Studies show that if you’re queer, you’re much more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidal feelings and substance abuse problems than you would be if you were straight. That’s a fact, and it’s one that I, and I’m sure many of you, can relate to all too well.
In the first two installments of this mini-series, I’ve written about trying to love yourself through body positivity and how being single doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of love. These are easy enough topics to understand, I guess. The societal ideas that make us think there’s something wrong with the way we look or whether it matters that we don’t have a partner are just that – they’re societal ideas. They’re popular thoughts for the general consensus, and they’re toxic, and they seep in and can lead to all kinds of harmful thinking. But mental illness is kind of a whole different monster, isn’t it? It’s a whole other horrible thing when the voices telling you that you’re not good enough are coming from inside your own brain, rather than just from some kind of cultural ethos.
It’s hard to fight back against mental illness. I know.
I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety since my mid-teens, so for about seven or eight years now. During that time, especially when I was younger and was struggling to make doctors take me seriously, I was in a very bad way. I developed agoraphobia and barely left the house for a good two years, and around this time, also began to self-harm. These days, it’s slightly more manageable. I found better doctors. Together, we’ve played around with different medications and different dosages until I’ve found that something helps. I’ve been trying to find someone to talk to, but ask anyone who’s ever tried to go through therapy and I’m sure they’ll tell you how hard it is to find a mental health professional who you can actually click with.
My mental health is better than it was, but I’m starting to accept that it’s not ever going to be perfect. I’m not ever going to be “normal.” I’m always going to be neurotic, and I’m going to worry about everything, and there are going to be days when I’m so sad for no good reason at all that I just won’t be able to get out of bed. I’m always going to struggle to do things that neurotypical people find easy, and I’m just going to have to find a way to be okay with that.
It sucks to be mentally ill. It also sucks to love people who are mentally ill sometimes. It runs in my family, and I know hard it is when I see my mum struggling because I don’t know how to put it right. Some of my closest friends are just as anxiety-riddled as I am, which can make getting together pretty difficult. There’s a lot of canceled plans, unanswered texts and ignored phonecalls when you’re friends with an agoraphobe.
It’s hard to put a positive spin on being chronically sick. It really is. There’s no definitive way to make things okay when your head isn’t well. You’ve just got to look after yourself. You’ve got to find people who understand, and things that make you happy. I find coloring sometimes helps when I’m on the brink of an anxiety attack. It helps to refocus my brain. And adult coloring books are pretty in vogue at the moment, so you can pick them up anywhere. I also have a self-care box under my bed that’s full of things that make me smile – letters people have written to me, photographs of people I love, expensive tea bags so I can treat myself with pretentious tea, etc. I have this, Queer Voices, a place to express myself.
Right now, writing this piece and sharing my experience with anyone who happens to stumble across it, I’m just glad I’ve made it this far. I’ve managed to wage war with my own brain this long, and I’m going to keep doing it. Sometimes, living with mental illness, that’s the only thing you can do.
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