Self-care in action: The 8 things one needs to bring or to have at a protest

Self-care in action: The 8 things one needs to bring or to have at a protest by Dr. Abi Weissman of Waves, A Psychological Corporation at

Self-care in action: The 8 things one needs to bring or to have at a protest by Dr. Abi Weissman of Waves, A Psychological Corporation at

I've been thinking about protesting a lot since I learned that there would be a conversion/reparative therapy conference coming to town. 

I knew I had to protest although I REALLY REALLY DIDN'T WANT TO. I had to because I find it repulsive that therapy which is supposed to help people was being used and abused by people who did not feel that being gay was alright and wanted to "pray away the gay." I hated learning that instead of shock therapy to stop being from having similar gender desires they were utilizing techniques that psychologists employ to help people cope with their fears and otherwise address clients' difficulties. In other words, they were manipulating the ways that psychologists help people to try and stop people from their own identity(ies). I won't stand for that. It is unacceptable to me. I was excited to learn that people were organizing themselves and trying to protest the conference coming to town at all. I was so relieved. Maybe, I thought, I wouldn't have to protest as other people would protect the rest of us from having this hatred in our city and county.

I was wrong. They were unable to stop the conference from coming to town. They were, however able to create a bunch of well thought out events to protest this kind of so-called treatment. 

I knew that I had to go. As the Chair of the LGBT committee of the San Diego Psych Association, I knew I had to go and represent psychotherapists and counselors and make a decree that these so-called treatments were not supported by licensed professionals. 

I didn't want to go. I felt angry that I was giving up my Sabbath, my day off to fight for my rights and the rights of other LGBTQIQAP people instead of going to synagogue and / or hanging out at the beach. I was dreading going.

I didn't want to feel vulnerable.

It's not that I haven't protested before. I certainly have. I remembered the high from yelling and carrying on and letting people know that they need to respect the LGBTQIQAP - communities more. I remembered feeling scared too. Will there be any violence? Will I be arrested? How will I be treated by the cops? I had all these worries from some combination of news reports on local protests and my own fears of political life since 45 was elected. I knew that if I were going to go, that I would have to protect myself. For me, this meant making myself some ground rules and sticking to them, even if I didn't want to.

I've outlined the rules I set for myself below. These are all self-care strategies that I put in place before. The examples were how they helped me stay sane during the protest and afterward. Protesting is hard. Protesting while staying mindful of one's social situation, grounded in one's feelings, and aware of one's surroundings can be tough but with these ground rules in place and a strong awareness of what one needs emotionally and physically, protesting can be an invigorating and hopeful experience.

Please read through these 8 guidelines and see which resonate with you and how you do things. For information about the protests themselves, please see the main Facebook page. To hear my measured and impassioned reaction to this conference, please see my interview with KPBS and to read a study describing the ways that this kind of non-therapy doesn't work, please see this task force report

Here are those 8 things.

Please put in the comments what you disagree with and/or think that should be added to the list.


A plan on when you will leave

And, if things get messy, who you will contact for support

Someone to remind you that you are doing enough and that it is alright to leave



            A good water bottle

            Filled with ice, if possible

            A cool place to store it if it is not insulated


A placard, banner, or sign to hold, as you are able

            It gets tiring to yell

            I’ve lost my voice on plenty of occasions

            Or, yelled so hard and so long, that it hurt to talk hours later, or the next day


A place to sit, if you tend to stand at these events

            It gets tiring to stand and

            Bodies can rest and be okay

            You can offer it to a tired co-protester

            You can use it to rest your sign

            You can know it’s there if you need it



            A good protester has snacks at the ready.

            This is self-care at its finest, most basic.

Having food and drink at the ready.

Again, maybe you won’t need it,

But it will be there, ready for you, if you do.

And if a friend, say, is looking peaked,

Or is drained as has to run off to support another person

You can have it at the ready, to help when no words will be enough

To raise blood sugar and provide nourishment


Sunscreen or an umbrella

            Or a hat

            Your skin is precious and protecting it is healthy.

            I was in the shade today so

            My big wonderful rainbow umbrella became a monument to my queer pride

  Sitting there beside me.

            It was there if I needed the shade.

            It marked me and it released me

            From overbearing sunshine if I needed a break.



            You are the most important part of a protest. You make up the throngs of supporters

            Without you and all the people like you, there would be no protest,

            No response to the horrors of injustice.

            You are needed to be there for whatever time you can make.

            You are valuable.




A place to be still and quiet afterward

A place to remember that you are fighting the good fight

And that your emotions are valuable and valued


It’s okay to cry. It really is.

These marches and protests are often draining.

It’s not a fun day in the sun.

It’s a day when peoples’ right to be who they are is questioned and

prayed upon (in many ways).


It’s usually a day when I would rather do pretty much anything else,

Including getting my teeth drilled,

Or doing paperwork,

Or getting a pap smear,

Or cleaning house.


I was there today.

I’m not always there, protesting.

Sometimes, I’m resting,

Taking time away to gear up

for the Next Time I’m called upon to witness hatred

Or support love.


I was there today. I was off to the side.

I shouted. I was quiet. I held my sign.

I spoke to my neighbors. I sat. I stood.

I gathered people together.

I prayed silently for peace and justice

and the ongoing strength and courage to be who I am

and to honor who you are.


And then, I left. I left signs resting on my neighbor’s bags and chairs

for the next wave of psychologists to take up the call

for justice, for peace, for freedom, for queer and trans people to be

out and proud about who they are, who we are.


I was done.

Left to rest until the next time my voice was needed.

I appreciated connecting with my neighbors in protest and holding my sign,

And shouting my truth,

And showing up,

And then, I went home


            Until next time.


            In solidarity with LGBTQIQA - identified people and those who love us and them,


            Dr. Abi Weissman


            Waves, A Psychological Corporation


            As always this post does not represent a therapeutic relationship between you and Waves, A Psychological Corporation or any of the therapists who work for Waves. This post provides general information not specific advice. For individual support, please see a licensed counselor or psychologist. If you are in the San Diego, California or Poway, California area, please do not hesitate to reach out to Waves for mental health therapy, we would be delighted to support you. Set up an appointment with Waves by pressing the button below and logging in as a new client. We look forward to connecting with you soon!