“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare”- Audre Lorde
The Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford hearings on Thursday got to me. I was triggered. I relived a past trauma over and over again. I wondered whether he even remembered what he had done to me, or whether my autonomy and self-worth were so unimportant to him that his memory of that night was lost in a sea of other drunken late-night transgressions.
I relived the countless less-than-traumas, the not-so-micro aggressions that pervade my existence as a woman moving through the world. I relived all the times that I heard people speak with outrage at sexual violence and abuse, and look away to avoid doing anything about it.
I relived times when men tried to put me in “my place,” where my voice and the voices of my sisters have been silenced, ignored, smothered. I relived times when I was asked to have compassion for the perpetrator only, not the victim.
I relived all the times during the #metoo uprising where my male friends and colleagues expressed genuine surprise at the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, assault, abuse. That surprise was bittersweet, a showing of concern that demonstrated an utterly different way of moving through the world from mine.
In reliving these experiences, in watching the horrific circus of the hearings, I felt deeply alone, hopeless, defeated. It got to me. That evening, I could not see my way out of the worldview that tells me that my feelings are irrelevant, that my autonomy and hopes and dreams for my life are insignificant compared to the desires of men to use me and my fellow women for their own purposes. Blasey Ford’s memories of Kavanaugh and Judge laughing at the violence they were doing to her, and her fear at being accidentally killed, was a mirror of my own experience of feeling so insignificant that the destruction of the things most meaningful in my life or even of my life itself could occur any moment for their pleasure or gain. That evening, I could not see past that worldview, and it was too much to bear.
Although I love sharing my positive insights and strategies and fancy yoga poses with you, it is equally important to share my pain, struggles, and the deeper parts of a self-care practice. That is what makes it real; it is also what makes it powerful. The evening of the hearings was too much to face. All I wanted to do was numb the pain. I turned to what seemed like an old friend—alcohol—in order to relieve my pain and quell the loneliness. But of course it didn’t work that way.
In numbing my pain, I was manifesting how deeply I have internalized the abuse of my world—a world that tells me I don’t deserve to feel. In today’s political reality it is radical to let oneself feel one’s feelings—of fear, of sadness, rage, loss, loneliness, vulnerability. Waking up the next morning and feeling the damage I had inflicted on my own body in the wake of reliving the damage done to me and my fellow women, I knew I needed to do something to resist.
It is an act of resistance and self-love to let ourselves feel our emotions fully, especially the ones that cry out against a world that is not made for us. Starting the day after the hearings, I decided to do a 30 day alcohol-free cleanse. By intentionally creating the space to feel even when it is painful and uncomfortable, I claim my right to exist in a world that is not made for me, but instead made to use me. I will not participate in the erasure of my own space. I will not participate in the diminishing of my light.
Today is day four. This is not easy. It is not comfortable. There are many times where I have wanted to crawl out of my own skin, to hide, to give up. But that is exactly the point. There is nothing wrong with these feelings. They are natural responses to a world that tells me and those like me that I am unworthy of taking up space. Numbing my negative emotions doesn’t protect me; it protects the structures that oppress me. It is an act of radical self-care and self-love to let these forces of emotion manifest.
Today is day one of feeling strong enough to speak publicly and personally about my sadness, my loneliness, my rage, my trauma. In sitting with my emotions, letting myself cry when and where I need to—whether in meditation, on a run, or in the middle of a busy sidewalk—I am releasing and transforming the emotions that before I was hiding from. Already I feel more alive, more powerful, more free. I have unblocked my creative energy, and my voice to speak it. Healing myself in the face of the pressures of the world is an act of resistance.
Alcohol for me is not the problem. It is the world that is the problem, and those in power who have told me not to feel it—that my emotions, my sensitivity, are too much, inappropriate, overreactions, because they take up space, because they are me taking up space. This cleanse is about intentionally creating the space to feel my emotions, the space I need to shift my habits of reactivity so that I can more fully own and protect my right to feel.
I am not doing this alone. Over the weekend I have had incredible support, support I didn’t know how to ask for on Thursday. You know who you are. Thank you.
Sometimes self-care comes in deeply uncomfortable forms. I believe that supporting others in their wellness journeys means being honest and open about my own struggles, strategies, and learning experiences. It requires being real about what it looks like to be devoted to self-care. Today, this is what it looks like. I hope that sharing my story here can be a source of support for others who are having a tough time now, too. We deserve to feel what we are feeling. We deserve to take up space.