After traumatic events, it’s important to take time for self-care.
Queer and transgender communities of color are still in shambles over the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. While we process this tragedy and mourn those who died, we may forget to care for some very important people as well — ourselves. Here are 4 ways you can practice self-care after the Pulse tragedy.
1. Fall back from social media
While radical vulnerability on social media is important, sometimes we need to take breaks. Yes, it’s good to share our feelings, knowledge and experiences. However, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed — especially when you’re mentally ill. For me personally, the first day after the shooting (Sunday) was the most difficult, seeing everyone’s shock and their despair. Especially my friends who don’t have community around them in real life. Seeing folks reacting to updates from the media — it was all too much. It just reminded me more and more that my Brown queer/trans body isn’t safe anywhere.
On top of seeing the experiences of my fellow QTPOC friends, seeing all of the Islamophobia, whitewashing, silencing and co-opting of the Black and Brown queer/trans struggle was extremely draining for me. I definitely know I’m not the only one.
Falling back from social media for most of the day was the right choice for me and my mental health. And I made sure to let my friends and family online know that I’d have Facebook messenger open if they needed me. Many friends of mine had to take a break from Facebook because seeing all the news and seeing our friends so sad and emotionally depleted made us more anxious and drained than we already were.
2. Avoid news updates and reports.
Much like taking breaks from social media, avoiding news updates — whether online or on television — can be vital. It can be very triggering to hear graphic details of what happened that night or to see video footage. Not to mention all of the collateral damage the media is leaving in its wake by scapegoating other marginalized communities that intersect with trans/queerness (especially mentally ill people and Muslim queer and transgender folks).
Seeing all the disgustingly violent and blatant Islamophobia and ableism directed at Omar Mateen has been upsetting at best. It’s been horrific to witness such toxicity in the media, but I think it’s even more horrific that many of us are left feeling numb and unsurprised it’s the same scapegoating we’ve witnessed in mass attacks prior to this.
3. Find a safe space.
If this shooting has taught us anything, it’s that our bodies are not safe, even in spaces that have become sanctuaries, or deemed safe for us and our community. Those are very valid observations. Sometimes, though, we need to seek safety on a smaller scale. This safety zone doesn’t have to be a public place like a bar or a drop-in center. It can be your friend’s house, your parent/family’s house, hell — even your bedroom under your blankets. Wherever you can find safety and community — whether it be long term or momentarily — having a safe space to exist as you are and not feel threatened is so incredibly important. Not only is it important for our physical well-being but our mental health as well.
Along with just about every political or social movement comes artists and creators rising up through their creativity. This isn’t to say that you should capitalize on this tragedy, or create content that centers around recent events. Draw or write about anything. Photograph anything. Crochet, paint, color, knit, sew, sing, dance — just create!
Stamp the things that bring you joy into this Earth. Immerse yourself in the things that you love, in the hobbies that have held you when no one else was around. Channel your rage, anger, fright and anxieties into the work if you wish, but mostly do it because there is resistance and resilience in the joy you find from doing something you love. That’s the most important thing.
Of course there is an infinite number of ways in which we can practice self-care. Things like taking baths, reading, listening to music, watching movies, and so on. But also in smaller ways, like eating, washing up, reaching out for help, allowing ourselves space to be mentally ill, etc.
Please friends, take your time. We are processing all of this, and we should do it at our own pace, in our own time. It’s crucial that we take care of each other as a community, but we also need to take care of ourselves. After all, how can we uplift our community if we’re too depleted? We need to try to not over-extend ourselves. We need to practice self-care for our own survival and as a form of resistance.
Take things slowly. Listen to your body. Be sure to let it rest when it needs. Be sure to eat and stay hydrated. Don’t forget to take your medication for the day. Remind yourself that you are worthy — worthy of love, worthy of living safely in your truth, of joy, of community. Most importantly, remember that taking care of yourself is not selfish! We deserve to care for ourselves, especially in the wake of such a tragedy.