a dual perspective on social activism in the face of mental illness

We believe in the importance of a dual perspective when highlighting voices in eating disorder recovery. Whether you’re the carer or the person in recovery, it is important to cultivate a dynamic dialogue to ensure both voices are heard.

We’ve decided to write a joint, collaborative post that depicts the value of this dual perspective during a recent challenging time. We almost recorded ourselves but decided to save you from the awkwardness. We also saved CJ from an exposure (listening to her voice on video). Caregivers need exposure therapy too!

Given the apparent inability to escape the current political climate, we’re both needless to say, overwhelmed with heavy emotions ranging from rage to sadness to despair to shit-i-need-to-look-at-more-cat-videos-stat (that’s an emotion, right?). During a time when satirical, dystopian messages are now actually lived experience, we’re carving out new territory individually and in our relationship as well.

Despite feeling similarly distraught over not knowing what to do or how to do it, there was some tension a couple of weeks ago in our relationship. The policies of the current administration were not only dividing our country, but were coming between us and the love we have for each other. OH, HELL NO, TRUMP! You ain’t comin’ anywhere near this:

We both felt like the other person was judging our reactions and responses to the events that were going on in our country and communities. Although we both experienced unadulterated outrage, it manifested itself differently.We mistook each other’s individual actions as futile, rather than as an opportunity to process our emotions together. During a time when connection with those we love feels of utmost importance, this disconnect intensified the deep, personal and collective pain so many of us are experiencing right now. We both felt more isolated despite being in each other’s company.

[[this is where the video would have started]] 🙂

CJ: I’ve realized that the way in which OJ and I deal with “larger world” issues differs. For instance, OJ’s actions tend to be rooted in a deeper sense of self including both her limitations and strengths. She understands that her mental illness prevents her from taking part in large protests, and her creativity and other strengths leave her searching for tangible ways to partake in the resistance. I, on the other hand, have recently found myself buried in an information-induced bubble. I have been constantly jumping from article to article and exploring new sources of every possible perspective. The constant bombardment of information enables me to feel more informed, yet at the same time has kept me paralyzed and overwhelmed.

OJ: I picked up on CJ’s frustration when I would ask her to stop reading an article or when I told her that I couldn’t accompany her to the state house for a protest. Here’s the thing, though – I wasn’t avoiding reality. I wasn’t trying to shield myself from the current pains of the world, rather, I was trying to figure out how I could act in a way that felt manageable for me during this abusive administration. If CJ and I were reading an article together, I knew she was scheming action. Looking at CJ’s Facebook feed gives me a little bit of anxiety given the number of political and social justice events she was intending to attend at the same time. Not surprisingly, my anxiety has been fueling the urge to remain small (uh-oh, ED trigger) despite the false promise of safety.

With admittedly some shame, I’m beginning to accept that certain forms of resistance are inaccessible to those of us with extreme anxiety (and other mental and physical illnesses too). I’m trying to alter my urge to BE small into an urge to START small.

I believe that by showing compassion to fellow humans in our close proximity, we can create a culture that feels less physically and emotionally disconnected. Over the past few weeks or so, I’ve observed that people, in general, seem to be disconnected and fearful. It seems so important to remember during times like this that it is not inconsequential how we treat our neighbors.

CJ: I began to see how OJ’s mental illness, including her anxiety, was playing into her reaction and how she wished to act in response to the same political agenda that I have. I realized, through a greater sense of compassion, that by no means is it easy or futile to show up at a march or a protest. I gained a clear understanding of this during a recent protest that I participated in that had very few spaces to get out of the crowd, eat, see what was around you, etc. It would have been nice to have my partner by my side, but I knew that was not feasible and that is okay.

OJ: It helped that CJ had this first-hand experience of seeing why it would be difficult for me to attend these “bigger” moments. While CJ was judging me for not reading enough because she thought this meant I didn’t care, I was judging her for getting too bogged down. Once we were finally able to disclose this to one another, we were able to be more emotionally angry and vocally irate together with the understanding that our emotions were likely the same, but that our actions may differ. AND THAT IS A-OK. The answer to all of the injustice is to do good regardless.

CJ: Once we started to connect again, I realized that it was feeling disconnected from OJ that was making me feel like I couldn’t handle my emotions. If I were to relate this to my role as a carer, it was interesting to see how things sort of flipped in this situation. When OJ was in the depths of her eating disorder, we were entirely disconnected and I tried everything to amend that. During the past couple of weeks, OJ has shown me just how helpful connecting to others can be in terms of improving my mood, as well as helping guide me to reach my own goals.

 

So remember, you can be a social activist. There is not one right way to act. Check in with yourself. No matter how we act, we all have to find a way to compromise with and reconcile the angry resisters, the fearful citizens, and the cozy hermits that live inside of us. By connecting with our self and with others, all of these parts are capable of learning peaceful cohabitation.

In strength and healing and in love and support,

OJ and CJ

 

feature image via etownian

a dual perspective on social activism in the face of mental illness

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