This past week has had me on a rollercoaster of emotions. Pain. Anger. Sorrow. Frustration. Despair. From hearing people speak up about their ordeals in the hands of SARS operatives to seeing graphic images and watching horrifying videos of extra-judicial killings masterminded by this infamous unit, I have felt these emotions over and over again.
Amidst the chaos, I have also felt pride and hope. Pride from belonging to this generation of resilient and united soldiers who will stop at nothing to ensure their demands are met; and hope at the prospects of a new Nigeria-the Nigeria of our dreams. But the emotions have mostly been negative. And honestly, why shouldn’t they be? Tales of injustice are continually being told, with each one worse than the last.
I started out as as an online protester for the EndSARS movement on the 9th of October-a day after the first peaceful protest held in Lagos state. I had thought, ”if I can’t be on the protest grounds to lend my voice, I could at least try to amplify the voices of those who are already doing that”. I spent the entire day retweeting all of the hashtags and following up on the progress of the protests. By the following morning, my Twitter account had recorded so much activity that I was temporarily suspended, twice. However, that didn’t deter me from speaking up.
By day 3, I had gotten so invested in the movement, that I had recorded a series of nightmares and anxiety attacks. I was also getting into more heated arguments, and lashing out about things I was normally tolerant of. I found myself on the verge of tears many times a day, and I struggled to sleep at nights. On nights when I managed to sleep, I would wake up with severe aches and pains.
At first, I felt guilty for feeling all of these things because while it was clear that I needed a break, I honestly didn’t think I had a right to one. I thought it selfish to step back when there were people at the frontlines risking their lives.Tweet
So, I continued to absorb all of that negative energy with no outlet whatsoever.
On the 12th of October, I came across this newsletter from MentallyAwareNigeriaInitiative, (if you are subscribed to their newsletter, you must have seen it too). In summary, it said that around-the-clock activism could be mentally-draining and overwhelming and that it was important to implement self-care. They went ahead to recommend occasional breaks to rest and recharge, because in actual fact this revolutionary moment could be too much for anybody.
Receiving that newsletter was the game changer for me. My feelings were obviously valid, and I could finally do the needful without beating myself up about it. Ever since then, when I get really upset, I take a few moments off social media to deal with my emotions. Sometimes, I vent to my friends, other times I pray and I dare say that these breaks have been super helpful in ensuring I don’t suffer a mental breakdown.
So, if you are an online protester who takes their job as seriously as I do, I’m here to reiterate some of the salient points in that newsletter.
If you ever feel overwhelmed, please take a short break to pull yourself together. It is okay to do that, I promise. The rest of us will cover for you. But make sure that when you return, it is with a voice loud enough for all to hear.Tweet
Because this is our fight and we are going to win it together. I leave you with these last words from my friend, Nelly:
Are you a Nigerian and have joined the protest so far? What has your experience been like? Feel free to share with me in the comments and share this post with others on your social platforms.
Featured image captured by Nora Awolowo.