talking about the activist blues
Activism can be an invigorating practice, kicking up adrenaline that keeps you going, going for the win. But what does this mean for our minds? Thinking about the same thing and moving on it all the time can mean lead to not having time to eat well, to stress, tension and tightness, malaise, anxiety and so on. These things similarly occur in politics, community organizing and other kinds of work where the stakes are high and the work doesn't stop.
Many environmentalists and those working on social justice long-term get periods of despair and even depression. Others in this work may happen to be susceptible to depression and other forms of mental illness - and this kind of life can act as a trigger. Different issues in life may also be pressing as well. The state of the world bearing down can add to the feelings.
At a time when austerity measures are proposed for already reduced social programs, and environmental targets are being weakened with little hope of reaching necessary climate or biodiversity goals, things look grim. On the other hand, much strength and possibility can be found in a rising up of movements - I've seen this all over recently, at many levels. Though a particularly sad time, in the wake of Jack Layton's death, a new possibility of citizen leadership may bring what we need.
I've also noticed friends getting more into creative activism. This work needs more than protest, it needs positive motivation, song, food and community.
‘Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear.’
...Let's arrive at that together. If you're not feeling it, don't feel worse about yourself. Talk about it and see what strategies you can take to get on the right track. I've become very used to seeing signs of depression in people - it is truly very common - and talking about it openly with those who want to. As Dave Meslin wrote in a blog that struck a chord last year, we need to be open about talking about depression, suicide, therapy and medication.
I have been stressed and overworked before, but I am lucky not to have reached depression. I luckily have learned how to balance more, to take some weekend breaks from work, figured out mindfulness and meditation, and learned to chill out with a couple friends who are much better at that than I am. A great advisory which I've oft turned to and share, comes from the late Tooker Gomberg, a visionary of modern activism in Toronto and Canada. His "letter to an activist" shares this hope that you will take up a diverse, enjoyable life that it will keep you in it for the long haul. Please take a look.
A balanced life is the way to go. But it's important to share more ideas, because I think we've just scratched the surface of this - please share thoughts and experiences to help us figure out how to keep going and winning "sustainably" and "resiliently". Do it for Tooker and for Jack, but do it for yourself as well.
Recommended reading: The World We Have, Thich Nhat Hanh