**A fictional account**
Zainab** is 40 and a Guinean-American. She is a lawyer at a prestigious international law firm based in the US for 15 years. She is always the first to arrive at the her office and even places a sweater in the back of her chair if she uses the bathroom. As one of three Black women, at a predominately male and white law firm, Zainab knows she must outperform her peers. She often finds herself working on weekends and overtime. She used to enjoy her job, until five years ago a new case supervisor came on board and increased her workload. Zainab took on the extra workload hoping it would come with a possible promotion and raises. However with downsizing, the firm announced that it would be cutting back with no forseeable plans for in house promotions or raises. Yet, two of her male colleagues that were hired after she had started with the firm with were given raises – – HR told her that they didn’t have the same track as she did and had been given special assignments.
Zainab had always dealt with microaggressions involving some colleagues towards her natural hair but she had been able to brush it aside. Sometimes her colleagues would mimic black accents in an effort to be funny. Her old supervisor used to encourage and give her constructive criticism, however the new supervisor made snarky comments involving her hair and rarely acknowledged her except when it came to work. It was beyond rudeness, it became a pattern that the new supervisor displayed with everyone else in the office so it was impossible to say that she had been singled out. The supervisor would send her emails about work on weekends and after 10pm.
To Zainab’s close family and friends, she seemed to have it all – a well paying job and living in a beautiful condo. Her family and friends don’t know she has car payments, a hefty law school loan and mortgage. On top of that, she is expected to send her parents money every month. When she does talk about the problems at her job, her family and friends tell her to stop complaining there are people with much more serious problems than her.
For the past five years, Zainab has been dating a Togolese man who criticizes her about not being traditional and she treads carefully and prays that despite his issues with her American ways, he will marry her eventually. Due to her demanding career, she had not dated anyone serious in her life until she met her boyfriend. She fears her boyfriend’s family will convince him to marry someone younger from his country. On top of that, Zainab’s parents and other family members from Guinea have told her countless times that they are disappointed because she isn’t married yet with children; they compare her to her older sister who is lighter skinned and married with four kids. Lately, the news reports on police violence has made her very anxious and reminds her of a time when she was frisked by a security guard at a makeup store.
Zainab finds it hard to concentrate at work and her migraines have gotten worse. She has been suffering with extreme anxiety and insomnia which she cures with two glasses of red wine before bed. On a rare day off she visited her doctor who told her that if she didn’t put her health in check she was on her way to having a heart attack. Her doctor gave her a mandatory two weeks off from her job. Zainab informed her supervisor who said that she would have to still work from home because her two projects were due. Her doctor advised her to immediately change her lifestyle and speak to someone.
Zainab felt no need to speak to someone as she had several close friends who also were in a similar situations and it was a normal thing. They felt that speaking to a therapist, psychologist or coach was a waste of time because they were powerless to change things around them. After two days of eating unhealthy foods and crying, Zainab finally decided to speak to someone about her challenges. She didn’t even know where to begin. Zainab checked out some therapists but during the consultations, they had a rigid style and didn’t want her to discuss all the people in her life that were a source of frustration. Zainab wanted someone who would listen to her entire story, but those she interviewed said it wouldn’t be helpful to get stuck in the past. Plus, the therapists and psychologists were not understanding of her black and African culture and very few took insurance.
Zainab confided in a friend who told her to not give up on finding support. Zainab did some research on several therapists and coaches. She finally came across a coach who held space for professionals and understood work related abuse and cultural dynamics. It was through those series of sessions with her coach, that Zainab was able to understand the nature of narcissistic abuse on a relational, cultural and systemic level. Speaking to someone who finally understood and put context to her life helped her tremendously. Her coach, recommended that she also speak to a mental care health professional that might be able to prescribe medication and/or help her deal with some past trauma.
Though it took some time, having a coach to whom she could unpack and would listen to her as well as come up with a strategy helped her to make some powerful decisions regarding her job, boyfriend and family. Zainab’s blood pressure went down, she stopped drinking and for the first time in years she could sleep soundly.
If any of what I am saying resonates with you, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am a strategist coach & consultant that holds space for professionals.