When Activism Becomes Self Harm
It’s difficult to write this.
Many of us push ourselves. Hard. The things we fight for are precious and denied us so easily, so effortlessly. The pain and suffering we face is awful. Oppression is no joke. It shatters lives. So we fight, battle, educate, speak out and work to fix society or even break it and replace it. And then at the end of the day, we take some time to rest, tend our wounds of the body, mind and soul and wait for the next fight, the next goal, the next set of ignorant people.
Well, not all of us.
There’s no doubt that pain is an element in our motivations. And for some it even becomes a dangerous driving force. With me, it’s less of a fight or flight response making every battle a pitched and dangerous one and more of an entirely different effect from the same basic causes.
It’s no news to anyone that I deal with depression and anxiety and that I have issues with self harm. I work hard not to claw myself and do other forms of physical injury to me. I also try to avoid alcohol and drug use to a self harming point. I don’t succeed every time but I try in all of those areas. I thought I took good care of myself, as well as I could, but I was wrong.
Despite my own advice otherwise, I not only engage with trolls, I’m known for tangling with them. I’ve felt the effects of Anger Toxicity more than once and no doubt the constant toll of fighting every battle I can possibly see or encounter does damage as well. I realize now that keeping myself at this state of readiness always, entering into pointless or even worthless fights (like those with trolls) and pushing myself past the point of reason or function has worsened my situation intensely.
But this isn’t just a case of activist burnout. This isn’t just a case of poor self care. This is consistent. Not isolated. A frequent and chronic issue. And I’m starting to steadily realize that I’m subconsciously doing it purposefully.
I turned activism into another way of making myself bleed.
The most dangerous self harm is the one you can justify. The one you can rationalize so well that you don’t even see it as self harm. That you see it as a necessity. I never recognized how often the pain I put myself in, the burnout, the emotional harm from the insults and attacks slung my way had the same effects, emotionally and mentally, as the clawing, the heavy abusive drinking and other methods of self harm. Recognition is definitely one of the hardest parts though. Denial defined this situation for me and now I actually have an opportunity to change this.
I’m just not sure how. The purpose of this post is twofold. One, it’s to warn you of what I’m facing and showing the signs of it so that those who are facing similar can also address it. And two, it’s to announce a hiatus, effective immediately in order to enable me to rethink how I handle activism and how I handle self care. One post remains in the queue, it will come out both here and at TSC. I will likely be on tumblr occasionally but not for activism purposes, same with twitter.
I will also take guest posts while I am gone.
Anyone can contact me using my email but I will largely be avoiding this work until I can find a way to avoid hurting myself with it. Once I do that, I’ll return and continue my activism, in improved ways.
I think this is an important first step in that. Because right now I’m stepping away from activism to take care of myself. A thing I haven’t been able to do in a very long time.
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