Exhausted, Depleted, Overwhelmed

Overwhelmed

Exhausted, Depleted, Overwhelmed

In addition to moving through a society that makes you well aware that it doesn’t want you there, sometimes being a person with multiple marginalized identities can mean being perceived as a statue of your true self; being seen as strong, brave, etc for existing under conditions you would never choose, “but it’s ok because you can take it.“So brave”.

Being actively engaged in resisting that marginalization or supporting others through some form of leadership can add further complication. Putting marginalized folks who fight for their own and others’ lives on a pedestal; expecting unwavering shows of “strength” and resolve further dehumanizes them in that it ignores imperfections, and invalidates any fears or feelings of uncertainty that exist.

In reality, it’s okay to be angry. It’s understandable to feel afraid. It’s okay to find ways to take care of yourself.

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed.

I was in a room with some trusted colleagues recently where, among other things we shared, was a sense of fear, uncertainty, fatigue; of questioning where to begin or what our next moves should be, and even wondering to what extent our efforts were making an impact. Each of us in that space are in many ways expected to be “out front”; to have answers in times of uncertainty, and to be examples of perseverance through struggle. Building community is so important, and having opportunities to be authentic and transparent serves to reaffirm our humanity and not diminish it.

This note isn’t about platitudes that while well intended, can feel empty, silencing, and invalidating to folks who are really having a hard time regardless of how they feel about themselves as individuals. This note isn’t about moving quickly to “solutions” without acknowledging legitimate feelings and concerns whatever they might be. This note is about acknowledging our need to sit with things for a time, and acknowledging a very human experience of feeling exhausted, depleted, overwhelmed.

“In addition to acknowledging that I feel immobilized, something else that I have found helpful in terms of making sure that I don’t stay there for too long is to remind myself that I am but one part of a larger continuum of folks who have come and gone; dedicating themselves to working toward progress, equity, and positive social change.

I get the whole “If not me then who” mindset, but in the case of needing to take a break for our own survival, being a part of a larger continuum means that we are not by ourselves; it means that we have to be confident that while we are resting, others are doing the work.”

–From the note: “I Will Try Again Tomorrow

This is not about giving up. It’s about affirming our needs to call in, take a break, nurse our wounds and recharge with the help of trusted community, and about the importance of giving ourselves permission to do so.

Ubuntu,

From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones

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Written by

I’m a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities.

“Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian” is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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8 Responses

  1. tunisiajolyn84 says:

    Thanks for this reminder! Very needed.

    • Absolutely! It’s okay to need, and take a break. It’s okay to admit uncertainty or fear. I sometimes hear the phrase “positive vibes only” tossed about, where folks share that they only want folks around them who exude positivity. While I can understand the good intentions behind that thought process, I can also see how invalidating and silencing it could be as well.

      So instead of “positive vibes only” I say that I need folks who can express and accept the fullness of human emotion and experience. It’s important to support each other in joy, as well as sorrow.

  2. Very poignant observation.
    There is an increasing tendency to “Heroize” marginalized people as a means of compensating for a failure to include us. As you described far more eloquently, by putting us on a pedestal, they enforce a distance. This distance is destructive, but the new label, which is impossible to fulfill, is even more so.

    Thanks for sharing

    • Absolutely, and if not carefully considered, that “heroization” can also be used to say “Well they did it why can’t you?”

      More than anything I’m hoping that this note will serve to reaffirm the voices and experiences of marginalized folks who just need a moment, whenever that might be.

  3. Jeff Cann says:

    Snip {Putting marginalized folks who fight for their own and others’ lives on a pedestal; expecting unwavering shows of “strength” and resolve further dehumanizes them in that it ignores imperfections, and invalidates any fears or feelings of uncertainty that exist.} As you say, I’m going to need to sit with this for a while. As a marginalized citizen (mentally ill) and a blogger, I’m “pedestalized” frequently. It always leaves me feeling a bit “off” but not ignored or invalidated – something different that I can’t put a finger on. Interesting read. Thanks

  4. Gwen Eleanor says:

    How powerful. This is what I’ve just been thinking about and I cannot put it in another way. I especially love the part-

    “I get the whole “If not me then who” mindset, but in the case of needing to take a break for our own survival, being a part of a larger continuum means that we are not by ourselves; it means that we have to be confident that while we are resting, others are doing the work.”

    Thank you for sharing this!

    • You’re welcome and thank you for reading and sharing your comment. There are a lot of reasons why people might feel guilty for wanting, or needing a break. There’s the sense of urgency, the fact that it sometimes feels and is very literally true that if we don’t who will, and the expectations that we set for ourselves and those that others set for us. I acknowledge those realities, but I also recognize the importance of understanding that we can’t pour from an empty cup.

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