Stigma is a funny word and an odd concept. How does a word, a phrase or even a state of being have a whole “aura” around it that means that it’s not to be spoken about, or can go on having such a ‘stigma’ without being challenged? How do these ‘stigmas’ even occur and where do they come from? We are the only people who know the answers to these questions, because as a society we are the people who contribute to these mystical forces, and one of the biggest ones is still yet to be discussed on this website. Mental health.
And no, don’t yawn or roll your eyes because ‘mental health is trendy’ because, a) that’s a gross concept to even think about and b) everyones mental health journey is different, even if those journey’s happen to be similar, everyone has a different path and way to explain and get across their mental health affiliations, so now it’s my turn. I think it’s important for me to say that this isn’t really something that I find terribly easy because although I am an authentic, unapologetic and raw human being, there are still walls and there are still barriers in place that I see everyday, so for me to discuss my mental health is definitely something that’s going to be intriguing for me, and something that I hope to look back on as a first step towards actually being fairly transparent and open because – that’s what i’m here for and that’s what this website was created to do.
I saw a really poignant tweet the other day that basically said how people want to stop the stigma attached to mental health but NOT the stigma that’s attributed to mental ILLNESS, which I thought was really interesting and it was actually nice to have my views challenged to therefore lead me to revaluate and actually think about how true that statement is. Again this is an example of how legitimate and honest social media can be, as seen in my most recent post on the trials and tribulations of social media and the internet. (Don’t look at me like that, self promo is the queen). Mental health and mental illness both are clearly linked, however the two are very different and are greeted with very different levels of care and compassion from people. Mental health stigma is very surface level. The media, and especially the royal family, at the moment appear to be making a huge plea to help stop this stigma that’s attached to mental health, primarily by opening up and talking to people. Lets not twist my words here ladies, that’s a great step and is often an introductory step to a snowball of open communication and love which is PERFECT, however this is where the conversation with mental health in the media tends to stop. It doesn’t direct its path of travel towards the actual symptoms of mental ILLNESS because lets be honest ladies – the media is a facade that tries to cover up and rose tint the actual problems of the world to make them ‘palatable’ for the straight white man. They serve to run the establishment and the majority of media publications are not anti-establishment so, they’re not going to SHINE a huge searching light on the true implications of mental illness because that’s ‘too much’ and ‘people don’t actually care about that’. I’m calling bullshit.
In the LGBTQIA+ community it’s very common for mental health and mental illness to be a common thread that both ostracises and unites a lot of queer people. Nearly one in four Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people have tried to take their lives (Courtesy of the wonderful research and work of the people at Stonewall) – therefore highlighting the current and real problem that mental health is in our community, and how common and poignant it is. It’s still shocking to me that people are surprised by the rates of depression, self harm and suicide amongst the LGBTQIA+ community, because of the constant persecution and hatred that is spilled onto us on the daily, because NO marriage equality didn’t just stop all of our problems young white man. When you’re fighting everyday for your right to LIVE and be VALID in the world, it’s only a matter of time before people are hurt in the cross fire, and need to take a moment for themselves to not only recognise that their mental health is in need of help, but that it’s affecting their PROGRESS as human beings. We need to be aware that our LGBTQIA+ angels may need more support, more love, more compassion, to be able to not only continue living their authentic lives, but to also battle the mental health issues that they have personally as PEOPLE. I’m not a fan of when people say ‘we are all people before we are LGBTQIA+’, however when it comes to mental health, it’s important that we see that these are people who need and want HELP first and foremost, but also then include their identity into that and channel our support towards them to ensure that they never have to compromise their inner selves or their mental health.
For me, mental health was never really something that I thought was an issue for me, however when it actually then hit me in a larger way that I couldn’t ignore, I knew that I needed to take time out for myself to disect what was going on and … well wipe my own slate clean and really begin looking at what was happening and how this could be changed. The NHS and mental health institutions are a great way to start when it comes to medically diagnosing what’s going on, however for LGBTQIA+ people, finding a doctor that not only knows that they’re saying and doing in regards to your identity can be difficult, so it’s important to not get defeated and think that there’s NO help for you anywhere. Anxiety and OCD are things (and I say things instead of ailments or illnesses) that alter and change the way that I can see the world or alter the way that I think the world see’s me, and I’ve found it difficult this year to actually sit down and be like “ok so, these things are happening to me, but how can I not let them BECOME me”. It can make everyday situations difficult, and then that layered with my gender identity, it can become a minefield to know that I’m not in the wrong, or that I’m welcome and accepted in a lot of places, because for me, having mental health issues (I despise that word but… I couldn’t think of another one) makes me paranoid and build a wall up. I presume that people aren’t going to accept me, leading to me portraying sometimes a hyper realised version of myself. I can become (although it’s still authentically me) a concentrated version of myself because I think people aren’t going to accept me, so therefore I’m going to be on the verge of arrogant to try and balance out the actual scared feelings that I’m having. This happens a lot in my lemon based world, however I’m beginning to realise that a lot of the time, people are going to accept me and be themselves around me and actually SUPPORT me, and I need to continue the process of taking my brick walls down brick by brick, and actually begin to not be paranoid that everyone is out to get me. This fear stems from the town I live in back home, and the fact that as someone who presents fairly feminine and bright, it gets me a lot of attention, both positive and negative, and when I’m used to growing up in a small town, this attention is more negative than positive, hence the wall.
It doesn’t define me, nor does it not become a segment of me. It’s a part of my being and does that inherently mean it’s a bad thing? Not necessarily. Anxiety and OCD are ‘things’ that are a part of my life, however I am beginning the process of accepting them as traits instead of ailments. If they affect my life in a negative way too often, I treat them and I try my best to actually know when I need to stop and work on myself, and that’s the important part of that statement. Know your limits, and know when to stop. Don’t care about whether or not people find you boring, or fake, or not authentic, because you need to know when to be like “ok we’re going to stop now and actually just CARE for myself a little bit”. Don’t let people tell you that your symptoms of being quiet, or not going to events, or actually just not talking to anyone is you being ungrateful or a bitch. Take each day as it comes, and know that no matter how long it takes, you’re on a path upwards. Even if you fall back 3902 steps, your path can only go upwards. Don’t let people tell you that your symptoms of mental health issues are wrong because they’re not. If you want to stay in bed, fucking stay there. If you fidget, talk to yourself, play with your hair, smoke, need to take time out and just go for a walk, or be on your own, or have 3049 baths a week or just turn your phone off for an evening and not speak to anyone, DO IT. Try and communicate with people you feel close to if they know about your life, and let them know what you’re up to if you feel like you need to, but a lot of mental health issues have the S word (stigma) so heavily inbedded in them, it can prevent people from actually COMMUNICATING with other people because, as I said at the start, people aren’t willing to accept that mental health issues have SYMPTOMS and aren’t just “feeling sad”. On the same hand, don’t now treat your fellow human beings with mental health issues as babies, or like they’re wrapped in cotton wool. Be a hand for them to hold, but not a hand that’s dragging them back.
I feel liberated writing this and it’s not something that I’ve ever discussed with anyone and that’s going to change. That’s where I’m at on my level of mental health discovery, and I hope to actually open up to a lot more people and the struggles that many LGBTQIA+ people face, and how this needs to change so we can continue thriving and living. Don’t let people white wash or straight wash your plight, because your identity is a large part of yourself, and the intersectionality of that with your mental health Is something that shouldn’t be ignored. They need to be worked at hand in hand to ensure that you become your best version of yourself.
I know that I’m not arrogant, I know that I’m not wrong to be doing what I’m doing by living my life as authentically as I can as someone who identifies as non-binary.
I hope this post has been informative, and if you have any questions about LGBTQIA+ issues affecting mental health, do ask me and I can try my best to signpost you to some amazing organisations that help with mental health issues within our community, or you can head over to the Stonewall website where you can find a plethora of information at your finger tips. My inboxes on all social media platforms, here, and my emails are always open for you to message me if you need to talk ladies!
Keep it chic and just try your fucking best ladies,