When I Protest, I Go By Myself
Quick disclaimer: Being an introvert does not mean that you automatically suffer from anxiety and/or depression, and conversely, if you identify as an extrovert, it doesn't mean that you don't suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Obviously everyone falls somewhere on the spectrums of both personality and mental health. Disclaimer over.
I will be writing and talking on the podcast pretty frequently about the intersection of introversion, anxiety, and activism, because it feels like that's where I live more often than not these days, and I feel like there are introverts all over the world standing on their own similar intersections...separately, and avoiding each other.
I wanted to start the introverted activist blog because I believe that introverts swell the ranks of the most thoughtful, compassionate, and passionate among us. I believe that even if it is difficult, we need to carve out more space for introverts in our policy conversations, because policy should not be dictated only by those comfortable with being loud.
Now, more than ever, it is imperative to our democracy and our decency as human beings that we be engaged in our political process. I realize that for many people who care and want to be engaged, being politically active is a minefield if you deal, as I do, with anxiety.
Protests, marches, and rallies are not for everyone. However, if you don’t like crowds (I personally hate crowds and can feel claustrophobic even when someone is standing too close to me in line), but are able to attend marches without too much anxiety and don’t mind going alone, I recommend it. In fact, it's become the way that I can attend marches and rallies and not feel totally drained afterward.
Much like any retail shopping, grocery shopping, or general wandering in the greeting card aisle, museum, or park, I prefer to stand up and be counted by myself so that I can stick to the edges, walk where I feel safe without the anxiety of getting separated from people, take photos, and experience it all at my own pace while still participating. For me, it really helps to take photos and videos; to document. I feel safer in crowds if I am viewing the event through the lens, pun intended, of a documentarian. Yes, I am there participating, but I am also there to record the story. To capture the history. To create a record of this occurrence while having this mental barrier of the camera between myself and the crowd, which is one source of anxiety while engaging in putting your body where your politics are. Added bonus, when you are documenting a march or a rally, you can share your experience on social media and help tell the story and amplify the cause you are fighting for.
If you are more comfortable with a friend or in a group, by all means go with them. Be safe, and remember that showing up also means making sure you’re taking care of yourself. For the record, I am not a fan of people getting down of others if they don't feel they can go to marches because of their anxiety or any other issue. It's nothing to be ashamed of, and it doesn’t mean people not attending the protest aren't just as invested in the cause. Standing up and being counted is important, and putting your body where your beliefs are is important, but it is not the the only way to protest, and it is not for everyone. Don't beat yourself up if you can't attend an event or prefer not to - it is not the sole factor in determining your dedication to a movement.
There are several ways to engage that you can do from home, and I know you know this, but some examples are: writing letters, postcards, emails, etc., texting, making phone calls. All of these we are able to do at a distance. Even with phone calls, I get inordinately nervous trying to make sure I'm going to remember what I want to say, and, like when I have to call anywhere, I'd rather leave a message than talk to a real person. Luckily most senators and members of congress have an option for you to leave a message and you never have to talk to any actual person unless you intentionally want to. Do I still leave meandering and sometimes flustered messages for my reps? Absolutely! But they are mostly comprehensible and I didn't have to talk to anyone, so, win, win.