We can't continue publishing without community support!
Rest for Resistance finds pride in providing space for queer & trans people of color (QTPoC) to share their work and create alternative mental health resources.
Articles and artwork like these are only possible through your contributions. Please donate today to sustain the work of artists, writers, healers, and everyday QTPoC.
In a world where we can see such horror, where need is televised and known, where every inch of the globe seems to be weeping in some kind of sorrow, and where so many people down the street and in our lives are afraid for their very safety, how do we help each other and not die?
I know for some of us, it doesn’t literally feel like dying. But getting tapped for support means a huge loss of mental energy, the same energy that keeps us going. When we are targeted as much as those we’re trying to help, that takes a toll and can impact our survival.
I got a social work degree a while ago – plus the millions of self-care speeches that come with it. Some are decent, and some downright condescending and annoying. So let’s fast forward through all of those and move on to a different way of thinking about self-care.
In this vein, I use a particular idea that comes from spending way too much time watching M*A*S*H as a child.
[CN: mention of blood]
Think about donating blood, a physical act that helps others heal.
You have to have time in between giving blood to someone who needs it. You have to eat food and replenish those cells. There’s only so much blood you can give in your body and only so much you can give safely. If you don’t rest and give too much, you can die, and the supply ends.
But if you rest, take breaks, eat food and replenish, the supply can continue, and you can help many more people than you could with just the current contents of your body.
And if you have days where you are anemic, or lacking in iron, or just too tired and you need that blood for yourself, that’s cool. There will be other blood donors. You can give again later.
The world won’t stop needing blood, any more than it will stop needing people who care for and help others. (Unless we invent synthetic blood or something like that, but go with me here.)
Your need to replenish does not mean you are denying the world your ability to help.
It means you are maintaining yourself for the world and for yourself. Because let’s not forget, we get to live and be alive and not be actively miserable 24/7 too. That’s ok. It might not feel ok some days, but that is ok.
And if this feels like a cop out or feels impossible or feels somehow wrong, that’s cool. I struggle with this concept almost every single day. Because somewhere along the line, I got the idea that helping people meant denying myself. That if I took something for myself, it meant I was stealing from someone else.
I’m not saying that there aren’t aspects of privilege where we have to be careful about how our actions affect others, and we do have to be conscious of the possibility of creating self-care that isn’t acknowledging what others may have to do to provide for our care.
But if we can only care for ourselves after going through three thousand permutations of compulsion on whether it might, possibly theoretically, not be the best plan for the world and ourselves, we end up with what my good friend Jessy calls “the bell pepper problem.”
Jessy went into the grocery store to buy a bell pepper. While he looked at the bell peppers, he wondered if they should buy organic or not.
Then he wondered if organic pesticides were really better.
Then he wondered if organic was really creating food economies that were unsustainable for other people, or if buying organic meant being co-opted into movements that held within them elements of classism.
This continued for some time.
He eventually left the store without a bell pepper that he needed for the meal he planned to cook himself that evening, and so his sustenance of his body that was necessary for life became a source of anxiety and self-flagellation.
Now I’m not saying that we can’t always do without the “bell peppers” in our life. Sometimes, we don’t need the thing we’ve gone to get, or there’s a reason to look into the source of sustenance.
Yet when you are hungry and in need, you have to eat something.
When you are tapped in your heart and soul, something must fill that space. That something may have some aspects to it that you aren’t psyched about or may be a complicated act for you. Yes, we can find the most ethical options, and we can find the most eco-friendly and yes, we should many times, if we can afford it and if fits within our ethics.
But when you are hungry, you must eat. Hunger will not disappear because there is injustice in the world. Need will not disappear because you are tired. It will continue to exist.
You are a finite resource.
You are a gift to this universe, in some way, which you may not know yet or you may know. Your finite self has some limitations that are not negotiable, but may be different from person to person.
Our denial of our needs (and to be clear, needs, not wants) does not create a more just world. There are aspects of denial that could create a more just world, and I am sure if you are reading, you may know some. But food, shelter, safety and caring relationships are not those things. Those are necessary to all.
I will close with part of one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese.” It’s not perfect, but it is good enough.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
We need community support to continue publishing!
Articles and artwork like these are only possible through your contributions. Please donate today to sustain the wellbeing of artists, writers, healers, and LGBTQ2IA+ people of color.
You can also support our team by picking up
a Rest for Resistance print zine.
A dark-skinned person is lying down on a bed with orange sheets. The shot is close to focus on the face and torso as the person relaxes. Their eyes are closed, locs splayed on the bed. One arm is raised and wearing a blue wrap bracelet and a beaded bracelet with a hand-shaped charm.
About Seynabou Thiam:
Seynabou (Nanette) Thiam is an African queer artist living in D.C. after 27 years of hopping around the globe. Photography, writing, painting and henna tattooing are a few of her loves. She is also an energetic healer and loves to read the tarot for herself and others. See her artwork at @negrotesque and @twocameracats on Instagram.
About Shivani Seth:
Shivani is a queer 2nd generation Punjabi-American living in the Midwest. Her work and interests include social work, improvisational theater and intersectional activism. Discover more of their writing on Social Work Revolt and Twitter @ShivaniSeth05.
By every measure, I’m getting better. But here’s the confession I’d like to make: Sometimes, I wish I never got better, and I wish I were still in my bed.
Don't forget to pencil in plenty of time to rest this year. Here's when and how to rest in 2018 for each sign.
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?
Sign up for our monthly newsletter to ensure you don't miss what Rest for Resistance does next.
We are here, and we are healing by taking up more space through kink.
HALT stands for never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
I think if I were to describe the feeling it would be an empty black hole that you’re alone in and you can’t find a way out because it’s so deep, and every hour someone passes by this hole and throws a brick at you.
The media coverage granted to trans folks now doesn’t reflect true visibility. Our stories will be obscured until transgender individuals are trusted to represent ourselves.
I made sure to carve separate spaces where these feelings could breathe and expand to their fullest extent.
The best tricks are the ones that keep you alive. This is the one I invented for myself to soothe me in my lonely nights. I call it my most beautiful illusion, it's me at my most honest but nonetheless still a lie.
Lighting candles, burning sage, going to therapy, accessing medication, praying, giving offerings to the ancestors have all been ways that I heal at the intersections of my beautifully complex existence.
I am doing my best to prioritize self-care. I am redirecting anger into providing information on Puerto Rico’s colonial status; however I cannot dissociate from the heartache. No action can eliminate the exhaustion and the sorrow.
I was later to realize that it was all about control.
love demands time / to break borders and / to build bridges. / so give yourself time and / the honour to love. / so give yourself the care / to love your own soul / and oneness of existence.
I learned about Sufism, Jainism, Kemetism, Buddhism, Shinto, ancestor worship, Hoodoo, and many other ways of being. I learned about myself.
I don't have Diabetes or any of my other Illnesses and Disabilities because I'm Fat. I am not Fat because I am lazy, have low self-esteem, lack self-control, don't know how to eat properly, or any of the other disturbing ideas you have imposed upon me and other Fat bodies.
My immigrant mother is a Korean herbalist and healer. She sang and talked to her plants, viewing them as living things that felt vibrations. She bestowed my body with the magical protection of her prayers and murmured blessings on me when I lay feverish in my bed as a child
On low-energy, high-burnout days, I’m still feeding the cycle of working too much, not really resting, and definitely not feeling restored. To pay down rest debt, I have to notice when I’m doing this and give myself permission to pull back.
Each interview is a gold mine, a feast of quotes to be hung up on walls, tattooed on arms, and copied in notebooks. A flurry of words to hold close on nights when being seen seems impossible and it feels as if no one else in the world knows who or what you are.
I think of the story she told me of stealing fruit from her grandfather’s shrine to Ogun. I want to reach past her and my Christian grandparents, pluck that fruit, and make an offering of it.
Until a violent person takes accountability and creates change in their patterns of behavior, the best thing to do is limit the harm being caused.
Every day that passes, I have come to know who I am a little bit more, and I like who I am. I have a life and a future out there in the free world, and resting for resistance keeps me sane so that I can avoid any issues that might keep me here any longer.
The role models I had access to were white, affluent and held a lot of disdain for women with lives different than theirs. But back then they had an image, and their way to be trans was what I had.
You refuse to engage with your abuser. Their presence reopens old wounds. You try to heal but it hurts. You like a worm on a bamboo stick hooked on the teeth of lies. Pain pushes you to find silence somewhere.
Celebrating our struggles and successes, and what we can learn from them, is far more meaningful than a mere style parade that glamorizes binary identities, heteronormative rights, and impossible-to-maintain beauty standards.
Not only are mental health and racism deeply intertwined, but that connection is too often overlooked or denied. Intersectional mental health isn’t neat and tidy, with one problem over here and the other over there, and the messiness is what we need support to work through
When abusers deny us our reality, it’s gaslighting. When we enact that denial on ourselves, it’s equal parts survival skill and self-harm. Yet we have the ability to change how we treat ourselves, even if we can't change how others treat us.
Intersectional spaces are invaluable for creating a truly humanistic view of people whose voices and stories are often marginalized, distorted, or entirely erased.
When our experiences and identities are erased from history, from our lineages, from our traditional systems of community, we can only see ourselves through the negative lenses that remain.
every villain is often a caricature of marginalised identities, and every hero is a glorified image of the world that wants to destroy me and those I love.