What a year.
I’m not going to pretend that this year was hard for me in the same ways that it was hard for many others. As much as I struggled with my mental health, my white, cisgender privilege still protected me from a hell of a lot.
But on both a societal and a personal level, 2016 was a broken fucking year. I don’t think I’ve ever been this low, for this long. I would make progress and feel the tide start to turn one week only to crash and burn again the next.
Over the past year, I have spent so much time torn between hyper-awareness and hibernation. One existence is made up of live protest feeds, hashtags, and taking it to the streets. Fits of rage and inspiration power me until numbness and exhaustion win out again. I become too tired to feel anything but tired. Too tired to do the dishes or take out the trash for weeks on end. Resistance doesn’t seem sustainable. Recovery doesn’t seem sustainable.
I remember hearing about the Pulse shooting, and feeling so little of what I thought I should feel as a queer person. I was horrified, but I couldn’t really process it emotionally. My brain was too busy trying to stay alive. I had been fighting a daily battle just to silence my own thoughts of death and hurting myself and “What is the point?” It was too much to take on this grief, too.
Family members texted me to ask if I was okay, but I felt so detached from the world, and especially the LGBTQ+ community, that I didn’t even feel like I was real. Still, I scratched and clawed, trying to claim space and find community. I went on a queer bar crawl to raise money for the victims and their families. I went to Pride with people I’d just met. I went dancing, and I tried to be young and queer.
I went home and watched all of the new season of Orange is the New Black in one day, desperate to feel something besides nothingness, but it was too much. The on-screen violence broke me, and I cried and cried, finally. Was there no safety anywhere? I was so exhausted.
So I retreated.
Safety is a privilege, though, and no matter how shitty I felt, it was a privilege I could access more easily than others.
Philando Castile was murdered by the police, and it felt like the whole city shook. I marched. I checked twitter updates. I went to the Governor’s Mansion. I read the news. I wrote to politicians, and I made phone calls. I wanted to do more, but I felt so isolated, and stretched so thin. How could I expect myself to be able to give so much – to give what was needed – when my own tank was running so low? I couldn’t keep it up.
As fall came and turned to winter, things only got worse. Daylight faded, along with my remaining energy. My brain went back to survival mode. I tuned out the election coverage and just tried to make it through the day.
I have felt so much guilt for what I’ve lost to mental illness: time, energy, creativity, usefulness. And this guilt only makes it worse. It does not lead to action – it makes me lie in bed, weighed down, taking hours just to get up and go pee. It leaves me with nothing left to give. Who does this help?
If I cannot nurture myself, I cannot nurture the resistance.
I am not normally one for New Year’s resolutions. But after a year of crisis, in which my Star Wars fandom was a shining beacon of hope, Carrie Fisher’s death was the final blow. It’s not that her death was the worst or most significant thing to happen this year, but the timing was hard. The prospect of a fascist government risng in the New Year, had my already fragile mental health in shambles, and now my mental health hero was gone, too. But crying on the bus was not going to change anything. If Carrie Fisher taught me anything, it’s to never keep fighting.
2017 is a time where everyone is needed to rise and fight as best they can. And if 2016 was a shitty year, at least it taught me this: fighting for others is not sustainable if you are not also fighting for yourself. If I don’t take the time right now to prioritize my recovery and put my own life back together, I will just keep getting burnt out and retreating deeper and deeper into my own depression.
So this is the year that I resolve to do something differently. I can’t afford to be this low any longer, and neither can the world. It’s what General Leia Organa would want.