Take Care of Yourself

Posted on Tuesday, Jun 2, 2020

For context, this refers to a depressive episode due to factors unrelated to current events (well, unrelated, but I’m sure that anxiety/anger about the current events exacerbated things). I don’t know if this will help anyone, but I wanted to share.

I’m doing better today. I’m not to “good” (could anyone be “good” right now??) but I’m closer to “okay”.

Two things that are on my mind related to this, which I think are important to share.

1) It’s okay to not be okay, even if you feel like your troubles/feelings are minuscule compared to what others are experiencing. When I was in treatment for trauma, there were people in my groups that had experienced horrific traumas that often times made my experience feel almost trivial. The thing that I learned through that, which was reinforced by both the caregivers and also the people who had those horrific experiences, is that trauma is subjective and relative. My mental state is not invalidated because someone has it worse. Trauma, mental health, etc, is not a zero-sum game. It’s definitely important to be able to put things in perspective, but perspective doesn’t mean your feelings/emotional state is invalid.

2) This one is for folks who look like me, so to speak - a very smart and insightful friend of mine told me the other day “Make space for yourself and keep yourself healthy. Black folx and other POC need us healthy.” This is also sometimes said as “put on your own mask before helping others”. Note that this is not serial; it can be parallel. I don’t mean I can’t be there to help my friends and others who are less privileged than I am UNTIL I am healthy, but see the above statement about zero-sum; these things are additive and can be worked on at the same time.

The problem with the “put on your own mask first” metaphor is it implies that you can’t be there/help others until you are “fixed” or whatever; I think this is not true. I can be messed up and in a bad place, but I don’t have to STOP caring about others and doing that work. But I can’t do that work if I completely disregard and abandon my own self-care as well. It’s almost like there is nuance to this stuff! Wacky, I know.

You don’t have to do what I do, exactly, but this might illustrate what I am talking about. At the same time that I posted on Saturday and was deep into the depression that I referred to, I was also doing a matching donation thread on Twitter where I was contributing matching funds to bail fund organizations. My mask wasn’t completely “on”, but I was still able to help others. I just use this an illustration that “take care of yourself” doesn’t have to mean “and you can’t help until you are totally okay”. In fact, it can sometimes help to help others while you’re getting your own mask situated on your face.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to me. Thank you to everyone that is doing the hard work. I love you.

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