This op-ed was inspired by my constant bouts with sleep paralysis. I've recently started to intentionally rest my body at a decent time of night. For me this simply means not waiting until the suns comes up in order for my body to finally go into sleep mode. Tonight I recorded in the studio until about 4am. Typically I'd try to go to sleep after this, but sleep paralysis has been attacking me this entire week. Basically this happens while I'm still sleep; my body locks up and I can't open my eyes or mouth until something gives in. This has happened sporadically my entire life at the most random moments. Lately it's happened on a semi-constant basis during my sleep.
I deal with many of the same realities that other people involved in the movement are dealing with. At this point there's a strong sense of exhaustion in the air; this time of year you may find it's critical to press reset and enter the summer fully refreshed. Unfortunately, we all know this is easier said than done.
I have issues with separation; between music and activism I'm used to being around crowds of people. It's often difficult for me to recalibrate and relax after these types of activities. I believe PTSD has changed the way many of us approach the science of rest. For months many Ferguson frontliners simply weren't sleeping because we could not find the space and opportunity to do so.
The stress of going to jail unsuspectedly also prevents the body from being able to achieve restful sleep. Protesters for the most part can't sleep comfortably in jail. Someone needs to keep their eyes open while also maintaining conversation with the CO's as they process the paperwork. It is too easy to get lost in any jail in Saint Louis City or County. Whenever I've had to sleep in jail it was absolutely horrible. I've left the cell with pink eye almost every time I go to jail. After the tear gas, handcuffs, nightsticks, flash bang grenades, and water hoses, many us truthfully haven't slept in years. I don't quite know that we've discovered a real solution to this problem. We all need rest and most of us need it immediately. It is extremely critical to the work we're doing.
I'm fighting to create space for healthy habits such as eating right, working out, and sleeping more. In a world with so many cliches surrounding the things we deem necessary to make self care a reality it's hard to sort through the minutiae. Our mental well being is always at risk due to the amount of traumatic experiences we've suffered through. I must stress how important black spirituality is during times such as these. If you're not rooted in something deeper than yourself you should prepare for failure. It's complicated, but if we want to live then we have to make hard decisions.
Oddly enough I personally can't say that my sleep paralysis comes from exhaustion alone. I think it's a combination of PTSD and fatigue. I'm often worried about going to sleep because I fear missing an important text message or call from a comrade. We have no idea when the beast will strike. There's nothing like someone getting pulled over 4am with no one to call. Our collectivity may be strong, but people power is often paper thin. Our troops are currently depleted and not properly rested. We need a radical shift in our thinking as it pertains to caring for our minds,hearts, and souls simultaneously.
Our bodies and our voices are our premiere tools in this fight. How are you treating yourself in conjunction to your beliefs about fighting for Black lives? Are you sleeping enough? How much water are you drinking on the daily? Are you smoking too much? Are you drinking obsessively and if so, do you think it's time to start cutting back? Do you believe in frequently taking naps?
These questions may seem quite mediocre, but this self imposed inquisition could play a valuable role in saving your life. Health is wealth and your sanity is the gateway to your serenity. In a world that's hell bent on destroying people of color this message is all about longevity. In order to fight white supremacy properly we all need to be well rested and mentally centered.