I have a long history of activism. I got involved in politics in high school. I met with governors at the ripe old age of 17. I was offered a job in Tallahassee at the age of 18. But it’s only been recently that I’ve been trying to be kind to myself–to develop the practice of self-care.
When Trump was the projected winner of the election, my stomach was tight. I couldn’t eat. I lost ten pounds. I knew terrible things were coming.
I had given all my attention and time to electing someone else. I read articles about the rise of authoritarianism. I knew the social benefits I live on—-the ones that keep me healthy and fed—-would be under attack, as they now are with the new health care bill.
I didn’t, however, give time to myself. I wasn’t showering like I should. I wasn’t exercising. I wasn’t developing or maintaining friendships. (I mean face-to-face friendships, not Facebook friendships.)
I called a therapist, one who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I specifically chose her for it. It was a bonus that she is also a woman of color from another culture.
I’ve been in therapy for about two months. I’ve had weekly therapy sessions where I am given homework assignments. I am feeling a lot better. My relationship with food is healthy. I exercise every day, shower daily. I have been keeping up and forming new friendships. Everyday, I step outside my comfort zone to maintain and support my mental health.
I haven’t been engaged in activism or politics like I was before. No longer do I spend hours upon hours pouring over political news articles or TV programs. Instead, I’ve opted to shop for discounted Spring dresses, make coffee dates, and get away from my computer (the place where my emotions and self-care are most precarious).
I have begun to shy away from hobbies and activities where I am alone. Facebook and the Internet no longer consume my entire day.
I signed up for MeetUp groups, support groups, writing groups—-all in the hopes of getting out, meeting people, forming bonds, getting physical.
A friend of mine didn’t understand my new focus on self-care. He suggested I was selling out.
Here’s the thing: Forming strong bonds and friendships, laughing with people, shopping with people, and making lunch dates with people can all be acts of resistance. Every tool, as Ani DiFranco says, is a weapon if you hold it right.
Authoritarian power does not want strong bonds between people. It does not want new friendships.
No, no. Authoritarian power wants you in front of your computer, reading articles—-some of which may be intended to harm you—-sharing those articles, living in front of a screen, feeling helpless and, most of all, being alone.
In the past, I may have appeared to be the activist my friends wanted me to be, but I really was not. I was feeding into what authoritarian power wants. It wants to control your emotions. It wants you swayed by every new news story. It wants you, mostly, alone and scared.
It’s Mental Health Month. I encourage everyone—-especially activists who are marginalized—-to develop habits of self-care. Laugh. Love. Shop. Eat. We are not activist-machines. We are whole humans with a vast array of needs. I encourage you to feed the whole self, which includes being a political animal. That way, you will be a much stronger person of resistance.