Self-care is influenced by the environment we inhabit, the way we relate to others, the way we negotiate with other living beings or structures. Self-care is also interlinked with other types of care – whether that is in community resources, psychosocial support, engagement with medical and health care institutions, and of course in collective agency and solidarity.
Conversations about stress, burnout and mental health have gained prominence, especially during and since the COVID-19 pandemic. But, what is stress and burnout?
Continuing with our theme of self-care being about sustaining ourselves, our work, our movements, keeping the fires lit, and relating with love to ourselves, in our mid-month issue we bring you more articles looking at self-care from different perspectives – individual, queer, activist, collective, organisational, not necessarily separated, or in this order, of course.
The pandemic has put us through interesting times, to say the least – of reflecting, learning, realigning, thinking about what really matters, a time to pause and care for ourselves with kindness. At TARSHI, we’re just delighted to have been able to do the same – while also sharing something of what we’ve learnt with you.
I know that the lives of many human rights defenders are under continuous threat, that sometimes it is impossible to sleep or to enjoy a moment of peace because of the harassment coming from the outside. What I address in this text is our internal disposition as activists, and the ideas that stop us from taking care of and holding ourselves together.
My self-care journey has only just begun and I have a long way to go. I do have bouts of self-doubt, anxiety, and panic, and I still go through periods of feeling overwhelmed. However, more than anything, I have learnt that self-care, for me, is a subversive act, and caring for myself gives me the strength to challenge the status quo and play my part in social justice movements.
What does it mean to hold space and extend compassion to ourselves and our communities? Rachel Cargle reminds us to ask ourselves: who would we be if we weren’t trying to survive? Similarly, what would care and vulnerability look like if we weren’t trying to survive? The anarchy of queerness constantly and necessarily resists the capitalist engineering of the Survival Myth: one that wants us to endure an isolated life instead of embracing it with the radically transformative joy of togetherness. Caring for yourself precedes, succeeds, and exists alongside caring for the collective.
In a country like India where both mental health and non-binary identities are topics that are neglected despite being essential parts of an individual’s identity, it can be quite challenging to navigate through issues regarding the same. Accessibility to affordable and quality mental health services is a serious difficulty that the queer Indian population faces.
In a time when reason is more valued than emotion, unravelling and understanding the politics of self-care becomes all the more fundamental for us, and the movements we seek to develop and build. When our bodies, our emotions and our needs become weapons to be used against us, acts of defiance become rooted in thinking about your self and how we practice it. I find I am faced with more questions than answers, but I also know that asking the questions is the first step to finding the answers
Just as capitalism has learned how to co-opt feminism into its model, it has done the same to ‘wellness’, so much so it has become an industry of its own. Mental wellbeing, no matter how necessary and important it is, remains a luxury with more than half of our country either unaware of available mental health resources or not in a position to even afford therapy.
But self-care is not a clean and happy procedure, it is not definitively achievable when systematically explored. To understand the scope of self-care we need to see the ‘dark side’ of the landscape, and destroy the versions of self-care that denounce our plurality. In this fight, the only outcome can be a recognition of experiences beyond the wellness narrative structured around the neoliberal agenda. This article is an attempt at foregrounding some aspects of self-care that decentralise the prevalent commodification of it.
Ageing vaginas in ageing female bodies are joked about. But a vagina shouldn’t have the task of pleasing anybody but itself first. To begin with, we’ll have to love and respect our vaginas in order to pleasure them. Love them just as they are. If they feel a little dry, don’t despair. Use a lubricant or a little coconut oil. If my labia are unshapely, they’re still my labia and respond very nicely to gentleness and tenderness. If I don’t love and respect my ageing body, in need of gentle, loving, patient care, then who will, for God’s sake?
My journal has many entries that are speculative and fantastic. Writing about the mundane leads me to question the way the world operates and from there I frog-leap into a world of ideas where I imagine a radically different way of being. In my journal, I imagine a politics of care, community, and compassion. I become grand, valuable, and unstoppable, even in a world where I am sometimes made to feel small.