Standing up against oppression is righteous, but risky, behavior. It’s hard work, both physically and emotionally. A much too large percentage of activists burn out and disappear from their communities because the frustrations and injuries from fighting an uphill battle, of which we may never ourselves reap the rewards, can be demoralizing and traumatic. Sharing our feelings about the difficulties of working on the frontlines is a crucial form of solidarity and friendship.
Society provides few options for people in crisis other than mental hospitals, religion, and psychiatric drugs. The value of freedom, love, and community do not end when you’re in crisis. In fact, they can save your life. The key is empowerment—What do you feel really helps? Examples:
-A mutual support group is simply peers listening to and helping peers as equals—validating, if not “endorsing” feelings. You can learn to form one yourself. Or ask community resource organizations for lists of ongoing groups. Shop around: some groups push the mainstream, disempowering, medication-based mental health system. Though in a pinch, finding any group may be helpful for validation of your situation if you find yourself without any support.
-Natural nutritional and herbal approaches include vitamins, St John’s Wort, etc. Eat healthy and/or consult an herbalist.
-Practicing meditation or spiritual disciplines may help you relax. However, joining a cult is not therapeutic, so take care not to have your vulnerability exploited by a seemingly perfectly nice bunch of people who promise to rescue you.
-Try to remember to breathe.
-Ecopsychology is realizing that nature and wilderness are our greatest healers. Spend some time outside the city to get centered and get away from pollution, which is in itself mind-altering.
-Exercise, dance, biking, and physical movement often prove helpful for depression, etc.
-Art, writing a journal, making a zine, playing music, singing, and other forms of personal expression are often safe ways to break the silence with others, and even yourself, about inner pain.
-Acupuncture, massage, and other bod work can be a way for others to give your whole self some gentle attention.
-Respite: In other words, focus off the crisis and onto what you find joyful for a while, until you can gather more resources.
-Don’t neglect your basic human needs: sleep, eating, shelter, fresh air, etc.
-Keep in mind that some current emotional crises may be caused by traumas from the past, which may need to be emotionally and consciously processed in order not to keep recurring.
-Find a counselor who actually supports your self-determination. Ask lots of questions, especially about confidentiality, if someone else—such as your parents, boss, or governmental program—is paying for your therapy.
-There is no shame in using psychiatric drugs if you know that they work for you.
-Many communities have 24/7 crisis hotlines or crisis centers. You can call 800-SUICIDE if you’re thinking about killing yourself or 800 646-HOPE to reach a local rape crisis line for survivors of sexual violence.
-Socail change: Actually address the stressful factors in your environment. Revolution can heal. If you have a loved one in crisis, consider asking them if you and/or their counselor can hold an emergency gathering potluck to weave together their mutual support network of trusted friends—and find out what they truly need at this crucial time. However, don’t act over their heads.
Everyone will eventually have a crisis. For example, if you love deeply, you may one day grieve deeply. The questions is “are you prepared for a crisis?” It is a good idea to develop your network of support, now. Modern society isolates. Some day you may need a shoulder you can trust to weep on.
EVADE THE BRAIN POLICE
If you find yourself threatened with psychiatric coercion, it’s a good time to get rea calm, real fast. Authorities—shrinks, doctors, cops, schools—tend to provoke, and then diagnose your “reactions” of fear, despair, and anger. So when they provoke, act even more calm. Know your rights, get a lawyer, and find real help soon.