“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” –Gwendolyn Brooks
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” –Audre Lorde
I know a few things about depression. After Thanksgiving, I checked myself into the hospital because repression was no longer enough. There was limited access to anyone beyond the narrow hallway, art and dining room in the hospital’s psychiatric unit, so I wrote and read often. What sustained me were the words I remembered from poems, like Lucille Clifton’s “won’t you celebrate with me,” Rickey Laurentiis’ “You Are Not Christ,” and Audre Lorde’s “A Litany for Survival.”
When I got tired of walking up and down the hall reciting those poems to myself, I would re-read the African American Women and Depression Fact Sheet. What stays with me is that only 12% of Black women ever get help or treatment for their depression. Economic access, of course, plays a huge role in that, but how many of us never stop to acknowledge that we are hurting? How many of us actually can afford to stop at all to feel anything?
Audre Lorde tells us that we were never meant to survive, but to speak anyhow. I spoke with 11 queer and trans Black women artists, creators, and activists about their specific practices of self-care. May their insight be useful to you and their art inspire you to continue to dream, build, imagine, love, cry, laugh, dance, and live.
Location: Richmond, VA
Title: Web Developer
Where to find her: Tumblr
“Being the introvert that I am, I spend a lot of time alone. Taking time to myself allows me to recharge while doing the things I enjoy most. I respect my own limits and know when it’s necessary to step back, which often requires saying, ‘no.’ Surrounding myself with good, positive people is essential as well as minimizing my exposure to negativity. I practice mindfulness, live simply, and just always remember to breathe.”
Location: Syracuse, New York
Title: Scholar, Feminist, Student
Where to find her: SoundCloud
“I practice self-love by creating with the intent to be present and non-judgemental. I create with the intent to honor Black (queer) ancestors and honor my own creativity. To honor my creativity, I let myself create whatever it is I may want to in the moment, whether that’s a beat from a sampled record, painting, collaging or writing. I also move and breathe. I love to walk and practice yoga. Self-care is also about community. I enjoy being in community celebrating life, talking shit (or just being) with other Black queer people.”
“Self-care to me is about hanging stuff up until I’m absolutely ready to carry the burden again. If that means ignoring phone calls, texts messages, emails, and even resting as opposed to studying for that exam, then I will do so.
Sometimes, no matter what the circumstance, you need to just clear your mind and at least pretend you’re all good and can’t a thing hold you down or stand in your way. Pretend that you have all the time in the world and allow your body and mind to reset before you pick back up where you left off.”
4. Stasia Mehschel
“The first step for me was self-love. I love my body, my mind, and my spirit. I want to preserve it in the finest and most luxurious ways that I can within my means. I take vitamins. I make sure to work hard and play equally as hard. I try my best to keep bad energy and vibes away, ridding myself of toxic relationships. A bath with scented oils and a fresh haircut can also do wonders for your confidence.”
5. Denise Maurice
“How do I practice self-care? In a world designed to break me, I keep myself healthy by first understanding that it is my strength that is being discriminated against, not my weakness. These Black woman hips bear the weight of the world with style and grace. This melanin in my skin can withstand the harshest of sun rays and some days…I feel as if I am the Sun herself. I would be jealous if I wasn’t blessed to be who I am. How dare I step outside of gender norms and express myself when given strict commands to fit into a mold so that everyone else can understand me? How dare I not care about the opinions of people I will never even meet? Because I know who I am and am aware of my own strength and beauty. I practice self-care by creating spaces that allow not only myself but other gender nonconforming and artistically expressive individuals to flourish without having to twist and bend themselves into the form that society deems acceptable and employable…I am a firm believer that we are all born with specific gifts and if we become passionate enough about those gifts we can create our own means of survival. I practice self-care by refusing to believe the lie that I am not good enough. Spread Love!”
6. Monica Roberts
Location: Houston, TX
Title: Writer, activist
Where to find her: transgriot.blogspot.com
“When I’m not writing on TransGriot, I have to take a moment to step back and actually do stuff for myself. There are times that I like to write poetry, and I do have a couple of fiction manuscripts and novels that I’m working on. There are times when I just sit back and just chill and go to a ball game or something, just to get away from always being in 24/7 serious activist mode.”
7. Diamond Sharp
Location: DC-based; Chicago native
Title: Poet and writer
Where to find her: Twitter
“I take time to myself. I say ‘no’ often. I don’t feel bad for putting myself first.”
Location: Washington, DC
Title: Advocate for Masculine Women of Color
Where to find her: Tumblr
“Self-care…is something I recently learned how to do. In the past I never had time to take care of myself. That neglect made me very grumpy and stressed. Now I make it a point to look out for my own well-being and mental health no matter what’s going on. Kind of like ‘Pay yourself first’ in regards to finances.
I write frequently and spend a lot of time at the gym. Working out and exercising is not only good for my physical health, but mental health as well.
I take care of my soul by writing on my blog and continuing to reach out, be there for and mentor masculine women of color in regards to sexuality, self esteem, gender identity and a myriad of other issues that aren’t always addressed in our under represented community. Female masculinity is very much misunderstood and misused and we need to continue having discussions about how we move in the world as masculine women and the micro aggressions that come with that.
Giving back keeps me close to the people that matter to me and makes me feel like I’m contributing to the solution instead of just complaining about the problem.”
9. JP Howard
“During the work week, I practice self-care when I seek out and find moments of ‘quiet introspective time.’ Like so many of us, my days are super busy as I’m in a relationship with my partner, we are raising our two sons and I also curate a NY-based literary salon, while working at a full-time, fairly demanding day job. When I can, I take long walks, usually by the water, during my lunch hour to regroup and focus on self. Those quiet moments are very precious to me. I also try to make a habit of traveling outside of New York to attend writing residencies or fellowships that let me pursue my own creative writing for an extended period of time either in a quiet setting and/or in an environment surrounded by fellow writers (for this full-time working mom even a week away from home is a true indulgent writer’s luxury!). While those residencies or fellowships may only happen a few times a year for me, they satisfy my self-care needs. I get so much writing done, I get a week away to solely focus on being a writer and while I miss my family during those trips, I think a necessary part of self-care is finding quality time to nurture ourselves, especially for those of us who are often busy nurturing others.”
Location: Down South
Title: Recovering Artist, Black Culture Junkie, Semi-Professional Big Mouth
Where to find her: Twitter
“This question kinda stopped me in my tracks because I’ve been doing such a poor job at it this year especially. [Laughs.] But more recently, I’ve been working on taking deeper breaths, being nicer to myself, and doing some yoga at home. It takes me being attentive to my body’s needs (which for me is also a form of self-care, not ignoring what my body and mind is trying to tell me), which takes some work, but I always end up feeling better for it. Also, binging out on my favorite TV shows and spending times with my friends always always always helps make life a little sweeter!”
11. Lourdes Ashley Hunter, MPA
Location: Washington, D.C.
Title: Black Trans Revolutionary
Where to find her: Twitter
“I love to cook and take walks in the park with my dog, Cashmere, but I also enjoy taking time to touch myself. There is healing in your own touch and I love all up on this body. Taking time to breathe because every breath a Black Trans Woman takes is an Act of Revolution. I practice self-care by becoming submerged in self-love. Allowing others to give love and allowing myself to receive love but also being particular with my love and with the love I allow in my life. For me, practicing self-care is an act of self-love.”
For more information about self-care, visit Black Girl + Mental Health or purchase I’Nasah Crockett’s zine Death Valley: Or, How to Not Kill Yourself in Less Than Ten Days.
L.G. Parker is a student and writer living in Northern Virginia. Connect with her on Twitter at @posttragic.