Ask Ashleigh: Are You Really Broke?
Every time I write or post publicly about my pain with my depression, struggling with surviving antiblackness, living in poverty, and my suicidal thoughts, seven times out of 10 no one believes I’m really hurting as bad I say I am.
Let me be clear: I know I have people that support me, see me, and validate me. But I also know that when I talk about how broke I am — and why being broke blocks most of the solutions that would help my mental, physical and stability issues — it makes people feel extremely uncomfortable and/or extremely suspicious.
It’s so interesting how people can’t wait to interrogate, invalidate or be suspicious of your pain and poverty if you’re too vocal and lucid about it. If you’re too cogent, you must be lying. If you’re too high functioning, you must be faking it. If you’re too bright, there’s no truth to your darkness. If you’re too strong, you’re denied vulnerability. If you’re too apt to find survival mechanisms, you must not need help.
The fact that I can pathologize myself while being suicidal, while being depressed as fuck, while being hungry as fuck, while being traumatized as fuck, while being broke as fuck, while surviving constant antiblack violence, is a result of adaption to consistent white supremacist capitalist violence — and never being heard, which is also violence.
The numbing of pain and violence, the defense mechanisms cultivated out of forced survival in a world trying to kill you and the self-actualization and identification tools you create and research in order to define your reality as anything other than crazy is all a result of navigating antiblack violence.
In creating a platform for my work and activism, I never imagined using it to ask for help to survive. I never imagined that people would value any labor I do in writing and organizing enough to want to make sure I’m OK. But I also deal with the constant clocking of what I have and if I’m scamming the world. Often, there’s an interrogation around “looking good” and performing mental health wellness that makes my struggle of being impoverished and suicidal oxymoronic. Or the weight of folks thinking social capital equates to inherent financial stability.
I had to teach myself, and learn from my loved ones, how to name what I need and how to survive a world trying to kill me. If I say I need money, why are there folks angry at me? Why do so many people question if I’m telling the truth? Why are some averse to acknowledging how antiblackness operates through capitalism? Why can’t folks pass around my fundraiser as quickly as they do for black people murdered by police? Why are we willing to donate to funerals but not rent? Why is lived black struggle so normalized that we can easily ignore it over dead black bodies?
Our people are dying every day. They may be physically present, but we are being drained of life, energy, sustainability and joy every second we are not emotionally and financially cared for and supported. But seemingly, we only know how to show up when our people die. And even then, we only highlight death of Black folks in specific, hierarchical ways that exclude the black women, femmes, queer, and trans folks harmed everyday.
I know our folks don’t always have the time to give a fuck about all the niggas struggling in their spaces, on their timelines, on their streets. But I do know that it imperative that we challenge each other to realize that struggle doesn’t have one face, one type of performance, or given look. Rather, is a reality for most Black queer and trans people that won’t even open their mouths to get fed out of shame. Believe niggas who say they’re struggling — because it takes that much work to name it.
Ashleigh Shackelford is a queer, nonbinary Black fat femme writer, artist, and cultural producer. Ashleigh is a contributing writer at Wear Your Voice Magazine and For Harriet. Read more at Facebook.com/AshleighShackelford. Support my emotional and intellectual labor by donating to: PayPal.me/AshleightheLion.