do you have any advice for a comrade who might be having emotional troubles but still wants to do organizing? in this case would putting oneself first, over the masses, be acceptable?
The main thing i’ll say is that these two aspects—your own health vs. political work—are not actually opposed or mutually exclusive, or at least they shouldn’t be.
On one hand if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t effectively contribute to political work. I know from experience that it’s possible to dedicate yourself really heavily to political tasks and have this dominate your life to such an extent that you burn out. If you work really hard at the expense of your own health and burn out like that, in the long run you are actually limiting your ability to do continued political work. So addressing your own health is important. The short of it is: better to do a reasonable amount of work sustainably over a long time than to do a ton of work in a very short period and jeopardize your ability to do work at all down the road.
On the other hand, participating in political work is a means to improve one’s health in many ways. I can guarantee that doing something you think is meaningful will improve your mental health, while remaining isolated from communities which can make you feel welcome and to which you feel you are making a positive contribution certainly cannot help. Speaking as someone who has experienced severe depression and anxiety for most of my life, i can say that participating in politics has been a huge benefit for me and, while it certainly hasn’t (and really can’t) “cure” my depression, it has provided me with a sense of place and it motivates me to keep going on when things are really tough. Belonging to something and feeling like what you’re doing is important is, well, very important. Additionally, through political activity it’s possible to build robust support systems which will most likely exceed what you could do through “self care.”
I’m not saying it’s trivial to just “go out there and do political work.” In the first place, it is in large part the responsibility of communist orgs to structure themselves in a way in which people with health problems of various sorts, including mental health problems (and really, there are a lot of people who struggle with these things in communist orgs; is that really surprising?), feel that they can indeed meaningfully contribute and that they’re welcome, while also feeling comfortable expressing the things they struggle and need help with. Even though there are a lot of people with these sorts of health struggles in communist organizing, somehow the structure of a lot of communist orgs doesn’t really accommodate them a lot of the time, and that’s something that needs to change.
Also, on your end, i know that when one is struggling emotionally, it can seem really daunting to do much of anything. But taking “baby steps” really works. Break down your political goals into very small tasks, and if you fail them, break them down even further. I remember when i was at one of my lowest points, my goals were things like “take a shower.” That’s fine, as long as you have some sort of idea of where you want to go and how these small steps tie into that larger goal. You will make progress and eventually you will get to where you’re going, even if it’s slow.
This is pretty scattered but i hope it kind of helps. The general point is that minding your own health and doing political work can and should be mutually reinforcing aspects of your life and in my view it doesn’t make sense to treat things as a matter of choosing one or the other.