“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important for me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.” – Audre Lorde
We all have had a continuous and unending love affair with silence. When others hurt us, we remained silent. And in turn we have used and had silence used against us as a weapon to punish and erase our experiences. On a personal note I have been astonished at the levels of silence within the Queer/LGBTI/Activist community. Silence around our struggles, silence around our battles with various mental health issues. I am certain most people in the community have had a depressive episode or are dealing with some form of anxiety or persistent panic attacks. However there has never been a space to hold all our experiences and tell us that our trauma and experiences are not unique, that in fact they are surmountable and we can live a life of active mental health.
Mental health in South Africa is a condition of the privileged. By this we mean that its treatment and management is often only accessible to those who have the monetary resources through employment or family. Very few people have spaces where they can learn and create new languages around mental healthcare and survival. We are often the support networks in our families, we are the breadwinners at home, the ones responsible for the financial & emotional health of their families. Rarely do we take time to BREATHE!!
It is from this space of desperation that I approached Thabile from pinkcloudsandrainbows to collaborate and create the #Learningtobreathe Mental health series. This series comes from a place of wanting to find support networks and to express our experiences with the work of managing our mental health. Because we realised that amidst paying Black emotional Tax and surviving as Queer persons in South Africa, there is little room and spaces to sit down and consider what it means to practice self-care and manage mental health.
Having come from an NGO sector space, there was a lot of talk around “Self-care” but beyond taking leave – to only be brought back into a space which required high mental and emotional commitment – there was little practical work being done in creating radical self-care practices. In fact I would say a lot of abuse existed in that space – some intentional and some not, making it impossible to actually engage with what it means to practice radical self-care.
I have learnt that my silence will not protect me. That the silence around the mental trauma Queer/LGBTI persons in South Africa experience every day because of the space of marginality puts us in a precarious position. Everything in our everyday lives is geared towards erasing us and our experiences. It is time we work on ourselves and begin to practice self-care and survival because our silence will not protect us!
#Learningtobreathe will be a weekly blog collaborative series which will explore various aspects of mental health and living with a mental health condition. From Mathokopostbox we will explore small but practical ways of creating a mental-health toolbox to understanding why mental-health services are so difficult to access when you’re black, queer and poor. Thabile from pinkcloudsandrainbows will explore the various aspects of living with a mental health condition and how does one manage and survive as a black, queer womxn. From time to time we will seek out the opinion of “professionals” in the mental health industry to give specific advice.
Please feel free to connect with us (email below) and let us know if there is a particular issue you would like us to deal with in this series.
Also follow pinkcloudsandrainbows as some of the blog will be posted there.
Of head on over to facebook page and follow us there too because we want this to be a multi-platform conversation!!!