Note: Mentions of suicidal ideations and community alienation.
I’m proud of all my activist/advocacy colleagues who have retired from hypervisible social justice ‘being the face of the cause’ activism. Its a radical act of self preservation to care for themselves by letting go. Its unfortunate that many will risk further social alienation from the very communities that they built and supported. I am one of those retired hypervisible activist and have survived the social alienation once I accepted that I don’t have what one needs to be a sustainable activist.
I have radically accepted that to be a sustainable activist for any cause I need stable income, safe housing, good sources of nutrition, reliable and available volunteers who take initiative, ample emotionally supportive friends, and loving biological or chosen family.
Activist are service providers as long as we keep on giving, all is well for the community members receiving what we give.
The cycle isn’t going anywhere:
*We practice self-care.
*We take breaks.
*People contact us demanding that our break ends.
*We give again, in healthy doses; a balance of self care and community service.
*We receive low support for this healthy practice.
*We hit profound loneliness.
*We crave connection and fall into old habits.
*We re-enter the hypervisible social justice business.
-The cycle goes round like blood recycling through our dehydrated veins.
For those of us who had few or no friends and family to begin with, we are susceptible to unhealthy ways of giving. Letting go or redefining our social justice activism can be grueling and often brings up despair and suicidal thoughts such as:
*I want to sleep and never wake up.
*Maybe today a fatal accident can happen.
*Maybe at my funeral my spirit will hear all the good things about myself that people will not tell me while I’m alive.
*No one will miss me; No one will care if I’m dead.
*I’m a burden.
*I can’t tell if people love me or just the work I do for them.
*I’ll never be able to do and be enough.
*No one truly loves the real me.
– The emotional pain of alienation, despair, and being self critical for not being able to be a mythical star activist who saves our communities, leads to more harm.
During my transition from leader to community member, I’ve sat with my loneliness. When I tried to push away my loneliness by relapsing into unsustainable community work, it caused me greater pain. Now I don’t push away my loneliness or try to fix it. I allow myself to feel it, give myself the comfort that I need, and time to recover from flares of grief. As a result of my personal care, I’m more in tuned with my life values, personal beliefs, and emotional needs.
*I have accepted that there is a difference between community members and friends.
*I have observed the silence and disappointment from community members when I stopped leadership.
*I have received the “hope all is well, wishing you well, thank for being my mentor” messages, and few “How are you? Would you like to hangout?” messages.
*I accept that many of my community members are unable to provide engaging emotional connection; for many they simply don’t have the energy.
*I resist the urge to initiate and organize meeting with community members, even when I’m lonely for companionship.
-I have radically accepted that to be a sustainable activist for any cause I need stable income, safe housing, good sources of nutrition, reliable and available volunteers who take initiative, ample emotionally supportive friends, and loving biological or chosen family.
© 2017 Fey
(Image of Sugar Cane Plantation. For this crop to be sustainable it needs ample water, no toxicity, and environmental protection)