Today we’d like to introduce you to Rhonda Matlock Mattox.
It’s an honor to speak with you today. Why don’t you give us some details about you and your story. How did you get to where you are today?
By the grace and mercy of God, I am all that I am and that’s more than enough. That mixed with a mother’s love, salvation by the most unlikely group of redeemers, and a secular and church family that had my back were some of the key ingredients. I am the most unlikely candidate to be standing before you as a board certified, fellowship trained, multi-hyphenate psychiatrist living my dream life.
By all accounts, I’m not supposed to be here. I recognize that I’m living on bonus time because when my mother was pregnant with me she had such severe depression that she attempted suicide. We lived. After years of other people’s sacrifices pouring into me, I was able to pivot from pain to purpose WITH PROFITS. While I realize I did not get here by my exclusive effort and it took a tribe to birth this version of me, some of the intangibles I possessed were the inability to take the word “no” for an answer; the humility to laugh at myself and vision to see the silver lining in the darkest days; and resilience to get back up. I also had amazing psychiatrists, coaches, and pastors throughout this journey. And I have a fierce circle of sistah friends and intercessors who love and invest in me. But more than anything I have a husband Dr. Gander, daughter, and family who love me to pieces. Many of them offer a safe place without judgment to be all of me.
I’m sure your success has not come easily. What challenges have you had to overcome along the way?
The challenge for me was to realize that my Blackity, Black Girl vibes looked different from others. I was always “too much” and “not enough” or “too black” “too white” depending on the setting. Figuring out how to stay true to me; to stop trying to fit in and just be me- all of me- took a while to learn. During that process, I felt like I didn’t have a safe place to just be all of me and be accepted. I felt like a girl without a country or an amphibian traveling in two worlds, not belonging to either of them.
There were different codes of conduct in both worlds. Violating those codes came with consequences. Everyone had expectations for me of how I should show up in the world. And I just didn’t fit the bill. I was curious, analytical, verbose. I was confident and fearful. I had leadership skills. Each world applauded certain of those characteristics while despising others. I was too Black in my all White private school. As the only Black in my graduating class and one of only two Blacks in the entire school, I spoke too loudly and I was too opinionated there. I was encouraged to speak quietly. While in my own neighborhood, I wasn’t Black enough. I talked white. I acted white. I needed to speak up. And bless my rhythm and blues heart, I didn’t like the Blues. I had the audacity to like Bon Jovi and George Michael.
Let’s talk about the work you do. What do you specialize in and why should someone work with you over the competition?
I do work that feeds my soul and that I’m passionate about. That work is at the intersection of media and policy and the corner of research and patient are. I’m a psychiatrist, physician speaker and President of Arkansas Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association, one of the nations oldest organizations committed to increasing health access to people of color. I’m the host of a new weekly show I’m Not Crazy But . . . that’s broadcast on blackdoc.org, a medium with more than 2 million followers. My priority has been to reduce stigma and increase access to mental health care. I have been at the forefront of fighting for policy change to increase access. I have been championing that since med school while serving as the Region III Director of the Student National Medical Association as a medical student even when I didn’t even have access to quality health care myself to later as the Medical Director of the Arkansas Minority Health Commission. Likewise I have been intimately involved in federal policy as Congressman Dingell’s policy advisor. I also work behind the scenes a lot consulting with Hollywood’s award winning writers and producers. I’ve worked on 902010 and ER, and other popular sitcoms I cant discuss because of nondisclosure agreements. Providing technical expertise of portrayals of mental illness within Hollywood’s story lines helps change how people see those impacted. Industry leaders who work with me tend to be repeat customers. They value my breadth of knowledge, results, and delivery.
What’s your best piece of advice for readers who desire to find success in their life?
Understand your intrinsic value comes in your being, not your doing. Understand your why and make sure that why is tied to purpose. Spend more time building your dream life instead of searching for your dream job. Ensure that the foundation is steady and strong by working with a COMPATIBLE, COMPASSIONATE, COMPETENT, licensed mental health professional to unlearn the survival strategies you needed in childhood and to process those traumas. Bet on YOU. Always be a lifelong learner. People can take all kinds of things from you. But they can’t take your education. Build your tribe. You may not have a family that values you. But do the work on you so you can learn to value you. Do not, I repeat do not get tired and settle for a partner because of whatever. That may be the most important decision you will ever make only second to your religious choice. That may be the single most important contributor to your happiness or lack thereof. Don’t subject yourself to belittling for the sake of the kids. Stop planning to take secrets to the grave. Those secrets may very well take you to the grave. Start talking to those trained to handle your burdens. Be true to yourself. Rediscover who you are and what you value. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your dreams. Choose your career based on YOUR passions, pain, and purpose and not simply based on profit.
Speaking of success, what does the word mean to you?
It’s doing the work that feeds my soul while feeding others too. To me success is walking in alignment with your core values; having peace of mind while doing so; and making the world a better place because of your presence. Success is walking in your truth and owning it. It’s liking you and enjoying your own company. It’s not taking yourself too seriously; owning and learning from your mistakes and teaching others how not to make them while showing them grace when they do. It’s being present and available to those who matter most to me. I don’t want to give the world the best of me and bring my family home the rest of me. I recall working with the legendary longest sitting member and United States House of Representative John Dingell Jr. (former Dean of the House and the person crediting with authoring the House version of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). I was his policy advisor during the roll out. That was a monumental moment in our nation’s history when Americans in need of mental health and substance abuse treatment were finally guaranteed access to these essential benefits in their health plans and health care. I had to fly back to DC on my daughter’s first day of school. I cried so hard. When I brought it to her attention, years later she didn’t even remember. But I remembered. I don’t want to be a public success and a private failure.
What’s next for you?
I am still delivering mental health care but I’ve pivoted to reach those beyond the clinic walls. I’ve just launched I’m Not Crazy But . . . on Blackdoc.org. So host of that show, speaker, medical media consultant, and published author are priorities for me this year. These are not areas I initially planned. But the there has been such a demand because the pandemic has burdened many of us. Yet it has also taken away some barriers. It’s also been a catalyst that has propelled me forward as a speaker as companies and community leaders have been more interested in my work around burn out, suicide prevention; life after loss (grief). In fact, I received an email today telling me that a show I spoke on for about an hour talking about the young football player that we witnessed go into cardiac arrest during a live game. That show had over 68,000 views. I was able to reach more people in that one hour than I had in a lifetime of 1:1 sessions. I’m now working as a consultant with people from all over the country. My consultant and coaching client list reads like the Whose Who of America with clients from New York City to Los Angeles. I’m also excited because I have a line of journals and planners scheduled to be released. I’m also shopping for a publisher for my memoir and hope to add published author to my list of achievements as well.
Finally, how can people connect with you if they want to learn more?
I’m on Blackdoc.org hosting a brand new show “I’m Not Crazy But . . .” (INCB) that launched in the new year. INCB was designed to increase awareness about mental health in the Black community, a community that is severely underserved. While the content has been tailored by us for us, it can be enjoyed by the masses as a great many of our issues are universal-imposter syndrome, need for affirmation; fear of rejection; grief; and the list goes on and on. I’m intentional about tailoring it to current events trending in our community that matter to us. I’m Not Crazy But. . . streams live weekly every Thursday at 11 am CST/12 pm EST on Facebook and YouTube on Blackdog.org. That’s the best place to find me to learn more.
For doses of inspiration throughout the week, connect with me by following @drrhondamattox on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. I’m very engaging. If you have questions you would like to direct my way or to comment on recommended show ideas, submit those at drrhondamattox.me. And finally, for those interested in securing me as a speaker or coach, the application process begins with an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the specifics and the rest is automated.