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Oftentimes, when we get sick, we tend to do one of three things:

1. Go to the nearest Walgreens to buy some Theraflu.

2. Go to urgent care for prescription medication.

3. Drink fluids, sleep and hope it will all go away.

While some may argue that one of these remedies is more effective than the others, they all fail to be proactive. Instead, they are reactive. The issue with these strategies are that they wait until the body is already suffering from symptoms that can develop into a larger disease or illness.

During my time at my previous position in communications, I read the book, Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance by Edgar Villanueva. In it, Villanueva pointed out that in Indigenous culture, medicine is used to maintain balance rather than restore balance. Native Americans do not wait until it’s too late to apply medicinal remedies to the body. They keep the body in check to prevent physical, mental or spiritual issues. This is how we have to treat the brain.

Physical therapy and exercise for scoliosis to the back and spinal cord are synonymous with therapy for the brain and mind when suffering from a mental illness. I give this specific example because I suffer from both.

When I was first diagnosed with scoliosis, I was told that I had a curvature in my spine and would have to attend physical therapy once or twice per week to help get my spine back in order. Of course, the work wouldn’t stop there. I would have to exercise at home, stretch, sleep in comfortable positions, sit upright, etc. However, if had I taken my back pain (and the arch in my back that seemingly made me seem like I had a bigger ass than I actually did) more seriously, I may have been able to avoid these problems.

It was painful. I cried, cracked a few bones and yelled at my physical therapist. But all of these necessary steps happened because I had to be broken in order to put myself back together.

Pertaining to my mental health, I remember this day like no other. I was sitting in my bed after a long day at work and called my father, crying about suicidal thoughts that I had been having. He suggested I begin attending therapy. I decided that if I was going to do this, I wanted it to be a Black woman because that is who I identify as and who I would be most comfortable with. Similar to physical therapy, I was asked the standard questions of when the pain started: How does it feel? What have [you] done to self-medicate?

During therapy I cried, screamed, tuned out and walked out, but this is only because I began finally unpacking the metaphorical luggage way in the back of my hypothetical closet. While physical therapy is an external healer, therapy and other holistic approaches are used for internal healing.

The brain is an organ, too, and a vital one at that. We can’t function without it and we don’t know how much we need it until there’s an imbalance, break, crack or fracture. Going to therapy is not for the crazy and imbalanced, it’s for everyone.

Therapy is as simple as a check-up from the doctor or a pap-smear from your OBGYN. It’s a mental health check-in to see how you’re doing — to truthfully answer the question as to whether or not you’re actually as great as you seem on that glamorized highlight reel we call Instagram. 

When it comes to your mental health, don’t be reactive, be proactive. Take care of your brain as you would take care of your scoliosis, or any other physical ailment.