Here’s Why Nobody Can Save Us But Us - And Here’s How We Did ItFeb 01, 2022
Reece Chenault is the Ferryman at the WildSeed Society. Reece has put in his dues as visible leader, first as a union organizer, later as the Executive Director of US Labor Against the War and with Justice Before Peace to build a BI-POC led working class anti-imperalist movement. He now mostly works behind the scenes, playing an invaluable support role to many movement spaces.
On December 28, 2021, I realized that I was having a mental health crisis and needed psychiatric care. Since I had been managing my bipolar disorder well for the last seven years, I knew that I wasn’t in a place where I would harm myself.
But it did feel like if I didn’t stop to just take care of myself with support from others, I might dissolve into a wordless fog of black sand.
I had seen that happen to other movement organizers like myself who were feeling the emotional toll of being in a racial uprising and pandemic. And I didn’t want that to happen to me.
At first, I tried the standard route of trying to get into a hospital. My personal experiences with them had been mixed. But it’s the current system that we have so we tried it first.
However, my family soon found out that all the local hospitals were full, strained beyond capacity by omicron.
Thankfully, I’m a part of the WildSeed Society, which is a political, spiritual and economic community that’s creating portals to new worlds where we all got free. It’s grounded in collective care that’s trauma-informed, consent-based, and human-centered and offers that collective care to movement organizers in their community.
In other words, I needed help so they came to help. Aaron Goggans and Sandra Kim showed up at my door and drove me to an Air BnB to help me get the rest and care that I needed.
Nobody called 911 so I didn’t have the threat of potentially fatal consequences of having police called on me, especially as a large Black man. I didn’t have to worry about being stuck with a needle to sedate me if they thought I was getting “agitated.”
At the Air BnB, I was able to get care for my basic needs, through healthy home cooked food, quality sleep, and walks outside in nature. This helped me stabilize and get back into a healthier rhythm with my body.
Unfortunately, that can be hard to get in many mental health facilities. They can only have mass produced food, keep the lights on in your room even at night so guards can check on you, and be too short staffed to accompany you out for walks - as I had personally experienced before.
I was also able to share and process some of the difficult experiences from being on the ground of a racial uprising. Aaron was able to listen to me and help me reflect on what I was feeling and needed for myself. Since Aaron is a fellow comrade and movement veteran, I didn’t have to educate him on my politics and I could choose what I wanted to share based on what I felt ready to lean into.
With most other mental health professionals, I have to do a lot of explaining of how my mental health relates to my politics that I don’t want to do and may be triggering for me even, because they have to understand enough before they can be helpful to me.
Aaron was also able to work with others in my support team, like my psychiatrist and doctors, as well as my family in order to make sure I got help from others that I also needed, without me having to do it all by myself.
This helped me have an easier transition back into my life than other times, when social workers had made me feel like I had to apologize to my loved ones for taking the time to get the care I needed in a hospital.
In the end, after this week-long respite, I came home with much greater capacity to address the challenges in my life. Before, I saw the problems but I couldn’t see the solutions, much less have the energy to address them. Now I can even see the potential traumas coming down the pike and feel more equipped to handle them.
Perhaps more than anything, as a loved one said to me, “it’s like you’re choosing you.” I have been putting everyone and everything else first in ways that were risking my mental and physical health. Now I feel more committed to taking care of myself than ever and have been aligning more of my life to be able to do so.
Despite Aaron and Sandra not being mental health professionals, they have a lot of the professional and personal experiences and skills necessary to give me the type of care I needed. There was a groundedness in restoring my spirit and recognizing that I needed a hug every now and then, which isn’t allowed in a facility.
Even my doctors said I got better care from them than I would have in a facility!
To help over the cost of the Air BnB, I'm doing this GoFundMe campaign.
But with this GoFundMe, I also wanted to share a warning - and a hope.
Our systems are breaking down with all the crisis we’re facing. And they were never meant to hold us as Black and brown people in the first place.
We can’t rely on them to help us with our mental health in the ways we need them to. And that’s a scary truth many of us don’t want to acknowledge.
But other ways, other worlds, are possible. With WildSeed, I was able to co-create a different way of getting care during my mental health crisis. I wasn’t a person being worked on who just had to accept what I was given.
I was present in the creation of my path so it could actually meet my needs - with the support of those who were in alignment with my values.
And I want that possibility that WildSeed helped make real be possible for others too. Because I’m not the only one going through this type of struggle.
There’s so many of us movement organizers who are burnt out and know that the far right is growing in numbers and influence.
I know that if we don’t slow down to take care of ourselves in a collective way, we’ll be facing worse threats with less capacity.
And if we slow down to take care of ourselves in a collective way, then we can begin to live in a world where we all get to belong and be cared for.
If you're interested in supporting and/or learning more WildSeed's collective care work, click on the links below:
- Donate to the GoFundMe campaign covering the cost of Reece's radical peer respite.
- For BIPOC, join a Caring Circle, a free drop-in community healing space, or take Collective Care Pods, an online course.
- For BIPOC movement organizers, tell us if you're interested in joining a virtual conversation about lessons learned and how to apply it to your life
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