The Mighty, an online community that catalogues the stories of those who are facing serious health conditions, recently published a piece of mine titled Surviving Depression, and Getting Breast Cancer. They also republished a piece I wrote on self-care. This burst of momentum around my writing has stirred feelings of pride, exhilaration, fear, and the ever-enduring impostor syndrome. We are all creators, creative beings, whether we are artists, writers, organizers, athletes… and we put a piece of ourselves into what we create. There are pieces of me in my writing, and so it feels strange to know that 80,000+ people have read and shared my writing. It feels as though they have consumed a piece of me, and I am not yet sure if I am more or less whole because of it.
I don’t know how to be a proper blogger (or what a proper blogger even is), but after receiving more than one hundred email notifications of new followers, I feel as though I ought to write something.
All I can write about is how traumatized I feel in the wake of the murder of Keith Scott by a Charlotte, NC, police officer. He was shot and killed on Tuesday, September 20, 2016. In the course of seven days, the primary emotion I’ve felt is despair. It sits heavy with me, even as life continues to happen around me, even as I endeavor to participate in my own life with some measure of… I don’t know what.
Regarding life continuing to happen around me… all of this madness and upheaval and uprising came in the midst of a hectic week for me individually. The organization I work with had an event scheduled for Sunday, an event that would have over 22,000 attendees. “Take care of yourself,” people say, when tragedy strikes, when racially traumatic events such as this happen. I tried. Wednesday I went home early, and screamed into a pillow until my voice was hoarse. I tried to lay down and rest, but found myself restless, and so instead I drank wine and smoked cigarettes with a friend. In the course of the week, I had two coworkers ask me how I am doing, and had one coworker ask me why I didn’t seem excited for the event on Sunday. That same coworker asked me on Sunday if I could smile to look a little more approachable at the booth I staffed at the event. I wanted to scream, but there were no pillows. And so I chose decorum over self-care, and I did not scream.
My partner lives in Alabama, and we see each other every three to five weeks. He came to visit me in Durham from Thursday to Tuesday, today. We felt the effects of the madness acutely, albeit differently, as our different racial identities color our experiences in very different ways. We talk frequently about the dynamics of him being a straight cisgender white man and me being a straight cisgender black woman. One thing we talk about is how it seems that some people want to celebrate our relationship as some sort of post-racial triumph. We know the truth, that there’s nothing post-racial about our world or our relationship, and it’s especially clear during a week like this one.
I do the self-care things. I shower. I brush my teeth. I eat meals with vegetables. I take my medications. I go see my therapist. I check in with friends. I show up to work so that I can pay my bills, and so that I still have a job when the despair lifts and I am able to enjoy work again.
Honestly? It doesn’t help. At least it doesn’t feel like it.
It’s not all bleak. There is resistance. There are courageous freedom fighters on the frontlines. And there are those of us, like me, who are caught in the throes of trauma and unable to fight at this present moment. Neither one is less than the other. We each need each other.
I know I am not the only person in despair. Be gentle with yourselves, dear ones. You are too precious to do otherwise.