by Sarah Rutledge Fischer
I think being gay is sort of wearing me out. Every day there’s a new battle. I’m tired. I’m angry. I’m sad. If it’s not my family giving me grief, it’s the damn government wanting to tell me how unimportant I am. I’m only 23, but I’m ready to give up on everybody and just run away.
Dreaming About Running Away
It is a hard gig to be a thinking, caring LGBTQ+ person in this world. It is even harder if you feel as if everyone—your family and your society—treats you as if you are less worthy of basic human dignity than others. I hear you, and I believe you can find a more sustainable way to navigate this world. Let’s see if I can help.
We’ve all heard a lot about self-care over the last several years, and I’m sure you agree that far too much of that messaging was focused on nothing more than selling us charcoal face masks and essential oil regimens. But real self-care has nothing to do with consumerist beauty culture. In a society that continually negates your value, investing in real, lasting self-care is an act of revolutionary defiance. As lesbian warrior-poet Audre Lorde famously wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Real and lasting acts of self-care are not cosmetic. They require a discipline that comes from a daily choice to believe that you are worthy of investing in. And you are.
You are worthy of rest. You might choose to invest in a consistent bedtime routine, but you might also work on separating your sense of self-worth from your daily accomplishments. Try a nightly ‘I Did’ list (as opposed to a morning ‘To Do’ list) and challenge yourself to acknowledge non-traditional accomplishments like “rested for an hour” and “doodled a bit” right alongside “wrote an article” and “washed the dishes.”
You are worthy of good fuel. Consider what you take into yourself and whether it nurtures you or saps your strength. Honor your physical body by trading your go-to junk food or empty-calorie diet food for nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, and proteins. If you consume a constant news cycle, consider trading it for intentional study in a subject that inspires you. If social media is your downfall, try swapping it for a new creative practice.
You are worthy of financial stability. If you struggle with money, real self-care might mean forgoing that so-called-splurge and instead take a realistic look at your income and expenses. Making a plan to maintain regular expenses while also working towards long term goals may seem intimidating, but having a grasp of your finances means no one but you decides where your money goes.
You are worthy of physical and mental health. If you have always put your own health last, change the script and refuse to believe that your health is not worth investing in. If you can afford it, make regular appointments with a doctor, a dentist, and an LGBTQ positive therapist, and if you can’t, honor yourself with one daily mental health practice like meditation or journaling.
Now, I’m advocating self-care as a way to help you shore up your boundaries with both your family and the world. It is easy to talk about setting appropriate boundaries, but when you are gripped in battle and exhausted from the fight, it is hard to look at your adversary and start building a boundary between yourself and them. Instead, stop giving your time and attention to those who diminish you. Turn away from them and towards yourself and invest in practices that honor your self-worth.
As you build these practices and set protective boundaries around them, you will find that you have also strengthened the boundaries between yourself and others. As it becomes second nature to prioritize your own care, you will have more strength to take on the struggles you have set aside. When you invest in yourself, you have more inner resources to channel your strong and valid emotions into action. And that can change the world.
That should get you started.
To submit your own question, email Allie at Allie@focusmidsouth.com. Focus reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity.