I was getting frustrated with my therapist. Or maybe I was getting frustrated with myself.
For the second session in a row, I was trying to explain to him how I was feeling about this new school year, about going back to teaching after my first summer off in six years. My trepidation and dread, anxiety and heartache, the endless circle I run in my head where wondering what I could be doing differently that would break me out of those feelings.
For the second session in a row, he reassured me. Reminded me of the peaks and valleys of our careers. Tried to get me to reframe things. That’s his job, after all. Talk therapy is all about getting us to process, rethink and reframe, and consider strategies and frameworks that help us approach the stress and stressors in our lives in healthier ways.
That’s what I wanted, right? I’m not so sure now.
Don’t get me wrong: therapy is great! My bestie and I did a whole podcast episode about why we go to therapy:
But as we leave the first month of the school year behind and head into October, I’m having to face the fact that therapy is a powerful tool, but it is not the only tool, maybe not even the right tool for this job.
No amount of therapy can help me adjust to the fact that my very existence is under fire by transphobic fascists who want to legislate me out of public life, and that the very social media platforms I use to talk to far-flung friends are complicit in those activities by dint of their refusal to moderate content effectively.
No amount of therapy can counteract the dire consequences of climate change that our leaders continue to ignore because, apparently, the economy.
No amount of therapy can transform me into a super-teacher who can somehow ensure the success of every one of her students simply through stellar and inspirational teaching (I’m sorry, Miss Frizzle).
We cannot therapy our way out of a bad education system. We just can’t.
What we need is nothing short of revolution.
So here are some new self-care strategies for you.
First, don’t let the bastards get you down. Stop giving ground. Refuse to debate whether trans people—including trans kids—have a right to exist or a right to gender-affirming treatment. We do, and both the law and the science back us up, but even arguing about it establishes a precedent that these things are debatable. They shouldn’t be. So when your local transphobic school board candidate trots out some tripe about “standing up for parents,” do not even give them the time of day. Don’t dunk on them on Twitter. Tell them they are wrong to their face if you like. Tell other people not to vote for them, and why, and whom they should consider supporting instead. But don’t let the fascists shift the debate to the right.
Second, stop playing nice. Not everyone you encounter who upholds our white supremacist neoliberal system is an outright fascist. Most of us are just collaborators (intentionally or otherwise). Some of us are doing our best to unlearn and undo—though we will make mistakes—while others haven’t yet started down that path. I see a lot of people who call for love and patience and tolerance. But I can’t. I’m done with that. White fragility and cissexism are too much these days. If you are white like me, make your fellow white women cry. Drink up those white tears. You owe it to your racialized peers to do that work, because they have been doing it too long and taking shit for it while we coast along, smiling and nodding during diversity and equity training, too frightened to make waves. Fuck that noise.
Finally, love the ones you’re with. Celebrate people’s wins. Wear a mask. Tell your friends you love them. Tell yourself that you love yourself—radical self-compassion is essential. All of these systems we’re trying to dismantle have at least this in common: they want us to feel isolated, hopeless, and alone, because then we feel powerless. But we are none of these things. We are connected, hopeful, and loved. We are joy.
The joy is the key. The transphobes, the racists, the fascists? They’re scared. They’re seeing us existing, being joyful, growing into happy people, and they realize that their grip is going to slip. This pushback is exhausting, draining, deadly even to some of us—but it’s a sign that we are winning. We have been making progress—slow, uncertain, uneven progress, yet progress nonetheless. So dial me up a revolution, please.
The change, the real change, is must be in the moment and in every moment. Not just on social media. Not just in blog posts like this. The revolution is in our cars and over coffees and during casual chats and in what we buy and who we choose to give our time to. In when we say yes, why we say no, and how brave we are at standing up against the injustice that thinks it can knock us down. The revolution is in my therapist’s office, but it’s also in my classroom, in my heart, and hopefully, in yours too.
Cover image by Nik on Unsplash.