Being an actual person this week has been a challenge, let alone a therapist who is supposed to help others process their feelings. I promised myself that I would be strong no matter what the election outcome was. I told myself that I needed to get up, get dressed, go to work, and go about my business as usual.
A different feeling crept over me on Wednesday, though. It is one I am all too familiar with—fear.
Before I am a student, therapist, friend, partner, or daughter, I am a woman. When I walk to my car after work, I hold my keys between my fingers in an effort to protect myself from a potential attack. I have been harassed and catcalled late at night at gas stations and in the middle of the day at the grocery store. I have been followed. I have been cornered. My pleas have been ignored. I have been terrified for my life because of my gender.
I am also a woman of color. People have categorized me and made assumptions about my heritage. People have told me to go back to “A-rab” (wherever that is). People have uttered words to me that seem to cut deeper than any blade could. What terrifies me most is knowing that this fear I experience, resulting from parts of my identity that are completely out of my control, is miniscule compared to the fear experienced by so many others in this country.
I wondered, what can I do in this frantic, overwhelming aftermath? How can I make this right? As a therapist, there is something I can do right now to make a difference. I can continue to maintain a safe haven for my clients. I can use my own experience to support and empathize with others.
During a time when everything feels chaotic, I can provide a corrective experience. I can show my clients that in this room they are unconditionally accepted for who they are, regardless of race, ethnicity, faith, or political affiliation. Hatred, anger, and misunderstanding may persist beyond these walls, but here they are valued and heard. My clients matter in this space. They are important. They are recognized for every part of their identities, both privileged and oppressed. Perhaps the safety and connection established in therapy will reach other parts of their lives, but for now, we will start here. I will hold this space for us to grieve and process, and we will build something stronger together.
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