These are two main feelings many of us are going through and/or have been feeling for a while. The inauguration, election, and the entire election year has left many of us tired, hurt, and at times feeling broken. There are some that are brand new to all this, while there are others that have always known these things, things that have brought upon the feelings of being abandoned. Each person I've talked to feels abandoned for different reasons. Some feel abandoned by their people, others their country, some feel betrayed and abandoned by 3rd party voters or those abstaining from voting, others feel this from all the previous groups because they did not see it earlier and hadn't listened to them for years.
I am a part of the last group. It only took a couple of weeks for it to catch up to me and finally my PTSD came crashing down on me. At first I thought there were two different PTSD's being triggered. The first was the one I have known for years, from previous abuse. The second, was a bit more complex, but stemmed from the micro-aggressions I had endured my entire life and the abandonment I felt by 97% of the country after the election. I felt abandoned by almost everyone: Trump supporters, and Hillary Supporters. Being a Muslim is tricky, you're stuck between Conservatives and Liberals that both hate you. Muslims also come from all over the world, each with their own culture, and belief systems. You also have a vast majority of people not understanding systemic oppression, and they view you as the problem instead of the individual trying to fix things. I felt unsafe. I felt like I couldn't belong, anywhere. Those feelings of betrayal, feeling unsafe, and lack of belonging were identical to those that I felt after the abuse and during my earlier battles with PTSD. It's no wonder I rushed right back into PTSD's arms.
I am not the only one. Many of the individuals I support that deal with PTSD have reached out to me telling me that they have also been re-triggered. And even the ones that have never dealt with PTSD, many are dealing with PTSD like symptoms, or getting burned out by everything that's happening. The word I most commonly hear from minority groups is that they are 'tired'. 'Tired' scares me, because it's the word I use when my suicidality flares and I am on a ledge in my mind, ready to end it all. 'Tired' is done. But I can't blame them. I am also 'tired'.
A couple of weeks ago I went to an event organized by the Washington Peace Center and other local DC organizations to bring together individuals and organizations from the DC area that are interested in fighting Islamophobia. One of the things that stuck me was something said by an individual that had been in New York at the time of 9/11, fighting NSEERS and other programs targeting Muslims. He said everyone that was fighting at the time was burned out, and couldn't do it again this time around. I have heard similar things, and I have burned out in the past myself. I may not be on the front lines everyday, but I hear and see enough that it has gotten to me in the past.
A week later, at the DisruptJ20 rally at Union Square on Election Day I asked the organizers to mention self care to the individuals there. There were thousands, and they needed to know that they needed to take care of themselves, and of each other. The Organizer thought I meant that they should take care of themselves that day, and mentioned it multiple times, but nothing was said about self care. But unless we have the proper support and tools to take care of ourselves and others we won't be able to do this work for long.
I see many individuals rushing into the battlefields, ready to stand up, but many still don't know that self care is something they absolutely can not risk not having. Here are a few things I've learned through my activism and work with Mental Illness about Self Care in these cases:
- You are the most important individual. I know it might seem like you're nothing compared to what's at stake, but this is a war for Social Change and Justice and we want you to be around when it's over.
- Find the support you need to process the things you witness. The moment we realize that the world we've been sold is not real, everything changes.
- Find a Mentor to learn from as you're getting into this.
- Create boundaries. I know many of you have individuals in your personal circles that don't share your opinions and will stand in your way. Create boundaries in whichever spheres you need them, whether it's in person, social media, or anything else.
- Learn proper support techniques that will allow you to be empowered by others' stories and not weighed down by them.
- Listen to the minority groups that are being targeted and support them. This is not entirely about self care, but when we start burning out we might stop being intentional about our support and might forget why we're there in the first place. You need the right people around you to make sure you're on the track that you want to be on.
Regardless of your involvement Thank you, and remember; this is a war, it's going to take some time, and we can win this.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Co-Founder of Muslim Community Link, An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of Life in My Days. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on twitter, instagram or facebook.