This blog is intended to focus on issues of equality. As an activist and now former organizer, I feel it is important to start out with a series of posts about how important self care is for activists. Bear with me for a few weeks and then we will move on to updates on the ongoing struggle for equality for all.
I will start this post with a little bit of my personal history which will, I hope, set the stage for why I feel this is such an important topic to put on this blog. Long ago, in my high school years, I like to say I dabbled in activism. Environmental issues, animal rights issues, social justice, anti-war: I had my hand in a few things. After school, however, I retreated into my own world, and became what I think of as an armchair activist. I would read about something, get up in arms, sign a petition, and later, after the internet and social media became big, post about those things. However, it rarely went further than that. Then, a few years back, I spend some time literally watching some protests unfold live on Twitter. A group of activists chained themselves to the White House fence to protest the fact that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still in existence. Other protesters were arrested in then House Speaker Pelosi’s offices protesting a lack of action on the Employment Non Discrimination Act. Wow! Within weeks, I was reading books, articles, and websites on activism and organizing, and was eager to jump in and lend my services to the cause of equality!
I ended up joining GetEQUAL and spent several years as State Lead for both New Mexico and then for Florida. I worked hard, typically putting in countless hours on various issues around equality. We met with NM Governor Susana Martinez to discuss LGBT issues, I traveled to Washington, DC to call out the President on inaction with a promised executive order, I was arrested because I refused to sit quietly while my Senator, Marco Rubio verbally bashed the LGBT community and tried pitting us against the immigrant community. I did a lot, and did it all out of passion and love for humanity. Last fall, I finally had to step back from organizing, and have been pretty much fully out of the game since then. Initially, I felt like I needed time to get my own house in order. My family had been grossly neglected during my work as an activist. After spending some time away, I realized that I had neglected to care for my own self as well.
I now tend to freeze up in fear at the idea of doing any organizing. I’ve been working through this for almost a year now, and have come to some important conclusions. It is a mixture of burnout, depression, and yes, some PTSD all thrown into my head! I’m working through these things, but I feel it is extremely important that I share my thoughts and experiences on this so that others don’t have to go through this, and so that organizations who utilize the street activists and organizers out there are a little more mindful of the need for self care. An activist, when asked if they’re alright or if they are practicing necessary self care, will typically minimize it in their mind, but tell people that yes, they’re fine, yes, they take time for themselves. Usually, we tend to think our cause is more important than ourselves and fail to take steps to keep our minds and spirits healthy. Over the next few weeks, I will share some of my personal experiences and hope that will help to create some dialogue around this issue.