The challenge of service providers is to ensure that we are able and capable of reaching those who are entrusted to our care. This becomes a more difficult proposition when you consider service providers often have their own concerns when it comes to their personal mental health.
Services available to professionals are severely limited and it is far too often left up to the professional to self-asses and remedy their own issues. Depression and Anxiety are the chief adversaries of professionals who offer counseling and therapy to the masses.
So this month we asked individuals who “heal” for a living how exactly they go about healing themselves and coping with what they identify as it goes with the territory kinds of issues.
What follows is poinent note on Self-Care provided by North Carolina based LCSW and founder of The Healing Collaberative, PLLC Mrs. Charnessa Pleasant.
Activism and the Critical Need to Employ Self-Care
By Charnessa K. Pleasant, LCSW, MLS
I bowl on Wednesday nights. Every week for one night, I attempt to turn off my therapist mind and I bowl. I slap high fives with fellow bowlers when they strike and offer chants of encouragement when they are having an “off night”. And for three hours a week, I cheer and am cheered on. I am relaxed, I may even drink the occasional beer (or three) and I give myself permission to intentionally “check out”.
I need those moments.
No, seriously! I really need those moments.
Those moments are not a luxury. Rather, those moments actually work to preserve and save my life. See, what you may not know is that when I intentionally “check out”, I am choosing to mentally walk away from the high demands of working in community mental health.
I work with client’s who live with severe and persistent mental illnesses (SPMI); I serve people living with Schizophrenia. I have a budding private practice as well. A good portion of my day is invested in holding space as people attempt to work through difficult spots in their lives. Suffice it to say that my work can become exhausting. I need to bowl. I want the beer!
When word broke last Tuesday of MarShawn McCarrel’s suicide in Ohio, something in my spirit sank. A more accurate description is numbness; I was overcome with feelings of numbness. This isn’t because I knew him in a profound way; I didn’t know him at all. I knew of his work as an activist within the Black Lives Matter Movement; I knew that he was 23 years old and I knew that he was too damn young to be dead.
I poured over numerous articles reporting his death, needing to learn more about the young man who is gone well before his time. I silently saluted as I read of his last act before he passed away: “Let the record show that I pissed on the state house before I left” (the location of where he chose to die is not lost on me). I cried when I read of one his last post which stated “The demons won today, I’m sorry”. His demons won today. His demons won today. I haven’t been able to stop uttering those last words”. I quietly whisper to his traveling spirit, “Which ones?”
Was it the “demons” of struggle, triggers, burnout, unhealed wounds, falsely imposed super hero status, the constant giving of oneself; you know, those “demons” that are experienced by many who are engaged in the work of healing and activism. Or are they the ones that come visit with you when you’re not “on”; the ones who push you pass logical reasoning because parts of you feel that you haven’t done enough (those “demons exists in the flesh as well, but that’s for another time). The legions are many.
I do not purport to know the answer to the aforementioned question I asked of Marshawn but what I am aware of is that our activism, if not carefully monitored, has a way of completely absorbing all facets of our existence. Our love and compassion for justice viciously contorts in ways that overrides our basic need to take care of ourselves; our need to step back and breath; our need to remember that preservation of self matters above all.
Before we know it, we see that we helped others secure their air masks before we’ve secured our own. I think about Marshawn and wonder if, in his pursuit of justice, did he forget to secure his mask? Did the demands of activism not create space enough for him to? Did it not give him permission to? Was he guilted and/or shamed at any point for wanting to take a step back? Was there something ailing him before he took a platform to advocate? I have so many questions. I want to talk to him on those stairs…sigh.
Self-care is a critical component of this work. I am bias to the position that it is THE most important part of any form of activism. And I would also argue that it is the most underutilized tool in our fight for justice and equality. Many of us may not know how to employ self-care. Self care is not just about doing the things we enjoy. It goes a bit deeper than that.
Effective self-care is a practice in mindfulness. It is a practice of witnessing ourselves as we enjoy the things that brings us relaxation, happiness. Equally, it is also a practice of witnessing emotions and feelings that are uncomfortable and hard to confront. It requires being fully present in the moment with yourself in total abandonment of anything else. It is in the here and now that we begin to hear what we stand in need of.
In the coming weeks, it is my hope to present the healers, activists and all who stand in need of self-care ways in which we can activate and insert this critical tool into the foundation of the work we do every day. I want to give myself space to present something meaningful and challenging. I want to ask questions that requires exploration of our healing/activist work. In the meantime, I’m cuprous as to how you all have created self-care in the foundation of your work in a way that sustains not only the activism being brought forth, but also for the change agents that are critical to moving justice forward.
To learn more about what Mrs. Charnessa Pleasants has to offer the community go to The Healing Collaberative,PLLC and initiate a conversation.
As usual, I invite you to leave a comment below. I would love to hear your take on this issue.
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Until next time,