I just got back from an excellent workshop on self-care and activism, and I really ought to be going to bed right now because I have to get up in the morning, but my mind is spinning, so I need to write. I spent my time in the workshop taking very scribbly notes in my cheap notebook, brainstorming stuff for zines, and daring myself to speak.
One of the activities we did in the workshop was write down the following three statements, then tape our answers to the wall.
1. Something you need.
2. Tools you have for yourself.
3. A tool you can share.
I wrote down that I need mindful communication and consent, that one of my self-care tools is my writing, and that I can offer my time and my writing to others.
Mindful communication is something I’d like to talk about. Part of mental health treatment is discovering what are often called your “core beliefs.” These are the beliefs you hold so deep down inside yourself that you often don’t have the words for them, and don’t realize they are even there, even though they are playing a very large and important role in how you feel about yourself and how you interact with the world. Some common examples of negative core beliefs would be: I am worthless, I am broken, I will never be happy, etc. They can be counteracted with a positive affirmation, such as: My life has value, I am learning how to take care of myself, I find joyful moments in my daily life, and so on. Of course, saying them is not the same as believing them, but it can be the beginning of the path to healing and self-acceptance.
One of my core beliefs was that my time was not worthwhile or valuable to others. And one way this belief has, and continues, to manifest in my life is that when I’m trying to have a conversation with someone, I tend to speak quickly and condense my words into small, vague sentences so that the person I’m talking to doesn’t have to listen too long. So I end up not truly saying what I mean, and don’t give my own thoughts justice by sharing them with others and having an honest discussion.
It’s no wonder I don’t feel as connected with my friends as I would like to, and have trouble connecting with others as well. And it’s no wonder even the therapists I’ve had in the past had difficulty understanding me, when I wasn’t being as coherent or direct as I need to be in order to receive a validating and thoughtful response. I often think to myself, ‘I’ll talk about it later’, and I even plan out the letters I’m going to write to my friends while I’m sitting beside them. I have always said that I communicate better through writing than through conversation, but I want to change that.
When I talk about mindful communication, what I mean is this: I need to allow myself the time to process my thoughts and to find the words that best suit the story I’m trying to tell, and that means taking pauses and deep breaths, and not trying to cram all my thoughts into one short sentence. I also need to learn how to listen actively, how to ask questions, how not to interrupt, and how not to agree when I actually really don’t agree at all. And when I disagree, I can do so respectfully and compassionately.
In another workshop activity, we split into smaller groups, and were then told to ask our group for something we want/need right now. It was a lesson in assertively telling someone what you want/need as well as a) telling someone you can give them what they want/need, b) saying no, you cannot give that person what they want/need, and c) learning how to accept no as a valid answer.
When my turn came around, I said that I needed to be listened to without being interrupted, and that when I pause and take a breath before moving onto the next thought, that is not an opportunity for you to dive in with whatever you were planning on saying beforehand. I think a lot of us, myself included, have a tendency to plan our response before the person we’re talking to has even finished, which puts the focus back on themselves, and kinda derails the conversation. I’m learning how not to do that anymore, and hope others are doing so, too. And honestly, one of the guys in our group kept interrupting and it was really grating on my patience, so I brought it up in a way that didn’t come off as a personal attack. It’s really annoying when people try to finish my sentences for me and they don’t even say what I was going to say, and I’m like, hey, let me finish, except I usually don’t have the courage to actually say that.
As for consent, that’s a topic for another million discussions, so I will write some more about it at a later date. I will note here that when I mentioned it as something I need, I meant it in a context of Ask First before just about anything at all, and not just the obvious sexual situations the word ‘consent’ is usually associated with.
It’s late. I just finished drinking a cup of tea meant to help promote peaceful sleep. It contains organic oat flower, lavender, limeflower, and valerian. That cup of tea was one of today’s crucial self-care actions, and even though I’ll probably get up at least three times in the night to pee it all away, I’m glad I took the time to make this drink and sip it slowly. Goodnight!
P.S.: Now I want to ask you the same three questions: What do you need, what self-care tools do you have for yourself, and what tools do you have to share?
P.P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!