“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
I just returned home from a weekend writing retreat with my Dallas Public Voices fellows. We had been planning it for months, inspired by the generosity of a kind funder who offered us space at their family’s East Texas lake house. Three days of uninterrupted time to bask in nature and work on our next op-ed pieces. Stepping foot onto the award-winning property- inspired by poetry and built on the indigenous land of the Tawakoni tribe- took my breath away. The group quickly settled into this awe-inspiring space and began typing.
I originally intended to write an opinion piece about the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019. About a third of a way into my draft, I stopped. There was something blocking me, and I needed to understand what was happening. Alone with my thoughts in this quaint and cozy cabin, I broke down.
When I say this retreat couldn’t have come at a more fortuitous time, it is not hyperbole. I shared a glimpse of my recent personal turmoil in this post. What I omitted, perhaps out of fear or shame, was this text message I received after the public Facebook debacle:
“If you think I’m a racist because I voted for Trump, then you have some serious mental problems that you should seek help for.”
Mental health. Weaponized and used as a punitive insult by someone who justified their harm with “love” vehemently. The irony being that if she knew anything about my adult life or followed my posts carefully, she would have known my “mental problems” were no secret.
I’ve written in a national publication about cutting myself in high school and my experience seeing a therapist for the first time when I was 32 years old. Adoptees attempt suicide at a rate four times higher than non-adopted people. My need for help long preceded the revelation that she was a Trump-supporter.
Therein lies the disconnect. Adoptees, people of color, marginalized communities- we have been crying out for help. We chant, scream, beg for allyship and understanding. We live in constant oppression and daily fear of extermination- generated and perpetuated by words and actions of the most powerful political leader in our country. Only to be dismissed and ignored- sometimes by people who claim to “love” us.
This is not love. And when it becomes clear someone does not love you, it is even more imperative to love yourself. As much as I wanted to write an op-ed about adoptee citizenship this past weekend, what I needed was a reminder to start loving myself again.
I need to love my body, whose generous curves belie its struggle to conceive.
I need to embrace my sexuality, which has been objectified since childhood and mistaken for a liability rather than source of power.
I need to cherish the color of my skin and shape of my eyes as God-given, instead of cursed.
I need to celebrate my mind and the beliefs it holds, even when others don’t understand.
I need to raise the volume of my voice; both for those trying so hard not to listen and others who might feel less alone by hearing it.
In a world where people hate me for everything I am, I must love myself for those very same reasons.
I am broken, so I can be filled.
“My existence is resistance.”
Jamie Sweeney says
I absolutely love this piece. I am going through something similar and can totally relate. Thank you for sharing.
Stephanie Drenka says
Thank you for reading it, Jamie. I am glad it resonated with you. We are not alone!