Lately, I've been taking into account my mental health and what it means to be an artist who works with traumatic subjects. This year, I did a number of projects that required an intimate look at trauma both my own and others. In January, I put on a one woman show called Simone of which dealt with the trauma of losing everything in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. To write the piece, I watched a lot of traumatic footage from that day and read a ton of articles in addition to pulling from my own emotional connection to what happened. I haven't looked at that piece since but will revisit it when I'm ready. I also performed in Eclipsed as Maima, otherwise known as wife number two. The play takes place during the Liberian Civil War and my character sees and takes part in a number of atrocities while trying to survive. In addition to that, I performed (and still am performing) in Whitewashed: the racism project, which, in dealing with the history of racism in America, is filled with trauma. If that's not enough, my second book, Said the Swing to the Hoop, contains poems that talk about my own personal traumatic experiences.
I told my cast mates at our most recent rehearsal for Whitewashed in January to exercise self-care. Throughout the year, I took time for me. I had to. How else would I survive this work? It is necessary work but it can be emotionally exhausting work and my body tells me the truth everyday. I've been dealing with insomnia, my appetite shrunk and my blood sugar is all over the place. I finally had to talk to my doctor about depression and be real about going back to counseling. I'm curious as to what other artists do to care for themselves, maybe take walks, or visit a favorite restaurant, or make a trip somewhere the suns shines warm, or light candles and lavender, or run a hot bath or go to therapy. Although art can be therapeutic, it is not therapy. I believe art heals, don't get me wrong, but sometimes going to therapy to talk to another human being who is equipped to hear what's happening is more than art can offer. When you get a chance, check on a local artist and if you're an artist check in with yourself. Are you eating regularly? Are you sleeping enough? Answers to both of the questions for me are no. I have work to do because there are people in the world who still need me but most of all, I need me. We all need ourselves to be better