I Am Not OkayNov 06, 2023
From the closing of my WildSeed Society Personal Report, June 2, 2023:
“...It’s interesting because Aaron’s words ‘I’m worried about you, Erika.’ have never left me. And even though my default has been to dismiss the concern with ‘I’m ok. I have my boundaries and my practices…’, I heard a different response within me today that said - ‘Good. Someone should be.’”
I am not okay.
I’m learning to allow that statement to just be without attempting to assuage any discomfort that it may create.
As I’m approaching my winter sabbatical and settling into my body’s natural rhythm of slowing down, I find myself grounding more and more in this truth.
It no longer feels like a truth I need to out run or deny…but a truth I have finally accepted. The community healer is in need of intensive refuge and rest.
I’ve been in healing justice work for over two decades now. And for the last 12+ years, I’ve been holding weekly community healing spaces for Black folks, People of the Global Majority, and frontline community organizers as we tend to the emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical impacts of uprisings. From conflict transformation work, to providing intergenerational spaces for healing and joy. From personal, organizational, and communal development, to 1:1 and group coaching supporting people in breaking the chains of self-limiting beliefs, internalized oppression and unprocessed grief.
I’m clear that this is the work I’ve been called to do in this time.
We know that the world is on fire. We’ve heard that statement many times and we’re living it. We’re still experiencing the mass disabling event that is COVID. We’re witnessing war, uprisings, multiple genocides and more. Yet, very rarely, due to ideas of scarcity and shame, do we lift up and acknowledge how for so many of us…our internal worlds are also on fire. The internal worlds of movement organizations are on fire. The worlds of our immediate families and loved ones are on fire.
“To move toward love, we must confront the pain of abandonment and loss. This means speaking what may have once been unspeakable.” - bell hooks from ‘Salvation: Black People and Love’
I’ve been absent from holding individual and community healing spaces this year. I will be absent for sometime. And I think it’s important, in honoring my own humanity and healing, that I name why…
[The following personal account includes descriptions of gun violence, intimate partner violence, and murder. Please take care of yourself while reading or opting out of continuing.]
On new year's eve of this year, minutes after the new year’s toast - I had what appeared to be a stroke and it landed me in the hospital. While in the waiting room, I received a call from my sister, crying hysterically, telling me that our cousin had been murdered, and her two children had been shot…all by the hands of her boyfriend. The father of her children.
On January 1st, 2023, my family’s world was set ablaze…and I lost it.
I attempted to rip the IV out of my arm, the electrodes off of my head and drive to my cousin’s house, but my husband stopped me. We still hadn’t gotten answers to what happened to me, and I felt completely helpless. A few hours later, the doctors let me know that there were absolutely zero signs of a stroke or seizure and that the medication I take for my ADHD actually acts as an anti-seizure medication.
It was then I realized that what I’d experienced was the strongest premonition I’d ever had in my life.
That night, we experienced a tragedy so unimaginable, I couldn’t speak. All I could do was scream. My big cousin… who I loved beyond words…who I had mac n’ cheese competitions with every thanksgiving…whose daughter shares the same name as my daughter…who lived right down the street from me…was murdered by the father of her two children, leaving my little cousins without parents.
As my family, still in shock, rallied to protect her children, every other part of my world had to take a back seat. I sent out a message in February saying that Emotional Emancipation Circles would be paused and didn’t take on any long term clients so I could have space and capacity to wade through the long road ahead.
Yet soon after, literally month after month, more personal and community tragedies came.
In the first 6 months of the year, 6 loved ones were either diagnosed with, experiencing mounting challenges of living with, or died, from cancer.
Month 7 - our basement flooded; I was attacked by a man in a park while I was on the phone holding space for a friend navigating his grief from the ongoing impacts of being a part of the Ferguson Uprising.
Month 9 - supporting and securing resources for loved ones struggling with suicidal ideation and depression; two more deaths in the family just this October… All while trying my best with the tools and capacity I have to be an emotionally and physically present mother, wife, granddaughter, eldest daughter, big sister, auntie, colleague, healing collective member, and friend.
WildSeed’s sacred warren of practitioners - my comrades, my therapist, along with my body and my grief, have offered me a loving, direct, compassionate mirror in which to see myself - to see that I need an extended sabbatical, and we’re working together and reaching for beloved community members, like you, to help make that happen.
I need and will be taking an 18 month sabbatical starting in mid-November 2023. Entering WildSeed’s Revolutionary Aftercare Program that we offer folks in social justice movements, as a participant this time. Therefore, my Emotional Emancipation Circles, a community of which I love with every fiber of my being, and any other healing/coaching/facilitation offerings I provide, must be paused until I’m well rested and resourced to do it.
I can no longer triage my burnout. I have to treat it.
It would be out of alignment and out of integrity to push myself when I know I don’t have it in me. I wouldn’t do or advise that to anyone else, so I’m not going to do that to myself.
Sincerely, I want to continue holding community healing spaces for our people, coaching and supporting orgs in developing more liberatory work cultures; and having a resourced, community supported break now ensures that I’ll be able to return.
So, no, Beloved Community…I am not okay, but I’m confident that with your support, I will be.
In Love + Liberation,
If you are willing and able, please donate to Erika's Sabbatical fund here.
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