The Edge of Hope: Social Causes and Empathy Drain

Let's take a step back and check in!

The Edge of Hope: Social Causes and Empathy Drain
Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

I usually try to be professional and informative with these letters. But today, I’m going to take a step back from that. I’m not a writer today. I’d like to reach out from a more personal place.

How are you doing?

Really, I mean it. Are you okay? Because I know recent events are weighing heavy on my mind, and I’ll bet they hit everybody else like a truck, too. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some horrible stuff.

We’ve seen Uganda pass laws criminalizing identity. We’ve seen rampant hate speech and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation all over the United States. We’ve seen Canadian politicians starting to echo some of the same talking points.

We’ve seen transgender people and their allies take a stand, forcing transphobic public speakers to cancel tours because they’ve been shown that their hate isn’t welcome. As a result of one such rally, Victoria finally decided to ban the Nazi salute. Why it wasn’t already banned is anyone’s guess.

We’ve seen school shootings claim the lives of children and staff, and we’ve seen lawmakers outright bluntly state that they will not do anything to stop them.

When asked how he protects his kids, one lawmaker helpfully said “Well, we homeschool our daughter.” But he won’t do anything to protect anyone else’s children…except from the horrors of drag performers existing. He thinks America just needs a revival of religion to solve the mass shooting problem.

We’ve seen President Joe Biden approve more oil drilling projects, at the same time as legal experts in the UK are just starting to take a stand against being forced to participate in the destruction brought about by the fossil fuel industry.

We’ve seen the first criminal indictment of a President of the United States, whether sitting or former. That’s a huge deal, and it means a great step has been taken to help preserve democracy.

This is a bit of a mixed bag, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but to me, this roller coaster is exhausting.

Activism Fatigue Is Real

It’s important in times like these to step back a bit and check in with yourself.

Caregiver fatigue is a known phenomenon, where people that are responsible for taking care of other people can find themselves burning out and drained due to the mental and emotional load of their work. We’ve seen this with doctors and nurses all throughout the Pandemic.

Activists can go through a very similar kind of burnout because of what we do.

Anyone getting involved in activism is doing so because they care, very deeply and passionately, for the cause they’re fighting for. The constant push and pull of victory and setback can be overwhelming.

I’m nowhere near burning out, personally. I feel the drain happening, and I make a point of stepping away when I need to. I spent the other day in my workshop, polishing silver and making pretty things as I listened to music.

I gave my mind a break, took time to be creative and stopped paying attention to the news for a few hours. I needed it, and I knew the fight was still going to be there when I got back.

If you’re feeling that drain, it’s okay. Don’t feel guilty if you need to call timeout and take five, whether that be minutes or days. You’re the only person inside your head, and you’re the only one who knows how you’re feeling.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. And if you’ve only got a few drops left, it does no good to keep tipping yourself more and more in the hopes that they’ll be enough to quench the thirst.

Go back to the faucet and get some more water. Better yet- form a bucket chain so there’s always something to pour with!

Community Solidarity Brings Victory

I talk about unity and solidarity a lot, because networking and working as a team is how we ensure our voices are heard.

But what I don’t necessarily draw attention to as often as I should is that your community is about more than fighting battles. It’s about having people you can trust, people you can reach out to, and people you can lean on.

You don’t have to always be flying banners and chanting in the streets, shoulder to shoulder like soldiers in the trenches. You can cry on each other’s shoulders too.

When I’m tired, I have a good dozen people I can call to vent. I know they’ll always hear me out, and they’ll just let me blow off steam until I’m calm enough to hear their comfort. And they can reach out to me whenever they need the same; I get my cup of coffee and I sit and listen.

Community is about having a family. If you’re working together to help other people, you should be equally willing to help each other, too.

With this newsletter, I’m trying to build such a community. So, I refer back to the question from the start of this letter.

How are you guys doing?

The comments will always be open for anyone who needs to talk about what’s going on in the world. I do my best to answer everybody, and I’d encourage you to give each other an ear, too.

Share how you’re handling things, share good news, funny stories, or even just advice on how you deal with feeling ground down. Even if all you want to do is rage and vent, that’s cool.

Give yourself permission to feel today. Don’t let yourself burn out.