In the age of heightened consciousness and ‘being woke,’ for extreme want of a better phrase, I suffer from what I can only describe as the John Coffey Effect. I coined the term last year when I realised that in the wake of being aware of the deaths of black men, women and children at the hands of police, feeling the pain and anguish of black people globally was having an effect on my own mental health.

In 2011, I attempted suicide for the second time in my life. In 2013, I experienced clarity and a better understanding of why I was going to go through with it. The first time I had attempted suicide, I was 14 with barely any understanding of how one went about killing one’s self apart from the methods seen on TV and in film. I hadn’t realised the propensity of what I had done and had forgotten about the ordeal until ten years later.

At the time, the prospect of counselling was beyond my reach for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wasn’t in a position where I felt comfortable letting people know. Second, a session costs money and to make considerable progress would cost even more. As a student, I couldn’t have afforded it. Also, how would a white therapist be able to relate to me? Much of my life’s experiences have occurred because of my race so unless my therapist was also black, there would already be a disconnect.

Over the past couple of years I’ve come to learn that my suicide attempts are at the tail end of a sequence of occurrences as a black man. Always questioning my identity led me to seeking one out in places someone with my frame of mind shouldn’t.

Despite doing the work that involves giving knowledge to those that may not have it, In the past couple of months I’ve learned something extremely important in the role of an educator — those whom you are charged to educate might not want to be educated and more importantly, that is okay. Being aware of everything that happens in the world and developing a sense of empathy can come at a huge cost. I would even go as far to say that urging someone to take that journey without informing them of the risks is immediately undoing the work you start. However, I’m under no illusion that not ‘being woke’ doesn’t necessarily mean life is better. Like me, you’ll find yourself asking questions you might not find the answers to.

In addition, as activists and people a part of the movement, all too often we’re focused on wanting to see immediate results. In an age where Twitter trolls are around every e-corner and an #AllLivesMatter advocate is there with trigger fingers, the need to right their wrongs has never been more pronounced. The truth is, the likelihood of changing an individual’s stance in one exchange is very slim, especially when years of conditioning has led them to this point. This can be draining when you pour hours into the work and see very little return, such as change in attitudes, policies and society. However, a seed might be planted and that’s all that is required. The knowledge and information that was shared during an exchange can become useful to that individual at a later point. If the results aren’t seen there and then, in the moment, the work and its credibility doesn’t necessarily diminish. Learning this was paramount to understanding how to deal with situations where I could not feel my work having an impact.

You can’t switch it off or become ‘unwoke,’ instead what happens is you learn to deal with everything day by day, hoping that you won’t become desensitised along the way. Finding individual self-care methods ensures that you can take some respite, which is needed, whether that be painting, writing, listening to music or switching off from social media. When we find ourselves drowning in the fight, every now and again we need to remind ourselves that it’s okay to come up for air.

There are days when I wish I could go back to being ignorant and self-centred — life can be easier that way. However, when you’re someone like me, ‘being woke’ gives answers to questions I had not found the words for when I was growing up. The John Coffey Effect is very real and I urge that people find the means to implement self-care. After all, what good is the good fight if it chips away at your sanity?

Jesse Bernard is a music journalist based in London, hosts a regular Hip-Hop podcast called Spot The Sample and is also working on his first novel, The Fisher in the Jungle. Follow him on Twitter and check out his podcast.