When I tell my story about my end-stage renal disease (ESRD) I often talk of my kidneys and being in counseling. We were in a trial separation, but we’ve elevated to a more serious course of action at this time; due to non-disclosure agreements, I could only say so much. My attempt at humor foreshadowed one of my most significant bits of help: therapy. Being a member of a Black community that often touts standing on faith, and happens to view therapy as taboo (we don’t tell strangers what happens in our homes), I know that for me this journey is much more manageable because of therapy. I am still standing on faith, but I’ve become open about to what my prayers for healing can look like – accepting and celebrating each step on my path to transplant.
My kidneys and I separated in September of 2018, due to neglected hypertension (296/150). By the summer of 2019, I was looking for a therapist. I am an optimist by nature, independent to a fault at times. I really believed I could shake this off, think good thoughts, and bounce back. I recognized after the biannual assessment with my social worker Dana, that I needed something more. I was beyond rainy days and Mondays. I was depressed and a tad angry with myself, and my mind was in an endless loop of, why? Why me? Why didn’t I heal from my acute diagnosis? Why? Each internal session sent me down a path for which, at the time, I couldn’t find a reasonable response.
After the assessment, I realized it wouldn’t hurt to have someone to talk to about my feelings and the situation. I have family, loved ones, and friends who are more than present, but I knew that an outside resource could bring insight by asking tough questions that these groups may not feel comfortable asking. I also recognize that my therapist can ask a question without judgement, no matter how they ask me. They have introduced me to healthy coping skills (unfortunately, I can’t eat a toddler’s weight in Reese’s peanut butter cups through this), encouraged my advocacy, and not to mention, options that can make a day more bearable. After my second session I felt a sense of relief. I had begun to release thoughts that kept me restless and strained, which I certainly didn’t need more of. I became less fidgety; I could see a change in my demeanor over time. I’ve used various practices with my therapist to channel my feelings and even change my perspective.
Art therapy was our first alternative adventure during a talk session. There are moments when I could have given Jackson Pollack a run …, okay, maybe Ivan the Gorilla. Regardless, I put my all into the sessions. I found it to be an unexpected form of self-expression and meditation. I have a 152-piece crayon set and several coloring books and I am not afraid to use them. Secondly, there was an attempt with clay. I made an otter that I keep in my line of sight on my nightstand. That otter brings me so much joy. I sent pictures of it to anyone I could; I was so proud of myself. Creating something out of nothing with your own hands is a powerful experience.
Therapy hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, one method of coping that I still struggle with is mindfulness. Mindfulness, according to the Oxford Languages dictionary, is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. Staying present in the now, when I would like to be anywhere but here, has been a bitter pill to swallow (bigger than a binder). I can easily slide into the land of “What If …,” which could possibly send me into a negative spiral. The practice of mindfulness allows me to focus on what is in front of me. Which doesn’t mean you cannot plan (my transplant bag is READY)! Do I get sad, anxious? Yes, COVID-19, Monkey Pox, all of it has thrown me (and the world) for a loop. Thankfully, Tele-Health allows me to stay connected with my therapist. I never considered that this one thing could have so many useful branches. Therapy has allowed me to genuinely laugh a bit more easily and accept that my feelings are just that, mine, and that’s perfectly fine.
Vivian will be celebrating the anniversary of her 25th birthday shortly (which one is not important). She is currently a hemodialysis patient awaiting a transplant. Living life as fully as she is allowed.
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