What do you think about when you hear “self-care”? Does it remind you of bath bombs and face masks? Does it sound selfish or lazy to you? Or does it sound like taking active steps toward something you desperately need?
This month marks my one-year anniversary of starting therapy, and my one year anniversary of working on the Hillary Clinton campaign.
I had been seeing references to self-care on my timeline more and more thanks to the people I follow who advocate for mental and emotional health. Still, knowing what self-care is and actually practicing it are different. I wasn’t doing the latter for a long time.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work for a cause I believed in. I had never been heavily involved in politics before but I was ready to jump in by doing what I do best: Building a strong community and organizing people into action.
A lot of the work I did was behind the scenes. My favorite memory was being part of a team that helped register 200 million voters. It was surreal.
In the beginning I was doing great, but about a month in (it felt more like six months) I was beginning to realize I was not okay. I felt really bad.
My position required me to expose myself to the worst parts of the Internet at all hours of the day. I started my morning with death threats in my Twitter DMs and ended my day by blocking accounts that were spamming my mentions.
One top of that, I was in a bad living situation that made it hard for me to have relaxing and comfortable space to come home to.
Around this time, I started following more positivity accounts on Twitter and Tumblr to brighten my feed. They were always there amid the garbage, making it all a little more bearable.
Toward the end of the campaign I began developing a “check-in” tool for myself to help me remember to drink water, have snacks and take care of myself in other seemingly small ways. I’d set cute phone alarm reminders to myself on my phone. This is what worked for me. Constant, gentle reminders. Nothing that made me feel guilty or overwhelmed.
When election night came, I had a panic attack outside the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. I wasn’t able to go into the office the next day or to the concession speech.
I have nightmares of seeing everyone I worked with crying and hugging in sadness. The day after, all I could do was hold my partner in bed crying and wishing I didn’t have to lock my Twitter account in fear of harassment.
In Hillary Clinton’s letter to me she wrote:
I did take some time, and then I got to work. I started freelancing to pay my bills and bootstrap my self-care app, Aloe, to where it is today.
I knew my self-care reminders during the campaign were good for me, and I knew my friends needed it too.
On Inauguration Day this year I shared Aloe with the Internet by putting together a blog filled with stories about self-care. I made a self-care survey free for anyone to use on our website.
Thousands of people have used it since.