I have been writing about pop culture, and media for over a year now, but have only ever dabbled in politics. Opinion pieces and cultural critiques are right in the sweet spot of my comfort zone and I’ve been camping out there for quite some time. In-depth reporting on current events has been a goal of mine since I began taking writing and advocacy courses two years ago, but I’ve been hesitant to publicly speak about subjects that I’m not an expert in.
Well, this March I began to feel like I was ready to take on the challenge. The Media Writing Essential course I’ve been taking has inspired me to try writing on topics that I used to consider “too advanced” for me. That’s why, in April, I made a personal commitment to begin following, reading, watching, and researching current events much more intensely. I believed that if I was willing to work for it, I could become an informed expert.
Coincidentally, I recently realized that my mental and physical health have been on a slow decline for the last few months. Now, I wonder what that could be about?
So far, twenty-twenty-two has been nothing more than a turbulent tornado of tragic major news stories — one after another — complete with a neverending downpour of discourse from the viciously divided public. It seems these stories have become noticeably more frequent and severe since late March.
In the first six months of the year, we’ve witnessed Russia invade Ukraine, a few resurgences of COVID-19 deaths and a brand new variant to worry about, an onslaught of homophobic ideology and transphobic bills promoting violence towards members of the LGBTQ+ community, irresponsible coverage of the Depp V. Heard trial, the Politico leak regarding the Supreme Court’s intention to overturn Roe V. Wade, utterly horrifying truths revealed by the January 6th hearings, and at least four mass shootings per week.
That’s…. a lot.
Still, as it was happening, the gradual unraveling of my peace of mind was easy to ignore. I told myself that the reason I was getting so revved up about these issues — and arguing with people on Twitter about them — was that I am so passionate. It’s my responsibility to use my passion for good! That’s why I write!
It’s not a total lie, but it is a denial of an inconvenient truth. I was using the word passionate to disguise the more appropriate word; triggered. So, instead of giving myself some space, I continued to hyper-fixate on and overexpose myself to the aforementioned injustices of the world.
A few weeks ago, the morning that my boyfriend and I were about to leave for vacation to Salt Lake City, news broke that Roe v. Wade had been overturned. I was heartbroken, frustrated, panicked, and enraged all at once. But, for the sake of being able to enjoy our trip, I was somehow able to pretend like I was fine.
Once we returned home from our weekend getaway, it was time to get back to work. I thought I knew what I was getting into and that I was prepared for it. But as my fingers started to type away at a few first drafts, it was impossible to avoid the catastrophic severity of the events I’d had to minimize not a week ago.
Every ounce of anger that’d been brewing within me for months seemed to hit me like a ton of bricks. This rage was either leveraged at random people on the internet or transformed into debilitating anxiety that festered and spread throughout my entire body.
You’d think I would’ve taken the hint then, but no. In order to stay informed, I began watching more news and increased my social media usage by about 60%. I truly felt like I had to fight back against the blatant gaslighting from conservative pundits.
There were days I was completely immobile for hours. I didn’t get dressed. I wasn’t eating or drinking enough because I was constantly invested in what I felt was more important — “taking action.”
For that week after our trip, I genuinely believed I’d been writing and working and focusing non-stop. But oddly enough, it’s week three and I haven’t published a single article this month.
The one piece I was able to complete was sent back to me with edits that would require either a thorough re-structurization or a complete rewrite. Usually, I don’t mind rejection and I’m happy to receive specific criticisms because they help me to improve. But this hit at the wrong time. I was not in the state of mind to receive this feedback.
So while it looks like the world is in absolute shambles, it also feels as if my mind, body, and career are deteriorating. Talk about catastrophizing! The gradual downward spiral I’d been falling into suddenly became a drop off a cliff at light speed.
Everyone I talked to about this deep depressive phase begged me to delete social media, stop watching the news immediately, and take time off.
Time off? I just took time off! I went on vacation! I have to work extra hard in order to make up for that, don’t I?
-My shrill of an internal monologue
My boyfriend knew that taking more time away from writing would only add to my stress, so he suggested something very simple.
At first, I laughed, but he wasn’t joking. I started to think he was being dismissive of the serious global issues. But that’s not where his suggestion was coming from. He’s always been a solution guy, and it became clear to me very quickly that he is sincerely concerned for my mental health.
The next day, I reflected on this conversation. I realized that a majority of the material I’ve published is not exactly positive. There’s no delicate way to explain this, but the memories of my past traumas are typically what inspires me to write. I lean toward the heavier topics because I’m motivated by the belief that the expression of darker emotions can help others who feel similarly. In fact, I know this to be true.
I started to wonder if this form of catharsis could be weighing me down. Yes, it’s authentic and raw and beautiful. But could so much focus on past suffering manifest itself into emotional and physical turmoil?
Well, today I went through my catalog and sorted through everything I’ve ever published. I found that there are actually quite a few pieces that I would consider “happy.” Surprisingly, some of them are among my stronger works.
Here are a few of them if you need a little pick-me-up after reading this far:
I crunched some numbers. At least 20 % of my articles are on the positive side. That is much higher than I expected.
My hesitation to write about happiness must come from fear of showing my privilege instead of using it to contribute to necessary change. Human rights issues are seldom — if ever — resolved because the people who are supposed to work for us do not. They leave the marginalized with this burden.
The activists are often fatigued by putting so much energy into work that never seems to materialize into the desired societal change. Many give up, which is what the systems of power count on.
This knowledge and fear can be really useful when it comes to activism, but under recent circumstances, I allowed it to instill a savior complex within me.
We’re important, but not that important.
I forgot how many of us there are. It may not seem like it all the time, but there are a lot of people doing a lot of work to improve our society. If one advocate has to pause for a bit, it’s not going to foil all of the plans.
Activists, writers, creators — or any professionals that are uniquely skilled — need to rest and relax in order to be at their best. When we are emotionally and physically burned out, it is reflected in our work. Thinking about it this way motivated me to take a break and restore my energy.
And this time, I committed to a real break. Not like all the little fake breaks I usually allow myself when I feel I’ve written enough to deserve them. No. Two weeks ago, I stopped writing. I took the space I needed and focused on clearing my mind with the intention that I would come back and “write something happy” when I felt well enough to start typing again.
As I predicted, during this self-care ritual, I often had to remind myself that stressing about how long it’s been since I pushed out some content is only going to delay my peace.
Instead of writing, I painted. I worked out for at least ten minutes almost every day. I went to the library. I spent quality time with my boyfriend. We watched movies and listened to podcasts. We aimlessly drove around Northern Wyoming.
I didn’t obsess about the news or try to perfect my rejected essay. Although I’m starting to get back into my writing groove, I’m taking it very slow. And the best part is, I’m not constantly fighting off the lack-of-productivity guilt anymore, because I’m confident that I am doing the best I can.
Give Yourself A Real Break
It can be so easy for us to ignore when our wellness is taking a turn for the worst. The infamous hustle culture that refuses to die has embedded in us the belief that we need to “push through it all” or else we are “unreliable”. Even in the middle of a pandemic, we were reprimanded for calling in sick. It makes complete sense that we tend to feel anxious about taking time for ourselves, but it shouldn’t be this way.
If you are exhausted by all of the doom and gloom, you’re far from alone. Stop for a minute and think about how much has happened and is currently going on. Give yourself some credit for having the energy to get out of bed. (And if you didn’t — please stay there and rest!)
Taking a break and giving up are not the same. When things feel overwhelming, give yourself permission to pause. Spinning your wheels will not get you any closer to achieving your goals.
If you feel incapable, the worst thing you could do is pretend you’re capable. Our talents, passions, purposes, and potential must be nurtured — not forced out of us.
For the past six months, I pushed a lot of joy to the side because it felt like a distraction from the work that needed to be done. This ignorance led to my eventual engulfment in dread and panic. Thankfully, my boyfriend’s merry disposition helped me to see that I needed to set some media writing boundaries.
While I was sorting through my work today, I made a point to read all of the happy articles and poems I’ve written one by one. Admittedly, a reluctant smile stretched across my face as I reflected on the past and current joys that prompted my words.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with remembering that life can be beautiful, even in a cruel and unjust world. In fact, I think we may need this reminder in order for us to keep our heads above water.
So will you be seeing lighter content from me? Possibly. You will see what I am capable of writing. You will see what genuinely inspires me. I make no promises.
As the weather is warmer and sunnier, I plan on taking advantage of the blissful creative energy that is in the air. Whenever I’m ready to report on politics, you better believe I will come through.
As we continue to hear people warn us about how we must take action, it’s now or never — we must remember that ultimately, all we can do is the best we can. And that is enough.
Thank you for reading! To support my work, consider buying me a cup of coffee!