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Ask Sahaj: It’s time to lean into discomfort and share our stories

(Sam Hall Media/for The Washington Post; Washington Post illustration; iStock)

I’ve spent my entire life seeking stories and advice, but I’ve often struggled to find authors and writers who look like me, sound like me or share challenges like mine.

As a daughter of Indian immigrants and the first person in my family to marry a partner of a different race and culture, a mental health professional and a therapy-goer, and a former editor and an author-to-be, I am constantly grappling with many questions about my personal and professional identity crises:

How Indian do I have to be to be considered Indian enough? How does my bicultural identity impact my friendships? How do I talk to my immigrant parents about therapy? How do I navigate the “not enoughness” I feel in predominantly White spaces?

To help interrogate some of these questions, I created Brown Girl Therapy, the first and largest mental health community for adult children of immigrants living in the West, in 2019. In this space, I work to democratize mental health and promote and destigmatize therapy for a very underserved population. I also aim to create a community where folks can connect with others who struggle with similar lived experiences.

Through this journey, I also received my master’s degree and became a mental health professional working in a field that often centers Eurocentric perspectives and goals.

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My passion is at the intersection of narrative storytelling and mental health advocacy. So it’s no surprise that I have found myself taking on this new endeavor of answering your questions in the form of my mental health advice column, Ask Sahaj.

So far, I’ve answered Washington Post reader questions about family dynamics, career, friendships and more. More specifically, a few personal favorites have been about maintaining your culture when your grandparents pass away, reconciling with how your parents’ parenting style affects you, and how to know when it’s time for a new therapist.

When I answer questions, I like to take a holistic approach and consider all the systems in which the writer exists, because I firmly believe we are a sum of our experiences, our relationships and our identities. I also believe that each person is an expert and author of their own lives — and that my role is to assist them in exploring all sides of a situation through questions and curiosity. My hope is to empower people to identify what is important to them and the values they want to live by.

All that said, I hope to hear from you. Yes, you. I hope that you write in with your questions about identity, relationships, career or mental health. I want to help. I strongly believe that when we lean into our discomfort and share our stories, we not only encourage others to do the same, but we also allow ourselves to take up the space we deserve.

You don’t have to navigate your struggles alone. So, if you have something you’re grappling with, submit your question here. I look forward to hearing from you and helping guide you on this journey with you.

I am rooting for you,

Sahaj

Read Sahaj’s next column on Aug. 4.

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