Content warning: Covid-related bereavement, suicidal ideation
Anamika’s* WhatsApp is full of messages from dead people. “Take care of our children,” they plead. Anamika is my therapist. She is also these children’s therapist. Children whose parents died of Covid, leaving her the only constant figure in their lives.
“If I take a day off now, I get frantic messages from these kids,” she tells me during one of our twice-weekly sessions. “Have you taken the vaccine? Are you okay? Are you alive? They are terrified they might lose their therapist too.”
When Anamika talks to her own therapist about the emotional toll of this new surrogate role thrust upon her, he sternly reminds her who she really is:
“You are not their parent. You are only their therapist.”
“I welcome the reminder, but this isn’t easy for me,” she says. “My therapist is in a different country, where Covid hasn’t been as devastating as it has been here. Maybe that’s why….”
As I listen to her, I imagine her therapist reacting disapprovingly to the fact that she shares her struggles with me. Going strictly by the rule book of psychoanalysis, you could say Anamika is in danger of crossing a line. Therapists aren’t supposed to let clients into their personal lives. A therapist using a session to air their own issues could be accused of abdicating their professional covenant with their client. It could confuse the client and mess with their healing.