I Don’t Yet Know: Activism, Mental Health, and Trump’s America

CW: discussion of depression

This month’s public uncovering of the depth of American bigotry combined with the early onset of seasonal depression has left me feeling unmotivated, numb, and just plain tired. I struggle to pull myself out of bed every morning, and I force myself to stay awake into the wee hours of the night as if that will stop the next day from coming. I drag myself to work, to therapy, to church, and wonder if true progress ever really happens all the while thinking, “Somewhere, the work continues.”

The work continues, but how do I continue with it?

As much as I’ve maintained the appearance of being all right in the aftermath of the election, I’m not really. That’s not entirely the election’s fault – there are other circumstances negatively affecting my mental health right now – but the election seems to be the thing that pushed me over the edge. It’s the face of the nagging voice in my head that says my work is as worthless as I feel I am so why should I even make an effort. If so many people are willing to ignore facts from experts, embrace hatred, and prioritize objects and abstract ideas over actual lives, what makes me think a depressed 24-year-old woman who can hardly get her own life together can really change anything?

Yet all around me, the work continues, and so does my desire to continue with it.

I don’t yet know how to balance the label “activist” with the label “depressed.” I don’t yet know how to find energy to follow my calling to speak out and write against injustice and to take care of my mental and physical well-being. But I do know that despite the stack of terrifying and infuriating news that keeps piling up, despite my depression and its pessimistic worldview, the work towards justice continues. As long as that is true, there will always be a part of me trying to continue with it.

If I’m lucky, the rest of me will catch up soon.



Political, Personal, and Spiritual: A Post-Election Reflection

The conclusion and aftermath of this year’s election cycle have revealed a lot of things to a lot of people. The depth of the racism and xenophobia in our country. How little respect and authority people in this country, including other women, think women deserve. How fed up people are with our political system. The great leaps forward that still need to be made in order to protect the rights and amplify the voices of marginalized communities. And so much more.

For me, the aftermath of this election has revealed most clearly how American Christians are as awful as I often feel they are. It has validated my frequent decision in LGBTQ and nonsectarian justice spaces to not immediately or sometimes ever identify myself as a Christian. Not because I’m ashamed of the Gospel of Christ but because I’m ashamed of my fellow Christians. There are actions Christians have committed that I can’t defend and have no desire to defend. There are people I have no desire to defend. There are Christian ways of existing that I can’t claim as anything but the easy way out – the way that creates one good Christian response to bitter conflict instead of embracing the natural diversity of responses in seasons like this.

My post-election response as a queer Black Christian woman has alternated between rage and grief because not only have I had to deal with an increase in fear for the lives of myself and people I love but I have also been forced to acknowledge the painful truth about this country’s brand(s) of Christianity I never wanted to say aloud. Namely, that American Christianity has an idolatry problem. I firmly believe our nation and our churches are in the predicaments they are right now partly because American Christians have idolized whiteness, wealth, power, being right, complacency, maintaining the appearance of guiltlessness and “peace,” and being gatekeepers and mini-messiahs over God. We claim Jesus reigns supremely in our lives and that we want to draw people unto him but our lives, our churches, and our politics do not reflect that.

That’s not to say that every Christian needs to belong to the same political party or that every church needs to engage with the world the same way, but there are some things that should be indisputable. Scripturally grounded things. Regardless of political leanings, as Christians, we have been commanded above all else to love God with all of our being and to love others as ourselves. Our personal decisions and political decisions (which include more than simply who we vote for or whether or not we vote at all) should start there, but there is little evidence that is what’s happening.

We, American Christians, boast of Christ in one sentence then defy his most basic teachings in the next. Our witness and our world suffer because of this. The way we let hate speech and discrimination go unchecked. The way we ignore and denigrate the voices of marginalized people who are unlike us. The way we pat ourselves on the back for “serving” communities without asking them what they need or listening when they tell us. The way we distance ourselves from injustice in our communities as if it’s not our problem because “God is in control.” How could anyone look at these actions and think of us as the light of the world? How can we look at ourselves and continually deny not only how far from Christ’s mark we are but also how interconnected our political, spiritual, and personal actions and beliefs are?

When we make political choices that show that bigotry and hatred are permissible as long as you’re white and your financial plan sounds good (even if it really isn’t), that is a negative reflection of our spiritual and personal beliefs. When we make spiritual choices that prioritize forced unity rather than the voices of hurting people including hurting Christians who feel their lives were disregarded by white Christians, cis Christians, straight Christians, able-bodied Christians, non-immigrant Christians, etc., that is a negative reflection of our personal and political beliefs. When we make the personal choice to respond to the state of our country and our world by sitting back and doing nothing, that is a negative reflection of our spiritual and political beliefs.

I pray that someday soon we learn to repent of these and other sins we continue to commit while brandishing the name of Jesus Christ. I pray that we realize what it truly means to love God and others above ourselves so one day we can collectively reflect the glory of God rather than the glory of ourselves.