Whiplash 2.0

Just when I thought I had my path planned out…

This April, I spent two weeks marching and committing nonviolent civil disobedience with Democracy Spring, and my whole world changed. I went home after those two weeks and was shocked at the depression that took over my mind and body. In short, I discovered that whiplash is real.

Reporting live with The Young Turks from the National Press Club at the Multicultural Media Correspondent’s Dinner!

I did everything I could to try and keep the flame that had been lit in my soul alight, but it was a constant struggle. Depression ruled my life — until I was catching up with my fellow organizer and friend, Kai. He offered me a spot in the Democracy Spring movement house. With very little information but extremely high hopes, I packed my things and got on a plane to DC. The spark grew back into a flame — I had a purpose again.

Democracy Spring was in transition mode, and direction as an organizer was difficult to find. I created my own direction by organizing our presence at Politicon 2016, and working with TYT Politics on streaming different events around DC. I felt energized. I began eating healthier, began running, and I was writing and reading more than I had been for a while. Yet, something was off.

In Major Oak, the Democracy Spring movement house, we organizers were preparing for our presence at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. I threw myself into the work, but was beginning to feel very disillusioned by the movement. I found myself withdrawing from my housemates and fellow organizers, because I did not agree with many of the decisions being made, and the culture in the house made me feel unheard. I would be invited to meetings, and feel as if I were invisible during them, no matter how loudly I would speak up.

Coping in the movement house by holding my mint plant, Sherlock.

During all of this, my newfound love of running was crushed as odd physical symptoms began showing up and worsening each day. I finally wound up in a neurologists’ office, being told I needed to have 6 MRIs and several vials of blood drawn to figure out why my otherwise healthy legs were going numb when I tried to walk. My fellow organizers left for Philly to finalize preparations for the DNC, and I stayed in DC so that I could spend 3 hours in an MRI machine.

I finally got to Philly, and was so overwhelmed by my worry over how bad my test results would be once I got back to DC, as well as my confusion and disillusionment over the movement that had changed my life for the better, that I eagerly took up an offer from friends I had met during the march in April to stay somewhere other than the movement house.

The week of the DNC was an amazing yet stressful blur. There were beautiful reunions, powerful marches, and great discussions, but there was also the frustration of being unable to keep up with everyone else because of how the heat was exacerbating my legs, and the heartbreak of sensing that this was the end of my time with Democracy Spring.

Iconic Democracy Spring organizers at the West Philly movement house.

Back in DC, I was planning on continuing to work with Democracy Spring, but very quickly realized things hadn’t changed within the culture. I was still unheard and dismissed. Poor organizing decisions were still being made. Then, I had my results appointment, and was frustrated to have very few answers. I was told that my MRIs were inconclusive, but that we should treat it as early onset Multiple Sclerosis. They could not provide treatment until after more intensive testing, still to come at the end of the year. I was given direction on how to stay healthy until then, and I felt hopeful, but being given such a diagnosis still sapped my strength. As much as I loved the people of Democracy Spring, I could not continue to live in a situation where I was held back in another way. I packed my things, and loaded my life — including my dog and my mint plant — into a rental car and began to long drive back to Tennessee.

I have been staying with my parents just south of Nashville for 3 weeks now, and have dubbed what I am currently feeling Whiplash 2.0.

Whiplash 2.0 is a whole new animal… a tsunami of contradictory waves. It is much more painful than the last time, yet I still have the drive to do things; I am healthier overall, yet underneath my skin, my nerves are poorly protected and slowly deteriorating.

Off to the library to use the wifi for classes!

I am not giving up on the fight to ensure a true democracy for the citizens of this amazing country, yet I have lost a lot of what I felt while organizing in DC. Food has lost its flavor, reading has lost much of its joy, sleep is hard to come by yet hard to wake myself from, and for the past 3 weeks, I have had serious writers block. I have started driving for Uber and have been dubbed “the best, most interesting Uber driver ever” by a group of college girls, yet socializing with old friends who I haven’t seen in months is a terrifying prospect, even though I miss them very much. I am taking great online classes through edX. Friends have convinced me to run for office in 2018, so I am working on educating myself, networking, and building my platform, as well as a plan for local and nationwide voter education and registration.

I lost a lot during this summer in DC, but I gained so much more. While the loss is harsh now, my experiences have given me the knowledge and strength I need to keep moving forward until the sting of this latest whiplash heals. And, honestly, I don’t have time to wait for the pain to end. Change is happening now, and everyone needs to be a part of it, in whatever way they can… otherwise, only a few people are making these changes without worrying about the rest of us.

Until progress is made for climate justice, until people who are viewed as different for their skin color or gender or whom they love are no longer oppressed, until this country has a true democracy… until my voice grows hoarse and my legs no longer support me, I will march and sit in and campaign for what is right.

A revolution is sweeping the nation. The time is now. Figure out what you are passionate about, and decide on the right way for you to get involved. Stand with the others who are fighting for the same thing, and don’t let anyone or anything hold you back from making sure your voice, and the voices of those you love, is heard.

Marching for Climate Justice in Philly, with my dear friends & fellow activists, Phil & Chops.