There have been a great deal of painful events that have taken place in 2016. From the mass shooting in Orlando to what many are calling the most painful elections in the history of America, many are looking for ways to escape these painful conversations without feeling remorseful for doing so.
A common thread that has been shared in connection with many of the painful occurrences that has taken place this year is ways for people, specifically queer people of color, to cope. For some, coping is a survival tactic because lets face it: so of us have no other ways to navigate this life without figuring out a coping mechanism.
But for others, coping is just a temporary way to deal with issues and for that, many are looking for ways to progress past coping in the moment.
When researching ways to progress beyond coping, I find interesting that there is very little to no information about how queer people of color can move beyond coping. It seems that for many, naming your situation is enough and learning to deal with said situation is the most that one can do. In moments like these, I like to challenge why folks are okay with just coping, but why it seems that no one is ever looking to come up with solutions as to ways to push past the pain that we have been condition to maintain.
In writing this, what I have found are some ways that queer people of color can push past "coping" in these terrible times and how we can implement self care as a form of political warfare.
Recognizing that you don't have to be okay. In moments such as the Orlando shooting and even the election, I heard many people saying, "It is going to be okay. Don't focus on the negativity".
By acknowledging that you are not okay and by telling someone that you would like to figure out your own pathway to healing, you are, in your own right, pushing past the coping stage. Feel sad. Be angry. Hell, be pissed off. You deserve that right. But its important to understand that being told, "everything is going to be okay" may not be truthful and you have that right to acknowledge it.
Confront your fears. A few weeks ago I stopped talking to a family member who I was once extremely close to. Knowing that in the back of my mind that I was no longer "close" to this person was extremely painful, but what I feared the most was knowing that I was standing up for my well being. Often, when we are in a painful place in our lives, or we experience a painful situation, we want to figure out ways to mask the pain that is present. Whether its posting cute and uplifting memes on social media, or simply saying, "I can get through this", sometimes acknowledging your pain is the best thing you can do.
I have had several conversations with my therapist, friends and family about how to confront this pain and the reality is that no one will ever be able to tell you how to fully do this. In order to move past finding ways to cope, the best thing to do is to acknowledge your pain, your fears and your uncertainty and remember that most healing practice is to let truth be your guide.
Pay attention to what you need. Yes, community is extremely important in times of turmoil. I know that when Alton Sterling was murdered, I looked for community both in real life and on social media. That is what I needed for that moment. In other times, specifically ones like the election, it took me a few days want to openly discuss what I was feeling and honestly I am still very reluctant to want to go into details about why I feel the way I do as a queer Black man. What situation like these has taught me is that in bad times, we are often forced to discuss them with people we may not feel like we want to. In learning to not just cope, I say, if you believe that you don't need to talk about it, don't. Some will say, "Do it because it is good for you". If you don't believe that to be true, stick to your guns.
Coping, for some, is necessary, but for other like me, coping keeps you stagnant or locked in a place where you are often needing to be receptive to other individuals advice. I say that before you take advice on how to cope, challenge yourself by asking: do I want to stay here and maintain, or do I want to move on and if so, how?
Yes, coping is important in tough times, but so is thriving. Coping can no longer be the rhetoric we use when terrible things happen.
Let's make this world better by supporting each others way of healing, shall we?