Archive for April, 2014


Here is a copy of my newest piece for The Good Men Project, “How I got it together to see a therapist.”

Yesterday, I received an email from my girlfriend commenting on the untimely death of Karyn Washington, blogger and creator of “For Brown Girls.” Above a link about Karyn’s death, my lady asked the question: “is it a common trait of the black community to feel as if you don’t need mental health services and/or seeing it as being weak?” I read her question over and over and several thoughts in memories went through my mind. I just sighed and shook my head.

Several years back, I was going through a pretty tough time in my life. I was under a lot of stress from my job, my personal life was mess because I was still trying to figure out my place in San Diego, and I felt that I was in a rut. I was literally stuck and did not know what to do. Working out didn’t help. Taking long walks didn’t do any good, and staying out all night drinking didn’t change anything. I knew that something was wrong, so I called my Mother and told her that I was thinking of seeing a therapist. In typical fashion, she replied, “You are alright, there is nothing wrong with you. If you need to talk to someone, talk to your priest, a pastor, or God.” I just shook my head and ended the call. I was not surprised by this because as long as I remember, people in the Black community never talked about mental illness or therapy. It was seen as weak, a bunch of nonsense, stuff that White folks do, or just a waste of time and money. Have a mental illness? The answer to that is talk to God, pray, or just brush it off. If you even bring up going to a psychiatrist or psychologist and you are looked at as crazy. Plus there has always been this perception that therapy is expensive. When I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking of seeing someone, they said, “Dude, do you know how much money that would cost? At least 100 an hour bro! Who has that kind of money to give away on seeing a shrink?” It sounds silly, that line of thinking is so prevalent in the Black community. I have always thought that with all of the hostility that Blacks have faced in America, it should be mandatory (LOL), but we do not see it that way.

One of my favorite writers is F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby is my favorite book of all time and is one of my biggest influences with writing. At one point in his life, he faced a mental challenge and documented it in the essay, “The Crack up.” While I would never compare myself with F. Scott, I was on my way to cracking up. I just knew that something was not right and that I could not fix it. One of the hardest things in life is to realize that you cannot accomplish or complete something, and that you need help. In the Black community, the man is looked at as an alpha, and if there is any sign of weakness, he will be emasculated, immediately. But in my case, I didn’t care.

My first session with my therapist was interesting. I could not stop squirming in a chair and was nervous as heck. I thought to myself, “How is this going to work?” I immediately starting thinking about all the television shows and movies I seen where the patient is laying on some sorta comfortable couch talking to a therapist ina very stuff suit in a tan or brown office (Don’t ask me why, many therapist offices I thought of were brown) talking about , “When I was a child….” So when my therapist entered the room, I was a bit surprised. Here was a guy in a Superman T-shirt with a super relaxed demeanor (pun intended), short blonde hair that exuded cool. Typical Southern California folk. He began by just asking me some basic questions and I just opened up. After the first session, I felt great. I felt lighter in a sense. Like all this stuff that I had in me was just being unloaded off. And I went back and it became easier. And I went back the third and fourth and… etc. We laughed, joked, and talked openly about what was going on in my life. The thing about seeing the therapist is that I had gotten a chance to talk to someone who had no biases toward me. Homes didn’t know me from a can of paint and he didn’t judge, and that was the best part. By seeing a therapist, I was able to not only work through what I had been going through at the time, but also connecting it with events from my past and giving me the opportunity to face and begin to resolve them. It was awesome to see things more clearly and to come face to face with my fears, worries, and challenges. When I told my Mother of this, she didn’t sound too enthused. She thought that I should talk to a priest or “pray on it.” I said, “Mother, a priest is not a licensed professional.” She didn’t get it. But later what I realized is that by me seeing a therapist, it was looked at as a knock against her. Like she didn’t raise me right. Or if word got out that I was seeking professional help, there would be whispers from people saying, “Something happened when she was raising LeRon,” or even guilt on her behalf for something that she didn’t or did do. Being a single parent raising two boys was tough enough. The thought of one of them having to go into therapy? Oh my. What I don’t think that my Mother understood is that it was not about her. It was not about the way that she had raised me as a child, to a teenager, and to finally a man. I have always looked at my Mom as the most influential person in my life bar none. She has always been there to talk with and give advice. But as I grew older and encountered different challenges, I knew that my Mother would not be able to give me the answers that I was looking for. It was about me and my demons.

In my life, I feel that seeing a therapist was one of the best things I have ever done. I was able to get a handle on things that needed to be resolved. I am not saying that everything is perfect. Heck, if you knew me would probably ask, “Why are you not in therapy now. “ But with where I was in life, I desperately needed it. Matter of fact, I think everyone should see a therapist. If not to just de-clutter your life and get a different view of things. When I think about Karyn, I say to myself, “I wonder if she had someone to talk to? I wonder if the stigma of being Black and talking with a mental health professional got to her?” I don’t know, but what I can say is that coming from this Black man, it changed my life.



Straight Dope: A 360 degree look into American Drug Culture is free for Kindle at NOW!!!


Reviews of Straight Dope:


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
***I received a free copy in exchange for a book review***

I enjoyed this 8 chapter book; it was a fast read. The author interviewed several people in hopes of finding out the answer to: “Why are drugs so entrenched in American way of life?” Most of the interviewees were from San Diego, California. When their real life experiences were revealed, it was written in first person as though they were talking directly to readers.

My favorite lines: 1) Be careful with your life, it’s short. 2) When people talk about drugs, two things come to mind: exaggeration and misinformation. 3) I am not going to rely on a supernatural entity to take responsibility for my life. It’s like saying Santa Claus is going to keep me clean.

I’m one of those easygoing readers who don’t mind typos or grammatical errors as long as the story is very interesting; however, the errors in this book got distracting after a while-it seemed like there were typos on every other page.

There were eight sections to the book: discussing drug dealers, users, people who died from their addiction, if marijuana should be legalized, criminals behind bars, teachers dealing with abused students (the most intriguing section for me), people in rehab who recovered from their addiction, and family members dealing with an addict.

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

Format:Kindle Edition
The discussion about drugs has been going on for quite some time, mainly driven by the drug busts we hear about on the news or the stories of how they have ravaged the lives of individuals. The question that arises, however, is does that tell the whole story? LeRon Barton would say no, and it is for that reason that his book STRAIGHT DOPE is so fascinating.

Taking powerful interviews and poetic commentaries and bringing them together, Barton adds another dimension to the discussion about drugs, who benefits and how we are all impacted by the decisions of others.

I was really intrigued by what some of the individuals interviewed in the book had to say about how their selling and/or using drugs affected them. They know it is illegal but they have made up their own minds as to why it is ok to proceed, even knowing the risk. There are even individuals who wonder if it should be illegal at or just regulated. Again, points are made to show why that should be a part of the discussion, but I think readers will have to decide for themselves whether they are legitimate arguments.

One of the most powerful points made in the book STRAIGHT DOPE is that life if full of choices. Once you make your choice, however, it is up to you to be able to deal with the consequences.

4.0 out of 5 stars Highlights the Humanity of a Misunderstood Population, May 6, 2013
This review is from: Straight Dope: A 360 degree look into American drug culture (Kindle Edition)
As a former counselor for people with substance problems, I have strong opinions about drug use and addiction and even stronger opinions about the U.S.’s unproductive discourse about drug use and addiction. I was skeptical when I received my review copy of Straight Dope. I was in for a happy surprise. The oral histories in this book capture the voices I remember: proud, remorseful, sometimes oddly casual – definitely human. It’s a quick read that packs a punch. LeRon Barton has done a great job in making his subjects comfortable enough to reveal themselves, and in arranging their stories to paint a clear picture of a complicated set of affairs.

No matter where you stand on the discussion of what is or is not a drug or what should or should not be legal I think this is a book that is worth your time, your consideration and your input.