Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders
Are you high achieving? Highly stressed? Hypersensitive? Feeling constantly on the go? You might notice that the effects of stress, current, and past, might be taking a toll on your wellbeing. As a woman of color and a person with intersecting identities, you might find yourself constantly needing to work twice as hard as everyone around you. This need to achieve might have been how you survived in the past, maybe in your childhood.
When you survive childhood trauma, it can feel like if you stop moving, you might drown. You are left continuously running away from your feelings, thoughts, and past. Trying to get to a better space. There is a point where you run out of energy, and the hurt you've experienced resurfaces.
You are looking to shed old patterns of living that no longer work for you and reach your most authentic self.
The world we live in
Society, our families, and ourselves tend to pressure what it means to be a woman. Those pressures and stressors multiply when we add the layers of barriers that culture, race, ethnicity, gender identity, size, abilities, and sexual orientation face. Humans navigate a world that constantly tells us we are not enough. We are indoctrinated from a young age to drink the womanhood kool-aid:
Be meek, strong, kind, gentle, sweet, attractive to others, smile- but not too much, be sexual, don't be a hoe, be a saint, be feminine, defend yourself, don't put yourself in harm's way, work hard, be a mother, respect your parents no matter what, and don't complain.
Depending on your background, some of these messages might be more common than others. But at the end of the day, the pressure we receive becomes pressure towards ourselves. To survive, we replay the story that we are not good enough inside our heads. That story can increase the likelihood of anxiety, depression, and OCD. You might notice that your inner narrator is quite mean and hurtful. I often say that we can be such assholes to ourselves that we say things to ourselves that we would never say to others, even those we hate. But it becomes so easy to badger yourself for having anxiety, not focusing, being stressed, having that panic attack, and not doing enough.
The good news is that increasing awareness of the root of our pain can help us make different choices. A therapist you connect with can support you in living your most authentic life.
Counseling for trauma: The work
I think of counseling as really hard work that is necessary for thriving. The hard work is looking at the parts of yourself that you avoid and sometimes that you might hide from yourself. Working with a woman therapist who is tuned in to the issues specific to our needs is important. Sometimes sessions will feel light, and others will feel heavy. Talking about the roots of anxiety, OCD, depression, and relationship stress is tough. Tears and strong emotions are welcome. I believe that, at times, they are necessary for genuinely processing our feelings. We live in a society that rejects strong emotions. But how can we work through emotional pain if we are not allowed to feel?
Through conversations, you will examine how past experiences shaped how you see yourself and navigate the world. The misogyny we face on a day-to-day basis makes counseling for women unique. As we explore how you experience the world, we examine how systems of oppression such as racism, homophobia, and ableism impact your experience as a woman with diverse intersecting identities. The more you learn about how your internal world interacts with different systems, the more insight you gain. Knowing your truth can empower you to make different choices for yourself. The therapeutic relationship becomes a space to reflect, gain insight, and practice new skills. Deep understanding changes the way we experience ourselves and the world. You can better align your values and actions as you learn to recognize what you need and desire.
Trauma changes the way we see the world. Processing traumatic experiences help us to become better caregivers to ourselves. I see this as the task of adulthood. When we didn't have loving, compassionate, and consistent caregivers, we treat ourselves pretty crummy. We might not even realize how crappy our inner narrative is. I use skills from mindful self-compassion to help you increase the awareness of your inner world and reshape your narrative. I also provide reflective emotional exercises for you to practice throughout the week.
With the right help and support, you can honor your story, live in your authenticity, and thrive.
Here's some reflection on questions and thoughts people have shared with me as they try to find a therapist
I've tried therapy before, and it wasn't right for me.
How do I find the right therapist?
The progress you might make in counseling depends on many factors but, significantly, on finding the right fit. Not every therapist is for everyone. Therapists have different personalities, therapeutic approaches, personal experiences, and ways of seeing the world that may or may not connect with your needs. A provider can be a really nice human and just not be the right human for you, and that's okay. Here are some questions to consider as you seek and establish a relationship with a therapist:
How do you feel as you speak to the therapist and as they speak with you? Think about the emotional connection.
Do you like what they are saying?
Do you feel respected?
Is the therapist addressing your intersectional identities?
Do you feel like they get you?
Do you feel you can let them know when something in counseling doesn't go well?
I also encourage you to think about their training and see if it's specific to what you seek. However, I find that the emotional experience is vital to progress. If something doesn't feel right, there is a good chance that the person might not be right for you. The consultation gives you a good idea about your therapist's personality. I generally re-assess how you feel in counseling after the 3rd appointment and at different points throughout our work to ensure we are both on the same page.
If you are seeking therapy for women and would like to explore a consultation to see if we are a good fit or want to learn more about my practice, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the form on the contact page. I try to respond to all requests within 48 business hours.