Sometimes the news cycle is too much to take in.
NOTE: As a journalist, we are supposed to detach ourselves from our personal views in our work to provide an objective view. But, as an activist, our emotions, compassion, and empathy are what drives us. In many cases, it’s difficult to define the line between the two. This is one of those times.
In the last week, we’ve seen more innocent people slaughtered at the hands of police, a child suffering in CBP/ICE custody as he died, three Black men murdered by police in three different cities, the racist infestation of our law enforcement apparatus on every level, and an anti-Semitic attack in Jersey City, N.J. All issues that are personal to me.
My parents and step-parents are all immigrants that have systematically been treated poorly in a country that boasts its cultural diversity; we have close family friends with immigrant children, DREAMers, and some who’ve been through Trump’s abhorrent and racist immigration system; my wife and I are both survivors of police brutality through several incidents that occurred prior to our marriage, and once during; all of us have been subjected to verbal and physical racist attacks throughout our lives.
Being a minority in America can be unforgiving.
To say that the incidents of the past week are personal to us doesn’t do it justice. These issues affect minorities on a visceral level. They are the stuff of nightmares, PTSD, and mental health issues. They impact our family in sometimes harsh terms that can not be defined. Despite all of that, we’ve had our successes. But they came with the heavy burden of having to work two and three times harder than our privileged counterparts.
The fight to expose these things and to share the knowledge of them can sometimes be too much to bear as well. Our family discusses these things at home. I speak out on them publicly against the genuine concerns of my family. My wife and kids express their anger about what we are witnessing as a nation in the only way they know. Family members come to me seeking answers because they are fully aware of the work that I do. They know I have access to information that will answer their questions and help them cope with what’s happening.
Sometimes that isn’t enough, even for me.
A few months ago I was so angered with the way CBP/ICE treats migrants and migrant children that it triggered my anxiety to levels I’ve never felt before (and I’m a stroke survivor). Imagine that. It was somewhat horrifying. Cold sweats. Shakes. Not sleeping at night. All of it took its toll. Medications were essentially useless and wholly ineffective. All because I couldn’t let go of the processes put in place by this administration along with the attacks on our communities.
These abhorrent policies and dangerous rhetoric are easily the worst we’ve seen in modern history. At that time, I decided to make an effort to try and organize nationwide protests, to no avail (thanks in large part to Lights For Liberty which began organizing at about the same time).
My goal was to see people on the streets with the same energy and presence that we saw during the Women’s March. I was fully aware that I was putting myself in a position to either embarrass the hell out of myself — to the detriment of my reputation and newfound career — or I was going to be successful in my efforts. Either way, it was worth taking that risk. At least to me, it was. It was a concern that I voiced to the staff at Latino Rebels as I sought to have something published along these lines.
Later the same day, I retracted my submission to the crew at Latino Rebels as I began discussing my intentions with Ashton Woods, founder of Black Lives Matter in Houston. Ashton would help to calm me down as he always does. He’s a much stronger soul than I am.
The insane news cycle of this past week began to have the same effect on me as what I experienced over the summer. The difference this time is I have established a support system involving friends, family, and colleagues. We set some ground rules based on subtle cues that dictate when those closest to me should or shouldn’t approach me seeking answers. One of those subtle cues is when I try to detach myself from my surroundings. When that occurs, my teenage sons noticed, I attempt to seclude myself and I have a tendency to sit in silence. My 17-year-old, who meditates with me regularly, suggested additional meditation to ease my mind.
Following through on his suggestions has helped me more than anything else during these trying times. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Since having a stroke, my family struggles to make ends meet every single day. I can no longer work in my previous career(s) which involved long hours, physical labor, and the stresses that come with being a business owner. This is precisely the reason I began writing full-time while maintaining my activism and advocacy goals. I have always taken the time to write, however, I never wrote full-time. That is, of course, until I found myself with the time on my hands to do so.
As any writer knows, being a writer is a long and arduous process. Particularly, if we are trying to make a living doing it. Sure, there are thousands of how-tos out there claiming to have the secrets to success in writing. While those secrets may have worked for the writer, we all understand that without a following there will never be enough income to financially support a family. Needless to say, it’s a struggle and there is no singular solution for all writers.
All of this plays into the stress and anxiety that has exploded since my having a stroke. At the same time, my advocacy work has also increased. Essentially, I’ve made my writing part of my advocacy while learning about journalism through courses through Poynter, edX, MIT Open Courseware, and others. All valuable resources that have allowed me to work towards yet another career with the hopes of being able to support my family. I’ve even set up a Patreon account that I’m still trying to learn how to best utilize.
The underlying mental health issues that are already existent in my life certainly play a role in how the news cycles affect me from time to time. Especially when we’re seeing so many stories that relate to mine and my family’s lived experiences. My ability to learn and adapt has never been compromised. My physical abilities, however, have been. It has taken a lot of work for me to relearn how to type using just two fingers. I’m still relearning how to play guitar and I have since dropped the computer programming (coding) courses I was taking to focus on just writing.
Yes, at one point I was trying to do too much.
After the stroke five years ago, our lives turned upside-down. We lost our house, one of our vehicles, our business, and our savings disappeared rather quickly. Now, as we get back on our feet and find ourselves after picking up the pieces, we struggle. But we’re happy. Our kids are healthy, my wife is doing well, and I’m pushing harder than ever to remake myself in this new medium. As I post here on Medium and have articles published through various outlets, I am pushing to finish a couple of books. One of those, a memoir.
I found a sense of community and friendship in Jennifer Pastiloff, Amy Ferris, Charlotte Kaufman, and Ashton Woods. I have found love in media colleagues Maria Hinojosa, Julio Varela, and the Futuro Media family. Slowly but surely, despite how ugly and personal these news cycles are, I’m making progress. Aside from my wife and kids, these folks mentioned here are my support system and for the last two years, they have all been there for me.
I can’t thank them enough.
Then there are you guys who read and interact with my work. You guys are a huge part of my treasured family. Without you, I couldn’t do any of this. From the comments thanking me for being informative or sharing my personal lif’s struggles with you, to those who share my work across social media, to the few who have supported me via Patreon, you folks are the ones that keep me going. Sure, sometimes my articles or posts don’t get any reactions or gain any traction, but I know that the next one or the one after that will. You guys keep me pushing.
For that, I can’t thank you enough.
See? Instead of breaking down because of the overwhelming news cycle of the last week or so, here I am pushing through and sharing the journey with you instead. To me, that’s the most valuable thing about all of this. Maybe it’s time for me to share more personal stories while still pushing my journalistic work. Why not, right? It helps me and maybe it will help someone else in the process. After all, one of the issues I advocate for is men speaking on mental health.
This feels like a great place to start. What do you think?