About a year or two ago when there seemed to be an influx in the very public murdering of black men and women on social media, I became very intentional about distinguishing what needs to be seen and known to advance justice for those innocent people versus what is necessary for me to maintain a certain level of self-care.
As James Baldwin said, "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time." But as an empathetic person who internalizes all pain, I wasn't just enraged, I was sad and discouraged. I was tired.
And when you're that "relatively woke" friend, there's a good chance that your friends are sending you a heavy rotation of content on the daily in their own blinding outrage...and rage rage.
Do I want the government censoring the senseless murders of their doing? Yeeea--No. Maybe? That's a thought I constantly straddle when asking myself what I want from the media I consume, being well-aware that trauma can occur when taking in all the violence against black people. Whichever side of the fence I fall on, I had to become intentional about what I was allowing my mind to take in and the frequency at which I was doing so.
I'll be the first to ring the alarm on outrageous bullshit hot on the streets, but I also try to respect my zen ass subconscious when it says enough is enough and then try to extend that respect to others.
I feel too deeply and too empathetically to expose myself to day-to-day news, so I stopped cold turkey.
To watch the news is to be informed, allegedly, but it is also a life sentence to the therapist that I'm currently out paying of my pocket. However, because people have come to know me as the "rah, rah" friend, they shoot me texts and direct messages of the most current traumatic news and what we're all guilty of, myself included, is sending that message without avail or shooting our fellow sis a "trigger warning" text, first.
This is something I'm navigating in my awareness of what these types of news stories can do to our mental health, and while I have not gotten it down pact completely, I've learned a thing or two and I would like to share it with you.
Know Your Triggers
I learned that not all social media is created equally long ago, personally, this has also come to mean that not every platform requires so much of my energy. Since discovering this, I sometimes have to pause and find the social media source of my angst. I surveyed my emotion when getting on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram right after the R. Kelly documentary. The act of logging into Facebook would tie my stomach up in all type of knots, so I deleted the app for a while. No need to make a dramatic announcement, just sign the hell out.
Bottom line is this: Be aware of your triggers! If you can't pinpoint them, how will you expect friends to do so and create proper boundaries?
Protect Your Boundaries At All Costs
I've seen black people insist that we expose ourselves to every bit of violence against black bodies so we don't forget the cause. Let's be clear, our bodies and souls have not forgotten centuries of trauma and as it stands, there is not much we can do to shake that sh*t. Transgenerational trauma is a real thing, and I promise - like the walls of an ancient cave - the trauma is branded on every part of our being.
You do not have to subject yourself to violence against to work towards justice. It is your prerogative to tell your friends, family or whoever to kindly stop sending you footage of events that trigger you in any shape or form. It feels weird at first, but you can't prop anyone else up until you're mentally there. That includes helping friends dissect their own feelings in these dialogues or fighting for justice against these tragic events.
Yes, I understand the ever present fear of complacency, but living in a constant state of fear and trauma while waiting for the justice we will likely never see? That ain't it.
Be Mindful Of What You Share & Repost
I saw a video on my timeline of a young woman being raped in a club and with good intention, many people continued to post the video in order to find her assailant. Thing is, we must be mindful in what we're circulating on the internet, as this content can potentially trigger others who have been sexually assaulted, and sharing this could be further traumatizing the current victim. We walk a fine line, social media can help to produce results while also being responsible for regression and we must be mindful of this.
But also, hold space for others who may not want to share your outrage in that moment. Ask questions like "have you seen…?" before sending over full videos, which can be tempting in a technologically advanced world. However, a video is harder to filter out especially when sent with zero context. So minimally, do that for your friends to avoid accidentally triggering them.
Maybe you know all of this, maybe you don't. Either way, I felt someone needed to hear this and release themselves from being exposed to the mistreatment of our people in addition to the everyday tragedies impacting the general public (racial identity aside). In the words of Audre Lorde, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgent, it is self-preservation. And that is an act of political warfare."
Be reminded of how the fight starts within and move accordingly. I truly believe self-care is critical to our survival as a people in all regards. Lay the cape down and take care of yourself. There is nothing more urgent than your mental health.
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Originally published March 8, 2019
Featured image by Getty Images