is designed exactly for a vulnerability. So that has come up really often. But also you’re very right in terms of, you know, I’m not from Pittsburgh, but in Atlanta, like they’re the same kind of thing. Right. Like, you know, if you are part of certain circles, people kind of know who you are. And so the difficulty of finding somebody who doesn’t have any, like, ties to you, you know, a lot of therapists are very active on social media, so you may have some experience with them there. And that is an ethical concern. Right. So if you had reached out to someone and found out, like, oh, I actually dated their cousin, you know, the therapist recognized that there should have been a conversation around, you know, actually, this is probably not going to be a good fit because there could be a conflict of interest. Right. And let me help you find someone else. And so sometimes it is really difficult to find therapists who are like off the grid, who, you know, really don’t even need to do social media because they have a full caseload and they only work by referral like that is a really a really a very real concern. But I think to your point around, like wanting an older white man, you know, I think that’s what this country has kind of primed us to believe is authority. Right. So if there is somebody that if I’m really in pain and I am wanting somebody to fix it, this world has taught us that older white men are the people that have those answers.

Damon: Yeah. And you know that, you know, the keep it, to go even further down this rabbit hole fuck shit. But it wasn’t just like a white man. It was white, like I was. I knew that, OK, I would be more comfortable talking to a woman also. Like I, you know, talking to a man with therapy. It’s just something that I, I don’t know why. This is why I need to be in therapy.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. And that’s what I was just going to say. Like what an amazing conversation to have with a therapist. Right. Like those are the kinds of conversations that I think make therapy very fruitful because where else could you have that conversation and have it in real time? Right. So how cool would it be to have, you know, like, let’s say you had picked an older white woman to be your therapist?

Damon: Just hearing that…just hearing that back to me sounds so ridiculous.

Dr. Joy: You know, the thing about it is that there are likely other places in your life where this same thing is coming up. Right. So it presented itself in the form of therapy. But are there other places in your life where you are deferring to whiteness as the authority? Right. And so therapy is a place where in real time we can talk about the relationship between us and how what’s happening between us is also happening in other places in your life.

Damon: You know, I think that a lot of it does have to do with the vulnerability where I feel or it’s like I feel like, the white person would be a part of like a different society almost, and like I could just go there, I could just go into that place, I can go into that room, to that office and unload and then return back to and then return back to the world. Mm hmm. In a way. So it’s, I’m not I’m not negating the possibility of like this, you know, this authority figure and me, you know, I guess succumbing to the white gaze in a way with that. But I also think that there is like a, there’s a part of me that considers them almost like a siloed off part of society or at least a part of, you know, the world that I live in. And so I can go there, I could carry all this weight. I can leave my backpack there. And then I could return back to my home and my family, my friends, whatever. And then when I have my backpacks full again, I could go and I could I can unload it. I could leave all my shit with them. I don’t know even that sort of rationalization. It doesn’t make sense. Well, like I’m saying it out loud, it is just well,

Dr. Joy: So I want to caution you to be gentle with your thoughts. Right. Because there’s no need to like, pick it apart. Like, why do I feel this way? Like you feel the way you feel just because. Right. But I think I often hear the other side of that is that people often are worried about going to a white therapist because they’re worried there’s a piece of this that they’re just not going to get. Whether that is real or not. That is, you know, often the perception and I think we can, you know, safely say that for a lot of white people, there are some experiences that you just cannot get if you have not grown up Black in this country. You know, so I think that there are two sides of it, right? It doesn’t, there’s no right or wrong, you know.

Damon: Thank you. Thank you for making me feel better about that by saying, you know, give yourself some grace. Be kind to yourself. Yes, I appreciate that. Do you have a therapist?

Dr. Joy: I do.

Damon: OK, so what’s that experience? I mean, without getting too specific, I mean, you know, what was that experience like for you? Like, is there like a registry for therapists who need therapists?

Dr. Joy: You know, it was very interesting in trying to find my own therapist because I run such a large site for Black women therapists. So it’s like the chances of finding somebody who wasn’t already listed on my site, I think were very difficult in Atlanta. But I was able to find someone who is off the grid, like I mentioned. Right. Like she doesn’t have Instagram. You know, she was referred to me by a friend. And so it felt like it was like, oh, my gosh, this will be a great fit. Because, you know, I definitely wanted someone who wasn’t aware of me as this like person in the field, but that I could go to to really just talk and talk as Joy. Right. Not as Dr. Joy from Therapy for Black Girls. And so it was important for me to have a Black woman therapist. So, you know, I feel like I was really kind of grasping for straws in finding somebody. But she has been incredible. And, you know, this past year, it has really been a saving grace to have like that the steadiness.

Damon: So for someone who, you know, maybe maybe someone to listen to this call and wants to see a therapist and has some of the, has some of the same concerns and anxieties and and whatever that I do like, what would you tell them?

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. Well, I would first say that it is completely normal to have that anxiety. But if you feel like you need some additional support, trust that you’ll be able to work through that anxiety and that you can talk with the therapist about how anxious you were even making the phone call. If you have insurance that you know you’re going to want to use is probably a great idea to start with the directory from your insurance company and then maybe cross-reference it with a site like Therapy for Black Girls or some of the other therapy directories to find like a more narrow field of who you want to meet with, because that is a very real concern for people. Right. Like if you’re paying for insurance, you want to use those benefits. I would encourage you to look there, but also to look at whether your employer, if you have one, has any kind of EAP benefit. So sometimes people miss this in their benefits package, but sometimes your place of employment will pay for like four to six sessions before even using your insurance. So check that out as well. And your employer doesn’t get a report of like, oh, Damon went to therapy and he talked about this like they get a report at the end of the year, kind of like about how many people use the service, but they don’t get any details about, like, what you shared in therapy, or even that you used it specifically. So I’d encourage people to pay attention to that as well, but let’s say you get a list from your insurance, you check it and you find this therapist, you call them, and usually you call them or you email them. And usually what will happen is that the therapist will set up a 10 to 15 minute consultation with you to hear more about what kinds of concerns you have. What are you looking for in a therapist to see if they are actually going to be a good fit for you or whether they have openings. And so after that, you know, consultation, if they have space and you feel like it is still a good fit, they will schedule you for your first appointment. I know how difficult it can be to, like, make that first call to a therapist and like, see that therapist for the first time. And some people get really shocked and frustrated that your first therapist might not actually be the best therapist for you.

Damon: So you can find Dr. Joy Harden Bradford on her website, which is also a directory of Black therapists.

[Music Transition]

Damon: I’m just thinking about how funny it would be to respond in the least expected way when someone asks “What’s good?” Like, they ask “What’s good?” and I say “deep fried shark meat.” And they say “Wait…what?” And I say “it tastes like catfish with peanut butter.” And then they never speak to me at church again.

This feels like something I should be unpacking with my white therapist. And then, I’ll go to my Black therapist to unpack why I went to the white man first. I don’t know.

Maybe the problem is the expectation of curiosity that’s baked into small talk. I feel like I’m supposed to ask about your well-being, and then you feel like you’re supposed to give me a socially acceptable answer, and then we just leave it there. But no one’s comfortable.

And I think that’s where my disconnect is. I am aggressively uncomfortable. I risk death each time I leave the house, because of the existing while Black thing. And now we’re in a fucking pandemic, and I have an autoimmue disease, so I gotta worry about the fucking air killing me now too. So no, I’m not good. But I’d rather lie than tell you why.

[Music Transition]

Damon: Stuck with Damon Young is a Spotify Original Podcast from Gimlet and Crooked Media. It’s hosted and written by me, Damon Young.

Ruben Davis is our Executive Producer. Our producers are Ashley Velez, Morgan Moody, Carlton Gillespie, Priscilla Alabi, Stephen Hoffman, and Corinne Gilliard.

Mixing and Sound Design by Jesse Naus, Charlotte Landes, and Veronica Simonetti.
Theme Music and Score by Open Mike Eagle.

From Crooked Media, our Executive Producers are Tanya Somanader, Sarah Geismer, and Katie Long. From Gimlet, our Executive Producers are Rosie Guerin, Krystal Hawes-Dressler, Collin Campbell, and Lydia Polgreen.