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The Difficult Choice of Prioritizing My Health During This Time of Civil Unrest

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To whom it may concern,

Curfew has been set in my city and in the cities of my loved ones. We were sheltered in place for COVID-19, and now we hunker down, holding on to loved ones (four-legged and two-legged), breathing and praying for reprieve. Squeezing eyes shut and hopelessly willing things to be better in the morning.

I feel frustrated. I feel hopeless.

Growing up, I was always inspired by the people who put their lives on the line during the movements for civil rights, LGBTQ rights and (other) human rights in the 20th century. I thought that, if given the opportunity, I, too, would do anything to fight for my rights, the rights of others and justice for those who have been disenfranchised by white male heteronormative systems of oppression that are intrinsic to American experiences.

Every time I hear of another murder of a Black person, I feel obligated to watch their last moments, as a way to honor them, recognize them, see them, for whatever it’s worth (because I know the police didn’t see him, or her, or them).

And yet, it takes a toll.

But, all of this is to say that while so much of the country is in turmoil over police brutality of Black bodies, I am choosing my mental and physical health right now. I am struggling with the choice.

As an American Black woman, I feel a responsibility to stand with my community, with my people, to speak out against intolerance and injustice. Recent years have taught us what Black people in America have known for decades: it doesn’t matter who you are, what you’re wearing, or what you do; at the end of the day, you can be slaughtered mercilessly by those in power/law enforcement and the murderers will go home to their families.

Does choosing to prioritize myself make me selfish? And is that a bad thing?

I am in too much pain to march effectively, feeling too depressed to rise from bed before noon… I am too immunocompromised to be in large groups, even with the N-95 mask I was fortunate enough to get.

For those of us who, for whatever reasons, cannot be on the physical “front lines” — for those of us who struggle with the moral obligation to fight for justice and the need to protect our physical and mental health — I argue that we should be forgiving and gentle with ourselves, even though it will be hard. We must recognize the importance of self-preservation to fight another day and the fact that if we march today only to get COVID-19 tomorrow, nothing may be solved.

The choice to prioritize our mental health is a right that our ancestors fought hard for, and we should not ignore it, and we should not take it for granted.

There are a number of ways in which we can be activists and allies while preserving our mental and physical health.

Here are some resources:

Also, through all of this, make sure to check in with your therapist and/or support system. You deserve to be heard.

For me, it’s a daily struggle, sometimes an hourly struggle. I want to be out there, peacefully protesting and letting people know I matter. At the same time, I also know that my ancestors fought for me to choose the right to preserve my mental and physical health so I can continue the fight for the years to come.


A Frustrated (and, Yes, Angry) Black Woman


Photo by Leighann Blackwood on Unsplash

Originally published: June 4, 2020
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