As a bipolar woman in recovery, learning how to develop and maintain self-care is an everyday struggle. It's something I work hard to practice everyday, and I celebrate myself as best I can when I complete the arduous task of taking care of myself.
So here are a few self-care principles I live by and offer to you:
Practice the basics – Eat, sleep, bathe and go outside. These actions may be simple for many, but for those of us who live with mental illness, they can be a struggle. When I can complete my morning routine of getting out of bed, having my morning coffee and cig, medicating and feeding myself and my animals, I know a functional day is possible.
Take a break from the world – Some days, I need to zone out and tap into solitary self-care. I watch a few movies, knit, make jewelry and fight the guilt of just taking it easy. If you need some time to put down work and check out from life, then take it. Know that you are restoring your energy for the challenges of life.
Find a supportive community – Surrounding myself with friends who understand and support me in my struggles is how I keep going. Whether it's a quick coffee with a friend or a phone call, I'm able to share what's going on with me, and lend an ear to the people I care about. That connection keeps me from falling into self-pity and doubt. It provides me with encouragement to continue my self-care journey.
Tap into your creativity – When I write, I fulfill my purpose. Sing, dance, act, make art and collaborate. Do whatever you feel expresses who you are to the world. The feeling of creating something that comes from your heart is priceless.
Seek peace and calm – In seeking everyday wellness, I call on my spiritual practice to find quiet. I meditate, pray, read, listen to music, and take walks. I conjure up the moments that help me find quiet to hear my inner voice and listen. Seeking peace and calm helps me to better understand myself and formulate how I decide to be guided.
Rest – Let's be real, wellness is tiring. Take naps, sleep well, and slow down your body to take much-needed breaks.
Fight – Never give up on yourself and your right to self-care. When I learned I had to care about myself to care for myself, it was a hard pill to swallow. So I faked feeling worthy until feeling worthy started to become a natural response to my everyday life.
As a Queer Black woman, I live in a world that gives up on me, daily. I refuse to give up on myself in response. I advise with all the sisterlove in my heart that you never give up on the self-care you rightfully deserve.
Editor’s Note: If you need further advice on ways to practice forms of self-care, please visit the QTPOC Mental Health group, a place on Facebook for queer & trans people of color to connect with and help one another. Or, seek out an online group that meets your own intersectional needs.
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A fat Black person with long locs sits in the middle of a beach, framed by palm fronds on both sides. They're wearing glasses, a short-sleeved beige shirt, blue shorts, and a long multicolor beaded necklace with a green pendant. Behind them is a pile of pomegranates. In front, objects are arranged on the sand, including candles, crystals, and a crescent moon.
About Cristy C. Road:
A Cuban-American artist, writer, and musician, Road thrives to testify the beauty of the imperfect through unconventional ways of seeing the world. Her obsession with making art [and her emotions] publicly accessible began in her hometown of Miami, FL, where she began making zines in 1997. Her zine turned into a manifesto about being a hyper-sexual, queer, Latina, abuse survivors, and her journey towards self-acceptance.
About Ashley Young:
A queer Black writer, poet and teacher, Ashley has contributed to three anthologies, writes for ELIXHER, and has been featured in Autostraddle. Forthcoming are a collection of poetry and prose, "Chronicles of Bipolar Living," and her first novel, a biomythography "The Liberation of the Black Unicorn." A 2010 VONA Poetry fellow and 2011 Lambda Literary Fellow, she lives in NYC with her wife, four wild cats, and sweet service dog.
Often, I wonder if I love women because I’m tired of being hurt by men. In effect, I have the same question many queer survivors have: am I queer because I was abused?
I’m not doing it on purpose, I promise. But when I’m in the bathroom alone I look at myself in the mirror and I go to a dark place within my own body, somewhere that I haven’t yet exorcised and burnt incense in.
Once I began to receive my benefits, I began to distance myself from an idea that productivity defines whether I am deserving of respect.
I don't know what God meant to do by putting something so un-straight on top of a head so un-straight, but there are reasons they say this is unmanageable / Not because it is impossible to love, or to care for, but because it is impossible to subdue.
I’d like to think of this as a chance to force people to confront the differences between sex and romance. They don't always coexist.
I know that I am good enough. I am whole. I am beautiful as I am. I am love as I am. I look in the mirror and see the spark in my deep brown eyes that reflects all the love I feel in my heart. I’ve come Black to Peace. Black to Power. Black to Love.
Dissociation makes perfect sense when folks have constantly been abused, silenced, socialized a particular way, oppressed, and constantly have had boundaries broken, or don’t even know what their boundaries are.
It took me a long time to adjust. To re-adjust. To redefine. The moment I started to speak in a language for myself, that was crafted around the way I want to understand myself, the clock began moving at a pace that felt eternally sacred.
Yes, you are smart. Yes, your friend is smart. Yes, your loved one is smart. And yet, the act of using our emotional intelligence rather than logic in supporting each other is truly one of the smartest ways we can respond to life’s challenges.
We all deserve healing. Yet many of us are still fighting for that basic ingredient, rest. Each decision to resist capitalist pressures, to disengage from harmful systems of power and truly rest, is a transcendental moment. But who has the power to make that choice?