Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Self Care: An Open Letter About Healing

Self Care: An Open Letter About Healing

Ashton P. Woods

*It should be noted that I am writing from my perspective, which is that of a Black, masculine presenting, same gender loving Atheist living with HIV. I will be writing about my thoughts and experiences as an activist, human and life in general. These posts will not be academic or even properly written in some of your opinions.

Dear Community,

Right now I am sitting here looking, staring at a door, actually two... for the last week I have been in a state of personal reflection. It was something that I had to do, I had no choice but to sit down and deal with all of me so that I can move forward with less baggage. When I say baggage, I mean the stuff that we lock away into a box and store in the furthest reaches of our minds. To be specific I am speaking about my experiences as an activist on the ground, I understand if you cant relate or just don't have fucks to give about it.

But, the fact is that activists all over this nation probably are experiencing, or have experienced the extreme highs and grand canyon lows that I am feeling right now. Why do I feel like this? Among many reasons are the families of Jordan Baker, Ashtian Barnes, Sandra Bland, and so many others that I have interacted with in a search for justice. The blood of Alva Braziel on the asphalt of the intersection of Cullen & ward still calls out to me. The images of Vincent Young after the Harris County Sheriff's authorities claimed that he committed suicide in their infirmary. There are so many people who have become hash tags, they have not gotten their justice, and it has taken its toll on my heart and mind.

There was a trigger, an event that caused the pain of keeping a straight face to be strong for the loved ones of fallen Black bodies to explode from the hiding place that I built in the back of my mind. The box was destroyed.

The way it happened was so unexpected, it was an episode of Greys Anatomy where a 12 year old Black boy came into the hospital alive after the police got trigger happy with him. It wasn't until the end of the episode, while I was reading I heard a cry that sounded so familiar. The cry of the mothers I had sat with, held their hand.... the look of emptiness, fear, pain, and rage in the father's eyes. It became to real for me, ART had once again imitated life and I was shook.

This while not knowing or finding the true discipline to not watch the super charged 24 hour news cycles that inundate us, me with the hate, racism, sexism and treasonous behavior of a paper president and his minions who operate locally and nationally. Policy decisions that everyday people probably don't know about that will be devastating to the Black and Non Black POC communities. The disaster that was Harvey, the anxiety from flashback of watching my birthplace of New Orleans drown. I know that I am going fast here, but the fact is that I have witnessed trauma in various forms happen to people while dealing (Half assedly) with my own.

We need a solution, I need a solution to unload the internalized trauma that we take on while being there, present for others at their greatest time of need. But, what am I doing to help myself? What are YOU doing to take care of yourself?

Far to often, WE activists who get in them streets, take meetings, travel and etc for one thing, to get justice and to speak on how to get there. What we don't do is acknowledge that "self care" requires a level of privilege that will allow one to just get away. I cant just hop on a flight to an island destination when I am merely living day to day trying to survive. Everyday activists have to move with the events of the day while going without for those we help to have more. The time has come to recognize that if we dont meet our own basic needs, that we will be ineffective and our work may not be quality like it once was.

No. <<<  is a complete sentence! I say that still staring at the door as I type, we have to learn the power of "no" for self preservation. Atleast I need to re learn the power of "no" and learn when to step back for the purpose of healing. A Triage for the heart & mind and sanctuary from the stresses of the world. For that reason I am taking the step to live, be free, and maintain the work that I am doing.  We have to make a point to focus on ourselves as individuals and be a little selfish. Like I said, none of us are any good to the communites that we are in if we dont rest and breath. We need more than the selfcare we see in pictures across social media of popular activists with funds. I need to heal, get therapy, keep my health in check (so far, so good), and allow myself to breath. I suggest that you do the same if you can relate.


Ashton P. Woods