I have spent the last week in an emotional spiral. I have been feeling the weird ups and downs of grief and loss combined with the fact that I have been fighting a depressive episode for months already. I had just barely started to claw my way out when the election happened and now? It’s like my emotions are in freefall. I have so many conflicting and confused emotions and reactions about all this. I can’t make sense of them, and I’m terrified that doing anything will be responding to the wrong emotion or somehow making things worse for the people of the world (including myself and the people I love).
I care, is the problem. I care so deeply, and I know a lot of the people who join us here at Can’t Talk do, too. We all care so much about each other, the planet, the world of people who are going to suffer as a result of this political climate. We, each in a unique way, are the people who are going to be hurt by this climate: We are people of color, we are women, we are not in the gender binary, we are queer, we are mentally ill, we are religious minorities or atheists, we are disabled, we are disenfranchised in myriad ways. We are angry, we are suffering, and when that happens it becomes easy to lash out or turn inward. I’m a turn inward kind of person; I just dissolve into nothingness bolstered by Netflix and my couch. If I don’t move, if I barely breathe, maybe I won’t mess up and hurt someone worse than they are already hurting. I can’t imagine I’m alone here, although it feels that way.
One of the things I like best about trainings with The Daring Way are the permission slips. At the outset of each tough day, we are asked to give ourselves permission. Dr. Brené Brown talks about putting permission slips in her pocket when she gives public talks or is about to do something difficult. All week last week I sat with stunned and hurting people, and we gave ourselves permission. Here are some things I want to give myself, and you reading this, permission to do right now:
- Permission to not follow the news all the time. Find a few trusted advisers who aren’t triggered and upset and ask them to keep you gently informed.
- Permission to feel whatever you feel without shame for it—even if it doesn’t make sense or seems wrong or unkind. You don’t have to act on those feelings, just feel them.
- Permission to breathe. Take a moment, be right here and nowhere else.
- Permission to make mistakes. A lot of people are very angry right now. It’s easy to mistakenly trigger the people you care about; your friends and coworkers and neighbors are angry. It’s normal to screw it up. I know you care deeply and want to get it right.
- Permission to reach out. Ask for help. Keep asking, and if whomever you asked isn’t up for it right now, that’s OK, too. Ask someone else. You can get support and asking for it isn’t wrong (you can ask me, specifically).
- Permission to hole up. Maybe you’re not able to support anyone right now. That’s OK. You’ll be back.
- Permission to try things. Just in case you’re totally frozen like I am, I give you permission to move any direction you think might feel OK and help you and others. If you mess up, go back to being allowed to make mistakes. If you want some ideas, check Can’t Talk’s Twitter feed; we’re trying to post action items there when we find them.
- Permission to not do all the things. For example, I learned that when you want to contact a state representative that calling is better than writing a letter, which is better than emailing, which is better than social media contact. However, not all of us have the ability to call due to mental illness triggers. So, pick which one in the chain works for you. Don’t let shame paralyze you; do what you can when you can and honor that.
Any of these and more are allowed. Write it down and slip it in your pocket for some extra permission to do what you feel is best for you right now. You’re worth it.