I would like to welcome the newest member of our writing team, Jasper Moriarty. In xyr first post with us, xe discusses xyr struggle with balancing self-care with activist work. Thanks for sharing with us, Jasper!
Trigger Warnings: mention of death and rape threats
Alternatively titled: A Struggle For Balance
My activism is a crucial part of my life, despite my strange relationship with it. It’s not quite splitting (something that happens in Borderline Personality Disorder, where a person is unable to integrate the good and bad qualities of something/someone and therefore keeps them distinctly separate), but I would call it somewhat comparable.
Activism isn’t good for me most of the time — that’s the cold, hard truth. It keeps my blood boiling on high and it wears me down, and more often than not, it makes me feel like shit rather than empowered. I have a very finite amount of emotional resources, and sometimes I dedicate myself so thoroughly to my personal activism that I entirely forget to tend to the rest of myself. This often times ends up cyclical: I’ll feel horrible because of burnout, seek out comfort in familiar things (in this instance, running on “high energy” mode instead of “conservation” when pursuing my activism), and then … well, you guessed it, it just feeds right back into the root of the problem. I don’t know how to rework my habits and avoid this. Other times, it’s one of the few things that keeps me in a stable place and allows me to think of myself as someone with value, and it’s something that I’m driven to do outside of the effect it has on me personally, so it’s not all bad, just … tricky as hell.
To be clear, in the following part of this discussion, I am not addressing “survival activism”, I.E. focusing on issues pertaining solely to yourself/the groups you belong to; I am referring to a more widespread goal of advocation — and also, let me note that I see no issues with the former.
With that said, moving on.
Whether or not people are willing to acknowledge it, the culture around activism can be toxic, especially on fast-paced microblogging sites like Tumblr (where I spend a lot of my time, and therefore I speak from experience). It’s a sore spot for a lot of people, because acknowledging this also means acknowledging that they might be contributing to what they’re fighting against, and that’s never fun. It’s something I struggle with myself.
In places like these, activism is often twisted around into a job than something you choose to take upon yourself. Expectations are high, and the community often turns inward on itself to pick each other apart. I’ve seen it happen — mostly because it’s always happening. People get death and rape threats, sometimes for asking for their own needs to be considered (such as trigger warnings) and sometimes for making innocent mistakes with no malicious intent. Being angry is fine. It can be a big part of what drives people to activism, and it certainly is for me, but the bottom line is that it takes a toll on you mentally and physically, and picking and choosing my battles is something that I’m working on. I can’t afford to be angry all the time. I wouldn’t be able to handle myself if I was, and this prevalent attitude of constant aggression is something that contributes heavily to my anxiety and self-hatred.
There are a lot of things that factor into my activism, how I feel about it, and how I go about it, but in the end, it’s not something I can ever just drop, no matter how stressful it is. All I can do is learn how to go about it better — a constant process — and that’s something I’m okay with.