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by Kayla Bell-Consolver, MS, LMHC

Apr 18, 2024

“Rest, if you must”: the Importance of Self-Care in Advocacy

I learned “Don’t Quit” by Edgar A. Guest, one of my favorite poems, when I was a sophomore in college and experiencing great adversity. I didn’t realize how important this poem would become until I experienced even greater adversity through attempting to create systemic change for historically neglected and harmed communities.

When you consistently engage in advocacy you can become exhausted, enraged, and hopeless.

Advocacy can range from standing on business in your everyday life or correcting people when they misgender you to using your voice for systemic change. As a Black, Lesbian, cisgender woman, advocacy has been intertwined into so many aspects of my identity. I consistently reflect on the ways my ancestors have embedded self-advocacy and gifts of overcoming in me, but if I can be honest….I’m TIRED.

In fact, the word tired may not fully encapsulate the exhaustion I feel in the depths of my spirit. It is painful to witness the way our legislators actively choose to target LGBTQ+ communities, when we have greater concerns that could be addressed, such as poverty, houselessness, job accessibility, disability rights, racial injustice, and so much more! It is also painful to witness our neighbors preach inclusivity and justice toward LGBTQ communities, while engaging in anti-Black rhetoric and microaggressions at the same time.

Please hear me…I am tired. We are tired. Those of us who have intersectional identities are even more exhausted because it means we advocate against the larger system, our internalized isms, but unfortunately against identified allies who love parts of us, but hold biases against others parts of us.

The most unfortunate part of advocating is that we know that if we stop, then the lives of our communities and generations after us will be harmed. However, continuing to advocate, without honoring our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, is a fast track to burnout, depression, and a life not worth living.

Advocacy without honoring your humanness was never the purpose.

Advocacy requires you to honor your humanness while you fight for the system to honor it as well. This is why I keep the “Don’t Quit” poem very close to my heart. There is a line that says, “When care is pressing you down a bit, rest if you must, but don’t you quit.”

You may be reading this right now saying, “Kayla, how can I rest when they are constantly trying to take away the rights of LGBTQ+ folks. I don’t have the privilege to rest.” I get it, and your feelings are valid. We view rest as disengaging and disconnecting and therefore a privilege for those least impacted. Rest is your birth right. Period. Rest is the reclamation of your worth, humanness, and existence.

Rest does not mean that you care less, but rather that you care enough about you and the causes that you stand for. Rest also enables us to withstand the injustice we experience, lift our voice higher, and remain engaged in community.

If you are in search of ways to rest, while continuing to engage in advocacy, I invite you to engage in a daily practice of the following:

1) Monitor your intake of social media: We were not meant to watch, hear, and experience the murder and discrimination of LGBTQ people 24/7. Setting daily limits on social media, does not mean you care less or are less informed.

2) Spend time in community: When you are in community with others, it may not alleviate the cultural wounds you experience daily, but it creates a space for healing and soothing those wounds. Community can be in person, virtual, or even spiritual and ancestral.

3) Coping and Healing: Our bodies and mind cannot process the overwhelm that we witness daily as historically neglected and harmed communities. I invite you to create a sacred place to honor your emotions, which can be a candlelit space, alter, calm place, or somewhere in nature or your heart. It’s important that we do not reject our emotions in the same ways that we are rejected by society.

4) There’s power in numbers: Remember that you are not fighting this battle by yourself. Systems thrive when we feel we are isolated. Research and get connected with state and local advocacy organizations fighting for equity, equality, and justice for oppressed communities.

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Mental Health, Intersectionality

by Kayla Bell-Consolver, MS, LMHC

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