How the Election Forced Me to Prioritize Self-Care

Melissa Green portrait

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ―Audre Lorde

“This for me though; I’m just trying to stay alive and take care of my people.” —Trophies, Young Money

I have been thinking about launching this blog for a few months now, going back and forth about whether or not it was silly to try to edge my way into an already extremely crowded field of so-called lifestyle bloggers, but a little voice in my head kept telling me that now is the time. Even if it’s not wildly successful, there is something empowering about putting my voice out there at a time when marginalized people are being made to feel unsafe and unwelcome in their own homes and communities because one man managed to claw his way into the White House.

As the events of the last few days in Charlottesville have made very clear, Trump’s presence has brought a latent, but insidious brand of hatred from the shadows into the light. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, ableism, xenophobia were all given his stamp of approval at various moments during last year’s campaign, but many of us thought they would be repudiated when Hillary Clinton defeated him on November 8th. Unfortunately, what we got was the opposite.

The week of the election was so dark. I remember the hope we all felt on election day, posting pictures of “I Voted” stickers and “I’m with Her” apparel, then eagerly gathering at a friend’s apartment that night to watch the results come in. We were so ready for history to be made with the election of the first female president. But as the night wore on, the excited buzz of the room grew silent and was quickly replaced by people spontaneously bursting into tears. When Josh crumpled into my arms sobbing, I knew things were bad; I never thought I’d see him cry so openly in a room full of people.

Before the night was out, the sorrow was already turning into stress over what our communications strategy would be in morning. No one knew what to do with themselves or how to cope. In retrospect, the fact that I had a pretty severe cold that week was a blessing in disguise because it meant I stayed home on November 9, falling in and out of a NyQuil-induced sleep. It also meant that despite seeing the final results that morning, the brain-fog from my cold kept me from processing it fully. It wasn’t until later that afternoon when I started to feel better that the gravity of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt hopeless and terrified at the depth of my own despair. I thought about how much easier it might be to take my own life than to live through the days after one of the most openly hateful public figures in recent memory had been elected to the highest office in the land. It seemed easier than facing his emboldened supporters threatening me and my friends on the street. Now it was Josh’s turn to hold me while I cried.

What terrified me the most was I know these feelings well. Since high school, I have dealt with depression—at times managed well enough that I could forget about it almost entirely and other times so debilitating that I was hospitalized. The week after the election, I saw glimpses of old feelings that I’d worked for years to escape. I started to sense the fog of helplessness, hopelessness, and sorrow on the horizon—threatening to consume my life as it had a few years earlier. I saw the progress from years of therapy, medication, and introspection taken away by a man I would never meet and I was not ready to go back or let him have that kind of power over me.

I was desperate to cut these feelings off at the pass. I didn’t know exactly what to do, but I knew that exercising a few times a week helped manage my stress, so I started there. For the few months prior, I’d book a spin class on a day that I knew would be especially hard or after a week of stressing about a deadline. After the election, every day was hard, so I took that one coping mechanism and turned it all the way up. I tried other things like baking or knitting, but I needed something to release the physical feelings of anxiety and terror that I could feel welling up in my body. In the back of my mind I thought of what my financial advisor would say, but in the moment it felt like life or death. I felt like I was on the verge of sinking and if some expensive fitness classes were going to keep me afloat, than damn it, that’s what I was going to do.

That moment was an unexpected turning point in my understanding of what it means to prioritize self-care. I realized doing small things like using a spa mask or painting my nails helped me de-stress temporarily, but were still afterthoughts. I needed to make a fundamental change in order to make self-care a true priority. Since then I’ve made a point of asking myself what my body needs every day and doing my best to honor that by whatever means necessary. Sometimes that means spinning away my anxiety, sometimes boxing through my anger, and sometimes just giving myself permission to rest. I’m starting this blog as a way to process and document my journey—I hope you’ll join me.

Melissa Green

I'm Melissa, an Art Director and everyday athlete. I started blogging to share my personal wellness journey—from coping with depression to using fitness as a vehicle to practice taking up space, facing my fears, overcoming perfectionism, and recognizing my accomplishments.

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